A to Z Challenge: Stickman, Stripgenerator and Songza

During the 2013 Blogging from A to Z Challenge I’m posting what I like to describe as “semi-useful” procrastination strategies for writers and others who may need a little break from the task at hand from time to time.

Mondays. It doesn’t matter how much we wish they wouldn’t, they insist on coming back and shutting down the weekend. Mondays are made for a dash or two of procrastination, because, really, otherwise how would we make it through them? The first of my Monday links are unabashedly time-wastey pursuits, I will not lie, but number three is something you can use to help stay on task. I include it here because you can also use it to avoid those tasks. Your call, my friends.

Stickman: Haven’t you always wished that the stickmen you draw could magically come to life and get themselves into sticky situations from which only you can extricate them? Don’t look at me like that. Clearly I’m not the only person to wish this, since there’s a site devoted to exactly that: Draw a Stickman. You draw your little stickman–actually I drew a stickwoman, because, really, sexist much?–and the site animates it for you and plonks it into an interactive adventure. It only takes a few minutes, too, so you hardly have to feel guilty at all.

Stripgenerator is a free online tool for creating your own comic strip. You just drag and drop characters, shapes and items into one of the preset frames, resize, rotate, add dialogue and futz about till you’re satisfied. If the extent of your artistic talents is drawing stick folk, this one’s for you.

Songza: Many of you are probably already familiar with Songza, but it was new to me until a couple of months ago, and I kind of love it. When none of the playlists on your mp3 player seem to be doing it for you, and your brain is feeling too overworked to put another one together, it’s Songza to the rescue! They’ll put together a playlist for you based on your current activity or mood, or if you prefer, based on genre or decade. For example, I composed this post on a Sunday afternoon, and Songza suggested the following playlist options:

Screen Shot Songza

 How delightful is that? If you click on one of those options, it will take you to still more options until you’ve refined your playlist into something you might actually want to listen to. You can also browse different activities and moods. I’ve found it to be a great way to discover new artists and sounds. Hope you enjoy it too!

There are some terrific bloggers participating in the challenge this year. Check them out over here.

A to Z Challenge: Procrastinating

During the 2013 Blogging from A to Z Challenge I’m posting what I like to describe as “semi-useful” procrastination strategies for writers and others who may need a little break from the task at hand from time to time.

Given that today’s letter is “P” and that my theme is procrastinating, I thought it would be a good idea to take a little break from shovelling a bunch of linky distractions in your general direction and talk a little bit about procrastination itself. If you’ve been reading along since “A” (or even from “N”) you might be excused for thinking that I am quite possibly the biggest time-waster on the face of the interwebs. If asked to hazard a guess, you’d probably estimate that out of every hour, I spend 45 scouring the net for font games, mockumentaries and how to differentiate between river rat and platypus poo. (Okay, I didn’t actually include the art of animal poo recognition as one of my procrastination strategies, but that’s not because I didn’t research it as a potential topic, because I very much did. I simply spared you the results.)

I do procrastinate, as most of us do to a greater or lesser degree, and there have been times when it’s been a real problem. Lately my strategy for managing this has been twofold:

  1. I use my favourite ways of procrastinating as rewards for accomplishing something. (e.g. Write 500 words, then spend 15 minutes on Twitter; write a blog post, then watch an episode of MI5 or read an article at longform.com)
  2. If I procrastinate outside of the reward system, that procrastination needs to be productive (e.g. it has to feed my brain, be useful as research for my writing, or have some practical application).

Sometimes this works. Sometimes it’s more of a struggle than others (depending on what I’m trying to avoid). So, what can we do about this beast we call procrastination? Don’t despair, I have links for that!

The first step is to admit you have a problem. Procrastination: The Musical does a bang up job of doing this.

Now that we have so tunefully named our problem, what’s to be done? Well, perhaps a more solid understanding of the root causes of that problem will help. Here we turn to Charlie McDonell’s Stop Procrastinating video, which takes a lighthearted look at the science behind procrastination and gives us a few tips for managing our procrastinatory impulses.


