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Culture Psychology Science Writing

‘Write drunk, edit sober’

In a recent study done by professor Andrew Jarosz of Mississippi State University reveals that drunk people are more creative at problem-solving.

We gave participants 15 questions from a creative problem-solving assessment called the Remote Associates Test, or RAT—for example, “What word relates to these three: ‘duck,’ ‘dollar,’ ‘fold’?”; the answer to which is “bill.” We found that the tipsy people solved two to three more problems than folks who stayed sober. They also submitted their answers more quickly within the one-minute-per-question time limit, which is maybe even more surprising.

What Jarosz’s study showed is that impairment of focus is a boon for creativity. Sober people tend to overthink. Being a little tipsy loosens the need for perfection and crowd-pleasing.

“Aha!” Let’s relax and unwind

The study is not an excuse for artists or anybody for the matter to get drunk. But what it says is that our intention to be serious and focus all the time can get in the way of outside the box thinking.

Keep in mind that Ernest Hemingway only imbibed after his writing sessions ended so take the study for what it’s worth. Nonetheless, here’s Hemingway kicking a beer can.

Categories
Books Life & Philosophy Writing

Freedom from the to-do list: ‘The Art of the Wasted Day’ by Patricia Hampl

The pace at which we move is extraordinary. Look out the window. Stare at the seagulls. Nobody has time for that!

Obsessed with productivity or the pursuit of distraction, we’re never not doing something. Even when we’re bored, we’re making lists or planning them out in images on a Pinterest board.

As Umberto Eco once said, “We like lists because we don’t want to die.”

But Patricia Hampl’s new book The Art of the Wasted Day wants us to reconsider time management by removing the burden of the to-do list and daydream instead. She encourages us, especially in our old age — what she calls the third stage after youth and middle age — to let go of the over-scheduled life.

The to-do list that runs most lives through middle age turns out, in this latter stage of existence, to have only one task: to waste life in order to find it. Who said that? Or something like that. Jesus? Buddha? Bob Dylan? Somebody who knew what’s what

Wonder, rather than pursue

Why keep adding to the list tasks like meditation and yoga? The urge to scratch the itch or check the boxes means more doing rather enjoying the freedom of idleness.

Patricia Hampl encourages us to be ok with making unscheduled time and doing nothing at all. She wants to remind us that it’s ok to pause and dance with pure nothingness. We can always get going again.

Loafing is not a prudent business plan, not even a life plan, not a recognizably American project. But it begins to look a little like happiness, the kind that claims you, unbidden. Stay put and let the world show up? Or get out there and be a flâneur? Which is it? Well, it’s both.

Categories
Productivity & Work Tech Writing

Paper just works

Touching is believing. That’s why bullet journals are all the rage.

People want to slow down and get everything from their worries, random thoughts, weekend plans, shopping lists, gift ideas, blog topics, exercise schedules, etc., all down and out on paper.

Writes Mike Vardy in his piece Why Paper Works:

Paper works because it is only limited by what you’re willing to put on (and into) it. Paper provides an escape from your devices and does so without compromising your ability to get things done. Paper is safe and secure in that it can be both lifesaving and disposable depending on the circumstances. Paper is versatile, compatible and portable. Paper — simply put — just works.

Focus is scarce. It’s hard to think with clarity in a world that tempts us to scroll mindlessly through candy-colored apps. Boring is the new interesting.

A simple pen and paper ask for our attention. And we give it.

Longform doesn’t squander our best thoughts to the latest social media refresh. The handwritten word complements the learning process.

Digital is where we source the ideas and paper is where we write them down and connect the dots.

When we use analog and digital tools with intent, they tend to complement each other.

Categories
Arts Creativity Culture Writing

Maria Popova: I loathe the term “content”

Brain Pickings blogger Maria Popova sat down with WordPress in the Own Your Content series to discuss evergreen ideas and rethinking the meaning of content.

Popova writes about timeless topics. “I am drawn to ideas that remain resonant across time and space, across cultures and civilizations.” If you read her blog, you know that she excels in digging up little-known gems from primary sources and combining them in an interesting way.

Her talent reminds me of what professor Kenneth Goldsmith of the University of Pennsylvania said about education in the internet era: “an educated person in the future will be a curious person who collects better artifacts. The ability to call up and use facts is the new education. How to tap them, how to use them.”

Maria excels in making old content relevant again. Following her blog is a direct line to her insatiable curiosity.

In this sense, then, it naturally inclines toward what you call “evergreen” — which I take to mean enduring ideas that hold up across the years, decades, and centuries, and continue to solace and give meaning undiminished by time.

