Publication Coach Beating writer's block, writing faster, writing tips, better writing, editing, communications consulting 2017-07-21T08:00:29Z http://www.publicationcoach.com/feed/atom/ WordPress Daphne Gray-Grant http://publicationcoach.com/old <![CDATA[What can I do with my old writing? [video]]]> http://www.publicationcoach.com/?p=16967 2017-07-21T02:28:47Z 2017-07-21T08:00:29Z Viewing time: 4 minutes and 1 second The Write Question is a weekly video podcast all about writing. Today’s question.. Continue Reading]]>

Viewing time: 4 minutes and 1 second

The Write Question is a weekly video podcast all about writing. Today’s question focuses on what to do with old writing that might be a little sensitive.

If you have a question you’d like me to answer you can email me at daphne@publicationcoach.com, tweet me @pubcoach, or leave a message for me at the Skype account, The Write Question.

 

TRANSCRIPT: 

Welcome to The Write Question, the video-podcast designed to answer your questions about writing. I’m Daphne Gray-Grant.

Today I’m answering a question from business communicator Kelly Hennessey, who lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Here’s her question.

[recording] As you can see behind me, I have a bunch of journals and these journals are filled with all kinds of things — work things, personal things, relationship things — and I have journals like this all over my house. I have them in my bedroom, I have them in my bookshelves, I have them right behind me and I’m kind of worried that if I died tomorrow, people will come across these journals and read things that will hurt their feelings or even profoundly change how my relationship was perceived by them. They’re a little bit of concern and I’m wondering if you can help me figure out how to get them under control and get them to a spot where somebody won’t be hurt or maybe how I might actually dispose of them. Just curious about how to organize this journal mess in my house. Thanks!

Thanks for the question, Kelly.

My heart clutched a little when I heard your recording because *I* have some of that type of writing lying around the house, too. And I haven’t figured out what to do with it either.  

After a little research, I found a very wise blog entry from my colleague Erin Doland who has a great website called Unclutterer. I’ve included a link below.

She suggests the decision to keep or dump writing should be based on your answer to the question “Why did I write this material?”

Here are the four reasons she cites:

  1. To work through problems in your life
  2. To vent your frustrations
  3. To record messages to your future self
  4. To create a record that you were alive in that moment

Erin suggests — and I agree — that if the first two reasons describe your case, you should burn or shred the documents and not look back. But if the last two reasons fit, then you might want to keep the documents. Remember that you can safeguard anything on a computer with a password. And if you want future generations to have access to the material, be sure to include the password in your will.

Here are some other ideas for how to organise your old writing.

Have you considered scanning your work? I use a scanner called the Fujitsu Scansnap, because I find it’s faster than any other scanner I’ve tried. But regardless of which scanner you’re using, if you’re cutting materials out of old journals, just be sure to use a really sharp blade, like an Xacto knife, so you create sharp edges.

Also remember, as long as the text won’t be hurtful, some of it might be a great gift for future generations. A recent post I read online mentioned how much pleasure the poster had gotten out reading letters between her parents that she’d received for Christmas one year.

Another commenter said, “My 17-year-old thought she was a freak from how she felt in life until she read my great-great-grandmothers journal. She commented on how she went through the SAME things back in the 1800’s and how it must be normal.”

That said, many people who burn their journals describe feeling nothing but relief as if a big burden has been removed from their shoulders.

Really, it comes down to you. Why did you write the journals in the first place? If you can answer that question, you should be able to figure out whether to keep or burn them.

Let me wrap up with a final quote from Erin Doland, in the event you do decide to keep most of your writing: “Choosing to keep an object means that you’re choosing to have the object be a part of your life. Put the journals on a shelf in a low-traffic area of your home and then read them when the mood strikes.”

Thanks for your question, Kelly. Good luck with uncluttering and/or curating your work. I’m going to wish myself luck with this project, too.

