Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Second Specification Experiment

Longtime readers of the blog may remember this Silly Specification Experiment -- later discussed in Second Sight -- where I asked you all to watch a short video and then write a sentence or two describing what I was doing, with the results later analyzed here. Now I'm interested in doing that again, this time with a still:

The assignment:  Without looking at anyone else's entry, spending no more than ten minutes and 250ish words, and writing in your natural voice, describe this accumulation of objects, and leave your answer in the comments. I know the picture is dark, so I'll list the items included here (in no particular order) in case identification is useful:  a pepper shaker; a container of sugar and fake sugar packets; a doily; a glass votive with a lit candle; a mechanical pencil; a salt shaker; and a vase with a rose in it. How you describe, arrange, and elaborate on those objects in prose is entirely up to you.

As with the previous experiment, the hypothesis and rationale will be given at a near-future date; in the meantime, again rest assured there are no wrong answers here. And thank you to all who participate!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Two Programs that Keep the Internet from Eating Your Soul + Giveaway Winners!

"Work on a computer that is disconnected from the Internet." -- Zadie Smith's rules for writers

I worship Ms. Smith in all things (and she has a new novel coming this autumn -- hooray!), and I would gladly take her advice here. But I also need the Internet frequently for things that are still related to my job:  title and author research, fact-checking, So while I can't disconnect my computer completely, there are two programs that I've found incredibly effective in helping me get away from the Internet and stay focused while I'm working; and I thought I'd write a little about them here, just in case you haven't discovered them yet.

1) Freedom. Download this and you can lock yourself out of the Internet completely for a set number of minutes. If you need to get on the Internet before the set time expires, you'll have to restart your computer. As the site observes, its effect is as much psychological as it is practical; you know you cannot be distracted by Twitter, say, and therefore it's easier to concentrate on the offline work to be done, because Twitter (and all of the Internet) is simply not an option. (The same software designer also has a program called Antisocial that will lock you out of social networking sites, but still access the Internet for research. It is Mac-only, however.) My author Lisa Yee is a proud user of Freedom, and she did a great interview with its creator last year.

2) Leechblock. Rather than being a standalone program like Freedom, this is a plugin for Firefox, which allows you to establish set periods of time during which you cannot access certain favorite sites. It's fairly easy to override your own blocks, though, unless you use the advanced lockdown, at which point it will actually kick you OFF these sites at the set time and then keep you from accessing the override. For instance, I have it set that I can't use Twitter after 10 a.m. on weekdays, so if I'm typing a tweet at 9:59 and the clock ticks over to 10, BOOM -- Twitter is done for me till 12:15 (I let myself look at it again on my lunch break). The fact that it imposes the discipline on me makes it even more useful than Freedom, which requires my active thought and will to quit surfing.

Someday, we will all be Zen monks of writing and time and thought management and not need programs like these. (And writers, if there are any other programs your fellow procrastinators should know about, please leave them in the comments.) Until then, I am grateful to the software purveyors for making these programs available, and I wish all of us the best with our work.


The winners of the giveaway from my last post are Eliza T, GraceAnne, Clifton, Diane, Darshana, Pat Zietlow Miller, Jen, and Tina Radcliffe. (They were selected randomly by my fiance, after I ordered him to give me eight numbers between one and twenty-eight and he obeyed. We still don't know where we're going on vacation.) Winners:  Please e-mail me at chavela_que at yahoo dot com with your addresses and any title preferences you might have, and I'll try to get the galleys out this week.

And you know what? I never picked a winner for this giveaway back in February! James just picked the winner here too, and it's DustySE. Dusty, send my your address likewise, and I'll send you a real book. Thanks to all for participating!