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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 July 10, 2020

                          The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

                          The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

                          Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

                          Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

                          The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

                          Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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                          Program Your Own Algorithms

                          Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

                          Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

                          By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

                          How to Form a Ritual

                          I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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                          Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

                          1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
                          2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
                          3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
                          4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

                          Ways to Use a Ritual

                          Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

                          1. Waking Up

                          Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

                          2. Web Usage

                          How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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                          3. Reading

                          How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

                          4. Friendliness

                          Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

                          5. Working

                          One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

                          6. Going to the gym

                          If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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                          7. Exercise

                          Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

                          8. Sleeping

                          Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

                          8. Weekly Reviews

                          The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

                          Final Thoughts

                          We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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                          Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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