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The Ultimate Writing Productivity Resource

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The Ultimate Writing Productivity Resource
The Ultimate Writing Productivity Resource

    Last week, I launched a new site I’d been working on for several months, dedicated to technology and the writing life. Since I’ve been eating, drinking, breathing, and sleeping “writing” all week, it seemed natural to pull together some of the tools, sites, and Lifehack.org tips I know of that can help make writers more productive, organized, and creative.

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    Note: Maybe you don’t consider yourself a writer. Chances are, though, that you have to write — papers for school, memos for work, presentations for potential funders, grants for your organization, posts for your blog, and so on. I’m pretty sure you’ll find a lot of useful information below, whether or not you officially call yourself a “writer”.

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    10 9 Free Apps Every Writer Should Consider

    1. q10: A cool, minimalist full-screen text editor that includes a spellchecker and a couple other nice features. (Win Only; Alternatives: DarkRoom, also Win-only; WriteRoom, Mac-only but not free; Writer, online app)
    2. Freemind: Java-based mindmapping software. Great for brainstorming and taking notes. (Runs anywhere Java runs)
    3. EverNote: Capture formatted notes from any application to a single place. The new version (in private beta now) offers online access, too. (A paid version offers niceties like handwriting recognition.)
    4. Zotero: Firefox extension that allows you to capture bibliographic information from web pages, organize citiations and documents, and create bibliographies in Word and OpenOffice. Essential for anyone who does research on the web.
    5. yWriter4: Novel-writing software created by a working writer with writers in mind. Keeps character descriptions, notes, and other essential information at your fingertips as you write. (Win and Linux)
    6. Sonar: Submission tracking software from the same guy who wrote yWriter4. Keep track of markets and submissions easily. (Win and Linux)
    7. Foxit Reader: A super-fast PDF reader. Opens almost every document much more quickly than Adobe Reader. (Win only)
    8. PDF Creator: Open source program to create PDF files from any application that can print. Installs a “virtual printer” under your programs “Print” menu; select it to save as PDF. (Win only)
    9. Enso Words: Provides system-wide spellchecking and word count; simply select text and enter a keystroke combination (“Caps Lock” + s for spellcheck, “Caps Lock” + w for word count, etc.). (Win only)

    Update: Sorry, I don’t know what happened to my 10th! I had 10 when I outlined the post, then added a few and dropped a few while I wrote, and… Very mysterious. I could cheat and add Scholar’s Aid 4 Lite, a freeware bibliographic reference manager, but you’d see right through that, wouldn’t you?

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    10 Online Apps and Services Every Writer Should Check Out

    1. Buzzword: Luscious Flash-based word processor from Adobe. Includes running word count, sharing and collaboration features, and revision history. (Alternatives: Google Docs, Zoho Writer, and ThinkFree)
    2. Luminary Writer’s Database: AN online submission tracker with some social networking features, like sharing markets with other writers (and searching other writer’s shared markets).
    3. WriteWith: An online collaboration environment. Upload documents and assign tasks to different authors.
    4. Wrike: Project management app with an email interface (useful for adding documents and assigning tasks). Useful for information management, too. (Alternative: Basecamp)
    5. Mozy: Automatic online backup of selected folders. Free version allows up to 2GB of storage.
    6. Toodledo: Task management system that integrates well with various services, including Jott, Twitter, and Google Calendar. (Alternatives: RememberTheMilk, TadaList, more)
    7. Google Notebook: Online storage for notes and web snippets, with instant capture via a Firefox extension. Organize into “notebooks” and “sections”.
    8. iGoogle: Personal homepage with hundreds of add-on widgets. Create a writing dashboard with notes, calendar, project management info, your todo list, and access to files on Box.net or documents on Google Docs (or most other online word processors). (Alternative: Pageflakes)
    9. Box.net: 5GB free online storage. Offers file sharing and integration with online apps like Zoho Writer.
    10. Jott: Transcribes voice messages to text. Call from your mobile phone to leave reminders, or to send items to over 2 dozen web services including todo lists, blogging platforms, and online calendars.

