How Does Your Novel Grow? The Writing/Gardening Connection


photo by Flickr’s Cris

Perhaps this essay is only my desperate attempt to connect to spring in spite of the seven inches of additional snow currently falling on my yard and life. I should be glad to have a reason to stay inside and stick to my writing schedule, before gardening season distracts me. But I am itchy to get my hands in dirt.

My gardening is a little obsessive…friends tease me I have a problem. I used to worry about the time spent in the garden away from my pages. I felt guilty neglecting my novel in progress. But now I understand that the gardening actually feeds the writing in many ways. The most obvious way my garden enriches my writing is that it gives me something relatively mindless to do with my hands—which is exactly when the ideas flow. If I’m trying to figure out what happens next in the story or how to resolve a problem in a scene, I can’t just sit at the desk and expect the answers to come. The ideas come when I’m driving or running or mowing or washing dishes…or gardening. I never listen to music or the news in my garden. I like my mind open and free, while my hands are engaged. Many a scene has been created in my garden.

But beyond that most crucial gift, the gardening process is, in fact, quite similar to the writing process. Every step of the process in one has a parallel in the other.

The first step is to have an idea, right? It actually makes me laugh a bit when people ask me at signings and readings, “Where do you get your ideas?” (as if they want me to name a website or secret store). I don’t mean to be flippant, but I get my ideas from keeping my eyes open as a human being on this planet. I have so many ideas queued up in my brain (kind of like a Netflix queue, complete with the “move to top” option) that I will never be able to write them all in this lifetime. That is exactly how I feel when I look at seed and garden catalogues (or worse, when I am actually in the nursery and end up buying everything I want) “I want this, and this, and ooh, look at that! I need two of these, one in every color…”

But then, you have to eventually pick an idea and focus. You have to look at your space and decide which plants will actually thrive in your zone and soil and sun/shade conditions. I don’t have room for every single plant I’d like to grow, so I have to be picky. And just like with an idea for a novel, once I choose, I have to commit. You have to serve your story, and you serve your story by focusing on character motivation and conflict, not by straying off into tangents.

Early on in the gardening season, I deal with a lot of shit. Literally. Luscious, thick, black, fragrant compost…which is nothing but worm shit and decomposed other matter, usually mixed in with some velvety, ancient horse manure (which tomatoes adore) and chicken droppings raked from some dear friends’ coop. How fitting, since, as Ernest Hemingway told us, “All first drafts are shit.” We give ourselves permission to write badly, knowing that beautiful things will grow later from that all that fertilizing shit. Continue Reading »


The Dangers of Storytelling

image by Surian Soosay

image by Surian Soosay

As writers, storytelling is our business and our art. It’s our core skill. Writing is about putting words together to create a coherent tale, taking our readers on an unexpected journey, and delivering a satisfactory conclusion at the end of that delightful ride.

You know what doesn’t cohere as cleanly? Life.

I’m not one of those writers who believes that you absolutely must struggle to be a “real” writer, but the truth is, many of us do struggle. Fiction rarely pays the bills. The real world is a world of day jobs and freelance work, deadlines and utilities, and a host of needs always tugging, tugging, tugging us in different directions. If you’re looking for an agent, it’s extremely rare to get offered representation on the very first try. If you’re self-publishing, you might put your heart and soul out there only to hear a resounding silence in return.

In that environment, it’s tempting to begin storytelling about ourselves.

How many publishers rejected the first book in the Harry Potter series? The exact number varies, depending on your corner of the internet, but that story is such a common one. Faced with rejections ourselves, we want to hear that amazing success can come following repeated rejection.

Can it? Yes. Does it? Only sometimes. Continue Reading »


Musings on Genres, Shame, and Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?


Genre Wheel from Good Reads Wheel-A-Thon

I don’t tell my ‘academic’ colleagues that I write fiction. I don’t talk much about my non-fiction writing to my fiction-writing community. I LOVE e-readers because they don’t reveal whether I’m reading a steamy romance, popular history, angst-ridden literary novel, nineteenth-century article on hospitals, or an idiot’s guide to something technical that even my nine-year-old already knows how to do.

Why do I do this? Why hide my reading and writing habits? Am I ashamed of something? Scared? Yes, of course. But of what?

In switching between genres I’m scared of crossing social boundaries—of entering unknown, perhaps even unfriendly, territory; of not knowing the rules of acceptable behavior; of feeling like an outsider; of being judged, teased, criticized, left out . . . wait, this is starting to sound like conversations I’ve been having with my daughter about playground interactions.

