Productivity, Writing

The art of saying ‘no’.

I’m deep into research for the third book in the Lucy and Dee series. In writing the first two titles, I learned that the secret to success in almost any endeavour is large, uninterrupted blocks of focused time. And this is especially true of research. I have to read, take notes, consider where to use it most effectively and, at the same time, ensure it enhances the story and doesn’t overwhelm it. There’s a lot going on and it takes time.

But how to get that time when there’s alway’s someone who needs the answer to a question, a task done, an event attended. So I’ve been working on saying ‘no’ as nicely and firmly as possible. But so often there’s a rebuttal like the innocuous sounding, “But it will just take a minute!”. A minute is all fine and good but, according to the lovely people at Mind Tools, it take 23 minutes (!) to regain focus after a single interruption. Who has that kind of time?

It’s impossible to accomplish anything of importance, professionally or personally without the ability to say ‘no’. And ‘NO!’ is a complete sentence.

If you want to soften it, consider using the E.B. White quote. If nothing else, I’ve found it baffles people long enough to derail them!

And I’ve discovered that those who truly care about my wellbeing will not try to manipulate and cajole. They’re happy to wait until my work is done. Besides, how urgent can it be? Unless there’s arterial bleeding, a blocked windpipe, a heart attack or stroke, quite frankly, it is not an emergency.

Now, back to my research!

Creativity, Productivity, Writing

Sweet, Sweet Solitude

It’s been a busy, chaotic and exhilarating week with my family. We rented a beach house and spent our days walking a long, pristine, and sparsely populated beach, playing in the water, reading, eating, and talking, talking, talking. And I was spectacularly unproductive – no writing at all. It was great!


Time for some solitude

If I’m going to get book 3 in the Lucy & Dee series written in the next year or two I have to find a door to close behind me. It’s time for some solitude.

What I’ve learned about solitude

The need to spend time alone was, and still is, common among many poets, novelists, composers, artists, innovators, and inventors. According to Michael Harris in his book, Solitude (2017), there are three crucial benefits provided by solitude: “new ideas; an understanding of the self; and a closeness to others.” In addition, it increases our ability to solve hard problems.

The mind needs some space from constant stimulation in order to let all of those fabulous, unique connections, forged during REM sleep, to burble to the surface of our conscious minds.

There is no need to go all hermit to get the benefits of solitude, nor do we need to isolate ourselves for long periods.  We can maximize the benefits of solitude by simply striving to cycle between periods of solitude and engagement with the outside world. Solitude is about what’s happening in our brains, not the environment around us. It’s simply a state in which our mind is free from input from other minds. So, we can be solitary on even our morning commutes on the train if we allow ourselves to just be with our own thoughts rather than being on social media, listening to the radio/podcasts/audiobooks, reading, or otherwise engaging with another human. Moments of solitude—even small ones—when self-imposed, intentional, and fully appreciated, can have profound effects on our productivity and creative thinking.

Stepping away from the routine and disruption of daily life allows us to connect ideas we’ve been struggling with in new ways, follow creative impulses, and simply think about one thing at a time.

I know it’s something I’ve needed in regular doses all my life. It’s the one and only thing that helps me reset, recharge and let fresh thoughts flow.

And now for a moment of solitude

Get your Zen on.

Brought to you from Tallows Beach, Byron Bay, New South Wales.
Productivity, Writing

Space to create

Putting the question of money aside for the moment – ‘enough’ is different for everyone – I’ve found that writing does require space to think and create. And creating it can sometimes mean thinking laterally.

For five years my writing space was in a glorified hallway and the passing traffic didn’t hesitate to stop, have a chat, and ask for some of my time. My focus was shattered. I tried ignoring, I tried glowering, I tried everything short of physical violence. There would be a brief period of smiles, nods, and careful tiptoeing around me (can tiptoeing be sarcastic? Passive aggressive? I feel it can be!). Then behaviours would revert to baseline.

Beside myself, I was ready to give up and then a friend of mine, and master coach, Leah Badetscher suggested typing a sign to the back of my chair when I didn’t want to be disturbed.

Miraculously, it worked! I don’t know how, but it did. I’d hear the thudding of feet approaching, a hesitation, a sigh, and then retreating footsteps.

But I had a space of my own.

Another way of problem solving

When the Morton Bay fig trees are lit up like this at dusk, it makes me think of Lothlórien, the fairest realm of the Silvan Elves remaining in Middle Earth (Lord of the Rings).

Brisbane is full of Morton Bay figs. These spectacular trees don’t rely on anyone else to provide their support system. Instead, they send down shoots from their branches. These shoots root and become full tree trunks thus supporting the primary tree’s relentless quest for reach and height. One core tree can become a forest all by itself.

Productivity, Travel, Writing


I recently struck a blow for freedom by downloading…Freedom, the app that gives you your life back! (Note: this is not a paid promotion – I just like the app.)

My first task was to learn how to block my access to the App store – for days at a time – so I can’t re-download the solitaire game apps I deleted. And then I went on to blocking distracting websites for hours in the early morning and again in the evening.

So maybe I’ll really give myself a chance to kick the time-wasting habits now. The technology was too strong for my mere self-control and self-discipline. Using the Freedom app will give me time to break the bad habits.

I know I can do it, even though I’ve suffered from Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS), my whole life! My busy, active mind has always embraced everything with open arms, and encouraged me to wholeheartedly get carried away by the next new thing. Until the moment hits when I find myself trapped in a shiny globe of opportunities, pinging away madly from one thing to another with negligible results, far off track down a path I never meant to travel.

It’s like Dug. Dug is looking for love and friendship. Right up until the moment when…


In other news, freeing up time wasted on stupid games has given me the space to enjoy the outdoors while we’re in Australia!

Hiking up to Baroon Lookout, Sunshine Coast, Queensland. I was, perhaps, overdressed.

Turn up the volume! Kookaburras heard but not seen.

Lead image Photo credit: Jamie Street, Unsplash