tools Archives

So many projects 2016

Living in one place for many years allows unfinished projects to proliferate. Every time you move, there's a chance that something gets completed or discarded, but otherwise they often linger on, awaiting that extra time to work on them which seems perpetually just around the corner.

I've been in my current home for over nine years. And I've been in my virtual homes for longer: thirteen years of hosting on Typepad for this blog and somewhere around as long for Apple laptops which permit me to easily migrate all my files to new machines when I upgrade.

My intention is to carry on longer still in this apartment and operating system (blog hosting is t.b.d.), so it's necessary to routinely evaluate what's built up around the place. That's where Discardia comes in.

I practice Discardia not only during it's four appearances a year, but also on a daily basis. Through repetition I've made it a routine habit to question why things are present in my home and workspace. Often the answer is appreciation, but sometimes it's frustration or disinterest. The latter two become upgrade projects or get discarded (to charity, trash, etc.) And, yes, sometimes the upgrade projects do linger too, but thanks to online ordering and other services (and, checking my privilege, the budget to take advantage of them) it has gotten a lot easier to solve a problem when it presents itself rather than just adding it to a to-do list.

Omnifocus is my tool for tracking all my projects (and complex habits like periodic big picture reviews of my life priorities). As with the physical items in my home and the files on my computer desktop, the projects and tasks I have created in Omnifocus are subject to the same questioning: "Why do I have this? What is it bringing to my life? Is it helping me be who I want to be?" and the same steady adjustment or pruning.

Some people find it overwhelming to have a lot of projects, but by being very clear with myself over which projects are active now and which are not, I avoid beating myself up over not doing it all. Time and energy are finite, and self-care is necessary if you're going to achieve things in the long haul, so I keep short the list of what needs action today. Scratching off the last thing on that list opens up the opportunity to respond to the moment and my mood—and not infrequently that relaxed next action turns out to cross off something on one of those inactive lists.

 

So what's active for me today?

Well, it's the start of the work week (since we were traveling yesterday) and that means laundry. Since we talked our landlord into putting a washer/dryer into our house, laundry days have become fairly pleasant. That rhythm of moving the loads along keeps me moving on the rest of my list as I can play the game of trying to finish things before the next buzzer. Even the time consuming part of folding laundry has been upgraded to a treat as that's when I watch fun stuff on my iPad. (Thanks again to my best friend Lance for cluing me in to the Acorn TV app and their collection of Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple mysteries!)

I've got a writing client now, so most of those between-load work sessions and much longer stretches over the days to come will be spent researching and writing about the history of specific cocktails. Look forward to an announcement later in the week about this project.

The ongoing work of handling my late father's estate continues. Mercifully matters relating to the house are now in the hands of my realtor and her fix-up crew, so I'm no longer schlepping over to the east bay to clean. The focus now is a combination of bureaucracy—most of those hurdles already cleared—and sorting through the last 10 boxes of papers and memorabilia. I'm hopeful that by the end of the month our house will return to a less cluttered state. The chaos has already been reined in to just the room where my home office is located; soon I won't have banker's boxes looming on either side.

As the estate project comes under control, I'm catching up on everything that was dropped during Pop's medical crisis and my handling of his home when he went into the hospital and after he died. Bit by bit, I'm clearing messes, tackling minor to-do's, and consolidating project support items.

Alongside all this is the background hum of life: processing bills and statements, maintaining our home and small container garden, handling our publishing business Sanders & Gratz, prepping for the next D&D session I'll be gamemastering, and chipping away at my long-term projects (many of which involve bringing bits of my online creativity and other memorabilia into this blog at their appropriate past dates).

If time permits, I've got other writing I want to do: first, an election slate for this very important election, and, ongoing, more work on Bibulo.us and on my history book about servants in Elizabethan England.

Posted on October 11, 2016 at 11:21 AM in creativity, Discardia, tools | Permalink | Comments (0)

Buh-bye, Facebook. 2015

Last June I quit using Facebook both personally and professionally. I'd been feeling pretty queasy about their creepy terms of service switcheroos already, but pile on real name policy problems and ever-increasing revenue-generation interference with having your posts actually seen by your followers and I was pretty dubious already. But it seemed necessary. "You've got a brand! How can you not be on Facebook?!" So I held my nose and stuck with it, at least for my Discardia and Art of the Shim social media presence.