Links:

Unclutterer 

Fujitsu ScanSnap

 

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Daphne Gray-Grant http://publicationcoach.com/old <![CDATA[The figurative language of Katherena Vermette…]]> http://www.publicationcoach.com/?p=16962 2017-07-18T19:51:09Z 2017-07-20T08:00:36Z Reading time: Just over 1 minute I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading... Continue Reading]]>

Reading time: Just over 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about a series of metaphors, similes and images of personification from Katherena Vermette….

Katherena Vermette (pictured above) has written a gripping and gritty novel displaying the adversity facing Indigenous women in Canada. Her book, The Break does not mince words and even contains a “trigger warning” on its title page, alerting readers to scenes of sexual and physical violence.

While I found the story hard to read, my reluctance arose entirely from the content, not the writing, which was superb. Here are some examples of her superb use of figurative language:

  • When snow touches those raw Hydro wires they make this intrusive buzzing sound. It’s constant and just quiet enough that you can ignore it, like a whisper you know is a voice but you can’t hear the words.
  • Gabe Hill blew into my life riding high on a wave of good looking and good smelling. His dimples were so big I nearly fell into them.
  • “Actually, my mom could get her status back is she wanted to. My aunt did, after my grandma died. I could get it too, really.” “You don’t need to go that far! Metis is good enough,” Hannah said like they were picking paint colours. Red is too bold, just a pale pink please.
  • She just turns back to her daughter, to the bruise under her eye and the cut on her lip, swollen slightly under the bandage, sticking out like a small pout.
  • The wind constantly pushes the snow into the year, like a long hand trying to bury them.
  • One of them, Destiny, had a file that read like a police report. She was the sort of child who was permanently bruised yet jutted her chin out to the world, willing it to hit her again.
  • When her dad laughs, the whole room wants to laugh too.
  • She can still see the outline of the full moon, yellow and porous. Like a shadow.
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Daphne Gray-Grant http://publicationcoach.com/old <![CDATA[What does ‘whiffling’ mean?]]> http://www.publicationcoach.com/?p=16957 2017-07-18T19:32:26Z 2017-07-19T08:00:37Z Reading time: Less than 1 minute Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I.. Continue Reading]]>

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: whiffling….

I’m a big fan of onomatopoeia. As you likely know, this refers to words that sound like the meaning they’re meant to represent. Here are a few examples: whoosh, drizzle, giggle, whistle, thump. (The term onomatopoeia comes from two Greek words, one meaning “name” and the other meaning “I make.”)

I added another onomatopoeic word to my vocabulary this week after finishing the award-winning novel The Break, by Katherena Vermette. The word is whiffling. Here is how the author used it:

She loves his face, his soft whiffling breath on her skin.

The verb “to whiffle” means to make a soft sound, like that of breathing or a gentle wind. It can also mean to move (or cause to move) lightly as if blown by a puff of air. In fact, there is even a whiffle ball (pictured above) with holes punctured into it so the ball will move more slowly.

The classic trademarked Wiffle Ball is for baseball and was invented by David Mullany at his home in 1953 when he designed a ball that curved easily for his 12-year-old son. It was named when his son and his friends would refer to a strikeout as a “whiff”. It’s about the same size as a regulation baseball, but is hollow, lightweight, of resilient plastic, no more than 1/8 inch thick. The ball pictured above, however, is a whiffle golf ball.

I just love the way the word whiffling sounds so much like the meaning it represents.

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Daphne Gray-Grant http://publicationcoach.com/old <![CDATA[How to find and hire an editor]]> http://www.publicationcoach.com/?p=16945 2017-07-17T01:02:03Z 2017-07-18T08:00:46Z Reading time: Less than 6 minutes It’s hard to find good help, and that issue becomes particularly challenging when you.. Continue Reading]]>

Reading time: Less than 6 minutes

It’s hard to find good help, and that issue becomes particularly challenging when you need to learn how to hire an editor….

