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How to overcome binge writing

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Five simple ways to escape the procrastination cycle

“The best way for me to write is under pressure.”

“Procrastination works for me. I can only write if I’m staring down a deadline.”

“There’s no sense even trying to start a document until it’s the eleventh hour–I just can’t focus otherwise.”

I find it odd to hear so many workplace writers turn procrastination into a virtue when, in most other aspects of our life, we treat it as a weakness to resist. The trouble is that procrastinating on a …

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Why "think before you write"​ is terrible advice

why think before you write is bad advice

In his classic work of cultural theory, Homo Ludens, Johan Huizinga begins with an apology for the limitations of his research, saying, "To fill in all the gaps in my knowledge beforehand was out of the question for me. I had to write now, or not at all. And I wanted to write."

My mind often “thinks” in cartoons, and as I read these words, I picture Huizinga dashing out of the library at Leiden University—knocking down a shelf of books in his haste—and making a bee-line for his office like a fo…

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Never miss another deadline because of writing blockages

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You don’t need to see the latest stats on project failure rates to know that most IT and engineering projects don’t meet their initial timelines. One experienced project manager once told me that 75% of technology projects fail to meet the schedule, the budget, or both. 

At the time, I thought she was a pessimist, with maybe a bit of paranoid personality thrown in. But it turns out she wasn’t exaggerating by much. Failure rates for IT projects, documented in various research studies, range from…

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What Mr. Bean and Yoga Have Taught Me About Writing

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Have you seen the Mr. Bean Snickers ads in which Rowan Atkinson plays a ninja in training? If so, then you have some idea of what it’s been like for me to learn yoga over the past few years.

I’m so clumsy that I've never dared to attempt yoga in a live class. Who knows whom I might accidentally kick or roll over while trying to fold myself into some impossible pretzel shape? The corner of my bedroom seems a much safer spot for everyone.

About four years ago, when I first decided to give yoga a…

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The useless fantasy that makes writing tougher than it needs to be

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Imagine you're playing a medieval fantasy game in which your role is not warrior but writer. Rather than trying to find a gem or break a spell, your quest is to create a report.

As you journey toward this goal, you fight a series of monsters with names like Ennui, Self-Torment, and Delay. Your secret weapon against these and other perils is your Muse, a powerful female figure whom you summon by collecting spells for your writer's spell book.

When your muse magically appears, she looks like a c…

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"Do you make these mistakes in English?"​

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Fear can act as a persuasive motivator—especially the fear of seeming inept or ignorant. In the 1920s and ‘30s, the headline “Do you make these mistakes in English?” frightened more than 150,000 Americans into buying a correspondence course to improve their language skills. The ad for the course is widely considered one of the greatest pieces of copy writing of all time.

As a writing coach, however, I cringe every time I see a new version of the famous headline. So many blog posts and magazine …

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Get rid of the writing distractions in your open office

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Is there any worse place to write than a modern office? Open-concept offices may create the illusion of team togetherness, but they're so noisy and distracting that it may be easier to concentrate in a subway station. 

Researchers are finally validating the complaints open-office employees have been making for years. Working without privacy and quiet undercuts productivity by up to 15%, increases physical and emotional stress, and correlates with high rates of absenteeism. (For a startling summ…

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If I can overcome my dog phobia, you can overcome your writing apprehension

dog

As a child, I was terrified of dogs. For me, encountering a beagle on a leash was like meeting a wolf in the wild. 

Big or small, curly-haired or sleek, unicoloured or brindled, dogs of any kind petrified me. Just meeting a dog on the street could take my breath away and give me nightmares for weeks.

I think this fear had something to do with a visit to a relative’s farm when I was nine or 10 years old. I entered the horse barn already nervous around dogs, and I came out feeling lucky to be al…

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The Number One Thing You Can Do to Improve Your Business Writing is Completely Painless

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Many of the clients I work with struggle with writing because they buy into a common limiting belief: “No pain, no gain.”

That old saying may be true about body building. A muscle grows when it works so hard that it tears. Then it heals in a way that makes is stronger than it was before.

But the proverb doesn’t apply to the writing muscle. Writing abilities develop best when we turn off the notion that hard work must hurt and instead find gentle ways to build confidence in our own writing voic…

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Six lies your brain tells you about your writing

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We’ve all had times when we’ve felt like the cartoon character with the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other. That was my predicament the day after I baked the most recent batch of birthday cupcakes.

In the one ear: “Go ahead, have one more. Vanilla icing doesn’t really count.”

And from the other shoulder: “Don’t give in. Self-control is the queen of virtues and the virtue of queens."

Sadly, my guardian angel lost that day (to the scale’s gain). But, in her defence, I think she …

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