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Why I Wake Up Early (Even on the Weekend)

by Christopher Gronlund on August 29, 2014

I’ve written about mornings before on my main blog. It’s no secret that I like waking up early to write. But there’s a reason beyond the quiet that matters to me: if I get up early and make something I want to make before the world hisses to life and churns away, all the things I’m obligated to make later in the day cannot get in the way of the work that matters most to me.

And because that work gets done early, I can do all my other work well.

Even during the busiest of weeks, when the weekend rolls around (even if I work some on the weekend), I get even more time early in the mornings to do my favorite work.

This weekend is a three-day weekend in the states. I hope everybody makes it matter!

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How to Come Up with Good Ideas

by Christopher Gronlund on August 26, 2014

Yesterday at work, I had an idea for a blog entry. It was a great idea — at least that’s how I remember it. Because I was working, I wrote a note in a notebook (instead of putting it in Evernote), but today…I can’t find it.

I hear a lot of people talk about keeping a notebook on their nightstand so they can write down all those ideas that come to their head at night. I am rarely outside of arm’s reach from a notebook, with the exception of my bedroom. If an idea comes to me at night, I make a point to remember it. If I don’t remember it the next day, it really wasn’t that great an idea.

If it’s that great of an idea, I get up from bed to work on it; otherwise, sleep is more important.

The Power of Ideas

People seem to be in love with ideas. They are precious things, blown from the hands of muses like kisses from across the room. They are the spark that ignites a fire. They are a piece of cottonwood on the breeze, more likely to not blow our way, but instead, to land and take root in the head of somebody else. They are flares of swamp gas at night, fleeting things seen by few — the stuff of legend. Ideas are special things.

Only, really, they aren’t.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good idea. I have many each day — we all do, even if we don’t realize it. Every novel I’ve written; every short story, podcast, blog entry, and letter to a friend started as an idea. An idea can be made special through effort, but by itself, they are just one of a myriad thoughts on any given day.

The Lost Idea

I have probably lost or let go more ideas than I’ve kept. When I was younger, I felt like I lost a part of myself by not capturing every idea with some promise that came my way. I mentioned Evernote — I am a fan! I even made a video about Evernote (that I need to update). But I don’t fill Evernote with every idea and thing that I come across for two reasons:

  1. There’s this thing called the Internet that already has all the information I’d put into Evernote.
  2. When something becomes too full of information, it doesn’t seem to work as well.

Evernote is only for the things I’m going to actually use.

The Loaded Hard Drive Called Our Brain

While I haven’t run into the problem with larger hard drives, when we used to only have 250 megs to fill, I pushed things. And at some point it never failed: hard drives didn’t work as well when they got too full. My brain is the same way. The things that I can’t let go of…I dump to Evernote. The rest? I just let go.

I’m comfortable letting ideas go these days. I’ve been that way for years. I do not worry about ever running out of ideas. If I were to worry about anything, it would be coming to an end with so many ideas never realized, but even that doesn’t worry me.

Back to the Cottonwood

Going back to the cottonwood analogy, think of a day when the sky is full of whatever is floating through it. If those are ideas, they are plenty. To take on too many makes you sneeze and feel like crap. Your focus is cut because you don’t feel 100%. You may have a head full of ideas, but what good does it do you if you can’t use them all and they make you feel dragged down?

Here’s the thing about ideas: they aren’t just out there floating around, waiting to be discovered. Ideas are chemical, and they come more frequently the more you work on the things you like doing and your brain wires itself to be ready to work that way. They don’t come as often when you are constantly allowing yourself to be distracted by social media, email, and other things. (Read this!)

Once you realize that ideas are nothing really special, until you turn them into something more, it’s not so difficult to let them go. I don’t know what happened to the idea for a blog entry I came up with yesterday, but I know this much: this entry is much better than what I intended to write!

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Five Writing Lessons Learned from Podcast Movement

August 22, 2014
Podcast Movement Swag

Last weekend, I attended Podcast Movement 2014, in Dallas. Over 600 podcasters from all over the world descended on the area. (If you’re interested, I wrote about it here.) If you know me, you know I tend to be shy in groups. Even around people I know well, the moment there are four or more [...]

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My Writing Mix Tape

August 21, 2014
Blank cassette tape

My writing mix tape is blank — nothing but the sound of early morning darkness. Maybe the sound of the air conditioner or the heater, depending on the season. Sometimes it’s whatever creaking the apartment makes after settling and realizing one of its inhabitants is awake and stirring. It creaks and pops like a tired [...]

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Have You Written Today?

July 25, 2014
Have You Written Today iPhone 5 Lock Screen

Inspired by Austin Kleon’s cool phone lock screen, I made the lock screen you see here. It’s not that I really need the reminder to write, because most days begin with writing — and those day’s that don’t…I usually write in the evening. But… Some Days I Don’t Write I will admit that there are [...]

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How Do You Write?

July 16, 2014
Golden Gate Bridge

Getting from one side of a novel to the other… There comes a point in my writing process that I take over the living room for the day. Whether it’s bits and pieces of a story written on note cards, or printed sections of a manuscript color coded and spread out on the floor so [...]

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A Matter of Strength

July 4, 2014
Chisel and hammer

I didn’t get along very well with school. It seemed there was little encouragement for the things I did well and a pile of chiding and force put into the things I didn’t do so well. My schooling seemed fixated on pushing me to put 10 times the effort toward my weaknesses, while rarely encouraging [...]

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Making Writing Visual

June 25, 2014
A sneak peek at A Magic Life

I have always admired artists. They can hold up their work and, in an instant, an audience can tell if they like it or not. I’ve talked about it before: when it comes to a properly formatted manuscript — physically — they all look the same. (Man, that’s a shoddy video! But…it’s how one learns!) [...]

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Looking Through an Old Lens

June 18, 2014
Old cameras

I follow quite a few photographers from my Google Plus account and from my Flickr account. Every so often, I see someone post images taken with an old camera that impress others. I’ve seen people modify digital cameras with old lenses. Again, people are impressed by the results. For all that can be done with [...]

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Inspiration from Unlikely Places

June 8, 2014
A lazy afternoon in a park

Three of my favorite books about writing are Stephen King’s On Writing, Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, and Ann Patchett’s The Getaway Car. In King’s book, it’s not the actual part about writing that I love best — it’s the part about his life and becoming a writer. I [...]

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