When I worked in the newspaper business, several decades ago, I interviewed then-famous Canadian writer June Callwood, and I wrote a piece about her. I handed it in to the “desk” (journalist-speak for the editors who checked spelling, grammar and flow) and forgot about it. The next day, I eagerly grabbed my paper to see how the story and photograph looked. Argh! I had mindlessly used the word “they’re” when I meant “there.” And, worse, the desk hadn’t caught it. 

I felt humiliated not only because I’ve known the difference between those words since grade school, but also because my story was a profile of a famous writer who would certainly see me as an idiot. And, yikes!  What was the rest of the newsroom was saying about me? (Aside: isn’t it amazing how we writers always cycle back to focus on ourselves?)

I tell this story by way of introducing you to the concept that not all editors — not even professional ones — are equal.

If you need an editor for something you are writing — whether it’s a book, a thesis, a website or a blog post — here’s a primer for how to find someone good.

Understand the terms used in the industry:

A developmental or substantive editor: This person deals with the overall impact of your manuscript. Does it make sense? Is everything in the right order? If it’s a novel, is the plot plausible and are the characters believable? How is the pacing? If it’s non-fiction, have you gone into the right level of detail? Is your voice compelling? Do you require more footnotes or references? Not everyone needs this type of editor, but many writers benefit from one.

A copy or a line editor: Every writer — especially a self-published one — needs someone to do this job. This editor not only looks for spelling and grammar mistakes but also for awkward phrasing, repetition, clichés and weak language. And here’s a devilish irony: The better shape your manuscript is in, the more your copy editor will be able to suggest. Think of it like hiring a cleaner for your house: If the house is a disaster, your cleaner is going to be busy with tidying and vacuuming. Furthermore, you are likely to be ecstatic with this basic effort because the house will look so much better. But if your house is relatively tidy to begin with, the cleaner will have the time and the energy to dust the intricate items on the buffet and polish the silver, to boot. Message: don’t hire a copy editor too early.

A proofreader: Every writer also needs one of these people. But here’s a wee bit of good news. Many copy editors are also willing to be proofreaders, and if you use the same person, it will save you some money. For a long time, I thought that only “fresh eyes” could accomplish professional proofreading, but I was wrong. Professionals have a bevvy of tricks and techniques that allow them to copy edit first and then proofread later. Use the same person, and you’ll save yourself some money.

An indexer: Not all books have an index, but many non-fiction ones do and, even if you have a contract with a big-name publishing company, you will be required to produce it yourself. Don’t do that! Instead, contract out the work. It’s a tiresome and intricate job. Professionals can do it relatively quickly, and they have specialized software to help them. My copy editor is also my proofreader and my indexer. Not every professional can perform such a hat-trick, but it’s worth looking for someone who can.

When to hire an editor:

Editors cost money so hire one only when you’re certain you’re ready. Before doing that, use at least half a dozen beta readers to give you feedback on your book, thesis or website. (One beta reader is enough for a blog post or article.) If you’ve chosen the right people, you’ll likely be surprised by the volume of changes/corrections they suggest. Be suspicious if no one tells you anything the least bit challenging or negative. This unvarnished praise either means you’re a genius (which, to be frank, is unlikely) or you haven’t chosen the right people or enough of them.

When I finished my last book, 8½ Steps to Writing Faster Better, I sent it to a dozen trusted friends and acquaintances, many of whom were professional writers. They gave me such voluminous feedback (I accepted most of it and rejected only a small portion) that I assumed my copy editor would have nothing left to do. Guess what? She still bled red ink onto it. In other words, my house was clean, and she was able to polish the silverware. Thanks, Naomi!

If you’re an author looking for an agent (so he or she can work to land you a big publishing deal) you may trust that a publishing house can ultimately do the necessary editing. True, they will edit it according to their house style. But they have to accept it first. And to get that to happen, you will need to find an agent. Won’t agents do editing, you ask? Yes, some will. But you have to persuade them to read it first. In short, if your manuscript doesn’t have some degree of clarity and polish, it’s not going to go anywhere. A copy editor can help you.