The turning point came when news broke that the Facebook app was going to start quietly recording background sound while you worked on a post. WTF?! Ostensibly to identify music or TV and include it in the post, but really? Facebook, do you think we don't know you're not going to sell that marketing info and let the NSA listen in? How dumb do you think we are? 

That was it. I posted an announcement with a link to a video explaining why everyone should be leaving Facebook and I deleted the apps from my devices. No more social media posts via Facebook.

You know what? It did absolutely no damage to my brand. It didn't affect my sales. It didn't reduce my reader interaction as an author/publisher. 

Turns out, Facebook needs us waaaaay more than we need Facebook. And we don't need it at all.

 

Over the past year I've been duplicating all the content from my Facebook accounts onto my own sites and today I finally made time to copy over the last of it. Time to permanently delete my account. Ahhhhh, how nice!

For posterity, and an illustration of just how much a professional account contains attempts from Facebook to get you to spend money to reach your own followers, here are screenshots of the page as it now appears. Amusingly, because the last thing I posted was the 'Delete Facebook' video, all the automatically mocked-up ads they want me to buy use that graphic.

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Facebook's constant clawing for additional personal information is very visible in my old personal account:

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Posted on October 3, 2015 at 04:38 PM in politics & philosophy, The Web, tools, warnings & kvetches, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Venues Amplify Vibes: Patterns for human-scale festivals 2013

I just published “Venues Amplify Vibes: Patterns for Human-Scale Festivals” on Medium.

[post archived here on MetaGrrrl.com as well, October 2015]

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Venues Amplify Vibes

Patterns for Human-Scale Festivals

Excellent events inspire their attendees, but some spark more creativity, contemplation, and connection than others. One way to achieve that is simply to have a larger number of people from which something special can emerge. However, when the goal of the hosts is to increase the odds of each attendee experiencing great outcomes—when, ideally, everyone comes away energized and enhanced—then increasing scale is counter-productive.

I have had the pleasure over this past year of being a part of two exceptionally good gatherings: the inaugural occurrences of XOXO, in September 2012, and YxYY, in July 2013. Both launched waves of enthusiasm and seem positioned to be looked back on as having been a key influence in subsequent creative projects and partnerships. Comparisons, for example, of YxYY to the SxSW festival in 2000 have been mentioned by many people with fond recollection of the connections formed at that earlier event and appreciation for the influence those connections had on the development of the Web and online culture.

Participating in all three of these events was a privilege, and I mean that in its multiple senses. One of the risks of small-scale events is exclusion. One of the best way to avoid that, surely, is to let a thousand flowers bloom. In hope that it will help more organizers of small-scale festivals bring their events to successful fruition, here are a few observations about helpful underlying patterns.

Embraceability
Limitation of event headcount helps avoid a sense of overwhelm. Make your event small enough that attendees can imagine it would be possible to meet everyone there, but don’t require them to do so. This mental ability to ‘get your arms around the group’ reduces attendees feeling isolated next to a faceless, massive crowd. The number 400 was chosen by both XOXO and YxYY and seems to work well for the count of core attendees. By the end of the event, many if not most faces should be at least familiar enough for eye contact and smiles—and all attendees should have enough shared connection from the event that it could be the opener to subsequent conversation.

Approachability
Foster an event culture of casual inclusiveness, explicitly inviting conversation between attendees. Encourage people to come up and talk with each other. Picnic tables are a strong emergent sub-pattern here; they are friendly and, because they accommodate more people than the natural groupings that usually start a conversation, they invite new participants. Another important sub-pattern for this is name tags which emphasize the first name (and perhaps only include that, as with YxYY’s brilliant swimming-pool-compatible temporary tattoo name tags).

Playfulness
Give and reinforce permission to break down barriers of inflexible behavior. Move a step beyond informality to friendliness, even silliness, and make sure your venue shares this wit. Make instructions playful and let what few rules you absolutely have to have be as cheerful as possible. Wherever possible eliminate things that make attendees feel they are ‘doing it wrong’.

