Good to Great Habits - Computer keyboard

6 Proven Habits that can take you from Good to Great

Habits make or break you. Sound like a cliché?

But here’s one cliché that has stood the test of time and deserves its place in the Hall of Fame for Clichés.

Your habits determine how far you will succeed in your professional and personal life. The Great Philosopher Aristotle had this to say about our habits.

“Quality is not an act, its a habit.” ~Aristotle

1. Morning Routine

A great morning routine is at the top of every successful individual’s list of habits. From Presidents to CEOs, Writers and Bloggers, Bodybuilders, Athletes and every individual at the top of his field will tell you that his success is because he efficiently utilizes those crucial hours in the morning.

Benjamin Hardy, author of the book Will Power Doesn’t Work, advocates the time between 5-7 am to be the most productive for him and attributes all his success to achieving a peak state in this time. He dedicates his morning hours to prayer, reading, and learning.

So what do you actually do in the morning?

Firstly, meditate. Meditation is not some hocus pocus magic technique, nor is it the deep breathing techniques practiced by all those yoga Gurus, meditation is mainly about introspection.

How you meditate is your choice completely! Ray Dalio, the billionaire investor practices Transcendental Meditation. Robert Green the author of 48 Laws of Power practices a form of Zen meditation.

Meditating will boost your creativity, give you mental peace and therefore help you take better decisions.

After meditating for some time plan out your day.

And most importantly spend your mornings reading and learning.

2. Reading

“Develop into a lifelong self-learner through voracious reading; cultivate curiosity and strive to become a little wiser every day.” ~ Charlie Munger

I cannot advocate reading enough. If you truly want to be a master in your field, you must be willing to spend most of your time learning.

You must Read, Read and then Read some more.

Read Fiction, Non-Fiction, Autobiographies, Poetry, History, Science Fiction… the list goes on. Everything you read will give you perspective, it will give you a peep into the author’s soul. You will learn about their hopes, dreams, and fallacies. You will live many lives while you read.

We can never learn everything from experience, we just never live long enough, so read a book and practice vicarious learning.

Reading will give you skills you didn’t even know you were acquiring.

Read to learn, read for entertainment, read while you eat, read while in the toilet and read when driving, hello audiobooks!

The only way for you to excel in life is by learning and for continuous learning, you must read.

If I haven’t made myself clear, Read!!

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”  ~Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

3. Journaling

Journaling can and will change your life.

Writing down your thoughts is known to be highly therapeutic and helps you de-stress.

It also helps you figure out your goals and how you can achieve them. This is similar to meditation, but instead of sitting silently and not thinking, you sit down with a pen and paper and make an effort to think.

The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius practiced journaling every day in the morning, his journals were found and published. They are called Meditations Marcus Aurelius and serve as one of the main manuals for Stoics the world over. It is one of those must read books that has the ability to change your life.

A journal will help you take inventory of your life, it will help you stop and think about not only what you are doing but why you are doing it, and that is more important than the what.

4. Schedule/To-Do List

If you’re working on several projects which will be the case, if you’re trying to do more in less time, then it is a good idea to prioritize, lest you get overwhelmed

So scheduling is your best friend.

Create a daily To-Do List of your tasks. Obviously, the most important tasks will go at the top and the less important ones below those.

What I have realized from doing this is that I can focus more readily on the tasks that are a priority, the tasks that I can’t handle today are postponed for the next day. With time you will become more efficient and require less time to do the same number of tasks.

5. Working with Purpose

You will never know where you end up if you don’t know where you’re going, or something like that.

Basically what I mean is create and set time-bound goals.

Having an aim will keep you motivated and help you prioritize your life based on your goals.

I have a great example of this. In 1979  the Harvard Business School did a study on goal setting, they asked all the students from the class, the same question

Have you set written goals and created a plan for their attainment? 

What they found out was,

  • 84% of the entire class had set no goals at all
  • 13% of the class had set written goals but had no concrete plans
  • 3% of the class had both written goals and concrete plans

Then 10 years later they followed up with these students and here is what they found

  •  13% of the class that had set written goals but had not created plans, were making twice as much money as the 84% of the class that had set no goals at all.
  • 3% of the class that had both written goals and a plan, were making ten times as much as the rest of the 97% of the class

So there you go. I don’t think you need further proof?

6. Find a mentor

Like the Saint Kabir said

“गुरु बिन ज्ञान न उपजै,
गुरु बिन मिलै न मोष।
गुरु बिन लखै न सत्य को,
गुरु बिन मिटे न दोष॥”

(English Translation)

“Knowledge doesn’t blossom without a Guru,

There is no Enlightenment without the Guru,

You cannot recognize the Truth without the Guru,

You will not get rid of your Sins without the Guru.”

It is also very important to pick a good mentor, one who knows what he’s doing and can lead the way for you. Find a mentor who inspires you, believes in your potential and makes you think like you’ve never thought before.

A mentor has the ability to unlock doors for you, you ever even knew existed.

Warren Buffet as a young man took on Benjamin Graham as his mentor and credits a big part of his success to him.

If you can’t find a mentor, find a community of like-minded people, with similar goals.

Surround yourself with people who have goals and will help you in achieving yours.

Make it a habit to be the dumbest person in the room and it will redefine your life.

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.” 
~John Donne

And finally, I will leave you with another great quote that summarizes this article.

“Education begins the gentleman, but reading, good company and reflection must finish him.” ~ John Locke

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A Review of 1984 by George Orwell

Oceania has been in a state of war since the 70’s. It is governed by a central authority called the Party. This Party is represented by Big Brother.

