Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I'm Sorry to See You Go, Great Bird.

A stunning photo of the space shuttle Endeavour docked with the International Space Station above unknown Earth cities.

It's hard to see on this image, but the stars are completely bright and clear, and they have no trails. Therefore, the streaking you see on the city lights is due to a combination of the motion of the shuttle's orbit and the rotation of the Earth.

Image from Nasa, link via Discovery Magazine.

Author website: J. J. DeBenedictis

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Quasi-Science of Not Distracting Yourself

I had a productive day of writing today, and that fact got me thinking, because the truth is I've had quite a few non-productive days in the past month.

When I get started on a piece of writing, it's hard to stop. It's also a genuine rush; if I got a solid bit of writing done that morning, I inevitably bounce off to work feeling great (despite the fact I'm then running late.)

The problem is in the starting. I often feel psychological resistance to opening the story up and beginning to work. It'd be understandable if I were stuck on a scene, but this happens even when I left an exciting paragraph in mid-sentence last time.

So in today's post, I've compiled some useful information about how to fight procrastination. (Because those who can't do, teach, right? ;-) )


We have limited amounts of self-control, and there's actually science to back this claim up.

If you take two groups, and ask one group to exercise self-control (say, by not eating the Oreo cookies sitting in front of them), then put both groups into a situation where they have to (in one case, again) practice self-control, the group who has already spent time denying themselves a treat will crack first.

So, if you've spent the day forcing yourself to do one thing, it genuinely makes it harder to force yourself to do something else that evening.

Thus, if you've got a tendency to procrastinate, schedule your writing time for first thing in the day. That's when your willpower is at its most effective.

Inertia and Momentum

Brenda Carre once told me that when she doesn't feel like writing, she makes herself sit down for just five minutes. If, at the end of the five minutes, she still doesn't want to write, she will allow herself to walk away. Usually, however, this doesn't happen; she finds she keeps going.

Likewise, I once read about a runner who, when she didn't feel like going out for her jog, would just put on her exercise clothes and running shoes. Once garbed up, she usually could find the willpower to then get herself out the door.

This technique works partly because we're giving our self-control a seemingly smaller task to accomplish--one that feels manageable in a way that the entirety of the task doesn't. By breaking up a big, daunting project into small pieces, we can side-step our mental resistance to the thought of how much work the whole thing is going to be.

But there's more to it than that: A psychologist once conducted a study where she gave a group of people a task to complete, then interrupted them before they could finish and told them the study was over. The majority of the people kept working on the task; it bugged them to leave it incomplete.

Once you've started something, it's harder to stop. We all have a tendency to not let go of something when we're in the middle of it. So again, forcing yourself to tackle a little piece of a big project really does encourage you to complete the whole thing (if piece-meal), because once started, you gain psychological momentum and can't stop.

Making and Breaking

It takes about 20 days of consistent action to form a habit. That probably means it takes about 20 days of steadfast avoidance to break a habit, too.

So if you're trying to keep to a writing schedule, then don't despair at how hard it feels. You only need to force yourself to do this for about 20 days before it starts to feel easy.

Likewise, if you're trying to break a habit of (oh, for completely-random example) mooching about the internet instead of writing, then you only need to deprive yourself of that lovely, lovely crack your vice for about 20 days and the cravings will go away.

What I'm saying is: it's do-able. Don't give up. Forming a new habit is a manageable goal.

Bad Dog; No Cookie

Finally--and this is something I learned from that last video I posted--your limbic system is the part of your brain that distracts you (with the urge to go get a tea, or snag a cookie, or check your email.)

And the limbic system is more prone to responding to something it has just been reminded of.

Thus, if you want to at least minimize your own tendency to get distracted, then put away all reminders of things that distract you. Hide your tea mug; put the bag of cookies in a cupboard; turn off the 'ping' on your email program.

And if something does distract you, then just remember your limbic system has no attention span. If you tough it out, and don't respond to the urge, it will go away.


Have you any other hints for avoiding procrastination and being productive? I'd love to hear them! And I would also love to learn about any other research you've read on this subject.

