Archives for June 2014

Confessions of a Bookaholic

Some of my books

Temptation is everywhere

Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Fiona and I’m a bookaholic.

It started when I was a child and discovered the thrill of being transported to another place by a book. I was hooked almost instantly.  I began to long for time that I could spend alone with a book – or preferably several. I begged to go to the library when other kids wanted the zoo or the cinema.  I got caught reading under the bedclothes with a torch and even (and I blush at the thought) in the toilet.

I have books stashed in strange places in the house, so that wherever I am I can grab a few pages. I even have a book in the car and a book in my handbag, it is that bad.

I have tried to go cold turkey. I  even managed a whole day once without reading, but then had to give in towards bedtime.

The early hours of the morning, I have discovered, are the most dangerous. I wake at around 5am and then spend an inordinate amount of time skulking among the virtual shelves of Amazon, desperate to spend my hard-earned cash on yet another book.

I will read anything, but I do the draw the line at reading fiction during the day. If I started a novel before 6pm I would consider myself in serious trouble, so try to stick to non – fiction during working hours as that way I can pretend it is research, although I am fooling no-one.

I know I should slow down. I read at breakneck speed, sometimes not even enjoying the contents that much. What is frightening is that sometimes I don’t even remember what I have read, unless I check my bookshelves or the order pages of Amazon.

The thought of being in a place or situation where I am not able to get a book easily is very scary. I have to make sure that if I am going anywhere for a long time that I fill up on the written word before I go. Excursions are planned around books – bookshops, libraries, second hand stores, book exhibitions … I think you get the idea. It’s not pretty.

Is there a cure? For a while I thought it might be ebooks. I tried them but they just didn’t hit the spot. They didn’t feel right or smell right. They didn’t flop nicely onto my sleeping face like the comforting open spine of a paperback, so I slid back into my old habits.

What is worse is that I am not just a reader, but I write too. Yes, I supply others with words and pages and books and get them hooked. Writing is the job of choice for a bookaholic, you get to spend time with the object of your desire every day and no-one bats an eyelid.

I am a hopeless case, but I know that I am not alone.

Yes, I’m talking to you. You, with your surreptitious glimpses at concealed pages, with your  voracious appetite for words and your stolen chapters. You might as well admit it – you’re as bad as me.

Aren’t you?

 

 

 

 

 

Spinning Yarns

 

A spider's web

The work of a master spinner

My lovely old Italian spinning wheel

My lovely old Italian spinning wheel

 

As well as being a writer I am also a spinner, courtesy of the fibre obtained from my lovely herd of alpacas.

I am aware of the many correlations between the two crafts of spinning words and spinning wool. These are some that I have noticed.

  • You create something potentially beautiful from raw materials
  • You need many years of practice
  • The process is as enjoyable as the end result, sometimes more so
  • There are many stages to go through to get from an amorphous mass to a pleasing end result
  • You learn the rules and then develop your own style
  • When things go well you can easily get lost in ‘the zone’ for hours
  • You need patience  – lots of patience
  • You never stop learning
  • Good preparation is vital
  • It’s easy to over complicate things – sometimes simple is best

I called this site spiderywriting for several reasons  – a Roald Dahl quotation, a play on the Worldwide Web and web spiders. Now that I have started my journey into the fascinating world of spinning, I love the fact that my site is named after a little creature able to create wondrous, magical structures from  a simple skein.

I am trying my best to learn to do the same.

A Simple Powerful Productivity Tool

An example of an urgent important matrix

My Matrix for Today

I have recently found myself with a ton of stuff to do – all kinds of writing work for clients, day-to-day chores, work on my other websites – you know the kind of thing. It’s great to be so busy, but  all too easy to get overwhelmed and focus on the unimportant things. I knew I had to find a solution or end up being totally unproductive.

The Answer

The Internet worked its usual magic and a short search revealed a very simple technique which I put into action immediately and have done so ever since. All you have to do is take a piece of paper and divide it into four. Label these four quadrants as follows:

URGENT & IMPORTANT                    IMPORTANT NOT URGENT

URGENT NOT IMPORTANT              NOT IMPORTANT, NOT URGENT

Then just write your tasks under each heading. Urgent is something which has to be done within a given (usually short) timeframe while important things help us attain medium to long term goals. I started by writing the whole week’s work on the chart, but it was too much. Now I do this at the beginning of every day. It has had a huge impact on my productivity.

One of the reasons, for me anyway, is that the act of sorting all the tasks into one of the four categories makes you realise what is important and what isn’t. Maybe I’m just a moron, but it highlighted the fact that spending the same amount of time on carding my alpaca fleece as writing a content strategy for a client was not the best use of my time!

However, it also made me realise that I was spending too much time responding to “Urgent but not Important” stuff because it was jumping up and down and shouting at me in my inbox. I began noticing that I was prioritizing other people’s work, emails or Skype messages (often “urgent”) and delegating my own projects to the “Important not Urgent” category where they often got neglected.

I now try to work through as many of the “Important not Urgent” tasks as I can, rather than just doing the “Urgent and Important” ones.

Into the Matrix

The tool is known as the “Urgent/Important Matrix” and I’ve also seen it referred to as the “Eisenhower Decision Matrix” after Dwight D. Eisenhower.  It pops up in one form or another all over the Internet.

One of the goals of using the matrix apart from increasing productivity, is to help us give priority to the things that really matter, which are often overshadowed by the shouty short-term “notice me” items.

Give it a try and share the results!