Boot Camp…for Getting Things Done


I was just reading Gretchen Rubin’s latest post on her Happiness Project and what she wrote immediately resonated with me. Instead of paraphrasing or just providing a link to her site, I wanted to post a complete portion of her post. She writes about how she was able to write a book in a month because she followed a “boot camp” mentality for getting it done. Anyone who blogs (or writes) will appreciate this stellar advice.

Whenever anyone asks me for advice about how to keep up with writing for a blog, I always say: “Post every day.” Although this sounds arduous, many people find, as I do, that weirdly it’s easier to write every day than just a few times a week.

I think the Boot Camp approach helps the creative process for several reasons, and it helps with all kinds of projects: finishing a photo album, a gardening project, a wood-working project.

  • Because you have to get so much done, you don’t have time to listen to your internal critic. You just get something done and keep moving, instead of sitting, paralyzed.
  • Progress itself is reassuring and inspiring. Panic tends to set in when you find yourself getting nothing done, day after day.
  • Because you’re so focused on your project, you begin to make deeper connections and to see more possibilities, instead of being constantly distracted by outside concerns.
  • Because of the intensity, you can hop in and out of the project, without having to take time to acclimate yourself. I have a writer friend who’s married to a painter, and she says their test for working well is when they can sit down and work if they have a spare ten minutes.
  • You lower your standards. If you’re producing a page a week, or one blog post a week, or one sketch a week, you expect it to be pretty darned good, and you fret about quality. Often, however, folks achieve their best work from grinding out the product.
  • Practice, practice, practice. My novel was terrible, but I think the sheer doing of it helped my writing, just the way practicing scales helps a pianist. The more you practice, the better you’ll become.
  • Because you have a voracious need for material, you become hyper-aware of everything happening around you — and ideas begin to flood your mind.
  • You can use this approach even if you’re working on a creative project on the side, with all the pressing obligations of a job, family, etc. Instead of feeling perpetually frustrated that you don’t have any time for your project, you make yourself make time — for a specific period.
  • It’s fun! I don’t have the urge to climb mountains or run marathons, but I got the same thrill of exertion from writing a novel in a month.

When I’m having trouble getting work done on a big project, my impulse sometimes is to take smaller, easier steps. Sometimes that helps, but sometimes it helps more to take bigger, more ambitious steps instead. By doing more instead of less, I get a boost of energy and focus.



Do you ever stumble on a blog and just instantly connect? It’s like suddenly seeing a tiny flower sprout up in your front yard. You’ve been looking at that same yard all winter and suddenly, everything changes. This morning while blindly surfing the internet, I discovered a new writer/blogger, Aidan Donnelley Rowley, who brings me immense joy and fully entertains. Reading her beautiful and brilliant writing comes about as close to talking to a good friend as you can get. Without actually talking to a friend. She is introspective and honest and fills her posts with questions about life.

She exemplifies one of the most important exercises we can do as writers and creative thinkers (heck, even stock brokers, real estate agents and dentists should do this on a daily basis). BE CURIOUS! Search for answers. Seek them out. Ask yourself the hard hitting questions. Try to understand something that seems confusing, overwhelming or impossible. You don’t have to find the answers, just ask the questions.

Personally, I am always trying to understand the concept of happiness. To define it.  I want to understand the ebb and flow of our emotions. How we can feel on top of the world at one minute and in the depths of despair the next. Does thinking about our own happiness, looking for it and trying to understand where it comes from, make it sneak back into its’ own shell like a timid mollusk? (Side note: Do NOT google mollusk images…there are some freaky looking things swimming around the ocean.)  Personally, I think it’s important to weigh those areas in your life that bring you happiness and find out where they are coming from.

In an interview for her site, The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin interviewed Amy Wilson. Wilson quotes Julia Cameron, author of The Artists Way, and I think it so beautifully encapsulates what we all are trying and striving to do on a daily basis.

Julia Cameron put it something like this: The only screenplay that definitely won’t get made into a movie — is the one that is never written at all. We are all capable of much more than we give ourselves credit for, and what we can find along the way is that the effort itself — regardless of the outcome — can bring great happiness.