The state of the country is miserable. Everything is rationed and the Inner party members or the highest authorities are constantly playing with facts and altering them as to keep the public confused. They uphold the doctrines of,

WAR IS PEACE.

FREEDOM IS SLAVERY.

IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.

The people of Oceania do not have the freedom to think, act, have sex or believe anything other than what the Party wants. Every individual is watched at all times, all actions are recorded and observed. Any act against the doctrines of the Party is considered Thoughtcrime and the individuals who go against these rules are captured and tortured at the Ministry of Love.

Winston is a 39 year-old member of the Outer Party of Oceania. He works in the Ministry of Truth and his job entails rewriting historical records according to the Party’s wishes.

He meets a beautiful young woman called Julia, who professes her love for him. They have an affair. They both hate the Party and are guilty of Thoughtcrime. Eventually, they are both caught and tortured in the Ministry of Love.

This book is about Winston’s struggle with the Party’s ideologies and how he overcomes his imprisonment.

 

Review

Orwell is a master at his art, as is obvious from the classic status his books have received. 1984 is a must read on most lists and will remain so, simply because of the depth of thought the author has gone through in creating this dystopian universe where communism rules and Big Brother is the ideology.

1984 is a political fiction which I believe is George Orwell’s forte.

This book is inspired by the events of World War II,  where the Churchill government controlled the publications newspapers and other media, to show only what the government was lobbying.

It is one of the original dystopian novels to be published.

I loved this book, although some might find it depressing, it is deep and thought-provoking like other Orwellian works.

Quotes

“It struck him that in moments of crisis one is never fighting against an external enemy, but always against one’s own body.”

“Do you realise that the past, starting from yesterday has been actually abolished? If it survives anywhere, it’s ina few solid objects with no words attached to them, like that lump of glass there.”

“War, it will be seen, not only accomplishes the necessary destruction, but accomplishes it ina psychologically accptable way.”

“The two aims of the Party are to conquer the whole surface of the earth and to extinguish once and for all the possibility of indeppendent thought.

“What knowledge have we of anything, save through our own minds.”

To buy books by George Orwell, check out the links below.

 

 

7 Awesome Hacks for finding the best Blog Post Topics

If you’re a blogger, the hardest part of writing can be coming up with fresh ideas every week. This is an endless activity and can be the one activity that takes up most of your time.

As a writer and blogger, I understand how frustrating it can be to come with good ideas that people might be interested in, so I have developed a few sources of inspiration that help me come up with my own ideas. Like Mark Twain said,

“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.”

1. Write in the morning

I write first thing in the morning when my mind is fresh and relaxed. This is the best time to write and most authors advocate this as the best time to write.

Every morning I write down five ideas for blog posts. I read up on those ideas and write rough drafts of at least two of those posts on the next day. By the third day, I have one of these posts ready to be published.

2. Read

This is the best way to find ideas. In fact, sometimes reading something completely unrelated to your field can inspire you to connect the dots and find new perspectives on your own work/niche.

Subscribe to blogs in your field, set up RSS feeds, there are some great apps that you can download on your phone such a Feedly and Innoreader, these make it easier to follow your favourite blogs and online magazines.

Also look for inspiration offline, you will find magazines and books on the topics of your choice. You must read a lot, it is the key to good writing.

3. Quora

Quora, is a platform for asking and answering questions. You create a profile and selects topics that interest you. Then the website will show you notifications whenever a question related to these topics is asked. This is a great way of finding out what people’s problems are and come up with solution based posts.

You will find some really out of the box ideas on it and it can be a lot of fun engaging with potential readers while you answer their questions as well.

If you use it well Quora can also help you drive traffic to your blog.

4. Ask your audience

If you have social media following, you can always engage with them and ask them what their questions are on a particular topic.

The best medium to do that is Twitter, but Facebook also works well for the purpose.

You can start a Facebook poll asking your audience to vote on a blog post idea and get feedback on what your audience wants to read.

5. Social Media

When writing about brands its good to know about their product launches and press releases, so follow relevant brands on social media.

Also follow the bigger influencers, they are generally the first ones to know about new products and will give you information before date.

6. Join groups

I cannot stress this enough, blogging is not an isolated activity, you need to be a part of a community and actively engage with others to know about what’s trending and what others are reading.

People also ask questions on groups. They share their own ideas and posts, you might meet some very interesting people while picking up the best tips ever.

A lot of PR people are part of these niche-specific groups and you might also end up getting picked to be a brand influencer.

7. Google Alerts

Google ALerts is a notification service. You can set up specific keywords in Google Alerts to find the latest articles published on the web related to your keyword. For example, if my niche is writing and I’m looking to find magazine call for submissions, I can set up an alert for my email and once a day Google Alerts send me an email that contains all the articles published on the specific keyword “Magazine Call for Submissions”, this is a very easy way of finding relevant and latest content.

The only thing you must be mindful of is to pick the right keywords, otherwise, you will be getting crazy emails, also the emails come every day, so it gets annoying sometimes, especially when you haven’t had time to go through them and they’ve just piled up.(guilty!)

OK. So those were my hacks for finding interesting and trending topics to write about. If you know any other hacks, please share them in the comments below!

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Dealing with Bad Writing - Typewriter

How to finish writing your first novel?

Something really shocking happened today, I am a part of several writing groups on Facebook and one of the admins to a group asked the members, “What their dream as an author is?”