Diversity
Create opportunities for attendees to engage differently with the event space and with each other. Have some activities and spaces which can accommodate everyone (e.g., XOXO’s presentations or YxYY’s prom), some which accommodate many (e.g., XOXO’s parties and tours or YxYY’s pools), and many which accommodate a few (e.g., tables, conversational seating, power strips, room at the edges for one-on-one talking). Ensure that different spaces have the opportunity to be different; allow for variation in noise level, lighting, temperature, etc. This kind of adaptability creates ‘ramps’ into challenging social interactions and it helps to foster connections between people who otherwise might not have talked. That person who on day one mustered the nerve to interact only one-on-one or in a very small group, can by the last day have built connections to support participation in the crowd—and the crowd will benefit from that new voice.

Proximity
Keep your event footprint small enough that wandering between spaces isn’t discouraged. Just as joining conversations should be encouraged, so too allow easy movement out of one cluster or activity into others. The Ace Hotel in Palm Springs, where YxYY was held, is an ideal example of being large enough for very different simultaneous activities (e.g., DJ’d music at the main pool while unscheduled talks took place in—yes, in—the smaller pool next to the Commune room, which was accommodating a Settlers of Cataan tournament and crafting tables, all of which were surrounded by smaller conversations and solo time on their edges).

Connected Separation
This goes hand in hand with diversity and proximity; some activities, particularly conversations where intense connection and creativity is happening, benefit from pulling back from the main flow of the action. The ideal venue supports this while still encouraging participants to reconnect and share afterwards. Again, the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs had some ideal sub-patterns for this, one of my favorites of which was the rooms with private patios allowing partial retreat while still being exposed to the ambient sounds of the shared spaces. At XOXO, the coffee bar area developed some of this function for people mentally recharging; I noticed people occasionally sitting alone with laptops or books on the outside deck where the sound of the presentation space upstairs could drift down. A silent ‘chill room’, as at YxYY, offers explicit support for retreat and restoration, which can be vital for introverts at social events and which helps to keep those attendees able to bring their perspective to your festival.

Expansiveness
All of this helps to make the event valuable and foster connection between its participants. To make it exceptional, though, it needs to tacitly inspire taking all these ideas and contacts further. Choose an event site that expands to the world around it. The high ceilings and tall windows of the XOXO presentation hall and YxYY’s openness to the sky and mountains of Palm Springs created a constant sense of unconstrained space and opportunity. It may sound silly, but make sure your attendees have room for their big thoughts to grow above them. This also means not over-scheduling; allow gaps around activities for ideas to stretch out, whether in conversations or solo thinking.

Permeability
Along with that expansiveness, blur the edges. Don’t block conversations that extend beyond the event. Have a hashtag so that those not at the event can still get a sense of it and respond through Twitter, Flickr, and similar sharing sites. Link to blog posts by the participants. Celebrate your attendees’ inspiration. Encourage ongoing discussion about the event by continuing to share these reactions and event-sparked creations through the official festival channels even after the event is over.

Obviously, my thoughts here owe a big thanks to A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction by Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, and Murray Silverstein. If you don’t own a copy of this mighty tome, I encourage you to get one and just keep it around, dipping into it randomly as well as gradually reading through it from the beginning. It is, like these festivals, a mind-expander. Unlike them, it can be engaged with slowly, over years, and will still reward whatever time you choose to give it.

I also thank the creators of Medium for building such an excellent space for human-scale conversation about a set of ideas.

Posted on July 19, 2013 at 11:38 AM in creativity, tools | Permalink | Comments (0)

Createspace? Lightning Source? Where to self-publish? 2013

I weighed in on this independent publishers discussion with the following comment:

This is good advice and matches what I learned with my first book, Discardia: More Life, Less Stuff.

Buy your own ISBN from Bowker (or, realistically, a group of 10 if you're also doing ebooks so you also have ISBNs for the EPUB and Kindle editions).

Sign up for Createspace and use them for their excellent prices on proof copies (also handy for creating review and Goodreads giveaway copies). Get your book looking great and prepare to build buzz. Do not use Createspace's Extended Distribution.