So, does this mean genres are the literary equivalent of  cliques? Hmmm. Bear with me for a little while on this.

First off, I’m not saying cliques (or genres) are good or bad in and of themselves. They exist. I’m also not interested in examining the varying characteristics of different literary genres. I do want to examine how we use them, what we potentially get from them, and what we lose by them. Continue Reading »


The Science of Creating Authentic Characters

I had the extreme pleasure of meeting Meg Rosoff (one of our contributors here at Writer Unboxed) in Salem at the un-con. I was intrigued by her discussion about hot and cold spots in the brain, the emotional poignancy that resides in those zones, and how to access them. Throughness, she called it; an opening of pathways between the conscious and subconscious mind. As writers, we need to tap into these centers to channel authentic emotion into our characters on the page. An interesting concept. But while I think tapping into our own emotional wells and developing our emotional IQ is a good start, I’d like to take it a step further.

We must expand our understanding of human behavior to create authentic characters.

It’s what I like to call the “science of character writing.” Writers are scientists of human nature. We observe behavior patterns and body language, and often the nearly undetectable movements that reflect what happens just below the surface or deep within our minds and hearts. Without this understanding of human nature, our characters come off as stereotypical, flat, and unbelievable. Some of us are born with an innate ability to read others, to magically peel back the layers of defenses and quirks to see what is really brewing in someone’s mind. Some of us live more in our own heads and struggle with this ability. But we can all hone this inclination to create authentic characters. Continue Reading »


Becoming a Student of Your Own Creative Process

How do you best create? How do you best write, collaborate, increase the quality of your work, improve your ability to focus, or increase the quantity of output?

What actions are you taking to build a body of work that is both meaningful, and powered by a sense of momentum?

Each of you will have your own approach to these things. Your unique goals, preferences, and boundaries. Some will seek to publish a book a year; others won’t be able to see past their eight-year process to complete a debut novel. Both are, of course, fine.

I bring this topic up because I find that many people have blind spots as to why they make the decisions they do. Their creative process becomes mired in bad habits rooted in deep emotions that they are barely aware of. Hours, days, and even years are spent in a state of confusion or frustration regarding how to write better, how to best publish, how to best develop a readership and encourage sales. Each of these, in its own way, is a creative process. Each filled with its own emotional complexity.

How we develop the skills to master our own capabilities around each is a core part of mastering our own unique creative processes.

For instance, I am always surprised that I was taught accounting in high school, but the topic of “emotions and money” was never addressed in accounting class. How, for the most part, our relationship and decisions around money are HIGHLY subjective, based on emotional reactions objective decision-making. Further, these decisions are filled with internal narratives born of desire and fear, not out of practical financial formula.

We read an article about how awesome Apple is and the article includes a chart demonstrating how well Apple stock has done in the past few years. The result? We buy Apple stock. Suddenly, we glean aspects of their identity and success as our own. We feel this is a sound financial investment because of it. Yet, this decision-making approach involved zero financial analysis, and instead was purely emotional. We saw an innovative, successful company and felt innovative and successful ourselves by purchasing shares. If the stock tanked, we would feel betrayed, perhaps blindsided. But as it succeeds, we feel that their identity becomes our own.

The same can be true for our own creative processes.

In working with hundreds of writers and creative professionals, I have seen this play out in countless ways. Often a blockage is only identified as a symptom: “I’m overwhelmed,” or “I’m having writer’s block,” or “I’m just frustrated with all that is asked of me.” While I 100% empathize with these very important emotions, I always want to break them down to understand the root cause. In doing so, we identify assumptions being made, and challenge them in order to find a path forward.

Continue Reading »


The Sundance Kid

sundance2Last month I went to the Sundance Film Festival for the first time ever because, against all odds, I had a film premiering there. The film is a documentary called Misery Loves Comedy, and it basically asks the question, “Do you have to be effed up to do stand-up, or does doing stand-up eff you up?” (Spoiler alert: yes.) I’ll talk in a moment about what it means to “write” a documentary, but first I’d like to tell you how I got the gig to begin with, and why I took it, because it speaks to one of my core values as a writer: flexibility.