Now I was expecting very deep and eloquent answers from all the brilliant aspiring authors in the group, but surprisingly most of the replies were a very disappointing,“I’m just aiming to finish a novel”.

This idea really inspired me to write this particular post because while I am an aspiring author who still hasn’t even published her first novel, I can very confidently tell you I am well on my way to at least finishing it.

If you are also struggling to finish your novel, follow these simple rules. They are simple and have been verified to work for many a published author the likes of Stephen King, Haruki Murakami.

1. WRITING ROUTINES

Most writers have their own routine. But, what is common amongst them is a daily habit of writing.  I write daily, as do all established writers. Stephen King for example, when he’s working on a novel works on all holidays including Christmas and even his own Birthday. That is the dedication and that’s how you get work done.

Most writers also advocate writing in the morning. I myself believe I write my best in the morning, with a fresh mind. Ryan Holiday also writes in the morning, he believes writing is his profession and treats it like one.

“I am sharpest and least imposed on in the morning
so that’s when I write. I have a ritual: I get up, I shower, I get dressed as
though I am going to a job and then I show up to work.” ~Ryan Holiday

 

2. HAVE A DAILY GOAL 

Set a daily writing goal for yourself, this can be the number of pages you write or just the number of words. Don’t stop until you’ve finished writing your set number. Stephen King and John Grisham both aim for 2000 words daily.

Stephen King recommends 1000 words daily for a new writer, but if you have a full-time job and just can’t find time to do that, write 500 words, heck write 200 words if you only have a few minutes. But stick to it! A novel is generally between 50,000-100,000 words, if you write a 1000 words a day regularly you’ll be done with the novel in a little over 3 months.

 

3. ACCEPT YOUR BAD WRITING

Yes…You read that right…accept your bad writing. You know you put off writing when you can’t write well.

There are days when I sit at my laptop staring at a blank screen and I’m unable to put one coherent sentence in my text editor. These are days I lack motivation and inspiration, but really great writers or at least the established ones always recommend a daily writing habit, so how do you exactly write every day when you’re not motivated or have nothing good to write about.

I know you’re thinking, why would anyone buy my book or read my blog if I don’t write well?Well, you’re not going to sell a book or publish a post, you don’t ever write either.

Picture this, you are at your desk, you are typing away at your computer and the words are just flowing. You are feeling your characters, the situation is absolutely clear in your head and the words are just automatically flowing out of your head into that page.

Now ask yourself how many days in the last month have been like that for you?

If I had to answer that question I’d say very few. Maybe once a week. Now Imagine if I only wrote on days I was feeling this free flow of inspiration. It would take me a few years to complete an entire novel.

Instead, if I just accepted that some days are going to be bad and wrote anyways, I would end up with my novel in a few months and then I can edit it to make it better.

“A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without
putting a word on paper.” ~E.B. White

 

4. REWRITE 

You know when you watch a movie about a writer, and they’re just typing away at that dusty old typewriter, and they just pick the pages out, and put them in an envelope addressed to the editor? Yeah, that was they’re last rewrite, not their first draft!

Great writers, rewrite and edit their work multiple times before they think its any good. They have accepted their bad writing too.

Write and edit every day to make improvements. This daily practice will in time reduce the number of rewrites you need to do and the editing process will become shorter as well.

There is a great quote by JK Rowling the author of the Harry Potter Series.

“You have to resign yourself to the fact that you waste a lot of trees before you write anything you really like, and that’s just the way it is. It’s like learning an instrument, you’ve got to be prepared for hitting wrong notes occasionally, or quite a lot, cause I wrote an awful lot before I wrote anything I was really happy with.”

In the end, all I want to say is keep writing, keep working at it, no matter what. If this is your dream, keep trying to make it your reality. All good things come to those who wait and work diligently.

I hope this post helped you find your way to finishing that ever elusive first novel. Do leave me a comment if you have any other suggestions.

I love reading all your comments. Thank you for reading this post, if you’re interested in learning more about writing, I have a great post on How to write a best-selling novel like Stephen King? 

 

 

 

How to write like a cartoonist? - Funny Dice

How to write humor like a Cartoonist?

Have you ever looked at the comic strip in your daily newspaper and wondered how did the writer come up with such an amazing piece?

Well, according to Scott Adams there is an actual formula for creating humor and he uses it every time to create his popular strip Dilbert.

It’s a fact that if you do something long enough you will start to develop your own techniques and methodology, but what Scott says is that every piece of humor no matter who writes will be based on this theory of his.

This ingenious formula of humor, which he calls his Dimensions of Humor can be considered more of a theorem that exists in nature, which he has observed and identified.

According to the theorem, humor is classified into six distinct elements. These are Clever, Naughty, Bizarre, Cruel, Cute, and Recognizable.

And if you want to make your joke really effective you should have at least two of the elements in it. Anything more than two makes your joke even better.

THE SIX DIMENSIONS OF HUMOR

Let’s understand these elements

  • Clever: Well if you’re smart then your jokes must be too. Clever is a combination of words of things that people didn’t think you could combine. The first thing that comes to my mind is the popular sitcom Big Bang Theory, especially Sheldon’s punches are fantastic.
  • Naughty: We all know what that refers to, sex or bathroom jokes. The combination fo naughty and clever will always give you a great result.
  • Bizarre: This is the most powerful element. Anything strange or out of the ordinary. Such as when Ford Prefect sticks a Babel Fish in Arthur’s ear in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
  • Cruel: Any act that is unkind, is a staple in humor. Just think of Charlie Chaplin and his skits, they were always full of people being kicked, hit or being sprinkled with flour.
  • Cute: Mostly refers to animals or kids. In fact, even animal related analogies add to the humor.
  • Recognizable: Humour is about people and the more familiar the story you’re telling the funnier people will find it.

OTHER TIPS ON WRITING HUMOR

Some extra tips for humor writing.

  • Choose an interesting topic. When writing humor, if your topic doesn’t already have an element of humor in it, your joke is going to fall flat.
  • Humor is about people and how they act, so make it believable. There is humor in most of our everyday acts, you just need to find it.
  • The best type of humor is where you make the reader think and analyze. When your reader is reading and making a neural connection that is when you joke is really going to blow his mind.
  • Funny words immediately help the readers prep themselves for what’s coming next, so use them.

Scott Adams is not just a cartoonist but also an established author. He has written several fiction and non-ficiton works of which the latest Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter in which he predicted Trump’s win, two years prior to the election has brought him a lot of fame or infamy.

If you’re interested in reading more about Scott Adams writing here are some links to his work.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748703843804575534160113096560

Humor Writing Tutorial

 

Know any funny words? Please share them down below. I love reading your comments! Thanks for reading.

🙂

Happy Cloud Therapy

HAPPY CLOUD THERAPY – Something to think about when you’re Sad

I wrote this for myself, on one of my dark days. It helped me immensely. If you’re feeling blue, maybe it will help you too.

THE HAPPY CLOUD THERAPY

Imagine a big cloud. It’s a happy cloud. It’s fluffy and is colored pink with hues of purple in it. It looks like cotton candy. You can smell it, it smells so sweet, you want to grab it and hug it. It looks like a big fluffy, comfortable cushion.

Now let this cloud suck out all your unhappy thoughts. As its sucking out these thoughts you can see a gray stream from your temples to this cloud. The cloud is getting bigger, brighter and fluffier. It sparkles now.

Your thoughts have been cleared from your mind. You have no thoughts only a serene silence in our mind. There is an emptiness, its nothingness, like sitting on the edge of a really high mountain. It’s meditative.

This cloud has turned all your ugly, irritating, horrible thoughts into beautiful happy thoughts. Now if you like this cloud can rain on you with all its happy thoughts, or you can send this HAPPY THOUGHTS CLOUD to someone you love, who needs it.

Put all your energy into sending this happy cloud to your friends and family. Help them be happy too.

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

I’m sure you know about Benjamin Franklin, you must have seen an illustration of his in your junior school science books, holding a kite while there is lightning outside. That experiment gave him the credit for discovering electricity. If you’re Autobiography buff you need t. Charlie Munger was a big fan of Benjamin Franklin’s and that is partly why I read this book too. Honestly, after reading this book, I can tell you I know what Charlie saw. Benjamin Franklin was one of the most

NOTES

  • I have ever had pleasure in obtaining any little anecdotes of my ancestors.
  • were it offered to my choice, I should have no objection to a repetition of the same life from its beginning, only asking the advantages authors have in a second edition to correct some faults of the first. So I might, besides correcting the faults, change some sinister accidents and events of it for others more favorable.
  • And now I speak of thanking God, I desire with all humility to acknowledge that I owe the mentioned happiness of my past life to His kind providence, which lead me to the means I used and gave them success.
  • He had formed a short-hand of his own, which he taught me, but, never practicing it, I have now forgot it
  • The six concluding lines I remember, though I have forgotten the two first of the stanza; but the purport of them was, that his censures proceeded from good will, and, therefore, he would be known to be the author. “Because to be a libeller (says he) I hate it with my heart; From Sherburne town, where now I dwell My name I do put here; Without offense your real friend, It is Peter Folgier.”
  • pleaded the usefulness of the work, mine convinced me that nothing was useful which was not honest.
  • I was brought up in such a perfect inattention to those matters as to be quite indifferent what kind of food was
    set before me, and so unobservant of it, that to this day if I am asked I can scarce tell a few hours after dinner
    what I dined upon.
  • This has been a convenience to me in travelling, where my companions have been sometimes very unhappy for
    want of a suitable gratification of their more delicate, because better instructed, tastes and appetites. My mother had likewise an excellent constitution: she suckled all her ten children. I never knew either my father or mother to have any sickness but that of which
  • It has ever since been a pleasure to me to see good workmen handle their tools; and it has been useful to me,
    having learned so much by it as to be able to do little jobs myself in my house when a workman could not
    readily be got, and to construct little machines for my experiments, while the intention of making the experiment was fresh and warm in my mind.
  • From a child I was fond of reading, and all the little money that came into my hands was ever laid out in books.
  • often regretted that, at a time when I had such a thirst for knowledge, more proper books had not fallen in my
    way since it was now resolved I should not be a clergyman.
  • continued this method some few years, but gradually left it, retaining only the habit of expressing myself in
    terms of modest diffidence; never using, when I advanced any thing that may possibly be disputed, the words
    certainly, undoubtedly, or any others that give the air of positiveness to an opinion; but rather say, I conceive or
    apprehend a thing to be so and so; it appears to me, or I should think it so or so, for such and such reasons; or I imagine it to be so; or it is so, if I am not mistaken.
  • “Immodest words admit but this defense, That want of modesty is want of sense.”
  • So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for every
    thing one has a mind to do.
  • by our expenses, I was constantly kept unable to pay my passage
  • stood out two or three weeks, was accordingly considered as an excommunicate, and had so many little pieces of private mischief done me, by mixing my sorts, transposing my pages, breaking my matter, etc., etc., if I were
    ever so little out of the room, and all ascribed to the chapel ghost, which they said ever haunted those not
    regularly admitted, that, notwithstanding the master’s protection,
  • had by no means improved my fortune; but I had picked up some very ingenious acquaintance, whose
    conversation was of great advantage to me; and I had read considerably.
  • plan to be found in it, which I formed at sea, for regulating my future conduct in life
  • found myself recovering, regretting, in some degree, that I must now, some time or other, have all that
    disagreeable work to do over again.
  • so I had two days for reading. My acquaintance with ingenious
  • My mind having been much more improved by reading than Keimer’s, I suppose it was for that reason my
    conversation seemed to be more valued. They
  • grew convinced that truth, sincerity and integrity in dealings between man and man were of the utmost
    importance to the felicity of life; and I formed written resolutions, which still remain in my journal book, to
    practice them ever while I lived.
  • But so determined I was to continue doing a sheet a day of the folio, that one night, when, having imposed my
    forms, I thought my day’s work over, one of them by accident was broken, and two pages reduced to pi, I
    immediately distributed and composed it over again before I went to bed; and this industry, visible to our
    neighbors, began to give us character and credit; particularly, I was told, that mention being made of the new
    printing-office at the merchants’
  • “For the industry of that Franklin,” says he, “is superior to any thing I ever saw of the kind; I see him still at
    work when I go home from club, and he is at work again before his neighbors are out of bed.”
  • George Webb, who had found a female friend that lent him wherewith to purchase his time of Keimer, now
    came to offer himself as a journeyman to us. We could not then employ him; but I foolishly let him know as a
    secret that I soon intended to begin a newspaper, and might then have work for him
  • I requested Webb not to mention it; but he told it to Keimer, who immediately, to be beforehand with me,
    published proposals for printing one himself, on which Webb was to be employed.
  • “The Nature and Necessity of a Paper Currency.”
  • This was another advantage gained by my being able to write.
  • let her know that I expected as much money with their daughter as would pay off my remaining debt for the
    printing-house, which I believe was not then above a hundred pounds. She brought me word they had no such
    sum to spare; I said they might mortgage their house in the loan-office.
  • The present little sacrifice of your vanity will afterwards be amply repaid.
  • “He that would thrive, must ask his wife.”
  • We kept no idle servants, our table was plain and simple, our furniture of the cheapest. For instance, my
    breakfast was a long time bread and milk (no tea), and I ate it out of a twopenny earthen porringer, with a pewter
    spoon.
  • bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection. I wished to live without committing
  • any fault at any time; I would conquer all that either natural inclination, custom, or company might lead me into.
  • I concluded, at length, that the mere speculative conviction that it was our interest to be completely virtuous, was
    not sufficient to prevent our slipping; and that the contrary habits must be broken, and good ones acquired and
    established, before we can have any dependence on a steady, uniform rectitude of conduct.
  • agreeably to the advice of Pythagoras in his Golden Verses, daily examination would be necessary, I contrived
    the following method for conducting that examination.
  • And like him who, having a garden to weed, does not attempt to eradicate all the bad herbs at once, which would
    exceed his reach and his strength, but works on one of the beds at a time, and, having accomplished the first,
    proceeds to a second, so I should have, I hoped, the encouraging pleasure of seeing on my pages the progress I
    made in virtue, by clearing successively my lines of their spots, till in the end, by a number of courses, I should
    be happy in viewing a clean book, after a thirteen weeks’ daily examination.
  • My scheme of ORDER gave me the most trouble; and I found that, though it might be practicable where a man’s
    business was such as to leave him the disposition of his time, that of a journeyman printer, for instance, it was
    not possible to be exactly observed by a master, who must mix with the world, and often receive people of
    business at their own hours.
  • “a speckled ax was best”;
  • a benevolent man should allow a few faults in himself, to keep
  • But, on the whole, though I never arrived at the perfection I had been so ambitious of obtaining,
  • To Temperance he ascribes his long-continued health, and what is still left to him of a good constitution; to
    Industry and Frugality, the early easiness of his circumstances and acquisition of his fortune, with all that
    knowledge that enabled him to be a useful citizen, and obtained for him some degree of reputation among the
    learned; to Sincerity and Justice, the confidence of his country, and the honorable employs it conferred upon
    him; and to the joint influence of the whole mass of the virtues, even in the imperfect state he was able to
    acquire them, all that evenness of temper, and that cheerfulness in conversation, which makes his company still
    sought for, and agreeable even to his younger acquaintance.
  • vicious actions are not hurtful because they are forbidden, but forbidden because they are hurtful,
  • it is hard for an empty sack to stand up-right“He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have
    obliged.”
  • “that after getting the first hundred pound, it is more easy to get the second,” money itself being of a prolific
    nature.
  • I had read or heard of some public man who made it a rule never to ask for an office, and never to refuse one
    when offered to him. “I approve,” says I, “of his rule, and will practice it with a small addition; I shall never ask,
    never refuse, nor ever resign an office. If they will have my office of clerk to dispose of to another, they shall
    take it from me. I will not, by giving it up, lose my right of some time or other making reprisals on my
    adversaries.”
  • This modesty in a sect is perhaps a singular instance in the history of mankind, every other sect supposing itself
    in possession of all truth, and that those who differ are so far in the wrong;
  • That, as we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve
    others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously.
  • In the introduction to these proposals, I stated their publication, not as an act of mine, but of some public-spirited
    gentlemen, avoiding as much as I could, according to my usual rule, the presenting myself to the public as the
    author of any scheme for their benefit.
  • The honor of this public benefit has also been ascribed to me but it belongs truly to that gentleman.
  • Human felicity is produced not so much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen, as by little
    advantages that occur every day
  • In our way thither, I projected and drew a plan for the union of all the colonies under one government, so far as
    might be necessary for defense, and other important general purposes.
  • “Look round the habitable world, how few Know their own good, or, knowing it, pursue!”
  • Our answers, as well as his messages, were often tart, and sometimes indecently abusive; and, as he knew I
    wrote for the Assembly, one might have imagined that, when we met, we could hardly avoid cutting throats; but
    he was so good-natured a man that no personal difference between him and me was occasioned by the contest,
    and we often dined together.
  • I was conscious of an impropriety in my disputing with a military man in matters of his profession, and said no
    more.
  • This gave me occasion to observe, that, when men are employed, they are best contented; for on the days they
    worked they were good-natured and cheerful, and, with the consciousness of having done a good day’s work,
    they spent the evening jollily; but on our idle days they were mutinous and quarrelsome, finding fault with their
    pork, the bread, etc., and in continual ill-humor, which put me in mind of a sea-captain, whose rule it was to
    keep his men constantly at work; and, when his mate once told him that they had done every thing, and there
    was nothing further to employ them about, “Oh,” says he, “Make them scour the anchor.”
  • We had for our chaplain a zealous Presbyterian minister, Mr. Beatty, who complained to me that the men did not
    generally attend his prayers and exhortations. When they enlisted, they were promised, besides pay and
    provisions, a gill of rum a day, which was punctually served out to them, half in the morning, and the other half
    in the evening; and I observed they were as punctual in attending to receive it; upon which I said to Mr. Beatty,
    “It is, perhaps, below the dignity of your profession to act as steward of the rum, but if you were to deal it out
    and only just after prayers, you would have them all about you.” He liked the thought, undertook the office, and,
    with the help of a few hands to measure out the liquor, executed it to satisfaction, and never were prayers more
    generally and more punctually attended; so that I thought this method preferable to the punishment inflicted by
    some military laws for non-attendance on divine service.
  • once purposed answering the abbé, and actually began the answer; but, on consideration that my writings
    contained a description of experiments which any one might repeat and verify, and if not to be verified, could
  • not be defended; or of observations offered as conjectures, and not delivered dogmatically, therefore not laying
    me under any obligation to defend them; and reflecting that a dispute between two persons, writing in different
    languages, might be lengthened greatly by mistranslations, and thence misconceptions of one another’s meaning,
    much of one of the abbé’s letters being founded on an error in the translation, I concluded to let my papers shift
    for themselves, believing it was better to spend what time I could spare from public business in making new
    experiments, than in disputing about those already made. I therefore never answered M. Nollet, and the event
    gave me no cause to repent my silence;
  • “Mr. Franklin, I find a low seat the easiest.”
  • each has his system; and the same vessel, laden by the judgment and orders of one captain, shall sail better or
    worse than when by the orders of another.
  • Besides, it scarce ever happens that a ship is formed, fitted for the sea, and sailed by the same person. One man
    builds the hull, another rigs her, a third lades and sails her. No one of these has the advantage of knowing all the
    ideas and experience of the others, and, therefore, can not draw just conclusions from a combination of the
    whole
  • This deliverance impressed me strongly with the utility of light-houses, and made me resolve to encourage the
    building more of them in America, if I should live to return there.

Stephen King On Writing

How to write a best-selling novel like Stephen King?

Stephen King’s book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft gives you insight into his own development as a writer and also the method he has developed for himself, which has helped him write at least a 108 novels, of which many have become bestsellers.

Many of his books have been made into movies some of which are Shawshank Redemption, The Green mile, IT, The Shining and many others, which goes to show, the kind of commercial success his writing has actually achieved.

For the book Stephen King says,“This is not an autobiography. It is rather a curriculum vitae – my attempt to show how one writer was formed.”

If you’re an aspiring writer, an avid reader or just a fan of King’s work, you must read this book to learn more about his approach to his craft. Here’s what Stephen has to teach us about writing.

1. Take it seriously

“…you must not come lightly to the page…”

Well, if you’re trying to write a best-selling novel it’s highly advisable to take it seriously.

Writing is not an easy job, and especially good writing requires a lot of practice and effort.

If you truly want to be a writer, you must not wait for inspiration to strike, you must work consistently if you plan on finishing a novel and in doing so you must also accept that some days will be easy and others will be hard.

You must accept bad writing so that you can move on and do good writing.

2. Build a Toolbox

“I want to suggest that to write to your best abilities, it behooves you to construct your own toolbox and then build up enough muscle so you can carry it with you. Then instead of looking at a hard job and getting discouraged, you will perhaps seize the correct tool and get immediately to work.”

Every carpenter needs a toolbox, and according to Stephen King so does every writer. He recommends that you build a big toolbox for yourself, one that will help you to tackle every kind of problem, or in the case of writing, one that will help you write any kind of story.

Vocabulary is the most common tool and should be at the top. As far as vocabulary is concerned, if you have an expansive one that’s great, but if you do not, then write simply, don’t “dress-up” your words as Stephen put it.

Write the first word that comes to your mind. When it comes to words, they are not created equally and a synonym might not relay the same meaning or effect as the first simple word that comes to mind.

Grammar also factors in right next to vocabulary. Bad grammar will produce bad sentences, which might be off-putting to your reader.

Passive Sentences are for timid writers, ones who aren’t confident about their writing. Don’t be a timid writer, write in the active voice.

Adverbs again are described as crutches for a sentence that might be limping. A well-written sentence doesn’t need an adverb. Limit the use of adverbs in your writing.

3. Read and Write a lot

“Every book you pick up has its own lesson or lessons, and quite often the bad books have more to teach then the good ones.”

Reading always has lessons attached to it.

Good books and bad ones will always teach you something, the good books will inspire to write well, while the bad ones will teach you what not to do, which is an equally important lesson.

Reading a lot will help you build up your toolbox. You will learn new styles of writing that will help you develop your own unique style.

Stephen adds,“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time(or tools to write).”

4. Writing Rituals

“If God gives you something you can do, why in God’s name wouldn’t you do it?”

Once he starts on a project, Stephen King says he doesn’t stop or slow down unless he has to. He writes in the mornings, which is the preferred time to write for many writers.

He writes every day or he starts to feel like he is losing his hold on the plot and the characters are starting to seem stale or distant. Usually, when he is in his writing mode he even writes on holidays, even Christmas.

He writes at least ten pages a day which is about 2000 words. But if you’re just starting out you must set a writing goal of your own, he recommends getting in at least 1000 words every day, with one day a week off.

Writing is accomplished one word at a time, and for a newbie writer, it is very important to eliminate all possible distractions especially from the workspace.

Stephen King writes to the loud music – hard rock stuff like AC/DC, Guns ‘N Roses. If you prefer to write in silence, do that, but you must write.

It is very important to write if you want to become a writer.

5. What to write?

“Write what you like, then imbue it with life and make it unique by blending in your own personal knowledge of life, friendship, relationships, sex and work.”

When it comes to genre pick one that you enjoy reading. Where will you find the right idea for your story? In the words of Stephen King,

  “There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky, two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”

6. Forget about the Plot

“In my view, stories and novels consist of three parts: narration, which moves the story from point A to point B and finally to point Z; description, which creates a sensory reality for the reader; and dialogue, which brings characters to life through their speech.”

I took a writing course recently by James Patterson and plotting is one technique he swears by, King, on the other hand, abhors the concept. He prefers the spontaneity of writing.

It’s not like he’s never used that technique for writing, but what he most enjoys about writing is where it leads him, which according to him is generally not where he thought.

He believes a story will always come out somewhere all you need to do is write it, word by word.

7. Descriptions

“Description is what makes the reader a sensory participant in the story. Good description is a learned skill, one of the prime reasons why you cannot succeed unless you read a lot and write a lot.”

If you want your reader to feel the situation, hear it and even smell it, the only way to do it is through good description.

Over-description is as bad if not worse than under-description, it will bury the reader in details that might be unnecessary and will bore him.

Don’t bore your reader.

Use clear writing with simple vocabulary and you will invoke the reader’s imagination, which is the exact purpose of fiction.

8. Dialogue

“…one of the cardinal rules in fiction is never tell us a thing if you can show us instead…”

Dialogues give you insight into the character. The way a character speaks will define who they are and you must let the characters speak openly, if you want your story to be honest.

Profanity is not something that Stephen is privy to but if the character requires it, it can and should be done.

You will learn about dialogue writing mostly from real life, the main skill required is listening. Listen to how people around you talk and you will know how your characters should talk.

9. Characters

“The best stories always end up being about the people rather than the event, which is to say character-driven.”

Characters rely heavily on dialogues as mentioned before.

As a writer, each of your characters is an extension of you. They will behave like you would in the given situation and you will learn about creating characters from real life as well.

Characters are central to the novel, you must create strong characters and you must understand their motivations for the story to progress as well as it possibly can.

10. Bells and Whistles

“It’s all on the table, every bit of it and you should use anything that improves the quality of your writing and doesn’t get in the way of your storytelling.”

These are referred to by King as embellishments to your story.

Bells and whistles are added to the story in the second draft. They are things like theme and symbolism, which strengthen the story and concept.

Others such as onomatopoeia, incremental repetition, the stream of consciousness, interior dialogue, changes of verbal tense etc. are also worth understanding and should be used where necessary.

11. Rewriting or Revisions

“By the time a book is actually in print, I’ve been over it a dozen times or more, can quote whole pasages, and only wish the damned old smelly thing would go away.”

Stephen has a specific formula for rewriting,

Formula:  2nd Draft = 1st Draft -10%

An editor Stephen King worked with at the Lisbon Weekly Enterprise told him,”When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main goal is taking out all the things that are not the story.”

Stephen mostly writes two drafts with a final polish, which he says has now turned into almost a third draft after he started using word processors.

12. Ideal Reader

“Writing is a lonely job, having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. THey don’t have to make speeches. Just believing is usually enough.”

Your Ideal Reader is also called your Alpha Reader, they are the first person to read your manuscript after you.

They are the person you are actually writing for, always keep them in mind while writing.

The feedback your Ideal Reader gives you is invaluable so it is important that they are honest and that you are willing to believe them and take their advice.

Your Ideal Reader will help you perfect your second draft.

13. Research

“What I’m looking for is nothing but a touch of verisimilitude, like the handful of spices you chuck into a good spaghetti sauce to really, finish her off.”

Research is necessary for situations when you are writing something other than what you know, but it belongs in the back and there it must stay.

 

These were the 13 rules of writing enumerated by Stephen King in his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it!

“Writing is not life, but I think sometimes it can be a way back to life.”

 

13 virtues of Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin’s 13 Moral Virtues of Self-Improvement

After I read the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, I was very impressed with his life and achievements. Benjamin Franklin played many roles his life, he was a printer, a writer, an inventor, a public servant and one of the Founding Fathers of America.

But what struck me most was his ability to introspect.

Through introspection, Franklin devised an action plan for achieving perfection in his behavior and hoped that it would help him achieve his goals in life more easily. He identified his fallacies and came up with his own strategy of overcoming them.

Of course, he was after all human and couldn’t completely get over these shortcomings, but he left a blueprint for the world of self-improvement, these he called the virtues.

These 13 virtues of conducting oneself through life are enumerated for your benefit and mine.

 

“Look round the habitable world, how few

Know their own good, or, knowing it, pursue!” 

 

The 13 Virtues of Benjamin Franklin

1. Temperance

“Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation”

Temperance has two meanings self-control and complete abstinence from alcohol.

Although abstinence is not what Franklin was referring to, he merely meant that a person must have control over himself and not indulge too much in food or alcohol, so as to harm his health. Benjamin Franklin attributed this virtue to his good health and composition.

He did live to be 88 years.

2. Silence

“Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation”

With silence he meant to control his tongue, so as not to waste his time and that of others in idle gossip and unnecessary conversation.

Since gaining knowledge was also a high precept in his life, Franklin observed that it was more important for him to use his ears rather than his tongue for this endeavor. Hence, silence was high on his priority list.

He also wanted to get rid of his habit of prattling, punning and joking.

3. Order                                                                                                                                                                                    

“Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.”

He intended for this virtue to award him more time for his projects and studies.

But this is the virtue he struggled with the most.

As Walter Isaacson has mentioned in his biography of Benjamin Franklin, “He was a sloppy man, and he eventually decided that he was so busy and had such a good memory that he didn’t need to be too orderly.”

4. Resolution

“Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve”

Was meant to help him stick to all the other virtues.

There are several examples of Benjamin making resolutions in his life, at one point he did become a vegetarian, which he gave up after some time.

5. Frugality 

“Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself i.e waste nothing”

He believed that industry and frugality would help him become debt-free and give him the independence he required in life. Franklin mentions in his autobiography that his wife too, was frugal and industrious just like him. He writes,”We kept no idle servants, our table was plain and simple, our furniture of the cheapest. For instance, my breakfast was a long time bread and milk(no tea), and I ate it out of a twopenny earthen porringer, with a pewter spoon.”

6. Industry

“Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions”

As an example, his entire life was dedicated to Industry or constant work. As a printer in his initial years, then a public servant and always a writer and inventor.

Franklin considered industry as a means of obtaining wealth and distinction. His father repeated a proverb of Solomon’s to him in his childhood, “Seest thou a man diligent in his calling, he shall stand before kings, he shall not stand before mean men.”

As mentioned by Franklin, he did meet five Kings in his lifetime and even dined with the King of Denmark.

7. Sincerity 

“Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you, speak, speak accordingly”

Sincerity was very important to him, he believed that it attributed to him the confidence of his country and the honorable employment that he received from the government and the Regency.

8. Justice 

“Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty”

The greatest example of serving Justice can be seen in his proposal for levying taxes. The taxes at that time were standard for everyone irrespective of their assets or income, so Franklin proposed that the taxes should be levied in proportion to the property owned by an individual, this he proposed in the Junto(his own secret society), even though this idea took time to materialize it showed you insight into Franklin’s character.

9. Moderation 

“Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve”

10. Cleanliness 

 “Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths or habitation

As an example, Benjamin Franklin on observing a poor woman sweeping the street outside where he was living when in London, he came up with a plan to keep the streets clean. He wrote to Dr. Fothergill, “For the more effectual cleaning and keeping clean the streets of London and Westminster, it is proposed that the several watchmen be contracted with to have the dust swept up in dry seasons and the mud raked up at other times, each in the several streets and lanes of his round; that they be furnished with brooms and other proper instruments for these purposes, to be kept at their respective stands, ready to furnish the poor people they may employ in the service.”

11. Tranquility 

“Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable”

12. Chastity 

“Rarely use venery but for health or off-spring, never to                                                          dullness,weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation”

13. Humility 

“Imitate Jesus and Socrates”

Originally, there were only 12 virtues enlisted by Franklin but he was informed by a friend that he was guilty of “pride” and so he added Humility as a virtue.

Franklin wrote,”In reality, there is, perhaps, no one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive, and will every now and then peep out and show itself; you will see it, perhaps, often in this history; for, even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility”

 

These virtues were a pragmatic endeavor by Franklin to achieve his goals in life.

He approached these virtues in a very simple manner

And like him who, having a garden to weed, does not attempt to eradicate all the bad herbs at once, which would exceed his reach and his strength, but works on one of the beds at a time.

Franklin made a small notebook in which he allotted a page each for each virtue, he created seven columns on each page, one for each day of the week. He also made thirteen rows on the page and wrote the first letter of each virtue in each of those rows. He decided to tackle one virtue each week, while also marking the faults of the day on this chart. With each week he saw an improvement in himself and thus with time had less faults marked on paper.