More than tools


Minimalist writing apps  – such as IAWriter for iPad and Mac (PC equivalents are available) – are very popular with writers. They help focus, because they let you push everything else to the sides.

Where else in our day can we push distracting things to the edges a little more? How can we focus more. It feels like a battle on three fronts…

  • Tools: We start with an app that helps us focus, but there is always another way to interrupt ourselves, knock ourselves out of flow.
  • Mindfulness: We need to be aware of how our brain is working and what is happening when we are focused and when we are interrupted or we distract ourselves.
  • Habits: We need to re-wire our brains to avoid distraction and hit peak performance when we are working in a focused way. We need to be able to *decide* when to be diffuse or open.

You can’t solve this stuff with apps. Not just apps, anyway.

Working fast and slow


Maria Popova blogged about a book called Reading Like a Writer – by the aptly named Francine Prose – that looks at the importance of reading for writers.

This quote made me stop and think hard:

With so much reading ahead of you, the temptation might be to speed up. But in fact it’s essential to slow down and read every word. Because one important thing that can be learned by reading slowly is the seemingly obvious but oddly underappreciated fact that language is the medium we use in much the same way a composer uses notes, the way a painter uses paint. . . . it’s surprising how easily we lose sight of the fact that words are the raw material out of which literature is crafted.

Read more

Learning to learn, thinking about thinking


Image: my niece, Boudicca, being amazing, as babies are wont to do…

How our brains work is something that I’m reading and thinking about a lot this week, connecting neuroscience with how we work and manage our everyday lives.*

A happy moment of serendipity this morning, as I happened to hear The Life Scientific on Radio 4, an interview with Annette Karmiloff-Smith, a renowned psychologist.

Her answer to her first question about what was amazing about babies has stuck with me all day.

Read more

If in doubt: Do


A post I read on The School of Life blog has really stuck with me the past day. Perhaps because it invokes Benjamin Franklin, whose framework for each day I blogged about last year (an idea I’ve actually put into practice and that has been part of the inspiration a really interesting client project which will be beginning in the next month or so).

The post was by Mark Stevenson, and addresses the concept of being a “pragmatic optimist”:

Read more