Years ago, as some of you know, I wrote a book on writing comedy called The Comic Toolbox. Fewer years ago, as fewer of you know, I became something of an expert in the field of poker (well, “expert” – I wrote many books on the subject). At some point in the dim and distant past, I played poker with a guy who, as it happened, was a fan of The Comic Toolbox, and we stayed in vague touch for many, many years. Eventually he went into the business of producing documentaries, and since my ideas resonated with him, he asked me if I’d like to be part of Misery Loves Comedy.

So, first lesson: You never know what’s going to wash up on your beach. A book I wrote to clarify my own understanding of comedy, plus many books I wrote to exploit a hot market (poker) created the unforeseen opportunity to do something I’d never done before, write a documentary.

What does it mean to write a documentary?  In my case, it meant writing a bunch of framing documents that moved the concept from amorphous goo into something more structured, and writing a lot of questions for the director to ask many comedians. When I said yes to the gig, though, I didn’t know the first thing about writing a documentary. I’d never done it before, didn’t know if I could do it, but that didn’t stop me, or even slow me down, because, second lesson: Never leave money lying on the table. If someone wanted me to pay me to write a documentary, I was by gum going to write a documentary, whether I knew how to do it or not.

Did I have to fake it? Somewhat, but it really wasn’t a problem. I’m long practiced at the art of representing myself as an expert at anything. Frankly, it wouldn’t occur to me not to. If I am committed to learning and growing as a writer (and I am) then I must necessarily accept every challenge that comes my way – especially ones that pay – even if they scare me.

If I am committed to learning and growing as a writer (and I am) then I must necessarily accept every challenge that comes my way.

So, third lesson: Do it, even if you’re scared. Do it even if you’ve never done it before and even if you’re not sure you can do it. Don’t let fear of failure ever stop you from trying.

I’m looking over my own shoulder as I write these words and I’m thinking, “That’s easy for you to say, JV. All these wonderful opportunities just seem to come your way – wash up on your beach, as you say. What about other writers, struggling writers, who don’t have their fingers in so many comedy-writing and scriptwriting and poker pies as you?” Well, what about them? They know many things that I don’t know, right? They have many skills that I don’t have, yes? And they have a synergy of knowledge and skills that will create all sorts of opportunities just for them; opportunities unique to their experience. Which brings me to lesson four and back to lesson one: flexibility. Go off in all directions at once, you’re bound to arrive somewhere eventually. Continue Reading »


The Shiny Everything and The Long Game

After reading Therese and Porter’s posts on the digital world and its effects on our thinking and productivity, I’ve been thinking a lot on the subject. How does all of this affect my life, my creativity?

Confession: despite my reputation as a flighty Gemini, I am not a multitasker. It’s precisely because of my scatteredness that I can’t be—I must focus on one task at a time or I lose things, break them, get lost in the Shiny Everything. In college, after losing my keys for the 400th time and having to call someone to be rescued, a friend said, “You need routines.”

Turned out, he was right. As a very scattered, always-thinking, always dreaming creative type, the only thing that makes it possible for me to manage life is to keep a set of pretty rigid routines. That means one thing at a time. I cook when I cook—if I try to do anything else with it (apart from listening to music), I will burn everything. I can’t walk away. If I walk my dog, I walk my dog. I don’t listen to music or podcasts. We just….walk. The notifications on my social media and email are turned off and I check one thing at a time. If I am going to write, I don’t open my web browser, and on distractable days, I use Freedom to lock myself out. I’m still reading an average of five or six novels a month, sometimes more, and I do read on an iPad, so the Internet is there. The one exception is if I watch TV, I might have my iPad open and flip around, but that’s down time and I feel it’s okay to not really focus on anything.

This is not to demonstrate my superior skills of concentration. It’s just that I didn’t realize I don’t multitask at all and that seemed so weird in the modern world that I had to give it some thought.

So I don’t multitask, but I am still absolutely, completely immersed in the modern world. I love technology, connectedness, social media, and access to everything I want, when I want it, now.

Last night, Christopher Robin said that he’d never seen The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and he might like it. Since it has become my favorite movie (and our cross-over points for fiction of any kind are very small), I was delighted, so we settled in to find it. We looked through On Demand. It wasn’t available as a rental, only a $16 purchase. Tried NetFlix, and Amazon Prime, ditto. Not available yet. Undaunted, he tried iTunes and there it was, so we pulled it up and settled in to watch. Now apart from the slightly bloated size of our entertainment budget, it is kind of miraculous that this is possible. I don’t have to go anywhere. Whatever I want is right there, at the end of a mouse or a remote.

