“A hack, he says, is a writer who second-guesses his audience. When the hack sits down to work, he doesn’t ask himself what’s in his own heart. He asks what the market is looking for…He writes what he imagines will play well in the eyes of others. He does not ask himself, What do I myself want to write? What do I think is important? Instead he asks, What’s hot, what can I make a deal for?” (Pressfield 152)
Even though it might pay off, Pressfield warns against creating content solely to please “the market.””Given the depraved state of American culture,” he says, “a slick dude can make millions being a hack. But even if you succeed, you lose, because you’ve sold out your Muse, and your Muse is you, the best part of yourself, where your finest and only true work comes from” (Pressfield 152-153).I don’t believe in the ancient muses, nor do I feel it’s an accurate description of the best part of me; however, when I sit down to write, I do pay attention to what’s in my heart and I want to offer my “finest and only true work.”If I may be so bold, though, I would go a step further than Pressfield and suggest that, as someone who belongs to Christ, I sense that my best work is a result of connecting with the Lord. I long to live my life interacting intimately with the Savior so that my heart naturally overflows with the good stuff of that relationship.On July 11, I read Oswald Chambers’ thoughts in My Utmost for His Highest:
“The Holy Spirit is determined that we shall realize Jesus Christ in every domain of life, and He will bring us back to the same point again and again until we do. Self-realization leads to the enthronement of work; whereas the saint enthrones Jesus Christ in his work.”
I want to “realize” Jesus Christ in my writing, enthroning Him in my work.That theology puts into perspective the self-realization and self-help ideas found in How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day, by Michael J. Gelb.I’m enjoying that book, but I mentally adjust the assignments and suggestions to line up with “realizing Jesus Christ in every domain of life.” I’m still in the section entitled, “Curiosità: An Insatiably Curious Approach to Life and an Unrelenting Quest for Continual Learning” (Gelb 48).I did purchase a blank book to serve as a Leonardo-style journal. I’m happy with its functionality as I record quotations and confessions, questions and ideas, prayers and petitions, passages of prose and stanzas of poetry. I was also struck that Leonardo, in his final days, was reportedly filled with repentance and apologized to “God and man for leaving so much undone.” (38)Lord, help us all to explore our potential every day…to stay open and pay attention to Your inspiration; take risks; and see things through to completion, faithfully doing a little (or a lot) every day.
A post by Joshua Leatherman published at Michael Hyatt’s blog caught my eye: “How to Use Batching to Become More Productive.” Batching, Leatherman explains, is “dedicating blocks of time to similar tasks in order to decrease distraction and increase productivity.”He cites a Harvard Business Review blog post in which the author claims our productivity goes down by 40 percent when we try to multitask. Technically, we aren’t doing several things at once when we multitask; rather, we are rapidly switching from one task to another. This switching back and forth interrupts our productivity.Batching as a productive alternative to multitasking seems like an easy switch. Using a timer to dedicate a unit of time (25 minutes is recommended) to a particular task, Leatherman and the Pomodoro folks (coined the “Pomodoro” Technique for the tomato-shaped timer that the Italian creator utilized the first time he organized his work in blocks of time) claim we can get more done by staying focused and minimizing the distractions of e-mails and phone calls—that’s because those smaller tasks can be grouped into 25-minute units all their own.Leatherman recommends the Pomodoro Technique:
Here’s how it works:
- Plan and prioritize the tasks that need to be completed, by writing them down.
- Set a timer for for 25 minutes and devote that time to a task, or to a group of similar tasks. Larger tasks can be broken into multiple blocks or “pomodoro’s,” and smaller tasks (responding to email, returning phone calls, etc) can be grouped into a single block. After completing each Pomodoro, you put an “X” next to it and mark the number of times that you were distracted.
- Take a 5 minute break.
- Begin another block of time or “pomodoro.”
- After completing 4 pomodoro’s, take an extended 20 minute break.
According to the Pomodoro website, you should see noticeable improvements in your productivity almost immediately and mastery of the technique in 7–20 days.
Working from home, I feel that I can only chip away at tasks and to-do lists due to interruptions and distractions. Batching—dedicating a small chunk of time to a particular task—seems like a simple, reasonable solution to try. I hope to report back next week with impressive results.(If you want to try the Pomodoro Technique but don’t have a cute tomato-shaped kitchen timer to keep you on track, turn up your computer speakers and try this online countdown timer.)
Indiana has dropped cursive writing from its public school curriculum.Is cursive handwriting obsolete in a high-tech world? Individuals and experts have been reacting to this news story, offering their thoughts and opinions. I didn’t scour the Internet for too many, but did note one in the print version of the Wall Street Journal entitled “The Handwriting is on the Wall.” The author reflected on his inky childhood and several handwritten assignments and tests that Indiana schoolchildren will never have the pleasure of enduring. What struck me most was his conclusion:
When I scrawled and blotted and smudged my way across the page, I had the feeling that, for good or evil, what I had done was my own and unique. And since everyone’s writing was different, despite the uniformity of the exercises, our handwriting gave us a powerful, and very early, sense of our own individuality.
Cursive writing was a way to make your mark, literally, and reflect or suggest something about yourself. Thinking back, I can recall the variety of handwriting I’d see on notes and papers: over-sized, loopy handwriting with hearts dotting the “i’s” allowed girls to express their femininity; artistic types employed curious curls or angles, depending on their mood; intense or shy students could compress their handwriting into tight, tiny script.Students who don’t learn cursive and restrict their handwriting to print will have to find their personal expression of individuality elsewhere (they may also have to hire someone from out of state to sign their checks).Another article from 2010 provides a scientific argument for “How Handwriting Trains the Brain“:
Using advanced tools such as magnetic resonance imaging, researchers are finding that writing by hand is more than just a way to communicate. The practice helps with learning letters and shapes, can improve idea composition and expression, and may aid fine motor-skill development.It’s not just children who benefit. Adults studying new symbols, such as Chinese characters, might enhance recognition by writing the characters by hand, researchers say. Some physicians say handwriting could be a good cognitive exercise for baby boomers working to keep their minds sharp as they age.Studies suggest there’s real value in learning and maintaining this ancient skill, even as we increasingly communicate electronically via keyboards big and small.
I’m on my computer a lot, but look what I did when I wanted to explore my questions and curiosity?I turned to cursive handwriting, pen on paper.If I didn’t know cursive, I guess I could print. But it’s slower for me than cursive. And I have so many questions, I could never keep up if I had to print them all.I think it’s sad that so many Hoosier kids will grow up printing and typing, never knowing the fluid connections of cursive writing. And I’m glad I home educate. The public schools don’t have time to train their kids in keyboarding and cursive. So they gave up cursive to ensure that kids can type. At home, however, our family has enough time to teach our kids both; so I’m happy to report that cursive writing has not been dropped from our curriculum.I wonder if public school families might start purchasing an inexpensive curriculum and try teaching cursive writing at home? They could leave notes for each other, requiring cursive, to make the process more fun and relational.
My journal. E-mails. Tweets. Blog posts. That blasted writing plan for fall (it haunts me, because I’m so behind; it’ll be the first thing to tackle in 25-minute “pomodoros”). My uninspiring list of writing projects does send me to my heart, to prayer, asking if there is something else to say—is there something more? something different? something more substantial?Works Cited:
- Gelb, Michael J. How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day. New York: Dell, 1998. Print.
- Pressfield, Steven. The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle. New York: Rugged Land, LLC, 2002. Print.
- Images: “Question Proposed” photo by Ethan Lofton. Used under a Creative Commons license via Flickr.com. Journal and lifeguard stand photos by Ann Kroeker.
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