    10 Sites Every Writer Should Bookmark (Besides Lifehack)

    1. Becoming a Writer Seriously: Tom Colvin is a working writer who gives tips and advice on writing, including great in-depth reviews of software and otehr tools for writers.
    2. Freelance Switch: Essential reading for freelancers of any sort, including writers.
    3. How Not to Write: News, tips, and amusements for writers when they’re not writing.
    4. Men with Pens: A great site written by freelance writers. Funny, irreverent, opinionated — and great advice.
    5. PODdyMouth: Everything you could ever want to know about print-on-demand publishing. Writers beware — there are a lot of scams out there, and PODdyMouth works hard to uncover them.
    6. The Renegade Writer Blog: Great advice aimed at freelance writers, from the authors of The Renegade Writer.
    7. Time to Write: Multi-faceted author Jurgen Wolff offers tips and advice on writing, promotion, and creativity.
    8. Write Now is Good: Author and editor Kristin Gorski writes about writing, creativity, inspiration. Write Now is Good is good.
    9. Write to Done: Leo Babauta, ex-Lifehackista and master of Zen Habits, shares the secrets of his success.
    10. Writing Power: Real down-in-the-trenches advice on things like narration, revision, and word usage from English professor Loren Blinde.

    30 Lifehack Posts Every Writer Should Read

    1. 10 Steps Toward Better Writing
    2. Fifty (50!) Tools which can help you in Writing
    3. Improve Your Writing with these Editing Tips
    4. Tips and Tricks for Distraction-Free Writing
    5. Persuasive Writing for Students, Webmasters, Bloggers, and Everyone Else
    6. How to Start a Writing Critique Group
    7. Eliminate Common Writing Mistakes
    8. Beat Blank Page Syndrome: 10 Tricks to Get Your Writing Started
    9. 7 Steps to Help You Better in Writing
    10. Writing as a Form of Self-Healing
    11. Writing — Just Do It!
    12. My Trick for Writing
    13. Rico Clusters: An Alternative to Mind Mapping
    14. Limit Your Word Count When Making a Point
    15. How to Become a Creative Genius
    16. 6 Lies About Creative Writing You Should Never Believe
    17. Writing Tip: Develop Your Style
    18. 9 Tips to Productive Revision
    19. A Guide to Becoming a Better Writer: 15 Practical Tips
    20. Six Ways to Start the Writing Process
    21. Book Discussion: Chip and Dan Heath’s “Made to Stick”
    22. Lifehack.org How-To Wiki: Project Planning
    23. Lifehack.org How-To Wiki: Writing
    24. Blog Your Way Through Writer’s Block
    25. A Simple Way to Publish Your Own eBook
    26. 10 Tips from Lincoln on Writing a Kick-Ass Speech
    27. How to Punctuate a Sentence
    28. 11 Tips to Carve Out More Time to Think
    29. Essential Resources for Creativity (163 techniques + 30 tips + books!)
    30. Communication: “Shipping News” Your Writing

    5 Online Communities Every Writer Should Join

    1. Writing.com: Focused around a forum where writers offer each other support, advice, and critiques, Writing.com also offers an online portfolio, writing.com email, online submission tracking, and otehr services. Some features are paid, but you can also earn points by doing various tasks on the site.
    2. MediaBistro: Membership group for freelance writers with forums, articles, courses, and job postings. Paid members (AvantGuild, $49/yr) also get discounts on research resources like Lexis-Nexis, access to market information, and can even sign up for health insurance, dental insurance, and other niceties often unavailable to freelancers.
    3. Meetup Writing Groups: An online space for arranging off-line events, Meetup has dozens of writing groups in almost every major metropolitan area, and often a couple or more even in smaller towns. Enter your location to narrow the search down to local groups.
    4. My Writers Circle: A forum just for writers, with critique groups, job postings, advice, and general writerly chit-chat.
    5. The Writer’s Cafe: An online community with forums, reviews, and contests.

    Anything to add? Let me know in the comments!

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    Last Updated on July 20, 2021

    How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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    How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

    You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

    Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

    Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

    Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

    1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

    According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

    “Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

    Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

    Warming up

    If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

    If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

    Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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    1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
    2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
    3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

    Stay hydrated

    Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

    To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

    Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

    Meditate

    Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

    Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

    Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

    Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

    2. Focus on your goal

    One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

    Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

    Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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    Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

    If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

    3. Convert negativity to positivity

    There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

    ‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

    It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

    Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

    Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

    Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

    4. Understand your content

    Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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    However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

    “No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

    Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

    Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

    One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

    5. Practice makes perfect

    Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

    In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

    Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

    6. Be authentic

    There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

    Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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    Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

    To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

    With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

    Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

    7. Post speech evaluation

    Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

    Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

    We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

    You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

    Improve your next speech

    As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

    Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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    • How did I do?
    • Are there any areas for improvement?
    • Did I sound or look stressed?
    • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
    • Was I saying “um” too often?
    • How was the flow of the speech?

    Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

    If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

    Reference

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