Sign up for Lightning Source (LSI) with the final version of your book now that you've done some proofing passes with cheaper copies from Createspace. Use LSI for reaching libraries and booksellers. Resign yourself to not making much money per copy through LSI and set the discount low enough that a bookseller will consider ordering from you. Bear in mind that LSI and Ingram or Baker & Taylor are both taking a cut out of that discount and that the bookseller also needs to cover their costs and make their profit in that slice. Once you add it up it's easy to see why booksellers aren't likely to even do special orders for something that's only got a 25% discount, especially if it's non-returnable.

Offer the Kindle version through Amazon's KDP program.

Offer EPUB versions through Apple's iTunes Connect and either (or both) Barnes & Noble's Nook Press and Google's Google Play. (Note: I have not yet published through the latter, but it is an alternative to the (in my experience) very low-selling Nook/BN.com world. If you want to reach a broader audience, it's important to have a non-Kindle, non-iTunes way for people to buy your EPUB edition, particularly if part of your audience prefers DRM-free books.


My second book, The Art of the Shim: Low-Alcohol Cocktails to Keep You Level, is full of great photography and, while the color print-on-demand (POD) quality from both Createspace and LSI was very much better than I expected, it's not yet "coffee-table book quality" and my partner and I have decided to use offset press printing. We still used Createspace for proof and review copies.

Posted on July 9, 2013 at 10:00 AM in tools, writing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Troubleshooting InDesign to EPUB Table of Contents export 2013

If you are, like I was, getting the error message "TOC entry has incorrect nesting level" when you try to export from InDesign to EPUB, try this.

This seems to be an error in the hierarchy of TOC style levels and probably means you've got a lower level item listed before the higher level of which it is a sub-part. For example, I seemed to have a style I called "section headline" coming up before any of my "Part"s or "Chapter"s. So how to find it?

First, you need to know which style is causing the issue. I created a new TOC style called "EPUB TOC troubleshoot" and one-by-one added in the TOC styles I wanted to include from the highest level down, exporting to EPUB after each one until I got the error message.

Once you know which style is nested incorrectly, now you need to hunt down where it's out of the hierarchy. In InDesign CS6, go to Edit > Find/Change (or hit command or control F). Use the little icon beside the 'Find What' box to set it to look for Wildcards > Any Character. Us the little icon beside the 'Find Format' box to set it to look for Style Options > Paragraph Styles > [whatever your offending style seems to be].

You know what mine was? The section headline on the print version's table of contents page. Ha! I created a new style from that named "section headline TOC" so that it would be separated from the rest of the section headlines in the book which I wanted to use for my EPUB TOC and then, hooray! I exported without an error. Phew.

Posted on July 8, 2013 at 05:52 PM in tools, warnings & kvetches, Web/Tech, writing | Permalink | Comments (2)

Shower Pause Game 2013

In the shower I was thinking, "Wouldn't it be cool if I could pause the shower and have it stay the same temperature?* And if while I had it paused—to shampoo my hair or shave or whatever—I could see a holding tank which showed the gallons I was NOT sending down the drain?"

I was picturing a tank in the shower wall with a clear side and an increasing scale of little green leaf icons, something like in the Prius or Nest consumption interfaces. I bet it would actually motivate me to use less water.

Then I realized, actually, I wouldn't need to see a real tank to be motivated. I'd just need a display which represented the water I wasn't using while the shower was paused. These silly little games are truly silly, but they also truly work.

I won't be surprised to find increasing amounts of conservation gamification built into appliances, house fixtures, and tools as the years go by. If it can make mundane things a bit more fun and save resources in the process why on Earth wouldn't we?

 

*I know this functionality exists, sometimes in quite inexpensive showerheads, but alas, ours does not have it.

Posted on June 27, 2013 at 02:41 PM in the big room with the blue ceiling, tools | Permalink | Comments (0)

A conversation 14 years long 2012

Have we met?

I asked that question here on this site in September of 1998 in a post one month before MetaGrrrl.com would turn into what we would later call a blog.

I say I've never met Karawynn, Jamie, Carl and Justin. What the fuck does that mean?

I sit next to someone on the bus, I shake hands with a co-worker's client who I'll never see again, I chat with the bank teller and somehow these are people I've met?

...

My body doesn't encompass me.
I don't have to breathe the same air to be in the same place as you.

Have we met?

