I suppose most of you must have noticed by now that this blog, although titled ‘A Writer’s Blog’ doesn’t talk much about writing. In fact, most of the posts on this blog have been about tech-y stuff – software and what not.

While I don’t believe that the software makes the creative person more creative, but it can certainly make the creative person more productive – especially if the software is flexible enough to mould in with your workflow.

There I go again. Don’t get me wrong. But talking about software is not why I started this blog. I wanted to write about my writing journey. About my frustrations and my bursts of creativity. About my inspirations and about my blocks.

Yup.

We writers often suffer from one very depressing and downright disheartening state of being blocked.

And for the past 5 years, this is where I have lingered on.. maybe knowingly or unknowingly. Yup. But that realization came much, much later.

For years, I have struggled with my writing. Oh yes, I know, I know. I have this career writing blog posts and articles and such other content for websites. Which is nice – coz I made it on my own after starting from scratch and managed to keep body and mind together for over 3 years by freelancing.

But that was not the problem. It was the symptom of one.

Writing for me is about telling stories. About narrating something to people who want to know the story. By telling something interesting and exciting and at the same time, meaningful. Yeah – I do set some pretty high standards for myself.

And ever since I was able to figure out what I was doing, I was writing – short stories and poems. But yeah – at the rate of at least 1 short story per year, and at least 1 poem per month – I wrote it down.

However, it all seemed to dwindle away fast. I found myself going through a lot of unspoken anger and resentment against myself.

Because nothing was coming out of me. Nothing.

Aaaargh!

But, I let it all slide past, reminding myself that I have made a nice little career and niche for myself as a web writer.

Aaaargh again!

And then, I came here to the US. Finally to be with my family. It is nice. I never realized how much I would like it.

But again, no story.

I mean, I get these brilliant ideas – and I do write them down. (That was the only good thing I did!) But that was it. I simply couldn’t find myself able to develop these ideas.

I maybe wrote a chapter or two.

I even added these to my To-Do list, but I kept changing the dates and delegating them to my ‘Waiting’ or ‘Someday’ lists.

Something was terribly, terribly wrong.

I was depressed. I was not creating anything creative. I was not interested in anything .. I was simply blocked.

And consistently, wherever I went, especially to book stores or book websites, there was just the one book that came at me, drew me towards itself. And I chose not to give in to that shining impulse, until recently. I finally gave in, and found out what that book was all about and then ended up buying it.

Of course, you all must have guessed the title by now (duh!)… The book is called ‘The Artist’s Way‘ and it is written by Julia Cameron.

A truly amazing system .. simple and yet effective.

The book basically outlines a 12 week course where you do these interesting exercises during each week and do these activities every day.

The everyday activities include what Julia calls the ‘Morning Pages‘ – writing 3 pages of stuff every morning. And by stuff, I mean stuff. Whatever is going on in your mind – whatever you are thinking of – whatever, who ever – just put it down in the Morning Pages.

I recently got a copy of MacJournal in one of the Bundle sales… I finally put it to good use! I put in my Morning Pages everyday and the Journal is password protected. And like Julia says, I don’t go read those pages. I just click on the nice little Full Screen icon and get a blank screen – all black – and my words, all white get printed on it. Nice. Smooth. Distraction Free.

Every single day with the Morning Pages has been a dream. I have started working on different ideas. I have started developing the different story ideas I have written down. Bit by bit.

These Morning Pages are really helping me clear my brain.

I do these first and then get to my e-mails and my work stuff.

Another thing which she talks about in the first weeks essays is ‘Shadow Artists‘. These are blocked creatives, who do not pursue their creative dreams, but either help others achieve them, or hang around such creative people, or pursue careers which are more or less in the same field. Wow! It struck such a chord with me!

I mean, here I am.. writing for the web – and frankly, finding not much creative satisfaction in it – and still hanging in there!

OMG!

Realization!

Another thing which struck me is my emotional state. When I had written all those stories and poems way back when, I was a very angry, rebellious, confused and (often) stoned person. I had no clue about things. It took me a lot many years to work through these issues and come out of my addictions, and my anger.

