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12 Lessons From Roald Dahl That Will Inspire You

12 Lessons From Roald Dahl That Will Inspire You

Roald Dahl was one of the greatest children’s authors of all time. He was also an incredibly productive and creative person, who wrote dozens of books during his lifetime. Creative people can learn a lot from what Dahl had to say about growing up and becoming more productive and imaginative.

1. Have fun

“A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men” – Roald Dahl

nonsense

    Working hard is one thing, but it’s important to take a break and have fun. Intelligent, creative and productive people know that making time for an indulgence, a side-passion or even a little nonsense refuels our batteries and makes it easier to get back to work. Plus, if you’re not having fun then what’s the point?

    2. Draw on past experiences

    “A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom” – Roald Dahl

    A Person

      During World War II Dahl became a decorated fighter pilot and intelligence officer for the Royal Air Force. Although he could have clearly pursued and succeeded at other careers after the war, he had a passion for telling stories. His success as a writer shows that our past interests and careers can inform our work.

      3. It’s natural to worry where your ideas come from

      “A writer of fiction lives in fear. Each new day demands new ideas and he can never be sure whether he is going to come up with them or not” – Roald Dahl

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      a writer

        Dahl wrote dozens of short stories, books and screenplays during his life including the BFG, Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Even he worried about coming up with new ideas.

        If you’re involved in creative work, accept these fears as part of the process and then move past them. Just keep turning up and putting the work in.

        4. Routine is important

        “I began to realize how simple life could be if one had a regular routine to follow with fixed salary, and very little original thinking to do” – Roald Dahl

        I began

          Dahl’s observation about having “very little original thinking to do” refers to less creative careers. If you are creative people and stuck in a boring job, you can still thrive. Just save your original thinking for the blank page or for a creative side-project.

          5. Writing takes discipline

          “The writer has to force himself to work. He has to make his own hours and if he doesn’t go to his desk at all there is nobody there to scold him” – Roald Dahl

          The writer

            If you want to succeed as a writer, you will have to become comfortable working in your own company and keeping your own hours. Unlike other professions, nobody is going to demand that you turn up every day and put the work in.

            Although this brings a certain level of freedom, it also means that you have to become even more disciplined and responsible about your craft.

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            6. Keeping a journal is a useful practice

            “Though my father was Norwegian, he always wrote his diaries in perfect English” – Roald Dahl

            Though my father

              Dahl wrote two autobiographies: Boy: Tales of Childhood and Going Solo. Both books have echoes of a journal about them. If you want to become a writer, keeping a journal is a useful practice that can inform your work. You can use your journal to develop ideas for future writing projects, to document the progress of your work and to mark your accomplishments and setbacks.

              7. Creative work is hard work

              “Two hours of writing fiction leaves this writer completely drained. For those two hours he has been in a different place with totally different people” – Roald Dahl

              Completely drained

                Creative work is exciting. It can take you to another place and provide a refuge from the day-to-day world. It’s also difficult and demanding work that can leave you emotionally and physically drained at the end of the process. Tread carefully.

                8. Draw on sensual experience

                “Pear Drops were exciting because they had a dangerous taste. All of us were warned against eating them, and the result was that we ate them more than ever” – Roald Dahl

                Pear

                  If you want to become a writer, it’s important to observe and write about day-to-day experiences that others take for granted. You should record how things look, taste, touch, smell and sound, and then use these sense impressions to paint a colorful picture for your reader. This will bring your work to life.

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                  9. Write with your ideal audience in mind

                  “Had I not had children of my own, I would have never written books for children, nor would I have been capable of doing so.” – Roald Dahl

                  Had I not had children

                    Dahl is on record as saying that he wrote many of his books for his children and later for his grandchildren. He considered the people closest to him when he wrote and he created a world for them on the page. If you’re a writer, you should consider who your ideal reader is, what they want, what they like and what they dislike.

                    10. Have a place to work

                    “I go down to my little hut, where it’s tight and dark and warm, and within minutes I can go back to being six or seven or eight again” – Roald Dahl

                    I go

                      Dahl wrote in a hut at the back of his house for much of his life. Just as office workers go the same place every day, writers and creative professionals should also have a room to work in, where nothing else happens except their work. This makes it easier to create and reduces the chances of procrastination

                      11. Take advantage of the shrinking world

                      “Nowadays you can go anywhere in the world in a few hours, and nothing is fabulous any more.” – Roald Dahl

                      Nowdays

                        Dahl recognized that the world had become vastly smaller during his lifetime, and he lived much of his life in a time pre-internet and pre-mobile phones.

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                        Although this sense of fabulous may be lost, if you get into the habit of sharing your work, the idea of other people reading it doesn’t have to feel exotic. Today, you can create something, publish and share it with the world (on sites like Lifehack).

                        12. Be modest

                        “An autobiography is a book a person writes about his own life and it is usually full of all sorts of boring ideas” – Roald Dahl

                        an auto

                          Lots of famous writers enjoy getting into fights with other writers or talking about how important or grand their work is. Dahl wasn’t afraid to put his profession in perspective and, even though his two autobiographies are anything but boring, he could hardly be accused of being self-aggrandizing or self-promotional.

                          He shows that writers and creative professionals should be more concerned with seeking out truth than they should be about explaining the importance of their work.

                          What are your favorite Roald Dahl books? Has he taught you anything about productivity, creativity or writing? Please let me know in the comments section below.

                          Featured photo credit: Cory Doctorow via creativecommons.org

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                          Last Updated on April 19, 2021

                          The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

                          The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

                          Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

                          The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

                          Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

                          In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

                          When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

                          Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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                          1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

                          When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

                          As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

                          That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

                          The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

                          What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

                          Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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                          There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

                          So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

                          2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

                          When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

                          No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

                          3. Move Your Body

                          A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

                          It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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                          So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

                          4. Connect With Another Person

                          Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

                          One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

                          Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

                          5. Use Your Imagination

                          When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

                          That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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                          And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

                          Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

                          Final Thoughts

                          Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

                          Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

                          More on the Importance of Taking a Break

                          Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

                          Reference

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