There was also a fascinating article in the October 2010 issue of the The New Yorker by James Surowiecki that examines what procrastination tells us about ourselves. Surowiecki cites George Ainslie’s description of procrastination as a “basic human impulse,” and goes on to explore it through a historical and philosophical lens. (And in case I’ve just made it sound unendurably tedious, he also tells us that “Victor Hugo would write naked and tell his valet to hide his clothes so that he’d be unable to go outside when he was supposed to be writing.” If that’s not a compelling reason in itself to read the article, I don’t know what might be.

Finally, I thought you might be interested in this video wherein Ben Huss, a certified hypnotherapist, walks you through a creative visualization exercise for kicking procrastination the curb. He doesn’t tell you to do so, but I think it works better if you keep your eyes closed while you listen–we’re so much more suggestible when our eyes are closed.


How To Stop Procrastinating by VideojugHealthWellbeing

 

A to Z Challenge: Longform, Literary Games, and Leek Jinx

During the 2013 Blogging from A to Z Challenge I’m posting what I like to describe as “semi-useful” procrastination strategies for writers and others who may need a little break from the task at hand from time to time.

Ah, yes, what do we have on the procrastination menu today? As it happens, “L” is exploding at the seams with possibilities for time wasting, so much so that I’ve had to cull my list ruthlessly to keep this to a reasonable length.

Longform is a recommendation site that suggests online fiction and non-fiction pieces for your reading pleasure. You can read the stories or articles in your browser, or save them to read later with Readability, Instapaper, Pocket or Kindle. One of the things that sets Longform apart is that it’s not about small, bite-sized chunks of writing. The articles it collects and suggests are longer (over 2,000) words, in-depth, and often from less well-known news sites. If you want to check out a couple of examples of the articles they link to, try these:

Or maybe you have a hankering for playing some Literary Games:

Or, then again, perhaps you’d rather sit down with a nice cup of tea and get your magic on by perusing the List of Spells over at the rather awesome Harry Potter Wiki.

Off you go now, to enjoy your weekend, and I promise not to Leek Jinx you. Probably.

There are some terrific bloggers participating in the challenge this year. Check them out over here.

A to Z Challenge: Kerning and Kermode

During the 2013 Blogging from A to Z Challenge I’m posting what  I like to describe as “semi-useful” procrastination strategies for writers and others who may need a little break from the task at hand from time to time.

More videoriffic fun today as I slide into the last day of staff meetings, but first I thought I’d share one more font game, because it’s hard to resist a font game that’s named after me. Okay, fine, it’s not named after me, but but it does share my name, and that’s almost as good, right? I’m talking about KERNTYPE, a fun little activity where you’re presented with a word whose letters are unevenly spaced, and your job is to slide them left or right to create a readable text. It’s a quickie, too, so minimal guilt involved.

Kermode and Mayo Film Review

One of my favourite things to do when I’m walking the dog, or walking home from work, or avoiding washing the dishes is listen to the BBC’s Kermode and May Film Review podcast. I’ve blogged about this podcast previously, so I’m not going to go into a lot of detail here, other than to say that I became addicted to these reviews from my very first listen. Whether Mark is in full-on rant mode, waxing rhapsodical about a movie, or spatting with co-host and straight man Simon Mayo, and whether I agree with Mark’s assessments or not–or even seen the movie in question–these reviews are literate, intelligent, witty and wildly entertaining.

I usually listen to the podcasts in their two-hour entirety, but each episode is also videotaped and excerpts are posted on YouTube. To give you a wee fast of what to expect, allow me to share a few of those videos.First up, a couple of Mark’s legendary rants:

Sex and the City 2

Transformers

The rants are tremendous fun, but just in case I’m leaving you with the impression that Mark Kermode is just a big old hater with nary a nice word for any film, I’m also sharing his review of the movie Amour:


 

There are some terrific bloggers participating in the challenge this year. Check them out over here.