Yet, she also dislikes the word content as it compels merchants to race the bottom in the form of attention-seeking missiles:

I loathe the term “content” as applied to cultural material — it was foisted upon us by a commercially driven media industry that treats human beings as mindless eyeballs counted in statistics like views and likes, as currency to be traded against advertising revenue. Somehow people have been sold on the idea that the relationship between ads and “content” is a symbiotic one, but it is a parasitic one.

While tech may be the cigarette of the century,  the internet does provide space for writers like Maria Popova to demonstrate combinatorial creativity in the name of the hyperlink. If used properly, the internet can be a learning machine rather than a propaganda tool.

Categories
Arts Writing

The difference between blogging and writing

Short answer: There is no difference between blogging and writing.

Blogging is the process of writing. The only difference is that our words appear on the world wide web — a global information medium discovered 30 years ago — rather than in a formal publication like a newspaper or a book.

The best part about blogging is that it’s free. You can set one up in just a few minutes. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Seth Godin publishes a new post every day. He thinks blogging is the best investment he’s ever made. Hard to disagree. 

When we force ourselves to think and ship daily, we take responsibility for our work. Blogging also helps us connect to the world.  

Advises entrepreneur and investor Andrew Chen:

“Writing is the most scalable professional networking activity. Stay home, don’t go to events/conferences, and just put ideas down.”

Blogging is also therapeutic, a restorative practice much like journaling, which also forces us to sit down and reflect on what we’ve learned and want to know more. 

The art of blogging

Blogs are tools. They provide a canvass for working out ideas but also operate as a catalyst for building other stuff. The practice of blogging, slow and deliberate, raw and often unpolished, is an evolutionary stimulant. 

How can we be sure about life’s improvement without disciplining ourselves to bridge the dots between the past and the future? 

Categories
Books Psychology Science

‘I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing’ 👁🌲

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“Standing on the bare ground, my head bathed by the blithe air and uplifted into infinite space, all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball; I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or parcel of God.”

Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson

As seen in The benefits of walking in nature

Categories
Apps Blogging

The difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org explained in simple terms

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see the disclosure for more info.

There seems to be a lot of confusion out there still between WordPress.com and WordPress.org.

Think of WordPress.com as the all-in-one site-building package that hosts all your content and design, pretty much everything! It’s a one-stop-shop that comes with WordPress’s own plugins like Jetpack and WooCommerce.

Keep in mind that Automatic is the company behind WordPress so if you see a plugin built by Automatic that’s essentially WordPress. 

Now, think of WordPress.org as half of the core essentials of powering your website. You still need somewhere to store all your parts!

WordPress.org is both the blog tool and software engine

WordPress.org is merely the software engine powering your site. For instance, you need a browser to access the web — whether it be Safari, Chrome, or Firefox. Similarly, you need a tool to blog just like you need a car to drive. That tool or vehicle is WordPress, the backbone operating system integral to the entire publishing ecosystem.

The other half of the blog engine is your host, the critical piece that houses all the data living on your site including your theme and all your posts and plugins. There are a plethora of companies offering their services as hosts — I recommend WPEngine.

So why choose with WordPress.org + self-hosted if WordPress.com handles everything?

One of the perks of going self-hosted is that you can make your website fully customizable. You can choose from over thousands of third-party plugins with apps like the SEO optimizer Yoast, special sharing widgets like Social Warfare or monetize your site with Google Adsense. You can see more plugins here

The difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org explained in simple terms

Keep it simple, get a WordPress.com Business account

What’s new this year is that you can use WordPress.com like a self-hosted site BUT only if you upgrade to WordPress.com Business!

Signing up for a WordPress.com Business account gets you the security of everything WordPress provides out of the box plus the ability to add from the 55,000 third-party plugins like those mentioned above so you can customize your site whichever way you want. Basically, WordPress Business is the best of both WordPress.com and WordPress.org in one place. 

I wrote a whole post on why upgrading to WordPress.com Business is worth every penny. Find it here

I hope the above explanation outlines the differences between WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org. Keep in mind also that you can still blog for free on WordPress. WordPress.com will always offer a version that will always be free!

Choose your WordPress.com flavor today!

Categories
Books Creativity Writing

The link between praying and writing

When acclaimed South African novelist and Nobel Prize winner JM Coetzee was asked about the writing process, he compared it to the effort of praying.

“In both cases it’s hard to say to whom one’s discourse is directed. You have to subject yourself to the blankness of the page and you wait patiently to hear whether the blankness answers you. Sometimes it does not and then you despair.”

