Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Zadie Smith

How Do Writers Do It? ~ Getting the Job Done…

I spent over 50 years of my life waiting for inspiration to write—it did arrive, a few times

Writer's Productivity Habits

Gerard ter Borch, Woman Writing a Letter, ~1655, Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Thing is, during all that time, I wasn’t thinking of myself as a writer (but, I was learning most of what serves me well now that I do...).

With my current schedule of a new short tale every week, my “writing habits” or “productivity routines” are the heartbeat of my work.

Doing this blog helps keep me tuned up, too.

Recently, Kristin Wong had an article on LifeHacker called, The Best Productivity Habits of Famous Writers.

As is my reportorial habit, I’ll share a few excerpts and leave it to you to go find all the really interesting stuff in the full article :-)

Kristin’s first bullet point is On Getting Started”.

Toni Morrison: Change Your Definition of Failure

“Pay very close attention to failure, rather than get depressed or unnerved or feel ashamed. As a writer, a failure is just information…”

John Steinbeck: Focus on the System, Not the Goal

“Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps.”

Neil Gaiman: “You Learn By Finishing Things”

“When people come to me and they say, ‘I want to be a writer, what should i do?’ I say you have to write.”

The quotes from each of the authors is longer in Kristin’s article

The next major point is “On Staying Focused”.

Zadie Smith: Disconnect From Distractions

“Work on a computer that is disconnected from the ­Internet.”

Jerry Seinfeld: Don’t Break The Chain (most of this quote is “about Jerry”—do go to the full article to find out what Jerry said…)

“He revealed a unique calendar system he uses to pressure himself to write.”

Raymond Chandler: Write or Get Bored (another “about”—Kristen talking…)

“He blocked time into his schedule for writing, and if he didn’t write, his only other option was to do nothing.”

The next point is “On Warding Off Writer’s Block”.

Colson Whitehead: Embrace Adventure

“Keep ahead of the curve. Get out and see the world. It’s not going to kill you to butch it up a tad.”

Ernest Hemingway: Stop Mid-Sentence

“The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next.”

Anne Enright: Imagine Your Death to Find the Problem

“Imagine that you are dying. If you had a terminal disease would you ­finish this book? Why not?”


Go to the full article to find out the endings of the quotes I’ve shared—discovering everything Kristin says is another good reason to go read it :-)
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Is There Still Space in Our Digital World for Long-form Writing?

What’s a long read for you?

140 characters?

140 sentences?

140 pages?

So much now on the Internet is being squeezed into the smallest space possible…

Is there a future for reading “Long” pieces??

I stumbled on an article in New York MagazineThe Future of Reading, According to Longform.

Here are just a few excerpts: is one of a handful of websites that made an early bet on the survival of feature writing in a click-bait world.”

“Linsky and Lammer [the founders] say they value readers, writers, and publications equally, but the first two are really at the core of their philosophical pitch. Having begun by aggregating their own picks, now they’re giving readers and writers (who’ll share their own favorites) the tools to do the same: every reader a publisher, every writer a magazine.”

And, just a bit from Longform’s site:

“Longform is proud to be sponsored by Pitt Writers, the University of Pittsburgh’s Writing Program.”

I’ve checked out Longform’s site, looked through the titles of the first 120 articles in Arts and Culture (there are many other categories…) and selected three to link to here. There are only three since I wasn’t looking for stuff that would interest me but what I thought appropriate for this blog’s readership:

George Orwell’s Why I Write

An interview with author Joan Didion

And, The Book On Publishing about “…author, Chad Harbach, who had spent a decade on a novel his friends thought he’d never finish.”

Longform has also recently released an App for iPhone and iPad.

I mentioned it to my Best Friend, author Jane Watson, and she agreed to give it a try and write-up her impressions:

“When I first saw Longform I was sceptical. My iPad is littered with apps that purport to keep me in touch with what is happening in newspapers, magazines, the writing world, the tech world, or any other world you care to name. I have never found any of them to really satisfy my needs.  All they really seem to do is push me information that I do not want to read, at that moment, or that I never wanted to read, in the first place. After a brief period of infatuation I usually stop using them.

“So I approached this app with trepidation.  I began tentatively. I started off with ‘Staff Picks’, went on to ‘Explore’ and then moved into the quite foreign area, for me, of ‘Following’ (I don’t tweet and this sounded a little chirpy to me :-) —  but in the ‘Category’ of ‘Writers to Follow’ I was soon browsing through all the recent articles about, or by, Zadie Smith, I was following several other writers,  and I was beginning to enjoy myself. After feeling a little lost, I began to relish walking through a labyrinth with a meaningful surprise just around each corner. Many categories allow you to choose two ways to examine their information by either selecting ‘Publishers’ or ‘Writers’. In this way you can examine a topic in a more two dimensional way – books, newspapers or magazines that deal with it, or writers who deal with it.

“By the time I found myself actually reading an article about a man who, for decades, went through the trash can of John Updike, collecting a treasure trove of his discarded stuff, in a creepy but perhaps fascinating way, that may have totally violated Updike’s privacy,  I knew I had fallen in love.

“I think that this is an invaluable app for anyone who is seeking to gather information and opinions on a topic. I found the tangents it gently lead me off on very inspiring and thought provoking and Longform could be an app which helps seed some very interesting story ideas for a writer :-)

“Who knows? I may write a story about a guy who loves your writing and goes through your trash can to find where your ideas came from :-)”
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