I am not saying that I am 100% free of my anger. But I am almost half-way there. And yes, I am 100% free of drugs. I have also discovered a strong connection with the Universe via my Tarot cards.

So yes – I can safely say, that I am pretty much on the path of calmness.

But co-incidentally, this calmness also co-incided with the writer’s block!

So putting 2 and 2 together, my mind had been wondering whether it was necessary for me to be angry, confused and rebellious in order to be creative.

Apparently not.

In the first week’s essays, Julia says that it is not necessary at all.

And I am apt to believe her. She too had a problem with drinking, which she overcame. And has gone on to achieve a lot – I mean she hasn’t just written this one book – she has written a bunch of plays and even made a movie. So yeah, given all that, I am more open to believing her.

Am working through the different exercises in the first week’s lot and am writing my morning pages. And although I am tempted to peek forward, I am not doing that. I want this process to work for me. Simply because I can see it working on me. I can feel it.

Already I am sensing the change.

Writing is a joyous process – and I am on my path to re-discovering the true joy of my calling.

And this book is one of the gifts sent to me by Existence to help me find my way back!

I plan to write more about the book as I go through each week. And I know I shall make it happen.

In conclusion, let me quote something right from the book:

Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it.

Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!

Note: This isn’t a quote by Julia Cameron, but it is featured somewhere in the book and its stuck in my head now!

Getting Things Done

All of you must be aware that over a period of time, I have tried hard to increase my productivity by following David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology. Well And in that regard, several of my previous posts have focused on how I have managed to get my iCal tasks on my Desktop via GeekTool and how I have started to use OmniFocus in real earnest to manage my tasks and To Dos, including detailing my workflow process.

Moving to the Cloud

I have also moved my e-mail to GMail and have IMAP-ed everything that deals with it so as to make it easier to be able to access my data – emails included from just about anywhere (of course, there has to be an Internet connection).

My little secret – all this is in preparation for being able to access my data if and when I get a smartphone (the iPhone was on my wish list, but now its place has been taken over by the iPad).

The Frustrating Part

I sync my tasks from OmniFocus to my iCal so that I can use the beautiful iCalBuddy script to get GeekTool to show my tasks on my Desktop. I could also sync my calendars from iCal to my Google Calendars using BusySync. But these syncs via BusySync would only sync Events. Not my To Do list.

And I had to find a way to get my To Do list accessible from via my GMail.

I mean that is also the point of going IMAP and moving to the Cloud, isn’t it?

High and low, I searched for solutions. I tried the number of web based apps like Remember The Milk and ToodleDo – they had nice gadgets for GMail. But, none of them synced with iCal … I could export my iCal calendar to these web apps and so forth, but what I was looking for was a live sync. And none of the tools out there could provide me with an answer.

And Then… A Breakthrough!

Until today afternoon.

I simply stumbled onto this solution.

I daresay, it is not the most elegant of all solutions. Also, in all probability, many of you may already be doing what I just did. But then I had to write this down for posterity! :) Hope all of you will forgive me!

So, What Is The Answer?

Well, the thing is this: All the To Dos in iCal are usually seen in Apple’s Mail.app. And if you want to create iMap calendars, you can do so from within iCal itself.

Make New Calendar in iCal

Typically, all the calendars would be made ‘On My Mac’. But in this case, choose to make your new calendar on the second option available – which is the GMail account.

So, naturally, all the tasks and events you make in these calendars will be made in your GMail calendar. And with BusySync, those events (at least) will get updated to your Google Calendar.

To Dos in Mail

But the magic part is that the To Dos that you will make will appear in your Apple Mail as well.

And why is that so important?

Well, when you create an IMAP account in Mail.app for your GMail, Apple puts a label called ‘Apple Mail To Do’ on your GMail. And guess what, all the To Dos that are created in the calendars created under the GMail calendar set automatically get uploaded to your GMail.

