From a writer’s perspective, how do you decide if you should continue reading a book?
If you’re like me, you’ve started books that no matter how hard you tried, the story or information couldn’t hold your attention. You’ve likely picked up some where you had to read the first 100 pages before reaching the point of no return, while others hook you in the first few sentences and compel you to keep on reading.
As an aspiring writer, you may hope for the latter scenario, yet the truth of the matter is the first two situations will more likely become reality at least once before we succeed. (After all, John Grisham received 25 rejections before he was successful in finding someone to publish his first novel.) The point here is not to discuss rejection, but to discover what makes a book worthy of reading it to the end in order to reduce time spent in the learning curve and number of returned manuscripts.
The criteria for continuing to read will be different for each person, but an analysis may prove to be an enlightening assignment. Good writers can learn from their own reactions to another author’s work. Unless it is self-published, you recognize at least one editor liked it. The publisher hopes others will also. What makes it read-worthy then becomes critical to prospective writers.
It might be helpful to keep a log of the books you’ve read and list what you liked or disliked about them. This way you can determine what worked well – genre, pace, characters, authenticity, clarity … – as well as what to avoid when you work on your next piece. Writing is like any other skill. You need to use the right tool for the job, and learning from other craftsmen can speed up the process. So before you bury the next volume, keep plowing long enough to see what insight you can gain.
Would you say you don’t have enough hours in the day to read all of the information that comes your way? And, do you ever find yourself in situations where you have to wait, like in an airline terminal, doctor’s office, or traffic and all you can think about are the things you could be doing were you not in this spot? It appears to be a common problem, and I’d like to offer some tips to help in both areas.
Take interesting articles you’ve printed from the web and place them into a special colored folder. You want it to protect the articles and be easily located so you can grab it quickly when you go out the door. Keep it in your car or take it with you when you travel or go to appointments. Then when you get one of those delays – I mean opportunities — pull out one of the articles to read.
Treat magazines in a similar fashion. When they arrive, glance through the articles and cut out those that capture your attention, and yes, they go into that same file.
Keep a ziplock bag containing a pen and a highlighter in the folder. Then, as you read the articles, get TUF with them … that’s T – U – F.
T – Reading through the article, you may glean all of the information you want. If that is enough, then mark the upper right hand corner with a T. When you get home just throw it out.
U – If you find information that is useful, highlight it and mark the corner with a U. This means you’ll take some action with the information to use it immediately, pass it on or …
F – Mark it with an F to file it for the future.
Another way to catch up on books is via audio or downloaded to the iPad. The audio books provide a hands-free way to catch up on your reading traveling travel back and forth to work. Not only can you enjoy your favorite authors, but you can redeem your time as well. Zig Ziglar suggests turning your car into Auto University using audio volumes to learn new strategies, languages or whatever you choose.
I’ve used these tips and hope they’ll also help you.
In penmanship class in elementary school, the teacher had us write out sayings that she hoped would improve our character along with our handwriting. I guess there’s a lot to be said for repetition as a means of learning. I still remember this one.
“Good, better, best.
Never let it rest.
Until your good is better,
And your better best.”
This also pertains to the things we opt to do with our time. Each day, we make thousands of choices – what time to get up, what to eat, what to wear, what to do about situations that arise …. Each of these decisions impacts us differently. For example, if the alarm clock goes off at 6:00 AM and I hit the snooze alarm once or twice, I’m likely to be rushed or late for work. By not getting up when the alarm sounded, I actually elected the more hurried mode. At that hour of the morning, it may not have been a totally conscious choice; nevertheless, I can’t blame anyone else for the results.
Now as an adult, I still struggle to keep moving from good to better to best with a measure of consistency, especially when it comes to organizing my day. My list is usually longer than is realistically feasible to accomplish, but all too often, it’s the little choices – like that of the snooze alarm or computer – throughout the day that throw me off track.
One of my goals for this year is to live intentionally in order to make a difference in my world. This requires effective time management and wise choices. One of the things that helps me be more realistic is to use a timeline like those in an appointment book or on the Outlook calendar. With each activity planned for a designated block of time, not only can I visualize what can be accomplished, but I also see where it is critical not to get off task and how I can choose appropriately. My decisions for how I spend my time are progressing from good to better, and every once in a while, I even get one that’s best.
For all of us who need more time to get everything done, today, February 29, is the day!
In theory, Leap Day gives us an additional 24 hours to dedicate to all those things we didn’t accomplish in the last three years. If this were true, we’d all be celebrating on March 1. Truth is, we don’t need more time. We all have the same number of hours each day. Most likely, we just don’t use them effectively or at least to their best advantage. So what keeps us from being productive? Here are a few things that I’ve got to work on. Ask yourself these questions to see if they can help you get back on track as well.
Are you taking care to manage your health? Do you eat a minimum of 3 healthy meals a day? Do you exercise regularly? (Walking counts!) Do you get sufficient sleep? An unhealthy lifestyle can make all of your great ideas ineffective because you don’t have the strength and stamina to see them through.
Do you plan and prioritize what needs to be done? Making a To Do list is a great idea if it is realistic and the items are prioritized so that the most important and not necessarily the urgent ones get done. (We’re talking about the burning items that pop up, not real emergencies.) If your project list is long, don’t write it down every day. That’s actually a time waster on two counts. If you realistically have too many other items on your list for the day, not only do you not have time to get it done, but the lack of achievement drags you down. Instead, just right down what you actually need to do that day. If you have extra time, then you can work on something from the main project list. BTW – if you do get time to work on it, then add it to your list so you can realistically see where your time is being spent.
Are you procrastinating? You know what you have to do, but it still is not getting done. Is it something you dislike doing? Is it overwhelming for any of a myriad of reasons? If so, do it first and get it over with. Just starting the project often produces the momentum you need to accomplish the task.
I could list more, but this gives me enough to work on for now. Why not join me in taking this Leap Day challenge. Keep it up and we may not need Leap Day when it comes around in 2016.