If you’re planning on self-publishing, you most certainly need a copy editor. You don’t want to be the self-published author who is famous for a sloppy manuscript. At the very least, you need to hire a copy editor and a proofreader.

If you’re a student working on a thesis or dissertation, be aware that most universities will allow you to hire a copy editor under certain conditions. This professional help can be extraordinarily useful to grad students. But be sure to check with your university, first, to see what they will permit and what limitations they put on the work.

By the way, even though I act as an editor for some clients, I also hire an editor for myself, for anything that I sell. All professionals do this. We are too close to our own work to be able to edit it ourselves.

How to find an editor: 

If you go to a doctor, dentist or accountant, you can be confident that they have met certain standards of education and practice. No such reassurance exists with copy editors. BE CAREFUL. You don’t want to be saddled with someone who’s going to make your writing worse (and charge you for the privilege).

Many copy editors will do what they call “test edits” (of three to 10 pages) so be sure to ask for that before you commit to someone. I’m lucky enough to have had the same copy editor for the last 10 years, but back when I was testing someone new, I liked to pay them for a small job, first, just to test the working relationship. This policy lowered my risk —I didn’t feel obliged to them, and I didn’t have to work with them terribly long if things weren’t going well.

Also, be sure to find someone who specializes in your subject area. If you’re a non-fiction writer, you don’t want a copy editor who only does novels. Similarly, if you write literary fiction, you don’t want a copy editor who feels most at home with Sci-Fi. Also, make sure you get someone whose style matches your own. You don’t want to pick a person who makes you sound phoney or stilted.

Ask friends and colleagues for recommendations for editors. Or look the foreword or afterword sections of books (to see whom the author thanks.) Or go to one of these two job boards:  a Canadian one and an American one.

I’m sorry I don’t have listings for other countries, but I expect most will have similar sites. If Google can’t help you find one, contact a local newspaper in your area and ask to speak with someone on the desk (if they ask “Which desk,” say “Features.”) Tell them you’re interested in finding a freelance copy editor and they should be able to direct you.

How much will it cost? 

Each editor has his or her style of calculating fees. Some charge by the hour, others by the page, still others by a flat fee. Hourly rates for books range between $30 and $60, depending on the country and city. (Proofreading is at the lower end of the scale.) Overall, you should expect an 80,000-word book to cost somewhere between $1,000 to $3,000 for copy editing. Note that corporate editors always charge more, so — unless you’re a business — you should avoid someone who falls into that category. If you are a corporate client, however, never begrudge the money on good copy editing or proofreading. It can save you a bundle in the long-run if you consider the cost of mistakes.

Be sure to get at least three (maybe more) references before you spend this sum of money on anyone. But if you’ve found the right person, don’t be afraid to sign a contract. You are taking a risk on them, but they are also taking a risk on you. A contract will protect both of you.

Don’t try to save money by getting a friend to edit a book for you. The job is sophisticated and requires significant time and specialized knowledge. Any friend who takes on this job is either ill-informed or inexperienced. It could well cost you your friendship.

Good editing is expensive. But not editing is even costlier. It will give you bad word-of-mouth, hurt your sales and harm your reputation.

*

My video podcast last week gave advice on how to become a better reader. Please consider subscribing. If you have a question about writing you’d like me to address, be sure to send it to me by email, Twitter or Skype and I’ll try to answer it in the podcast.

Have you ever had to hire an editor? How did you do it? We can all learn from each other so, please, share your thoughts with my readers and me in the “comments” section below. Anyone who comments on today’s post (or any others) by July 31/17, will be included in a draw for a copy of Business Writing and Communication by Kenneth W. Davis. Please, scroll down to the comments, directly underneath the “related posts” links, below. Note that you don’t have to join the commenting software to post. See here to learn how to post as a guest.