Look Out Though…

If you already have a whole bunch of To Dos in your iCal then you must do the following:

  1. First Re – Create Calendars under your GMail calendar.
  2. Then select all your To Dos in Mail (under ‘On My Mac’) and Drag and Drop them in the GMail list.
  3. Change the iCal sync preferences in OmniFocus or your task manager to sync your tags / lists / contexts into these new calendars.

New Calendars in GMail

I normally sync all my tasks from OmniFocus to a single calendar called OmniFocus. So, I ended up creating an IMAP calendar called OmniFocus under my GMail Calendar set.

Making new calendars with the same names helps because then the tasks you move automatically go into those calendars.

So if you have calendars called ‘Work’ and ‘Home’ for example, then make calendars called ‘Work’ and ‘Home’ under your GMail calendars. This way the tasks will get transferred into the right calendars.

And once you have changed the preferences in your task manager so that the tasks now sync with these iMap calendars, you are all set!

Ta-Da!

Now here is what will happen.

Your tasks will start getting uploaded to / synced with your GMail from via Mail.app. And you will be able to see them, contexts and due dates and details and all in your GMail under the label ‘Apple Mail To Do’.

Yes, the descriptions and what nots may not be what you would like them to be – but something is better than nothing in this case.

And the best part … you can search in GMail and get your daily dose of Next Actions and Contexts, right there in your GMail.

Here are a few pics as examples:

Use the gl shortcut to go to your Apple Mail To Do label

The result: Your To Do List in GMail

You can search by Context

And see results by context

You can search by Due Date

And see results by Due Date

or you can search by both Context and Due Date

And get the results you want…

All in all, you get to see your contexts and tasks in your GMail. And when you click on these tasks, you can see the details like priority and notes and everything.

Caveats…

Of course, you cannot edit the tasks in GMail. Nor can you click a checkbox when you have finished the task.

But now you can have a list of your tasks in your GMail for those times when you don’t have a smartphone but have access to Internet from outside your house and need to check what tasks you have to accomplish for the day.

And you will have to leave your Mail.app running in the background to keep the sync going throughout the day. Otherwise the sync from your Mac to GMail won’t happen. So, I just keep Mail.app open in one of my Spaces – out of the way, but silently doing its job in the background.

I suppose till GMail decides to give iCal users the capability of uploading their To Do lists to Google Tasks, this stop-gap arrangement will have to do.

Your Thoughts?

If you have any ideas more simple and creative and useful than what I have written over here, please feel free to leave your thoughts in the Comments…

I am open to any and all creative ideas in this regard.

As most of you may be aware, I have become a huge fan of the GTD system of task management. And on the Mac, managing my tasks is pretty much a dream come true! (The apps are so pretty!)

You can search across the Internet for more details about GTD – there are literally thousands of nice sites out there, which will give you a lot of information about the GTD System.

What I am going to do over here, is to show you how I have adapted this GTD process to suit my needs and on my Mac.

Collect

This essentially means that if there is anything on my computer that I want to remember and later on turn into a task or maybe file away for reference for later, has to be collected somewhere.

According to GTD, you can set up as many collection buckets as you want / need / require. These collection buckets can be your e-mails, your voice mails and web pages and what nots which you want to remember. These in-boxes have to be emptied and processed regularly, otherwise you will just end up with a whole bunch of stuff and no tasks done.

So what do I use for this stage?


Evernote_Icon_256.jpg As someone who has to save web pages for the articles and blog posts on those web pages, Evernote is a nifty tool to have. Sitting there on my browser toolbar, this little thingamajig captures those pages into my Evernote account. I can have ‘notebooks’ within Evernote that are devoted to several different subjects – and these notebooks can be stored either online or locally on my computer. Another great feature is that I can tag each of these notes as I ‘clip’ them, so that I can search them easily later on. Evernote also has a lot of other nifty features which you can read about on the Evernote Website.

