iCloud: Digital wave of the future?

Non-digital cloud. -- Photo by Nancy Woods


In her Technorati article “How iCloud will Change the Process of Writing,” Maria-Louise Overgaard says she’s looking forward to being able to save her writing in iCloud because it will mean she no longer has to e-mail copies of her writing to herself to make sure she has access to it from whatever device she’s working on.

What is iCloud? According to SearchCloudComputing.com, it’s a computer service that provides online storage and applications, with the following advantages:

  • Easy and inexpensive set-up because hardware, application and bandwidth costs are covered by the provider.
  • Scalability to meet needs.
  • No wasted resources because you pay for what you use.

That kind of computer storage sure sounds handy, but what about security? Can iCloud files be hacked? And, if I understand it correctly, iCloud isn’t going to work when I’m working away from my office in a location that doesn’t have Internet access. Which means, for now at least, I’m sticking with my portable hard drive.

Writing process: Four things that guarantee success


In his book A Writer’s Time: A Guide to the Creative Process, from Vision through Revision, literary agent/film producer Ken Atchity says a writer needs only four things to be successful:


  • Perseverance (or determination or stamina)
  • Connections
  • Being fun to work with
  • Talent


Do you have the above attributes? If not, how can you improve your situation?






Writing process: Write for the sake of writing

Maybe you’ve written things and submitted them only to have them rejected. Does that mean you should give up? Here’s what Richard Walter, author of Essentials of Screenwriting says:

…To attach particular expectations to any action is a formula for frustration. To attach to the writing of a screenplay the expectation that it will sell is a recipe for disappointment. Writers have to write solely for the sake of writing since, as argued repeatedly, it is a privilege even merely to be mistreated in Hollywood….

Writing process: Checklist

We all have certain writing habits – some good, some bad. For instance, I have a tendency to use the word “just” too often. To make sure you’re not making the same mistakes over and over again, try compiling your own checklist of potential mistakes. Refer to it during the final edit of a manuscript, before sending the writing out. Possible items to include on a checklist:

  • Eliminate sentence fragments (unless used for effect).
  • Make sure there is only one space after the period at the end of a sentence.
  • Insert a comma before “and” in a series.
  • Italicize titles of books.


Writing process: The importance of white space

If you immediately jump from one writing project to the next, you decrease the chance that a new, unexpected writing idea will pop into your head.  Instead, try taking a break and leaving some white space between projects. Leo Babauta explains more below:

Life’s missing white space

Posted: 16 Sep 2010 11:30 AM PDT

‘Space is the breath of art.’ ~Frank Lloyd Wright

Post written by Leo Babauta. Follow me on twitter .

I’m not a designer, but I’ve always been in love with the design concept of white space.

It’s the space in a design that isn’t filled with things — as you can tell from the design of Zen Habits and my other blog, mnmlist, it’s something I use (perhaps too) liberally.

But white space can be used in the design of our lives as well, not just the design of magazines and websites and ads. By using white space in our lives, we create space, balance, emphasis on what’s important, and a feeling of peace that we cannot achieve with a more cramped life.

Let’s look briefly at how to do this.

The principles of white space

Some of the things white space accomplishes in design:

  • greater legibility
  • feeling of luxury
  • breathing room & balance
  • more emphasis

These same concepts can translate to our lives:

  • Clarity. Instead of legibility, white space can give clarity to the things in our lives — whether they’re possessions, projects, tasks, or just things that occupy our time and attention. A nice piece of furniture is more beautiful when it’s not surrounded by clutter. A well-prepared piece of food is more tasty when it’s not smothered in sauces and piled with fries and cheese. A presentation is more effective when we don’t use Powerpoint and have only a few points to make.
  • Peace. When our lives are cramped, and our homes and workspaces are cluttered, we feel stressed. When we have fewer things on our schedule and fewer things around us, we feel peaceful.
  • Breathing room & balance. Many people talk about finding “work-life balance”, but this is very hard to do if you have no white space. Leave space between things to find the breathing room you need, and to easier achieve balance.
  • Emphasis on the important. When our days are non-stop busy, everything is important and nothing is important. But put white space between things, and those things acquire more weight, and we place more importance on each individual thing.

Achieving white space

In theory, achieving white space isn’t difficult: you remove non-essential items from your life, your workday, your surroundings, your possessions, and leave the essential items with space around them.

But of course in practice it’s a bit different, and requires experimentation, learning, practice. I’d suggest starting small, with one area of your life, and making small bits of white space. Start by identifying what’s important, and the slowly removing the non-essential things to create the white space.