 

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Daphne Gray-Grant http://publicationcoach.com/old <![CDATA[Are you ready for fighter’s block?]]> http://www.publicationcoach.com/?p=16936 2017-07-14T21:33:20Z 2017-07-17T08:00:52Z Reading time: Just over 1 minute This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the.. Continue Reading]]>

Reading time: Just over 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a new app for writers called Fighter’s Block….

I’m feeling slightly nervous as I write today’s column. My fear arises from my writing method — I’m producing this post in an app called Fighter’s Block. Here’s how the developer describes it: “Fighter’s Block is a writing app that exploits conditioning to overcome writer’s block and sheer laziness. Rewards for writing and punishments for stopping are wrapped in a battle system inspired by turn-based RPGs.”

While I disagree with the comment about “laziness” (I think people are far more likely to have bad habits) and I don’t know what an RPG is, I decided to give the app a whirl. I chose a little girl in a red hood as my avatar —she made me think of Little Red Riding Hood —  and an egg-shaped evil eye as my monster.

Fighter’s Block seems to be similar to Write or Die by Dr. Wicked, which I’ve written about previously. Back in my own Write or Die days (I used to use that app when I was working to beat my editing-while-I-wrote habit) the software punished me with a loud sound whenever I stopped writing. It gave me a car alarm sound, a crying baby or 70s disco music.

Now that I no longer suffer from that problem, however, I’m going to have to stop Fighter’s Block, deliberately, to see how the new software punishes me for not writing. [Pause to let the software do its thing.]

Yikes! Nothing happened! I think this is because I didn’t use the settings properly. I’ve now redone the settings and selected a “monster attack – strong” level in the hope that I’ll see something interesting.

Sadly, nothing happened again. Although I haven’t suffered any punishment, I’m guessing this app is a good way to train yourself to focus on producing as many words as possible without having any concern about the quality. It certainly made me write this post faster than I normally do.

My thanks to reader Wendy Kalman for alerting me to Fighter’s Block.

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Daphne Gray-Grant http://publicationcoach.com/old <![CDATA[How can I become a better reader? [video]]]> http://www.publicationcoach.com/?p=16928 2017-07-13T22:21:51Z 2017-07-14T08:00:34Z Viewing time: 4 mins 29 secs The Write Question is a weekly video podcast all about writing. Today’s question focuses on.. Continue Reading]]>

Viewing time: 4 mins 29 secs

The Write Question is a weekly video podcast all about writing. Today’s question focuses on how a fiction writer can become a better reader 

If you have a question you’d like me to answer you can email me at daphne@publicationcoach.com, tweet me @pubcoach, or leave a message for me at the Skype account, The Write Question.

Transcript:

Welcome to The Write Question, the video-podcast designed to answer your questions about writing. I’m Daphne Gray-Grant.

Today I’m answering a question from Joan Rush, a retired lawyer working on her first novel in Vancouver, British Columbia. Here’s her question.

[recording] I have read many new books and reread books that I really like, to use them as writing guides.  You suggested that we use writing we like to see if we could follow the author’s style of writing.   My problem seems to be that I get engrossed in the stories I am reading and move away from understanding the writing style.  I know that sounds stupid, even as I write this, but it is true.  You’d think I could separate one from the other, but I find it very hard.  I spent about an hour rereading a book (and getting lost in the story again) today and couldn’t seem to figure a real takeaway from the author’s style. Do other people have this problem? Is there a way to get around it?

Thanks for the excellent question, Joan. Before I answer it, let me make one observation. Many people don’t ask questions about things that really bother them because they fear the question sounds too stupid. I refuse to believe there is any such thing as a stupid question. And what you’ve asked me today really gets to the core of an important issue: How do we read?

Many people read for plot — and I think you touch on that when you describe getting “caught up in the story” of the book you’re enjoying. Still others read for figurative language. I know I particularly like the work of Nicholson Baker for his metaphors and similes. I also like the way he can take a paper thin plot, like in his book The Mezzanine — about someone riding an escalator — and turn it into an entire novel.