Mail App.png

Next up is Mail.app – the e-mail program on my Mac. You can have your to-dos and events synced directly into iCal from Mail itself. You can also select some text and create Notes which you can save for each of your Projects. Mail can also be set up with a bunch of rules, so that you can filter down e-mails from different senders into different folders, for example, and thus have the app organize your folders automatically for you. But since I use e-mail as one of the main means of communication and information gathering from my customers, it becomes a great collection basket. I put the e-mails into folders named for my clients, so that the e-mails just get organized.
safari_icon.png
Of course, one can’t forget Safari – the browser that came with the Mac. With its superior capabilities, and sleek interface, I somehow find myself returning to Safari time and again for browsing. There’s just something about this browser that I can’t put my finger on! Either way, doing the things mentioned above is a snap with Safari too…

gmail.png I have also started to use Gmail and its multitude of Gadgets and Features to check my e-mails. I spent some time last month transferring all my e-mails from POP to IMAP – thus making it easier for me to manage my work simply from within my browser – it began as an experiment, and I am loving it. I like how I can do stuff within Gmail itself.. by integrating it with my Google Calendar and Google Wave accounts. Makes my life very simple. Also I use the menubar notifiers for Gmail and Wave, which make checking e-mails a snap – I do it only when I have to see an important mail when it comes in. Otherwise, I clean up my Inbox twice a day!
netnewswire_icon_300.png
Another place from where I get a lot of my information is my Blog / RSS Reader. Net News Wire makes it a lot easy for me to store and e-mail blog posts that strike my interest – I can either flag them, or clip them to my clippings folder or even e-mail them to someone else who I think may enjoy that blog post.

Next up in the Collect Process are my trio of powerful Task Managers:

OmniFocus.jpg  thehitlisticon.png  ICal.png
These are OmniFocus, The Hit List and iCal.

There are a lot many websites out there which will tell you how great these softwares are… and I would tend to agree with most of them. OF, THL and iCal – together make my task management collection process very easy. Both OF and THL have a quick-input panel, so as soon as I remember something, all I have to do is hit the keyboard shortcut key and put it into either my inbox, or a project or a context. I have set up both these task managers to sync with my iCal.

Now, some of you may be wondering – What’s with the iCal?

Well, my iCal also syncs with publishes some of my shared and un-shared calendars to Google Calendar via a nifty little preference pane called BusySync.

And the best part ever – I get to see a cool list of all my Tasks and Events on my Desktop via iCalBuddy and GeekTool. iCalBuddy is a nifty little shell script which I can run via GeekTool to display my Tasks and Events on my Desktop. And since I have spent some time playing around with the icalBuddy Localization PList files and the iCalBuddy Config PList files, I can also get a nice, multi-colored display on the Desktop too!

Thus iCal sync becomes quite central to the process. Because I don’t have to go searching for my tasks here and there – I just have to look on my desktop!

There are also the other things that need to go into my Collect in baskets – these include papers and leaflets and mail that I get. I haven’t gone all out and purchased 43 folders, but I do have some of the folders set up in a filing system.
See, I usually don’t get much paper mail, because I prefer to get these things via e-mail and hence my computer becomes an effective and efficient filing system. And within that system, my folders are usually titled as ‘Active Projects’, ‘Waiting’, and ‘Someday / Maybe’.

Right, but I am getting a lot ahead of myself over here, aren’t I?

Process

In this step, I now get to process some of the information that I have accumulated in the Collect stage. In fact, most of the information automatically gets through this stage and the next stage (Organize) when it goes through OF and THL.

What is more important to note at this stage is to classify these tasks by either Projects or Contexts or both.

Any task which requires more than 1 step to complete becomes a project. So, say for example, I have to write this blog post. In GTD, this becomes a Project. Because the writing of the blog post involves first researching for information and experimenting with task management systems and software, then identifying the stuff that I would like to include, and then outlining the blog post and then, finally writing it out. So, there are many steps to get to this place. Hence, this is a project.

Projects can be small or large. It doesn’t matter.

And then the most important part to consider is Contexts. Context is literally a definition of where you are when a task comes up. For example, @ Home is a context – and contains a list of tasks you can do at home, but since I work from home, this context, for me, strictly has to define tasks that relate to house work. For me @ Computer is a nice context for me to put in tasks related to e-mails, for example. Other example contexts could be @ Phone, @ Traveling and @ Shopping.