What a different world we live in now. We've been through radical changes in politics, technology, and cultural norms. Our days have transformed as the non-present world becomes present through these magic devices in our pockets. I live in a different city. Have a completely new career. Am in another relationship.

What hasn't changed? Many of those people that some folks used to say I'd never met are still a part of my daily life.

So here's my question for them, and for you, what has made these "virtual" connections so strong?

How has the way we built the web and the mobile internet and our tech-centric cities strengthened and weakened those chains since that year, 1998, when it seemed like maybe this world wide web thing might be sticking around?

 

Posted on August 17, 2012 at 11:56 AM in friends & family, tools, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)

'Domestic Servants in Elizabethan England' rises again 2012

OMG academic libraries are so frickin' excellent. I'm back at UCSC's McHenry Library 25 years later updating & expanding my senior thesis.

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Why is Google Books good for scholars/writers? Because books don't have complete indexes. Combing a 750 pager for keywords by hand is slow.

Posted on June 3, 2012 at 07:31 PM in Books, history, tools, tweets, writing | Permalink | Comments (0)

Disconnects between user uses and designer visions? 2012

I have been using @googledocs for business but flaky behavior today & scary stuff I'm hearing re: worse to come has me backing up to desktop

From what I can figure out we're losing "work with your docs anywhere, in your browser" to gain "here's a shoebox you can get to anywhere".

This is a bad trade.

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People reporting files just showing a download link, instead of opening for editing. I've just seen flakiness.

Appears so far as a really rough & ham-handed transition to some larger product we may not actually want.

I'm not super worried about losing data, but wanted to at least back up my sales/income/expense/consignment worksheets.

Near as I can tell they think we want Dropbox, when we actually just want to not have to launch Excel/Word.

I still mostly trust them with my data, just really annoyed at the forced workflow change & new proprietariness.

Google seems to have a terrible blind spot about those who aren't constant doc/chat sharers in their work life (viz: g+ design)

Posted on May 29, 2012 at 06:01 PM in tools, tweets, warnings & kvetches, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Is my work environment about to break? 2012

Why is a company known for doing something cutting edge with cars using the name "Drive" for a non-driving related product? @Google #irksome

===

A few days later and I'm noticing files I use all the time are now misbehaving. Time to save local copies of everything and perhaps to switch back to desktop apps.

Super frustrating for this to be turning into more than just a marketing bafflement.

 

Oh and, despite being "techie", it took me four days to realize that they're referring to hard drives or disk drives. Here they'd finally gotten me to switch over to thinking about the thing I work with rather than an old technology physical container and they go and revert their language. Sigh.

Posted on May 25, 2012 at 03:05 PM in tools, tweets, warnings & kvetches | Permalink | Comments (0)

Still grateful 2012

Yes. This. Still. Thanks, Flickr.

<3

Posted on May 16, 2012 at 12:01 AM in tools, tweets, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Mastery is Well-Informed Improvisation 2012

RT @rands: Two Universes – Portal as great design

Posted on May 9, 2012 at 02:31 PM in games, linky goodness, tools, web design & documentation | Permalink | Comments (0)

International Print on Demand, check. 2012

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Switching my non-Amazon.com paperback printing for Discardia: More Life, Less Stuff to Lightning Source (for better control of terms for booksellers and libraries).

Posted on May 3, 2012 at 06:09 PM in tools, writing | Permalink | Comments (0)

The terrible pain of reconciliation 2012

Each month as I attempt to reconcile my iTunes sales reports I am once again bewildered that this mess of an interface/data is Apple's.

Really, Apple, would it kill you to provide your reports by calendar month or at least provide daily sales totals across all regions? Gah.

 

Continuing saga May 4, 2012:

I receive this error on their website:

"You backtracked too far. The application backtracking limit of 30 has been exceeded. Re-enter MZLabel" (that last word being a link to a login screen).

Jeez, Apple. I thought you were in it to win it. This is just sad. Even BN.com's PubIt is kicking your ass on interface.