The thing a writer who is focused on the long game will do at that moment is….wait for it….write the next book.


If I want to talk to one of my sons, I can text them or check out their Facebook profiles, send an email, even just call. If I want cat litter or shoes or art supplies, I pull up the appropriate screen, tap in my numbers, and it will arrive at my door in a day or two. If I want to read and don’t like what I have around the house (hard as that is to believe, given the towering piles of reading that await), all I have to do is go find another one online in two seconds

This extends to nearly every arena of life. If I want to find out about a city, I check out Google Earth. I can see the street my hotel is on , and get a 360 degree view of it. I can travel with some clicking, find a cab, a restaurant, a movie, reservations, tickets, artists. I can research almost anything, in great detail, from my armchair.

Everything. Instantly. The Shiny Everything is right in front of me at all times. Continue Reading »


Shag, Marry, Kill (Literary Edition)

ShagMarryKillI grew up on game shows. Jeopardy. Wheel of Fortune. Family Feud. The Dating Game. My favorites were the celebrity editions where we, Jane and John Does, sitting on our couches across America got to see famous people unscripted. To laugh alongside them like we were all a bunch of friends having pizza and soda round the game table. My husband and I still tune into Jeopardy, shouting out the answers before any of the players have buzzed. Game shows of every variety equalize the millionaire actor and the street vendor under the banner of “contestants.” A person’s past or even how they arrived on the show is inconsequential. All that matters is the present.

That accessibility to the masses and acceptance of the character game rules are attributes shared by literature. It’s why, as readers and writers, we get excited seeing a particular book we’ve read in the hands of a Hollywood star, political leader, or other esteemed person. We feel, “Me, too!” even if we don’t consciously think or say it.

So I went on a social media hunt for the current popular sport and found this all-inclusive gem: Shag, Marry, Kill. It seems everyone from superstar chefs to decorous journalists are being put on the spot to play. Well, I said to myself, why not authors in a literary edition—this is Writer Unboxed! I snagged three kind friends who were ready to get their game on.

(Ahem, stepping onto the game show hostess podium now.)

It is my pleasure to introduce brilliant writers and our distinguished contestants of the first Writer Unboxed Shag, Marry, Kill column:

Megan Abbott, Edgar-winning author of the novels Queenpin, The Song Is You, Die a Little, Bury Me Deep, The End of Everything, Dare Me, and her latest chosen as best book of 2014 by Amazon, The Fever.

Melanie Benjamin, New York Times bestselling author of The Aviator’s Wife, Alice I Have Been and The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb.

Matthew Dicks, author of the critically-acclaimed novels Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend, Something Missing, Unexpectedly, Milo and the forthcoming The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs (September 2015).

The rules are simple: For each question, the contestant must designate which of the three persons he or she would rather shag, marry, and kill. It’s generally hard to say, I’ll shag X, marry Y, and kill Z without some kind of explanation and therein lies our entertainment. The story of why each “shag, marry and kill” were chosen.

Continue Reading »


5 Digital Media Resources for Every Writer’s Toolbox

by André Freitas

by André Freitas

Since 2010, I’ve been actively teaching students of all backgrounds about using digital media for creative endeavors, whether through traditional university courses or through online classes. I also send out a (not quite) monthly newsletter introducing writers to digital media tools.

The following resources have surfaced again and again as the most valuable. If you aren’t yet familiar with them, each is worthy of your consideration.

1. Lynda

This is, hands down, the best place to go to learn any software or digital media skill. It’s an on-demand education platform with more than 3,000+ courses at your fingertips.  Their offerings have never let me down, and the curriculum and teaching style is the highest quality I’ve found anywhere. If you need to learn a new online or digital media skill, go to Lynda first. (I swear I don’t get paid for saying that.)

2. 279 Days to Overnight Success

Now more than five years old, I still consider this one of the most valuable blueprints and introductions to what it means to build an online presence and start living the creative life you want, on your own terms. Thank you, Chris Guillebeau. Go download it now.

3. Camtasia

As video becomes more prevalent as both a content delivery tool and marketing tool, know how to stitch together a simple video is immensely valuable. I use Camtasia when I need to create “talking head” style videos, screencast tutorials, or a combination of both. It’s fairly straightforward for a beginner to use, and if you feel intimidated, have I told you about an educational resource called Lynda?

4. Canva

Continue Reading »


Tying Character Types to Plot, Suspense, and Emotion


Our guest today is Jeanne Cavelos, creator of the Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization devoted to helping developing writers of fantastic fiction improve their work.

