June 18, 2018

King Arthur Podcast Episode

The Legendary Sword in the Stone of San Galgano

Just found out (thanks to a colleague of mine) about this really cool podcast channel called Stuff You Should Know. I don't know if you're already familiar with it, but there was a recent episode on it that was all about "Was there a real King Arthur?"

In it, the two hosts, Josh and Chuck, try to piece together what could be real facts from the Arthurian myths we've inherited.

And it was actually quite entertaining. You get to learn things like what Avalon meant (answer: the Land of Apples), or that some theorize that the name 'Arthur' is derived from the nickname 'Arth,' which means bear (and therefore could refer to any man of imposing stature and physical prowess--so more like the cousins Gareth and Gauvain, than our Arthur in the Morgana Trilogy).

Anyway, I don't know whether you enjoy podcasts at all (I find them really great when I'm working on repetitive projects), but thought I'd share this with you. Enjoy!

June 11, 2018

On Productivity - Making Grand Gestures


I've been reading a really interesting book lately, called Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport. Found out about it because I realized I was having major concentration issues (partly due to my lately-discovered gluten allergy, but not only to that).

The book states that a key to advance in any worthwhile project (including at work), is to have the ability to get into the zone and do some deep work for long stretches of time. This entails detoxing from immediate reward activities such as going through my emails, surfing the Internet, checking out Amazon, twitter, or browsing Instagram... Yeah, easier said than done.

Other things just as crucial, but harder to control, including going to *cough*lock yourself up in*cough* a quiet space, one where people aren't likely to distract you. That's basically impossible in an open work space like the one at my current job (yes, I do have a regular job, as evidenced by my long absences on this--and other--forums).

Anyway, Deep Work is a really interesting read for anyone who wants to get things done, and also includes tips and tricks for people with varying types of jobs and activities.

Here's an excerpt I found particularly interesting to me, since it mentions the mighty J. K. Rowling, and her struggle to write the final book of her awesome Harry Potter series (I cannot compare myself to her, but the struggle to finish my Morgana Trilogy is definitely quite an arduous journey for me too):

   In the early winter of 2007, J.K. Rowling was struggling to complete The Deathly Hallows, the final book in her Harry Potter series. The pressure was intense, as this book bore the responsibility of tying together the six that preceded it in a way that would satisfy the series' hundreds of millions of fans. Rowling needed to work deeply to satisfy these demands, but she was finding unbroken concentration increasingly difficult to achieve at her home office in Edinburgh, Scotland. 

"As I was finishing Deathly Hallows there came a time where the window cleaner came, the kids were at home, the dogs were barking," Rowling recalled in an interview. 

It was too much, so J.K. Rowling decided to do something extreme to shift her mind-set where it needed to be: She checked into a suite in the five-star Balmoral Hotel, located in the heart of downtown Edinburgh.

"So I came to this hotel because it's a beautiful hotel, but I didn't intend to stay here," she explained. "[But] the first day's writing went well so I kept coming back...and I ended up finishing the last of the Harry Potter books [here]."

Interesting tidbit I actually wasn't yet aware of (shame on me). However much I wish I could do the same, my own life doesn't permit me to make that grand a gesture towards focusing on the editing/writing of Curse of the Fey (apparently the hotel costs $1,000 a night). But I try to do something similar whenever I can: go to a cafe (hopefully quiet--I'm not usually very lucky in this department, though), rent a cabin for a weekend (that one turned out to be quite fun and productive), go to my aunt's and uncle's place where I'm lucky enough to have full use of their office...

The Balmoral Edinburgh suite where J.K. Rowling stayed to finish Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

What about you, what kind of grand gesture do you find yourself doing to be able to get your important projects done?

May 10, 2018

When Life Gets Tough

"The tougher the circumstances are in our life and the more the odds are stacked against us, often the more of a catalyst those circumstances will be in propelling us to find our dream."  - Hero