Organizing

Organizing to me, is more or less, an extension of the previous two processes. And so, I often end up doing all these 3 processes at once for many of my tasks.
Once you have defined a Project and Context, organizing involves defining a set time for the completion of the task or tasks within that project or context. This means, I finally have to set a date for the conclusion of that task. And here is where my task management apps and iCal syncing comes totally into play as well. Because I can set up deadlines for these tasks and even set up alarms. Usually, I use the Google Calendar’s SMS alarm system to have my calendar send me a SMS a few minutes before a task or an event becomes due.

This way, I know what I am supposed to do even if I am away from my computer.
And if I have put any tasks into a ‘Waiting’ box, I make sure I put in a Start Date and a Due Date and make those tasks repeat ever so often – this makes for a very interesting Tickler file system that alerts me ever so often, by putting that task on my Due list. This way, if I have to, say, e-mail someone to remind that person, I get to see that task on my Due list for that day.

Review

Here is one of the best parts of the GTD System. The Review.

Often, we end up putting tasks on the ‘back-burner’ – which means they get shoved into a ‘Waiting’ or ‘Someday / Maybe’ box and then we never look at them again. As a result, many of these tasks don’t ever get done.

The Review part ensures that you go through all of your task lists periodically and regularly so that you don’t miss out on these things.
OF has a dedicated Review system built into it. I take advantage of that system to go over my task list ever so often. It is an event I have plugged into my calendar itself.. so I don’t miss out on the best part.

Do

And here it is.. the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. This is the part where you actually do the tasks that you set out to do.

The beauty of going through the entire process here is that you have emptied out your mind of all the stuff that’s floating around in there. And so when you actually end up ‘do’-ing the task, you are fresh, and have a clear mind. This enables you to do your task well and properly and of course, infuse your creativity into each and every word that you type out.

As a writer, I have quite a few tools I use for this purpose.
pages-icon.png
First on my list is Pages – the wonderful Word Processing app that comes within the iWork suite of tools. Native to the Mac, it is smooth, elegant and beautiful – perhaps even more that MS Word any day. And yes, it works with all those formats too. I can open Word documents from Pages and export my Pages documents as PDFs and Word docs. I can even upload them to the iWork.Com site and share them with people.
ecto-icon.png
Next up, is Ecto. Since I blog a lot and work with WordPress as a platform for creating my websites and stuff, I prefer using Ecto. None of the other desktop blogging software for the Mac support the pages part of the WordPress platform – only Ecto does. Which, for me, was something very important. Plus, Ecto is flexible. It has these cool add-ons. For example, every time I post a new blog, it automatically sends out a tweet about it.

Now, I also write short stories and poems. And am trying my hand at a full length novel too. There are dedicated apps on the Mac just for that. And I do end up using a few of them ever so often.

omnioutliner-3-icon-highres.jpg OmniOutliner helps me with writing my outlines in a sleek and functional manner – both of which are qualities that are the epitome of ‘Mac’-ness in my books! And these outlines can easily be exported to various formats, including Keynote – the presentation software from iWork. So yeah, I love this one! All I do is start writing my outline and just go with the flow. And once that is done, I can just as easily nest my outlines and move them around and tweak my stuff.
Scrivener.jpg
Next on my list is Scrivener. An amazing app that lets me write my stories in full-screen view. Wow! That, for me is heaven! No distractions. Just write. Go with the flow. I can export my stories to Word documents. And I can import text, images and word documents into Scrivener.Scrivener also has these really cool Index cards, which help me organize my story structure so that I get the best out of my plot.