A writer, editor, scientist, and teacher, Jeanne began her professional life as an astrophysicist, working in the Astronaut Training Division at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, but her love of love of science fiction led her to earn her MFA in creative writing. She moved into a career in publishing, becoming a senior editor at Bantam Doubleday Dell, where she created and launched the Abyss imprint of innovative horror and the Cutting Edge imprint of noir literary fiction. She also ran the science fiction/fantasy publishing program and edited a wide range of fiction and nonfiction; in her eight years in New York publishing, she edited numerous award-winning and best-selling authors and gained a reputation for discovering and nurturing new writers. Jeanne won the World Fantasy Award for her editing.

I am constantly trying to learn more about writing, both to improve my own work and to make myself a better teacher and mentor to other writers. I was very excited last spring when I came across the writing book mentioned in my article.  The more I think about the character types discussed in the book, the more insights I have about how these types can be used to strengthen stories.  I haven’t seen these ideas about how to link plot, character, and emotion discussed anywhere before, so I thought they might be helpful to your readers.

She left New York to find a balance that would allow her to do her own writing and work in a more in-depth way with writers. She has had seven books published; her last novel Invoking Darkness, the third volume in her best-selling trilogy The Passing Of The Techno-Mages (Del Rey), set in the Babylon 5 universe. The Sci-Fi Channel called the trilogy “A revelation for Babylon 5 fans. . . . Not ‘television episodic’ in look and feel. They are truly novels in their own right.” Her book The Science Of Star Wars (St. Martin’s) was chosen by the New York Public Library for its recommended reading list. The Science Of The X-Files (Berkley) was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award. Jeanne has published short fiction and nonfiction in magazines and anthologies, and she is currently writing a near-future science thriller about genetic manipulation, titled Fatal Spiral.

Jeanne loves working with developing writers, which led her to create the Odyssey Writing Workshop, the only major workshop of its kind run by an editor. Jeanne designed the workshop to combine an advanced curriculum that allows writers to improve their craft with detailed, in-depth feedback on their work. In 2010, she launched Odyssey Online Classes; Jeanne oversees the courses offered and teaches one online course per year. She is also an English lecturer at Saint Anselm College where she teaches fiction and nonfiction writing.

Of her post today, Jeanne says, “I am constantly trying to learn more about writing, both to improve my own work and to make myself a better teacher and mentor to other writers.  I was very excited last spring when I came across the writing book mentioned in my article.  The more I think about the character types discussed in the book, the more insights I have about how these types can be used to strengthen stories.  I haven’t seen these ideas about how to link plot, character, and emotion discussed anywhere before, so I thought they might be helpful to your readers.”

Connect with Jeanne and the Odyssey Writing Workshop on Odyssey’s website and blog, on Facebook and on Twitter. For more information about Odyssey, check out this youtube video.

Tying Character Types to Plot, Suspense, and Emotion 

Create a protagonist. Add an antagonist. Toss in a sidekick or minion, or if you’re writing a novel, perhaps a whole array of characters. But then what do you do with them? How do you incorporate each character into the story so he has a powerful impact on plot, raises intense suspense, and generates strong emotions?

One very useful tool to help you maximize the impact of each character on the story is to consider each character’s type. The book The Dramatic Writer’s Companion: Tools to Develop Characters, Cause Scenes, and Build Stories by Will Dunne introduces different character types, such as the close powerful ally, the close weak ally, the distant powerful ally, the distant weak ally, the close powerful adversary, the distant powerful adversary, the close weak adversary, and the distant weak adversary. While Dunne identifies other fascinating types, we’ll focus on these in this article.

At first, these categories may seem fairly obvious. But as I thought about them, I realized how much power they could bring to a story if one considers what type of character would best serve the story at a particular point. For example, if your protagonist starts out weak, like Harry Potter, then a close powerful adversary should quickly destroy him, if your story is to be believable. Instead, Harry needs a close weak adversary that he has at least a chance of beating, such as Draco Malfoy, so we feel suspense and concern. If Harry has nearby allies, then they should be close weak allies. Continue Reading »


How to Nurture Your Fan Base

HfHWarning: Hacks for Hacks tips may have harmful side effects on your writing career, and should not be used by minors, adults, writers, poets, scribes, scriveners, journalists, or anybody.