I want to do more than I think I can. I want to write, read, review, work. I want to fill my life with the things that interest me and I want to inspire others to follow their passion, throw caution to the wind and dive in, head first, into this crazy, unpredictable life. Defining happiness is impossible. It is just something we feel. We know it the minute we experience that instant rush of excitement, of pure joy manifesting itself through a wildly beating heart, flushed skin and a quickened breath. But the only way to find this joy is to experience as much of life as possible. You never know where that moment of joy is going to be found. One thing I am learning is that all of your happiness cannot be found in one place. It has to be spread out, disseminated among many different outlets and venues. A large garden of happiness as opposed to one beautiful flower. Give yourself as many opportunities for happiness as you are physically capable of experiencing. And then stop and smell the roses.

Fake It Until You Make It

As I mentioned yesterday, I am reading Gretchen Rubin’s THE HAPPINESS PROJECT and loving it! One idea that hit me as particularly poignant was something she has mentioned on her blog, as well. You have the ability to change the way you see and react to things in your life. Gretchen writes, “Studies show that by acting as if you feel more energetic, you can become more energetic.” She references David Dunning’s book, Self-Insight: Roadblocks and Detours to the Path of Knowing Thyself. Dunning writes:

“[People] can argue anything. If asked to argue that some assertion “A” is true, people can do that. If next asked to argue that the opposite of “A” is true, they can do that, too, often with the exact same ease and effectiveness…When testing a hypothesis, people tend to emphasize evidence that confirms the hypothesis over information that disconfirms it. For example, if I asked someone whether he or she was an outgoing individual, that someone will likely sit back to think about times he or she has been an extroverted, sociable person…if I asked the same person whether he or she is the shy type, he or she would likely think of exactly…opposing examples because they confirm the new hypothesis.” (46-47)

I love the idea that we have that much control over our ultimate happiness and acceptance of the hands we have been dealt just by changing the way we look at things. Sometimes we avoid saying, “I am so happy,” for fear that it will be taken from us. In reality, saying these words both internally and externally actually pushes us in the direction of happiness.

I am thrilled to be following my own path towards happiness and cultivating a more appreciative existence.



Loving this book, The Happiness Project! I was reading on Gretchen Rubin’s website, The Happiness Project, about this month’s focus being ENERGY. Because I have recently mentioned my passion for running, I think it is a nice segue into Gretchen’s energy focus for January. Energy is crucial in tackling all aspects of life and exercise is a great way to increase your daily energy.

Here are some of the tips Gretchen provides for staying motivated in your exercise routine.

Everyone knows that exercise is a KEY element to good health. The trick is keeping yourself motivated to exercise, if you’re a person who naturally relapses into the couch-potato pose.

It took me years of prodding, but I’ve finally managed to turn myself into a dedicated exerciser. I never push myself very hard (at all), but I do manage to stick with a routine.

Personally, I find it more motivating to think about short-term gratification like “I’ll sleep better” than long-term considerations like “I’ll live longer” or “If I have surgery, I’ll recover quicker.”

Here are some things to keep in mind, if you’re trying to keep yourself motivated to exercise:

1. Exercise boosts energy. It took me a long time to notice that I’d drag myself to the gym, work out for forty minutes, and leave feeling far more energetic than when I went in.

2. Exercise provides an outlet for feelings of pent-up hostility, irritation, and anger. I always find that I’m far calmer and more forbearing on days when I’ve exercised. I have a jittery, high-strung nature, and exercising takes the edge off.

3. Repetitive, rhythmic motion of exercises like walking and running brings a serene mood and clarifies thinking. I’ve had all my best writing ideas when walking or running, and sometimes assign myself a particular problem to think over during a walk.

4. Sticking to an exercise regime raises your self-esteem for the very fact that you’re sticking to an exercise regime.

5. Exercise offers a chance to be alone and uninterrupted—a relief if, like me, you’re often surrounded by distractions. Or, if you prefer, exercise also offers a chance to get together with other people–a relief if, like me, you spend a lot of time working alone. I have both kinds of exercise during my week.

6. Regular exercise helps to keep your body chemicals in balance. When you experience stress, your body prepares for “fight or flight” with a huge number of biochemical reactions. A stressful event these days, however, is more likely to require a phone call than a sprint uphill. The potentially damaging byproducts of the stress response, such as cortisol, nevertheless continue to pump through the body, and exercise helps offset that effect.

7. Exercise helps you fall asleep more easily and sleep more deeply. The Big Man really notices this in himself.

8. Pure vanity can be a good motivator. Remember that people who exercise move more easily and energetically, and appear more youthful.

9. When I don’t feel like exercising, I remind myself how lucky I am to be able to move easily and without pain—no wheelchair, no crutches, no brace, no trick knee or bad back.