But reading a book to enjoy it is entirely different from reading a book to learn from it.

If you want to start learning from what you read, I have a book to suggest. It’s called Reading Like a Writer and it’s by Francine Prose. A perfect surname for a writer. Prose explains that we should examine the work of famous authors as Austen, Chekhov, and Roth. She elaborates on the techniques these writers use and gives us some guidelines on what we can learn from them. Most of all, she suggests that we should dramatically S-L-O-W our reading speed and spend more time paying attention to individual words and sentences.

Now I know that most of the authors whom Prose mentions are what I would call “old faithfuls.” I think they still have lessons for us today, but I also understand you might want some more contemporary input. So here is what I suggest:

I think you should start copying the authors you really admire. And by copying, I mean word-for-word. You can copy by pen, if you like, or by computer. But, copying is the best way I know to truly absorb the rhythm, vocabulary and style of another writer. When I copy I do it for no more than five minutes at a time and I try to do it every day. I’ve included a link to my column about this in the description below.

Over the years I’ve used books, blog posts, New York Times pieces and magazine articles. It doesn’t matter what you copy, as long as you think it’s well written and the work offers something you would like to emulate.

Then, when you’ve finished copying the piece (make that a chapter if you’re copying a book) then re-read it again. You’ll learn something new because you’ll understand the writing in a whole different way after having copied it.This is the same principle that fine artists use when learning how to produce visual art.

I have been writing for more than 33 years and I still copy and I still learn from it.

Finally, in case you’re the least bit concerned about being labelled a plagiarist, let me wrap up with a quote from Pablo Picasso: “Good artists copy, great artists steal. ” 

Thanks for your question, Joan. Good luck with learning from other great writers.

Thanks so much for watching. If YOU have a question, you can email, tweet, or skype me. You can find the details in the description below along with any resources I’ve mentioned. And don’t forget to like and subscribe to the video.

Links: 

Reading like a reader by Francine Prose

The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker 

Why you should be a copycat 

 

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Daphne Gray-Grant http://publicationcoach.com/old <![CDATA[The figurative language of Alex Ross…]]> http://www.publicationcoach.com/?p=16900 2017-07-04T19:43:43Z 2017-07-13T08:00:10Z Reading time: Just over 1 minute I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading... Continue Reading]]>

Reading time: Just over 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about some fine work by music writer and cultural critic Alex Ross….

I was a 16-year-old when I went to my first opera, dragged by a friend. I think the initial appeal was that going to opera made me feel extra grown up but, eventually, I fell in love with the art form and bought season’s tickets for many years.

After a hiatus of several decades, in which I had neither the money nor the time for opera, I returned to the theatre. My son had become a music major, studying opera at university, and our highlight was seeing him perform in The Bartered Bride, in a glorious opera house in the Czech Republic.

Now that our son has graduated and chosen to pursue other interests, I am mostly content to read about opera. A recent piece by Alex Ross (pictured above) in the New Yorker — headlined, Chaya Czernowin’s Darkly Majestic Opera “Infinite Now” — illustrated for me the great skill required to write about music. Observe how Ross does it:

  • It begins in near-silence, with faint bass-drum rolls, a tremor of gong, fingernail scratches on drumskins, and breathy noises from the strings. Emanating from a large orchestra, such sounds create a sense of depopulated vastness.
  • In the final few minutes, a quadruple-forte avalanche of brass and percussion is unleashed—a musical equivalent of the butterfly effect, in which slight changes trigger cataclysms.
  • Up to this point, a characteristic Czernowin mood of tense expectancy has prevailed, with stretches of rustling and whispering interrupted by spasms of orchestral fury.
  • At times, the harmonies brush against traditional tonality.
  • It all builds to a sonic hurricane—one of the most awesome storms in musical history.

Alex Ross has been on the staff of The New Yorker magazine since 1996. He is also author of the books The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century (2007) and Listen to This (2011).

