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The Ultimate Writing Productivity Resource

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 8, 2020

    How to Say No When You Say Yes Too Often

    How to Say No When You Say Yes Too Often

    Do you say yes so often that you realize you aren’t really happy about this, wondering how to say no to people?

    For years, I was a serial people pleaser. Known as someone who would step up, I would gladly make time especially when it came to volunteering for certain causes. I proudly carried this role all through grade school, college, even through law school. For years, I thought saying “no” meant I would disappoint a good friend or someone I respected.

    But somewhere along the way, I noticed I wasn’t quite living my life. Instead, I seem to have created a schedule that was a strange combination of meeting the expectations of others, what I thought I should be doing, and some of what I actually wanted to do. The result? I had a packed schedule that left me overwhelmed and unfulfilled.

    It took a long while but I learned the art of saying no. Saying ‘no’ meant I no longer catered fully to everyone else’s needs and could make more room for what I really wanted to do. Instead of cramming too much in, I chose to pursue what really mattered. I started to manage my time more around my own needs and interests. When that happened, I became a lot happier. And guess what? I hardly disappointed anyone.

    The Importance of Saying No

    When you learn the art of saying ‘no,’ you begin to look at the world differently. Rather than seeing all of the things you could or should be doing (and aren’t doing), you start to look at how to say yes to what’s important.

    In other words, you aren’t just reacting to what life throws at you. You seek the opportunities that move you to where you want to be.

    Successful people aren’t afraid to say no. Oprah Winfrey considered one of the most successful women in the world confessed that it was much later in life when she learned how to say no. Even after she had become internationally famous, she felt she had to say yes to virtually everything. It was only when she realized that after years of struggling with saying no, I finally got to this question: “What do I want?”

    Being able to say no also helps you manage your time better.

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    Warren Buffett views no as essential to his success. He said,

    “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

    When I made ‘no’ a part of my toolbox, I drove more of my own success focusing on fewer things and doing them well.

    How We Are Pressured to Say Yes

    It’s no wonder a lot of us find it hard to say ‘no.’

    From an early age, we are conditioned to say ‘yes.’ We said yes probably hundreds of time in order to graduate from high school and then get into college. We said yes to find work. We said yes get a promotion. We said yes to find love and then yes again to stay in a relationship. We said yes to find and keep friends.

    We say yes because it feels better to help someone. We say yes because it can seem like the right thing to do. We say yes because we think that is key to success. And we say yes because the request might come from someone who is hard to resist like the boss.

    And that’s not all. The pressure to say yes doesn’t just come from others. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves. At work, we say yes because we compare ourselves to others who seem to be doing more than we are. Outside of work, we say yes because we feel guilty we aren’t doing enough to spend time with family or friends.

    The message no matter where we turn is nearly always, “You really could be doing more.” The result? When people ask us for our time, we are heavily conditioned to say yes.

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    How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty

    Deciding to add the word ‘no’ to your toolbox is no small thing. Perhaps you already say ‘no’ but not as much as you would like. Maybe you have an instinct that if you were to learn the art of ‘no’ that you could finally create more time for things you care about. But let’s be honest, using the word ‘no’ doesn’t come easily for many people.

    The 3 Rules of Thumbs for Saying No

    1. You Need to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

    Let’s face it. It is hard to say no. Setting boundaries around your time especially you haven’t done it much in the past will feel awkward.

    2. You Are the Air Traffic Controller of Your Time

    Remember that you are the only one who understands the demands for your time. Think about it, who else knows about all of the demands on your time? No one. Only you are at the center of all of these requests. are the only one that understands what time you really have.

    3. Saying ‘No’ Means Saying ‘Yes’ to Something That Matters

    When we decide not to do something, it means we can say yes to something else. You have a unique opportunity to decide how you spend your precious time.

    6 Ways to Start Saying No

    Incorporating that little word ‘no’ into your life can be transformational. Turning some things down will mean you can open doors to what really matters. Here are some essential tips to learn the art of no:

    1. Check in With Your Obligation Meter

    One of the biggest challenges to saying ‘no’ is a feeling of obligation. Do you feel you have a responsibility to say yes and worry that saying no reflect poorly on you?

    Ask yourself whether you truly have the duty to say yes. Check your assumptions or beliefs about whether you carry the responsibility to say yes. Turn it around and instead ask what duty you owe to yourself.

    2. Resist the Fear of Missing out (FOMO)

    Do you have a fear of missing out (FOMO)? FOMO can follow us around in so many ways. At work, we volunteer our time because we fear we won’t move ahead. In our personal lives, we agree to join the crowd because FOMO even while we ourselves aren’t enjoying the fun.

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    Check in with yourself. Are you saying yes because of FOMO or because you really want to say yes? More often than not, running after fear doesn’t make us feel better.

    3. Check Your Assumptions About What It Means to Say ‘No’

    Do you dread the reaction you will get if you say no? Often, we say ‘yes’ because we worry about how others will respond or the consequences of saying no or because of the consequences. We may be afraid to disappoint others or think we will lose respect from others. We often forget how much we are disappointing ourselves along the way.

    Keep in mind that saying ‘no’ can be exactly what is needed to send the right message that you have limited time. In the tips below, you will see how to communicate your no in a gentle and loving way. You might disappoint someone initially but drawing a boundary can bring you the freedom you need so that you can give freely of yourself when you truly want to.

    4. When the Request Comes In, Sit on It

    Sometimes, when we are in the moment, we instinctively agree. The request might make sense at first. Or we typically have said yes to this request in the past.

    Give yourself a little time to reflect on whether you really have the time, or can do the task properly. You may decide the best option is to say ‘no.’ There is no harm in giving yourself the time to decide.

    5. Communicate Your ‘No’ with Transparency and Kindness

    When you are ready to tell someone no, communicate your decision clearly. The message can be open and honest to ensure the recipient that your reasons have to do with your limited time.

    Resist the temptation not to respond or communicate all. But do not feel obligated to provide a lengthy account about why you are saying no.

    A clear communication with a short explanation is all that is needed. I have found it useful to tell people that I have many demands and need to be careful with how I allocate my time. I will sometimes say I really appreciate that they came to me and for them to check in again if the opportunity arises another time.

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    6. Consider How to Use a Modified ‘No’

    If you are under pressure to say yes but want to say no, you may want to consider downgrading a “yes” to a “yes but…” giving you an opportunity to condition your agreement to what works best for you.

    Sometimes, the condition can be to do the task but not in the time frame that was originally requested. Or perhaps you can do part of what has been asked.

    Final Thoughts

    Beginning right now, you can change how you respond to requests for your time. When the request comes in, take yourself off autopilot where you might normally say yes.

    Use the request as a fresh request to draw a healthy boundary around your time. Pay particular attention to when you place certain demands on yourself. If you are the one placing the demand on yourself, try to evaluate the demand as if it were coming from somewhere else.

    Try it now. Say no to a friend who continues to take advantage of your goodwill. Or, draw the line with a workaholic colleague and tell them you will complete the project but not by working all weekend. Or, tell someone in your family you can’t loan them money again because they never paid you back the last time. You’ll find yourself much happier.

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    Featured photo credit: Chris Ainsworth via unsplash.com

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