Fans are one of the greatest rewards of being a writer. It wouldn’t take much, since there’s so little money in publishing, but still. A loyal following of readers provides many benefits beyond book sales. Fans can provide a warm welcome at a convention, or a couch to crash on during a book tour, or a seething army to smite your critics online. Inspiring this loyalty doesn’t happen overnight, even for bestselling authors. Let me show you what it takes:

Business Cards: First, print some business cards listing all the places your fans can interact with you–your website, Twitter, Facebook, Livejournal…wow, Livejournal’s still around, huh? You may as well list a Hotmail address…oh, you’ve got one of those too, huh? Wow.

Fans can provide a warm welcome at a convention, or a couch to crash on during a book tour, or a seething army to smite your critics online.

Business cards double as bookmarks, and are great to give out at readings, as tips at restaurants, to the cashier at the grocery store. One trick I like to use is to print them on the back of coupons. Even if they don’t buy your book right away, they’ll forever associate you with that one time you got them 20% off a pint of Chunky Monkey.

Social Media: Twitter, Facebook, and blogs allow you to reach your fans without having to actually be in the same room with them, proving that there has never been a better time in history to be a writer. Set up a discussion board on your website so fans will have a place to praise you while they get into screaming matches over unrelated minutiae. Ask readers to Instagram your book in different places around the world, whether that’s in a far-away pub, on a tropical beach, or next to the toilet. Get in Twitter flame wars with nincompoops who misunderstood the Christ symbolism you put in Chapter 7 that should have been INCREDIBLY OBVIOUS, JERRY!

Fan Fiction: You’ll know you have some dedicated fans when they start writing fan fiction about your work. If you want to encourage it, publicly state how flattered you are that your fans care enough to write a nonsensical alternate ending or a poorly conceived spin-off. If you really want to encourage it, tell them that you hate fan fiction, and create a pretend law firm to threaten legal action. Pro tip: Set yourself up for success by planting clues in your manuscript about which characters might make good slash fiction pairings.

Continue Reading »


If the ‘Elastic Mind’ Snaps: A Lenten Lullaby


Image - IStockphoto: nastco

Image – IStockphoto: nastco


This will be my last post until Monday, April 13,2015.

No, not me.  (You wish.)

Kathy Pooler

Kathy Pooler

No, that’s a colleague, the memoirist Kathy Pooler. She’s a good, cold-weather Catholic, mind you, so Lent means a lot more to her than it does to troppo Protestants like me.

Following a retreat with some author-colleagues, Pooler has decided to cut her exposure to social media way back for Lent. She writes:

Being away with these treasured friends got me in touch with my own need to step back—rest, refresh, renew. After five-plus years of nonstop weekly blogging and intense social media involvement, I have decided to…go on my own Lenten sabbatical.

She’ll have a few guest posts going up, and she’ll check email. But, she writes, “I will limit my time on Facebook and Twitter to automated sharing of guest posts. This will mean turning off my social media notifications on my iPhone.”

So now we can talk about her all we want. Just kidding. Pooler goes on:

I know that limiting my social media presence will be a supreme challenge as I so love connecting with others. But I also know I need to take care of myself; to step back and reflect before I can come back and be all I need and want to be. And it fits in with my mantra to “simplify.” Until we meet again, I wish you all peace and quiet moments of reflection during this Lenten season. I look forward to returning in April refreshed and renewed. I plan to share the lessons learned when I return.

Therese Walsh

Therese Walsh

Aside from the fact that Pooler turns out to be really good at benedictions (who knew?), this has reminded me of the February 3 post here from Therese Walsh, author and Writer Unboxed’s co-founder. She wrote about a search for “mono-tasking,” meaning, in essence, the ability to hunker down on one sustained project or task without feeling pulled apart by competing thoughts and stimuli.  So many of us know what she’s talking about, all too well.

Walsh and I have been in touch a bit since that post ran, comparing notes. I’ve offered a few technical responses that I find helpful to the relentless blitz — RescueTime (which I find invaluable — you’re welcome to explore it free with my link); “frequency following” sound recordings, which I find helpful while focusing on work; meditation.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what she wrote, her distress at feeling her concentration is challenged — I can relate; that bad feeling (this is my characterization, not hers) of having our livers pecked out by data transmissions.

And I’ve been thinking about what Pooler’s doing, heading off the social grid to get a grip.

In keeping with the Lenten theme, it has to do with temptation, somehow. I think this is part of what we’re talking about.

Continue Reading »