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Daphne Gray-Grant http://publicationcoach.com/old <![CDATA[What does the word ‘recursion’ mean?]]> http://www.publicationcoach.com/?p=16886 2017-07-03T21:57:24Z 2017-07-12T08:00:35Z Reading time: Less than 1 minute Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I.. Continue Reading]]>

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

Increase your vocabulary and you’ll make your writing much more precise. That’s why I provide a word of the week. Today’s word: recursion…

What happens when medical diagnoses become automated? That was the question that physician and writer Siddhartha Mukherjee (author of the superb book The Emperor of all Maladies) addressed in an April 2017  New Yorker piece headlined, “A.I. vs M.D.

I’m a longtime fan of the New Yorker and this so far remains my favourite piece of 2017; I wrote about it earlier, lauding its superb use of figurative language. But in the same piece, Mukherjee also gave me my word of the week, recursion. Here is how he used it:

Twenty-five such radiologist were asked to evaluate X-rays of the lung while inside MRI machines that could track the activities of their brains. (There’s a marvellous series of recursions here: to diagnose diagnosis, the imagers had to be imaged.)

Recursion occurs when a thing is defined in terms of itself or of its type. The most common application of recursion is in mathematics and computer science, where a function being defined is applied within its own definition. More simplistically, you might see a recursion as repetition. This is illustrated in the photograph above where you can see the image of someone wearing sunglasses multiplied numerous times in the image of the sunglasses themselves. (This act of repetition is also known as the Droste effect.)

The etymology of recursion is utterly straightforward. It is from the Latin recursionem meaning  “a running backward, return.” The root is the same for the better-known verb “to recur.”

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Daphne Gray-Grant http://publicationcoach.com/old <![CDATA[Why you shouldn’t feel guilty about your holidays]]> http://www.publicationcoach.com/?p=16920 2017-07-09T03:57:24Z 2017-07-11T08:00:15Z Reading time: Less than 3 minutes  Do you suffer from holiday guilt? Not only is this unnecessary, it’s also a.. Continue Reading]]>

Reading time: Less than 3 minutes 

Do you suffer from holiday guilt? Not only is this unnecessary, it’s also a really bad idea. With inadequate breaks, you’ll see your productivity decline and your writing will worsen….

Do you postpone holidays? Or feel guilty about taking time off?

The purpose of my column today is to persuade you that holidays are okay — even a good idea — for everyone, but especially for writers.

Let me begin with this fact: Did you know that more than 40 percent of Americans report working 50 or more hours each week?

But here’s the deal: shorter-working-hour cultures — such as Germany —  are more productive, and have stronger economies. This is because after about 40 hours of work a week, human productivity tends to drop off. Consider the implications of exhaustion, substance abuse, heart disease, and plain old human error. In fact, France recently passed a “right to disconnect” piece of legislation that prevents your boss from contacting you on weekends — or after 5 or 6 pm — unless it’s an emergency.

Productivity researcher Chris Bailey tested the concept of long hours in 2014 by experimenting with working 90-hour weeks for a month. His conclusion? “Working long hours pushes you to procrastinate more, work less efficiently, and causes you to get less done, usually without you realizing it.”

My clients sometimes seem to want 90-hour weeks, too. Whenever I sign up new participants for my Get It Done program (the latest group started July 1; the next one begins Oct. 1) many are astonishingly eager to log lots of hours. Some dislike my instruction to take off two consecutive days each week. Others resist my exhortation to make time for holidays.

But creative work is exhausting. It’s not physically exhausting, like moving bricks, but it uses brain synapses which require energy. And — guess what? — the fuel for your creativity is your own social, arts and exercise time. Do you spend enough time with your friends? Listen to enough music? View enough art? Go for enough walks? Stroll along the beach or in the forest? These are not niceties or optional tasks. They are like gasoline for a car or milk for a baby. They are what you need in order to write. But how will you do any of them if all your time is scheduled for work?