Posted on May 3, 2012 at 06:01 PM in tools, warnings & kvetches, Web/Tech, writing | Permalink | Comments (0)

ForeverStampValue.com 2012

Single-purpose site, but very handy when dealing with U.S. postage

Posted on May 1, 2012 at 03:31 PM in tools, tweets | Permalink | Comments (0)

"But –increasingly unusual in this town — we are a business that relies on physical labor." 2012

RT @gordonzola: Tech and the Women's Faculty Club

Posted on April 24, 2012 at 11:32 AM in tools, tweets | Permalink | Comments (0)

New researcher gear for Dinah! 2012

Thanks to @thelancearthur's sharp eyes and insider info, I now have a lightweight mug and a new backpack for books/laptop.

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See the fine researcher-friendly features of my swanky new Timbuk2 Q backpack ($99):

  • Easy access separate front pocket for empty lightweight mug (Delta Insulmug, bought at REI, $16). I can stroll out of the house with my morning tea, finish it before I go in a library, shake or wipe it dry, and then have it out of my way until the next morning.
  • Separate pocket for laptop power cable. Love!
  • The usual nice organizer found in Timbuk2 bags. I've stocked this bag with its basics (pens, pencil, good eraser, library and museum membership cards, business cards, a few little scraps of paper for noting call numbers, iPhone cable and earbuds, tissues in case of poorly serviced bathrooms, hand sanitizer, handkerchief, a few cough drops, a Luna Bar).
  • Big space for books, including a mesh pocket for large supplies like my bookweight.
  • Side-access padded laptop pocket.

This will be my third Timbuk2 bag, I believe, plus I've made good use of Joe's smaller messenger bag. Great products—and so pleasing to be able to buy locally.

Posted on April 18, 2012 at 04:12 PM in Dinah - preferences, tools | Permalink | Comments (0)

Overall progress, but still some things lacking 2012

It's largely awesome, but sadly @ifttt also strips class from a paragraph in HTML so I can't style incoming tweets to Typepad distinctly.

Posted on April 17, 2012 at 03:53 PM in tools, tweets | Permalink | Comments (0)

Well, ifttt isn't perfect 2012

Hmm, post by email to Typepad does not accept Movable Type's import keys (e.g., EXTENDED ENTRY, CATEGORY). Also, @ifttt strips divs/a hrefs.

Posted on April 17, 2012 at 03:47 PM in tools, tweets | Permalink | Comments (0)

First incoming tweet to blog via ifttt 2012

EXTENDED BODY:

I am reserving judgment until I see it work, but there is a possibility that @ifttt is the answer to my "a single lifestream" dreams.
    April 17, 2012 at 03:39PM

DATE: April 17, 2012 at 03:39PM CATEGORY: tweets

Posted on April 17, 2012 at 03:40 PM in tools, tweets | Permalink | Comments (0)

How I wrote and self-published my book, Discardia: More Life, Less Stuff 2012

After finding lots of good advice from other people online as I went through my process, I want to share my lessons in the hopes that they will help other authors realize their dream.

The major sections of the life-cycle of a book require different tools. I find I may be in multiple sections at the same time as I work on different projects.

Collecting ideas & keeping notes: Scrivener and OmniFocus are my best tools here. Make it as easy as possible to capture your ideas as you have them and arrange them for later writing work.

Writing: Scrivener. Don't think about formatting right now; write now.

Editing: Hire a professional editor it will improve your work 100%. More about this below.

Formatting: Scrivener for ebooks and, if you have the skills, InDesign for print. Do side by side comparisons of ebook and print proof to find any lost text, run-together paragraphs, or other issues.

Publishing: Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), iTunes Connect, PubIt, and Createspace. Note that in the data entry in these systems "Editor" does not equal "edited by"; its for anthologies and things like that. General warning: Management interfaces may lag by days behind the book going live on the site; search for it by title, author, ISBN if you don't have its exact URL in advance.

Promotion: Twitter, Facebook, Moo business cards with book cover. Say thank you to the people you quote, cite, or who otherwise helped you get the book's ideas pulled together—it's the right thing to do and it may just turn into a great, influential review. Promo is a marathon—like dragging an unconscious 400lb man around a track, as Kevin Smokler put it—but you get through it with lots of quick bursts.


This post is currently just a first draft to get out to the world some of these lessons and links. Lots more to write and I'll be happy to answer questions. For the moment, here are an assortment of tips and observations.

