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How “Stealing” from Great Writers Makes You Write Better And Think Bigger

How “Stealing” from Great Writers Makes You Write Better And Think Bigger
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We all have that day where your idea pool run dry and you just cannot find the suitable word to describe things in your mind. You then remember all those great lines from Ernest Hemingway and wonder why you never been able to form those brilliant sentences in your brain, while slowly fall into the abyss of self-deprivation.

Actually, it is not that hard to write like Hemingway. You just have to steal from him.

When you are reading some fascinating pieces from great writers, you may imagine yourself becoming a writer. You can, in fact, get one step closer by “stealing” something from them. Of course you are not plagiarizing their work, but learning some important writing skills from the masters.

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Francine Prose shares how we can learn to write better by reading intentionally — outstanding writing is dressed up with language styles.[1] It is all about putting the right word in the right place, and this is exactly what you can learn by reading someone else’s passages. Here are the tips to boost your own writing skills.

Think about why they use those words

Choosing the correct words can elevate the standard of writing. In Prose’s book, she mentions that words are “raw material out of which literature is crafted.” Readers could read every word and analyze word choices. You will have questions such as, “Why do writers use these words?” and, “What do these words imply?” After all, you can learn and use them to improve your own work.

Think about how they phrase an idea

Good writing pieces not only contain interesting ideas, but also contain phrasing with constructed sentences. Prose discusses how “the well-made sentence transcends time and genre.” She thinks that a writer who is concerned about what constitutes a well-constructed sentence is on the right path. You may learn sentence patterns and word usage from great writers and then use them in appropriate ways when phrasing your own ideas.

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George Orwell said his work was influenced much by the style of W. Somerset Maugham. Writing is the same for everyone and no different from every other skills that you can learn, the best way to improve is to learn it from the masters.

Read more, and think beyond the words

So, start reading now. Instead of just going through a book or any article word by word, think beyond the words.

Revisit the books that you love and be a bit more analytical this time. Mark it down if you come across some great sentences or ideas. Make a list of the sublime words used by great writers and learn from them.

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I’ve been keeping a notebook with all my favorite sentences and phrases since I was small. It’s like my little dictionary and it has helped my writing a lot. Just imagine a book with all the greatest writers’ greatest words and ideas! Oh and you can actually expand it to some of the best quotes you’ve seen or the amazing movie lines you’ve heard about.

When you have a notebook like that, you’ll never lack an idea or ways of presentation because you already have a pool of thoughts that you can just take out any of them any time.

Let’s start with your favorite book or favorite piece of article! Pick that up and write down all the amazing ideas, words and sentences in it!

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Featured photo credit: Ignitum Today via google.com.hk

Reference

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Charlotte Lam

Editorial Intern, Lifehack

How “Stealing” from Great Writers Makes You Write Better And Think Bigger

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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