A new book — Peak Performance  — by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness, suggests that the best way to become a top performer, in whatever endeavour, is to take plenty of time off. Growth, they say, is a result of effort + rest. And the rest component is just as important as the effortful one. As a coach of top performance runners, Magness reminds us that researchers have found that hormones work to repair our bodies when we sleep. Without the sleep, these repairs don’t occur.

But in addition to sleep, we also need rest. And rest isn’t just watching TV or scrolling through our Facebook or Twitter feeds. Those mindless activities, which we puzzlingly see as “relaxing,” instead suck up our time and give us precious little in return. Instead of wasting hours on a screen, we’d be better doing more meaningful activities such as visiting with friends or going for a walk or reading a book.

Now, I have a confession to make. At the end of June, I spent a week volunteering full time. I was helping to lead a debate camp for students at my local high school. It ran from 9 am to 4 pm each day and I was responsible for arranging all the food and helping with the judging. I also had some out-of-town friends (thanks, Brian and Patricia!) assisting with the camp staying at my house, so most of my evenings weren’t free either.

For reasons that elude me now, I decided to get up at 5:30 each morning so I could spend 30 minutes on my book (working title: Your Crappy First Draft) which is now in its final editing phase. Because that didn’t give me enough time, I woke up at 5 am on the second day to start editing.

Can you see where this is going? I was exhausted and short tempered. My book had 30 minutes of effort each day but I was becoming unglued. Fortunately, I came to my senses and stopped working on the book for the remaining three days of the camp.

Did the world end? No. Did my book suffer? I don’t think so. It might take me three extra days to finish the editing, but who cares? In fact, I think my book benefited by not being edited by someone who was stressed and tense.

Take your holidays. Take your weekends. Use those breaks to relax and regroup. You’ll be a much more effective writer when you return.

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My video podcast last week suggested how a writer might find the ending for her novel. See it (or the transcript) here and consider subscribing. If you have a question about writing you’d like me to address, be sure to send it to me by email, twitter or Skype and I’ll try to answer it in the podcast.

How do you defend your own holiday time? We can all learn from each other so, please, share your thoughts with my readers and me in the “comments” section below. Anyone who comments on today’s post (or any others) by July 31/17, will be put in a draw for a copy of Business Writing and Communication by Kenneth W. Davis. Please, scroll down to the comments, directly underneath the “related posts” links, below. Note that you don’t have to join the commenting software to post. See here** to learn how to post as a guest.

 

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Daphne Gray-Grant http://publicationcoach.com/old <![CDATA[The most dangerous writing app]]> http://www.publicationcoach.com/?p=16915 2017-07-07T20:55:06Z 2017-07-10T08:00:06Z Reading time: Less than 1 minute This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the.. Continue Reading]]>

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a product called “the most dangerous writing app”…

When you read the headline “the most dangerous writing app,” what did you think of? A writing machine that told lies, perhaps? Or one that produced grammatical errors?

In fact, the most dangerous writing app is a piece of software that starts to delete your text whenever you stop writing. I know, let that sink in for a bit….

Horrible as it sounds, however, I think it’s a really good idea. Most of us write far too slowly and spend far too much time thinking, pondering and fretting about the words we’re putting down on the page. As I tell all of my clients, the act of editing — while important — is not so important that you should do it while you’re writing.

Instead, write your crappy first draft and LATER, go and edit it. This “dangerous” writing app will force you to do exactly that by punishing you if you edit while you write.

Another app, Write Or Die, offered by a man who calls himself Dr Wicked, does something similar. It also tracks your productivity (or lack thereof) and punishes you with a loud noise — a car alarm, a crying baby, disco music — if you slow down to think.

Still, I like the breathless simplicity of the most dangerous writing app. By my calculation, it starts to erase after about six seconds of non-writing on your part. Try it and let me know what you think. Thanks to my reader Eleni Palmos (@gkbluestocking) for alerting me to this dastardly app.

 

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