- The advantage of finding the tools that work for you is you don't have to dick around so long finding the right tools—and you won't be able to use that as an excuse to delay the real work of writing.

- Establish a morning writing routine. Making progress early in the day fuels productivity throughout the day.

- Decide why this work is worth it. What new idea or feeling do you want to create in your reader? Consider saying less but saying it better. What will be different about you when you complete this work? You'll be a better writer, but is there something else that this project is going to teach you?

- Get smart feedback early to help you define the project. It's all too easy to try to take on too many books in one. Literary agent Ted Weinstein read an early version of my book proposal and told me it sounded like three or four interesting books. "Get it down to one or two only," he said. That process of tightening the focus was a great leap forward. 

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- Lay it all out. When you've got an outline and some fleshed out sections—particularly if you are integrating older writings—print the whole thing out, cut it into its component parts, and physically move everything around until it flows better. Seeing and improving the book's structure is easier and faster as a physical task.

- Write. Write write write.

- Set the first draft aside, ideally for at least three months, and go work on something completely different for a while.

- With fresh eyes, re-read and identify where the flow isn't leading your reader to get your message, where the writing is weak, where the text is over-stuffed with unneeded padding. Refine and tune and prune. This is when you'll have enough distance to work intelligently on overall themes. Read it again and polish it more.

- Push the cocksucking boulder up the motherfucking hill. Finish writing it all. Do what editing you can do of something you're so close to, but just get the package complete.

- Bring in new eyes. Now is the time for beta readers. Half a dozen at least, better yet a dozen. Not all of them will get back to you with comments. Don't argue with the feedback. Listen, nod, thank them. Watch for patterns. Fix what seems broken. Expand confusing points. Adjust the voice of your writing to maintain the desired mood.

- Hire a professional. Get a seriously good editor. Pay well. This will be expensive. It will double the quality of your book. (Professional editing was about 60% of my cost for producing Discardia: More Life, Less Stuff since I did my own formatting into ebook and print.) A good editor can mean an increase of a half or whole star in your average ratings and that can make a dramatic difference in your sales.

- Make it look great. Get it into ebook and print format, whether you do it yourself or hire someone, and test the ebook on as many devices and applications as possible. Authors have more ability to influence the reading experience these days, so eliminate annoyances for your readers wherever you can.

- Follow up on the details. For instance, after my book was available in physical form through Createspace, I talked to them to doublecheck that the Expanded Distribution Network listing through Ingram Distributors—a key factor in a customer being able to walk into almost any bookstore in the U.S. and be able to order my book—was proceeding correctly and to re-confirm the (irritatingly slow) timeline.

- Spread the word. Let your core supporters know as soon as the book is ready. I announced to my Discardia followers on Twitter and Facebook as soon as the ebooks were available and again when the print version could be ordered through my Createspace store and Amazon. Those early sales and handful of reviews and ratings kept my spirits up as I worked through other promotion preparation while waiting for the listing with Ingram to go live. 

- Thank those who helped you. Let everyone you quoted, cited, or referred to in your book know that it's out and they're in it. This can generate more publicity and sometimes requests for reading copies from other authors who may promote your work to their network.

 

 

Ask questions in the comments and I will expand this post!

Posted on March 12, 2012 at 05:37 PM in Books, creativity, tools | Permalink | Comments (3)

The spoken word and the personal voice remain incredibly powerful 2011

Here's just a hint of the experience I had this week at Mike Daisey's The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs at Berkeley Reperatory Theater.

This doesn't do the full experience justice and only gives a hint of the interwoven stories of beautiful technology, our love for it, the people we think of who bring it to us, and the people who do that we don't think of.

I urge you to see this show. It will move your mind.

Posted on February 11, 2011 at 12:21 PM in creativity, Current Affairs, tools | Permalink | Comments (0)

Good news and an opportunity for San Franciscans 2010

I'm very relieved that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Budget & Finance Committee has maintained funding for the Neighborhood Emergency Response Team program. This is a wonderful, practical, and free program to train ordinary San Franciscans to stay safe and, where possible, help others in case of disaster. Unfortunately, there's no guarantee the funding will be preserved in the future, so take advantage of the program now while we have it.

Why should you care?