Some ideas:

  • Breathe. Simply take a couple minutes between tasks, meetings, anything that you do, to breathe. After a meeting, for example, return to your desk and just sit still for a couple minutes, focusing on your breath going in and out. When you get home, pause and breathe. When you’re done with a task on the computer, close everything and breathe, before starting on the next task. This creates space between tasks and allows you to focus on each one.
  • Schedule. Don’t overschedule. Leave space on your schedule, between tasks, instead of putting things back-to-back. The space gives you time to go between tasks, to recover, to refocus, to breathe.
  • Projects. Do fewer projects at a time. Instead of juggling a bunch of projects at once, try to do one for as long as you can before switching to the next (sometimes you need to switch because you’re waiting on information or on someone else to do something). If you can, take a short break between each project — as long as you can afford.
  • Sit. Start your day with the white space of just sitting still for 10 minutes. It can be a meditation session, or simply sitting still with a cup of coffee or tea. If you like this, try putting it in the middle and end of your day as well.
  • Remove clutter. Pick a few important things on your desk, or in your home, and remove the rest. This will give you visual space and create a more peaceful atmosphere.
  • Savor. Slow down and savor everything you eat, everything you do. Breathe before you take each bite, and enjoy each bite.

If you liked this guide, please bookmark it on Delicious or share on Twitter. Thanks, my friends.

Read more about simplicity in Leo’s books, The Zen Habits Handbook for Life & The Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life. More here.

Dangerous writing

This Wikipedia entry explains Tom Spanbauer’s concept of “dangerous writing, ” which is described as “writing that personally scares or embarrasses the author in order to explore and artistically express those fears honestly. Most ‘dangerous writing’ is written in first-person narrative for this reason and deals with subjects such as cultural taboos. Check out the Wikipedia entry, and then try some “dangerous writing” yourself.

Giving and receiving feedback

If you belong to a writing group, or are thinking of starting one, you might want to take a look at this guideline I’ve put together on how to give and receive feedback:

Presenting Your Own Work for Feedback:

  • Remember that hearing what other people have to say about your writing can be helpful.
  • Reading your work aloud may be difficult, especially if you haven’t done it before. It may help to think of it as something you need to learn, just like writing.
  • Bring enough copies for everyone in the group. To make it easier to read, make sure the manuscript is set in 12-point type and double spaced. A long piece, more than 5 double-spaced pages, might need to be brought in ahead of time or posted online before the meeting.
  • Before reading your work, state any necessary background information: Is it a piece of fiction or nonfiction? Is it an incomplete rough draft or fairly finished version? If the piece is finished, you may just want an opportunity to read it aloud.
  • If you think your writing needs work, ask the group for comments on the specific areas in which you think you may need help: Are you unsure about the ending, tone or organization? Are you wondering if parts are missing or need to be cut? Do you need help deciding exactly what the piece is (essay, story or poem) or what it is about? State your questions to the group so they can be thinking about them while the piece is being read.
  • Read slowly and pay attention to responses from your audience, including laughter.
  • Later, during the feedback session, if you become overwhelmed by comments, feel free to say, “That’s enough for now. Thanks.”

Responding to Another Writer’s Work:

  •  The main purpose of any feedback session is to help the writer keep writing because it is by writing that most writing problems are solved. No comment, no matter how truthful, is helpful if it stops the writer from writing.
  • Be gentle but professional.
  • The “hamburger approach” is worth keeping in mind. It has three parts, the top bun, the burger and the bottom bun. The top bun is a positive comment, the burger a negative one, the bottom bun another positive comment. Keep this in mind when deciding in what order to present your comments.
  • When pointing out areas that need improvement, offer them as suggestions and opinions, not as fact. It’s ok to be hesitant. Keep in mind that any revisions will require work on the writer’s part.
  • If the writer seems to be receiving a lot of feedback, you might limit your comments to the most important and note the rest on the paper for the writer to read later.
  • Don’t assume the writer is the narrator. Don’t assume fiction is based on fact. Don’t assume it matters if a piece of fiction is based on fact. Don’t overload the writer with comments. Don’t repeat what’s already been said. Don’t use sarcasm, irony or humor. Keep the tone neutral.       

Some things to think about while listening to a piece of writing being read:

  • Where did you struggle, get lost, confused or lose interest?
  • How would you summarize the piece? In a sentence or two, what does it seem to be saying? Is it clear what the writer is trying to say? If not, where is it unclear?
  • What words or phrases do you especially like?
  • Is the opening effective? How about the middle, the end?
  • How effective is the dialogue? Does it sound authentic? Is there too much or not enough?
  • How is the scene setting? Are details used to convey a sense of place?
  • How are the characters presented? Are their motivations clear? Do you care what happens to them?
  • Is the plot strong enough? Does the story draw you in?
  • How would you describe the use of language? Literary? Experimental?
  • How about rhythm, sentence order and length?
  • Is the writing too abstract?
  • Could the organization be improved?
  • What you do think about the voice, tone?
  • Are there sections that could be expanded?
  • Are there areas that could be tightened or cut?
  • Is the basic idea or theme intriguing?
  • Is there enough conflict? Does it unfold at the right pace?
  • It’s ok to just say, “I like it,” “I don’t have anything to add,” or “I think it’s ready to send out.”
  • Think twice before suggesting the manuscript be changed into something dramatically different from what it is.

 Back Home, Going Over the Comments:

  • Sort through the comments.
  • Decide which, if any, to use.