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12 Lessons From Roald Dahl That Will Inspire You

12 Lessons From Roald Dahl That Will Inspire You
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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 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.

                          More on Building Habits

                          Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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                          Reference

                          [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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