JM Coetzee (see books)

Of course, some writers believe the blank page is non-existent. They suggest that one should write poorly until they produce something of substance.

Better yet, consider the work philosophy of Vincent Van Vough and unthink: “Just slap anything on when you see a blank canvas staring you in the face like some imbecile.”

Categories
Books Quotes

Why write by hand ✍

“Ah, what technology has brought us! First the typewriter, then the word processor, next the computer, now voice-recognition computers, and laptops that weigh less than a good-sized paperback and are getting smaller and lighter all the time. Why write by hand when there ‘s all this technology, a nanosecond ‘s response to the flick of the finger, the ability to alter sentences, relocate paragraphs, erase, or rearrange whole chapters with macro magic? And how our fingers fly. At last we can almost keep up with our thoughts. With all this, why still write by hand?

Legions of writers still do, and for their own good reasons. For example: Writer bell hooks said there’s something about handwriting that slows the idea process. When working on the computer, she said, “You don’t have those moments of pause that you need.” Spalding Gray believed that writing by hand was the closest thing he could get to his breath, and Anne Tyler said the muscular movement of putting down script on the paper gets her imagination back in the track where it was. Clive Barker said that for him, handwriting is “the most direct association I can make between what ‘s going on in my mind ‘s eye and what’s going to appear on the page.”

Judy Reeves, A Writer’s Book of Days: A Spirited Companion & Lively Muse for the Writing Life
Categories
Arts Books Poetry Productivity & Work Writing

The value of making up stuff

Art is what we do with our extra time. It is more leisure than life. “Art is everything you don’t have to do,” as Brian Eno put it.

The starving artist is compelled to have a day job. We can’t make art without the backbone of cash.

However, the cashless value of writing a poem, painting a picture, or photographing the trees could save your life.

It is in making up stuff we find meaning. The canvass enhances our lives and inspires us to express ourselves. That freedom can be liberating.

Writes Louis Menand in his latest New Yorker piece entitled Can Poetry Change Your Life?

“But I got the same painful pleasure out of writing prose that I did out of writing poetry—the pleasure of trying to put the right words in the right order. And I took away from my experience with poetry something else. I understood that the reason people write poems is the reason people write. They have something to say.”

Art translates life. It takes us places. We need stories and memes in order to keep the everyday exciting.

Categories
Creativity Productivity & Work Social Media Writing

Why everyone should blog

Everyone should blog. You do not have to publish 500 words a day. You do not even need to post at all. In fact, writing comes easier when you can write for yourself, in private.

Use a smartphone journal like the Day One app or the ever-popular Morning Pages Journal where you write by hand. When it comes to blogging effectively, you have to be a little vulnerable. Don’t tell all but don’t hide everything either, especially if your advice will benefit the lives of other people.

Everyone should write a blog, every day, even if no one reads it. There’s countless reasons why it’s a good idea and I can’t think of one reason it’s a bad idea.” 

Seth Godin

I have been blogging for years (click here to view my guide to setting up a blog on WordPress). It is harder to get an audience who cares to read your stuff today than it has ever been. You have to assume nobody wants to read your shit because he or she is busy or would rather be social networking or playing games instead. However, for those readers who do read your blog frequently, they have subscribed for a reason.

Luis Suarez has been blogging since 2002 and recently offered some advice about using your blog to reflect the real you.

It’s all about having a meaningful presence and how you work your way to make it happen, to leave a legacy behind, to share your thoughts and ideas others can learn from just like you do yourself with other people’s vs. pretending to be who you are not…Just be yourself with your own thoughts and share them along! It is what we all care for, eventually. The rest is just noise.”

Luis Suarez

No, blogging is not dead

People like to say blogging is dead. But not only are new platforms emerging like Medium, but blogging is just writing. Words will always be a powerful way to say something meaningful, whether it is in print, online, graffiti, or the walls of a cave.

I started this blog so I could show the world what interests me. It is no surprise that what you read here is information I learned from other blogs. In other words, blogging acts like a canvass where you synthesize, remix and interpret in your words.

Blogs are like ham­mers. They are tools for building stuff.”

Hugh MacLeod
Why everyone should blog
Art by Hugh MacLeod

Above all, blogging is free, what Seth Godin calls “the last great online bargain.” Blogging gives you a voice, and it is an excellent incentive to think in a world that just wants us to consume.

Blogging is a bicep curl for the brain. Write daily, and practice the art of conviction.

Use your blog to connect. Use it as you. Don’t “network” or “promote.” Just talk.”

Neil Gaiman