Author website: J. J. DeBenedictis

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Your Limbic System and You: "Have Another Cookie."

Here's an entertaining--and informative! and practical!--video on managing procrastination.

Thanks to Maybe Genius for the link!

Author website: J. J. DeBenedictis

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A New Way To Keep You Close: Now You're Thinking With Portals!

Only a few of you might understand the reference, but ooh! Ooh! I want these!

(It's just Shrinky-Dink plastic, right? Hey, I could totally make a pair of these...)

Image via If Style Could Kill

Author website: J. J. DeBenedictis

Monday, May 23, 2011

Introducing "Goblin's Humiliator"

Click here to get the Humiliator!

Okay! I have been dying to tell you guys about this for the past three weeks, but, um, I'm not a very talented programmer and I couldn't get it to work. Ahem.

But now it works! What works, you ask? Well, if you're reading this post via an RSS feed, then before I can tell you, I need you to first click through to my blog.

Everybody here, now? Excellent! Now look over to the right at my sidebar. See that new icon labelled "Goblin's Humiliator"?

This is my brand-new, fully-automated HUMILIATION MOTIVATOR. Mwoo-hahaha!

(Um; if you don't see anything, you probably need to enable Javascript on your web browser. Heh.)

It was, of course, inspired by McKoala's original Public Humiliation Challenge, but while The Koala lovingly delivers a more personal (and painful) incentive to write, my automated Humiliator will tirelessly goad you into meeting a daily writing quota.

The way it works is you have to write at least 100 words a day (and update your word-count online) or that icon changes to a slightly more embarrassing image. How embarrassing will it get? See for yourselves:
If you've been
writing consistently:
Goblin Rank: 7
If you've missed
one day of writing:
Goblin Rank: 6
If you've missed
two days of writing:
Goblin Rank: 5
If you've missed
three days of writing:
Goblin Rank: 4
If you've missed
four days of writing:
Goblin Rank: 3
If you've missed
five days of writing:
Goblin Rank: 2
If you've missed
six days of writing:
Goblin Rank: 1
If you've missed
seven days of writing:
Goblin Rank: 0
If you're on
Goblin Rank: On Vacation

Eek! Just imagine how awful it would be to have Day 7's image showing on your blog or website. And what writer couldn't use incentive like that? Ah, the clammy hand of fear on the back of your neck--you need it!

And fortunately, THE HUMILIATOR CAN BE YOURS! To sign up (it's free!), please go to the home page of Goblin's Humiliator and click the right-hand button to create an account and generate the code you'll need. Please sign up! (And, if anything behaves oddly, please let me know, because this is a beta version; herp-derp.)

Click here to get Goblin's Humiliator
for your website or blog!

Author website: J. J. DeBenedictis

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sunday, May 15, 2011

From The Query Goblin: "Left of Unsaid" by Perri

Perri has graciously allowed the Goblin to massage the query for Left of Unsaid. Please pop by and see/say what you think!

Author website: J. J. DeBenedictis

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Don't Sign Dumb Contracts, and other good advice

This is a rather interesting blog on the business of writing I just heard about via Deanna Knippling.

The writer of The Passive Voice describes himself as "a recovering lawyer" and although his blog skews in favour of self-publishing, I don't see the kind of evangelizing some self-publishing proponents do. This fellow has some smart things to say:

I particularly liked his entry called "Don't Sign Dumb Contracts".

Author website: J. J. DeBenedictis

Friday, May 06, 2011

From the Query Goblin: "Daze and Knights" by Melanie Stanford

Melanie Stanford has graciously allowed the Goblin to massage the query for Daze and Knights. Please pop by and see/say what you think!

Author website: J. J. DeBenedictis

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Slow Wonder

The serendipity of today was I kept stumbling across really beautiful time-lapse videos. Here are the three that blew me away. They're well worth watching full-screen.

Sky in motion from Chris Kotsiopoulos

The Eyjafjallajökull Volcano by Sjorsenzo

El Cielo de Canarias / Canary sky - Tenerife from Daniel López

Pageloads since 01/01/2009: