Notes on Writing: Productivity Tools

My absence from blogging has, in part, been because I’ve been writing, reading, and researching for a writing project.  I’m discovering a lot of exciting history but because I rely heavily on a computer for the research aspect, I do get a bit distracted by THE INTERNETS.  As a writer, I know I’m not alone in this; I once saw on Twitter: “Like many writers, I have rituals. Before writing, I pour coffee, open the window by my desk, and attempt to read the entire internet.” ha! Anywho here are a few productivity tools that I’ve been using as of late:

LeechBlock
With LeechBlock, I can create sets of websites and block them for certain periods of time. For instance I block access to my email account from 11pm to 12noon. I block Facebook and Twitter from 11pm to 2pm and block my Google Reader and other blogs I visit from 11pm to 1pm.  I have also selected the option that prevents me from modifying the blocked time unless the blocked time period has ended.

Time Out
I’m not currently employed but that last full-time job I worked had me sitting at a computer for 8+ hours a day. About a year into the job I developed carpal tunnel in my right wrist and months after that I developed back pains. All of this was because I had poor posture and rarely took breaks. Time Out is a program that encourages you to take a break to allow your muscles to relax.  You can set how often and for how long you want to take breaks — the default is a 10 minute break after 50 minutes of work. You can also set a micro break -defaulted to occur for 10 seconds after every 10 minutes of work.  Time Out may seem like a very simple and unnecessary program for some, but for those who struggle with healthy work habits, this could be really helpful.

WasteNoTime
Similar to LeechBlock, WasteNoTime is a time management program for Safari.  However, WasteNoTime works differently from LeechBlock in that you set your working hours then allot a certain amount of time for each blocked site during your working hours (you can also allot a certain amount of time to those sites after your working hours).  For instance, I have my working hours set from 8am to 3pm and I have allotted myself access to Facebook and Email for 30 minutes each during those hours.

Do you use any additional software to assist your writing productivity?  If so, which ones and how effective has it been?

A History Lesson from AfroPop

I tagged this post as ‘research for the story’ because the embedded radio show highlights some of the history that is integral to a story I’m working on.  Check it out for yourself:

You can read a transcribed version of The Hip Hop Generation in Africa: Ghana and Ivory Coast over at AfroPop.

Other interesting links I discovered after this podcast:

writer/DJ Juan G’s Tumblr Digging 4 Gold

Burger Highlife Explosion!!! – a documentary film about musicians who left after the curfews mentioned in the AfroPop podcast

some Ghanaian political history from Nations Encyclopedia

Creativity Crush: Kerry James Marshall

“I’m driven by a desire to meaningfully provoke others’ curiosity, to paint without cynicism.  I still believe in mastery; in the service of imagination it can exceed the limitations of circumstance.” – Kerry James Marshall

On my more emo, more personal blog, I wrote about how art has made me more aware of the types of intimacy I appreciate. Kerry James Marshall’s Slow Dance is one of those piece.  Here he is talking about the painting:

And here he is speaking on the label “black artist”:

Read more about Kerry James Marshall on the PBS Art21 Site

Creativity Crush: Bradford Young

Though I have mixed feelings about Restless City, I have much respect for the film’s cinematographer, Bradford Young. Check him in out this video:

We use jazz…as a mantra on how we want to make films…the collective responsibility of how you cannot make jazz alone.  And that is sort of what we are trying to bring to the table of filmmaking. – Bradford Young

How can I not have a crush? The analogies to Jazz. The focus on the idea of collaboration and community. The mentions of his inspiration. He’s talking about his work and never says “I”.  Amazing.

More about Mr. Young:
His Website
His Vimeo Page

Notes on Writing: The Solitude Myth

There is no doubt that writing requires quite a bit of alone time, but according to Kalamu ya Salaam the myth of writing solitude can be damaging for black writers. Read exactly what he means in his essay The Myth of Solitude: No Writer is an Island. Though I can’t relate to some of his generalizations, he does make some good points:

In order to achieve both linear (across generations) and lateral (across cultures) greatness, writers must be both immersed in a specific era/culture and conscious of that era’s relationship to other eras and other cultures. It is not enough to report on or even analyze the news of the day. The ultimate meanings of human existence transcend the specifics of any given moment.

In the contemporary United States, “audience” has been collapsed into the concept of consumers, people who literally buy whatever is marketed. That is ultimately a very cynical approach to determining who is one’s audience. To write for and about a specific audience does not necessarily mean writing to sell to that audience. What it does mean is using the culture of the intended audience as the starting point (and hopefully an ending point) for our work.

A horrible truth is that too many of us are unprepared to write significant literature because we have no real appreciation of our audience as fellow human beings, as cultural creatures. We know neither history nor contemporary conditions. We talk about “keeping it real” but have no factual knowledge of reality. Thus, we glibly bandy generalizations, utter hip clichés as though they were timeless wisdom, and inevitably offer instant snapshots of the social facade as though they were in-depth investigations of the structure and nature of our social reality — in short, we lie and fantasize.

Event Recap: Artists at Work: An Afternoon with Edwidge Danticat

Last weekend, Philadelphia’s Art Sanctuary hosted Artists at Work: An Afternoon with Edwidge Danticat. The event featured a panel discussion moderated by April Silver with panelists: spoken word artist Michelle Myers, visual artist James E. Claibrone Jr., bassist Jonathan Michel, and writer Edwidge Danticat.

A few insights I gained from the panel:

On speaking for/with a community:

I see myself as speaking as part of a chorus — the more voices that join, the more enlightened we are… saying that I am the voice of a non-monolithic, complex people silences other people’s voices. – Edwidge

Join the chorus. Don’t allow anyone to silence your voice and don’t attempt to silence anyone else’s voice.

When people lay claim, they sometimes want to dictate what I write about… – Michelle

I get excited when someone is able to put my thoughts into words but then sometimes I have expectations for them to continue to do this. It’s an unfair burden for artists.

We internalize negative images of ourselves [from popular media] and then celebrate it… [We need] to invest in and create righteous art/images – James

*a lightbulb moment for me*. When James made this comment I realized that countering negative stereotypes is not just about being accepted by the “other” but also about not internalizing negativity.

Advice to “aspiring” artists on the importance of study and discipline:

Study is paradigm to what we do…discipline comes from the love of what we do… Learn from the elders; we are not innovators, we are continuing the tradition – Jonathan Michel

I love Jonathan for this comment because it made me realize that my writing is bigger than me. Writing is something that comes naturally to me and I indulge in it as a form of therapy. But if I’m going to acknowledge writing as my calling then I need to recognize the duty that comes with it. *a true lesson in humility*

As a follow-up to Jonathan’s comment on learning from the elders: Study their grace, not just their work, but the way their personhood embodies their work. – Edwidge

This was an important message for me to hear. Though my name means grace I’ve let my ego and my insecurities create a version of myself that is anything but graceful and disconnected form my work.

*
This was originally posted on The G is for Grace