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Small changes

April 12, 2009

Let me share with you something I saw recently:

Distractions. There are many distractions in life. Some are unavoidable. We all have other commitments. But some distractions are very avoidable, and it is these distractions that prevent us from achieving that which we need to achieve.

I’ve spoken in the past about the benefits of simplifying. Small changes can make a big difference.

I made a small change recently, and it may sound silly, but it has worked. I changed fonts.

Have you ever sat down in front of your computer, and agonised over which font is best to use? Started to change fonts back and forth, trying to find the best one? That’s a distraction – shouldn’t you have been writing rather than worrying about the appearance.

So I switched to something simple. Courier. It is clean, it is simple, and it looks like I’m using a typewriter. And you know what? Since switching to Courier I’ve started writing more. Perhaps it is the psychological effect – if it looks like I’m using a typewriter, then the writing feels more “real”. Perhaps it is the starkness of the font that helps me focus on creating the words, instead of creating the look. Whatever the reason, it works for me.

It is amazing how one tiny little shift in behaviour can break you from complacency. Take some time to assess your own writing habits and see if you can identify one change, no matter how small or how crazy it seems, that could reap you benefits. It can be as crazy as switching fonts like me, or perhaps as drastic as this guy:

http://www.goodiebag.tv/episodes/13_distraction_machine.htm

Hmmm, maybe his second suggestion is better….

This week Paul simplified his font and watched his productivity soar. Then he completely undid all this good work by spending his time searching the internet for typewriter sound effects to add to his computer so he could pretend he was Ernest Hemingway…
8 Comments
  1. April 12, 2009 2:37 am

    Hey if we crash and burn for Script Frenzy then you’ve taken something from the experience in adjusting to Courier font. I never gave much thought to it looking like typewriter font (I’ve had a passion for typewriters since I was a wee girl – one day I’ll scan my kindy photo to prove it!) I find it quite stark … and have to admit that I don’t pay too much attention to what font I type in – it’s either Times New Roman or Arial.

    I know that I made some simple changes when I started writing in earnest that have carried me away and helped me coalesce my creativity. The first and most profound was to give up alcohol. While for some this is a huge thing (and I have struggled most of my adult life with drinking so it was both huge thing and a simple thing) I chose to spend my Friday evenings in those early weeks deciding to write, enjoying a bottle of expensive mineral water and indulging in writing the Fiction Friday prompts. Almost eighteen months down the track I’m happy to go with my mineral water still. To me it’s either drink and miss out on writing, or write and forgo wine or beer.

    I felt empowered to no longer be at the mercy of the bottle and to be living the life I dreamt as a small child.

    One small change I would love to make right now, is to get up just half an hour earlier to go for a walk – it’s when all my ideas are teased apart and come to life. Maybe this is the week to try it again. I think I’m most productive and creative when I give my ideas a chance to stretch their legs – a little like me!

  2. April 12, 2009 12:01 pm

    HAHA! Some days, I’d go with the second suggestion …

    Fonts, eh? I’ll have to try that. I’m embarrassed to say, but it doesn’t take much for me to get distracted.

    Heck, some days, the blinking cursor distracts me! Pathetic, I know.

    I have found, the ONLY way I’m getting any writing done at all, is to do four things:

    1. Use my laptop. I can not type on my main PC. Way too many pretty programs to play with.

    2. Turn off WiFi function on my laptop. If I accidentally leave it on and the little “reminder” window pops up to tell me what sort of connection I have, it reminds me that the Internet is just a click away and *poof* – I’m gone.

    3. My writing space HAS to be quiet and people-free. I’m too interested in what’s going on around me to concentrate.

    4. I have to have a Redbull close at hand. Seriously, it’s weird. I guess it’s the caffeine that forces me to focus, but now I suspect it’s a psychological crutch.

    Jodi, that’s a great idea! I should try that. Walk a mile to get the juices flowing and then sit down and write.

    Perhaps then, I wouldn’t need the Redbull.😀

  3. April 12, 2009 7:16 pm

    Ha! I set my alarm for 6:30am and then rolled over and went back to sleep. The fact that it is raining here doesn’t help.

    As it is Easter Monday and technically a public holiday, I’ll start over getting up early tomorrow🙂

  4. April 12, 2009 7:36 pm

    Great post.

    I have a lot of distractions – mostly school stuff and I can’t put that aside. However, classes end this coming Thursday, so I am really hoping I can get back into the swing of things and start writing again. My main distraction, I would say, is the internet…I need to learn to stop spending so much time on that and less on other things, including writing.

    As for fonts, I typically use Arial – mostly because it’s a little larger (at size 12) than Times New Roman…and I would use Arial for doing papers and assignments for class. There are some really “pretty” fonts out there now though…so who knows, I just might change over to one of those for writing – just to try it out…

  5. April 13, 2009 6:34 am

    I don’t tend to get distracted by fonts or formatting when I am writing. I have a self-imposed and self-regulated rule that if I want to play with a font, I give it 3 tries and if I haven’t found what I like, I stick with my default which is currently Calibri 11 pt. I largely just don’t even bother with changing the fonts, but from time to time the situation will demand it (for example, I wrote a ‘scary story’ for Halloween and used a font that was inspired by “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” for it).

    I completely agree, though, that there must be some simple changes might make me more efficient at writing, perhaps might even make me a better writer. I am going to take an inventory of what I am doing that is sucking up my time and hopefully that will help me address the struggles I’ve had lately with writing — without taking the drastic actions in the video!

  6. April 13, 2009 9:15 am

    Distracted… Paul you need to grow a scruffy beard if you are looking to emulate Hemmingway..

    I am with Karen – in that my writing is done when everyone is asleep… and a large mug of freshly ground organic coffee sits steaming beside me……Never been a morning person, I’d have to be awake at 4.30 am to beat everyone in the household up and get an hours writing done before everyone wakes. ( hubby walks out the door at 6 am – kids usually awake and running about by then too)

    and yes – its the simple things that start to make the biggest changes in your journey.

    thanks for sharing

  7. April 13, 2009 1:41 pm

    Annie — I don’t think I mentioned it in my comment… 4:30 in the morning is when I get up every day… and with my hot mug of organic, shade-grown coffee I can write a lot (normally). That is, until the wife, kids and/or dog need something!

  8. April 14, 2009 8:25 am

    Rob…. you need help… seriously!!! big smiles.. ( everyone knows that shade grown organic coffee is bad for you……..)

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