California has a 99.7 percent chance of having a 6.7 magnitude earthquake or larger during the the next 30 years. The likelihood of a more powerful quake of 7.5 magnitude in the next 30 years is 46 percent. Such a quake is more likely to occur in the southern half of the state than in the northern half. ... the probability of a 6.7 magnitude earthquake or larger over the next 30 years striking the greater Los Angeles area is 67 percent and in the San Francisco Bay Area is 63 percent [source]

The best way to deal with this threat is to understand what it would mean for you and your household and how you can reduce your risks of being badly hurt during a quake. Take the classes, they're free and interesting. Download the NERT manual and learn how to put together an emergency kit. Get involved with your local team and stack the deck in favor of coming through the next big shakeup unharmed.

San Franciscans, once again, why should you care?

Because we have 17,000 residents per square mile and only about 300 firefighters on duty at any given time. You will need to be self-sufficient, especially in the first three days after a major quake.

It's not hard to be ready, but you do have to start preparing.

Every week, from now until the ground moves, devote a little time – even just a few minutes when you can't take a class or do a bigger safety project in your home – to providing for your future.

Posted on July 12, 2010 at 04:15 PM in health, the big room with the blue ceiling, tools | Permalink | Comments (0)

Definitely in motion on my road 2010

My latest Discardia post is about choosing what you most want and don't want in your life and then bearing those priorities in mind when faced with options (which we are all day, every day).

Here are my choices:

I want...
1. to be thriving in a great relationship.
2. to feel healthy and strong.
3. to be a published author.

I don't want...
1. to work in a cubicle.
2. to have little control over when I do what.
3. to be stressed all the time.

I'm making great progress on all of these goals. I quit my office job just over a year ago, went into business for myself as a productivity and life coach, started writing my book about Discardia, devoted more of my energy to my relationship with Joe, and consciously began designing my life for less stress.

The feeling healthy and strong part has been tough, though, I have to admit. I hate gyms. I have a weak knee and a weak ankle which make running or jogging very unattractive. Really, the only exercise routine I actually like and seek out many times a week is walking. As someone with a project of walking the city of San Francisco – every street, every block – that's not a surprise, right? :)

During the past two years I've made various attempts to up my activity level. I tried the Wii Fit for a while; fun, but not inspirational for daily activity. I got a pedometer and renewed my focus on my SF walking project; definitely a help, but not always compatible with working on a book and maintaining a happy home many hours a day.

Yesterday, I think I finally found the sweet spot: a treadmill desk. IMG_0002
I moved my Ikea office armoire to the other wall so the space in front of it wouldn't block our path to the back bathroom, switched the shelves around so that the extending desk surface could hold my monitor at face height when I'm standing, and put my treadmill in front of the desk. There are a couple tweaks needed – the typing surface needs to be an inch or two lower and the stereo speaker buzz needs to be resolved – but in the first part of my day today (less than two hours) I've already strolled at a comfortable speed of 0.7 miles an hour (while typing and reading) and logged over 2700 steps.

I can see that with this setup it will be very difficult not to reach a daily goal of at least 10,000 steps. Also my energy and alertness levels are both higher than when I'm sitting in a chair. Awesome!

Notes on my setup:
- LifeSpan Fitness TR200 Fold-N-Stor Compact Treadmill
- nice finished board
- two scarves to tie board on treadmill handles
- blanket under board for padding and as additional safety grip
- Ikea armoire with extendable shelf
- cheapish monitor
- MacBook
- creativity

Posted on July 1, 2010 at 11:10 AM in creativity, Discardia, health, tools, work | Permalink | Comments (14)

Handy city info for your address 2010

I was checking to confirm who my city supervisor is when I found this handy dandy service from the San Francisco government. Just type in your address (or a cross street) and you'll find out

  • Your parcel information (block & lot, zoning, lot area)
  • Elected officials with links to their home pages (Board of Supervisors, U.S. House of Representatives, State Senate, State Assembly, BART Board of Directors)
  • Street information with – woo hoo! – street sweeping info for both sides of your block
  • Nearest school and public library

Hooray for public information!

Posted on June 29, 2010 at 01:48 PM in linky goodness, San Francisco, tools | Permalink | Comments (0)

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