StoryistIcon.png Another one of the apps I use to write is Storyist. It comes built in with an Outliner too! Plus, its got these real cool formats for Plot Points, Settings, Scenes and Characters. This makes it so much easier for me to plan my story out.
See, I write in two different ways – one is with planning and structure and definition and the other is just going with the flow. And each of these apps suits each of my methodologies. So no matter what style I end up working in, I have an app which helps me to work in that style.
And then of course, I have some real nifty things that help me get the ‘Do’ phase going in style…

launchbar.png

Launchbar gets me through many of my regular tasks with just a press of a key. Moving folders and files, controlling my iTunes and generally locating documents and even doing Google Searches for me.

menubar info.png My menubar also tells me a lot of stuff.. from the left to the right, we have OmniFocus reminding me of the 1 task that is Due Today, then we have my Clipboard, DragThing, Wave notifier for Google Wave, Tags for tagging anything on my MBP so I can find it easily later on, Gmail Notifier for Gmail, my Temperature, BusySync, My Computer’s temperature, my RAM, my Processor use, my Disk Space usage, the Day and Date, my Wi-Fi and finally Spotlight.
Yeah, yeah! I know, I love to know all these things…
dragthing gtd.png Slidenote.png Now, I usually keep my Dock minimised or hidden so I get to use my entire Desktop space. And I use Sidenotes and Drag Thing to jot down random notes, and to easily access the apps in my GTD process easily, respectively. Both of these slide out from the side of my desktop when I mouse over to that side. Otherwise, they just slide unobtrusively away.

Of course, I use Tunes Art to display my latest iTunes song. This is the unrelated to GTD fun part that I did just for the heck of it.
And many of these apps have Growl integration – for example my Weather notification thingy – so every once in a while, I get my Growl alerts telling me if its going to rain, or what song is playing or whether any of my OF tasks have become Due and if I have an e-mail on my Gmail or Wave.. you know.. just so nice!
tunes art.pngAnd finally, here is my desktop telling me what is Due. I spent a lot of time with iCalBuddy’s localization and config files to get this result.. so am just showing off here…

desktop ical.png

Here I have also configured the script of iCalBuddy to show me these tasks and events in this fashion – because when OF and THL sync to iCal, they put in the Context and Project name into the task.  So here is the script I used in GeekTool to get my Tasks output…

echo TASKS/usr/local/bin/icalBuddy -sd -stda -nc -ss – -li 7 -df ‘Due %a, %e %b’ -ps ‘ , ‘ -etp url,priority,notes uncompletedTasks

And for my Events, here is the script:

echo EVENTS/usr/local/bin/icalBuddy -sd -nc -ss – -df ‘%a, %e %b’ -eep notes,url,datetime,location eventsToday+1

Phew!

That is pretty much how I manage my work and stuff on my Mac using the GTD system.

So, I have gotten on to the GTD bandwagon – trust me, things do get done this way! And it totally suits my list making, note taking, micro-manage everything kind of nature – and I am happy!

But then, again, without an app to help me do it all, I would be totally lost, now wouldn’t I?

So, I looked around for good apps to help me manage my task lists – and you may have read about my exploits with Geektool earlier on this blog… but still, it just wasn’t enough…

I wanted a software where I could plan out my tasks, organize my documents and so forth at the same time… and I wanted to do this across all my projects. So I tried out all kinds of software out there – The Hit List and Things were 2 apps that really caught my fancy. Process was also something which caught my eye. But, then I happened to stumble onto the Zengobi site. That bliss followed thereafter is an understatement…

So, here are a few pics that will sufficiently demonstrate why I am in love with Curio…

brainstorm6.jpgSo, you can make mind maps and add pictures and also make lists… drag and drop from anywhere.

dossier6.jpg Create your project brief using the pre-defined dossier templates, or create your own templates and questions.

IdeaSpaces.jpgOrganize your project across as many Idea Spaces as you like and also track all your projects.

export6.jpg Search across your projects and publish them to your Mobile Me account.

freeform6.jpg Take notes and add them anywhere – freeform as you like. Add links to documents on the fly.

intro6.jpg Add drawings. Drag and Drop from anywhere you like.

rightBrain6.jpg Storyboard…

salesNumbers6.jpg Add Tables.

screenshot.jpg Create Templates and re-use them across all your projects.

sleuth.jpg Search the Internet from within Curio using Sleuth – you can even configure the sites where Sleuth can search in…. and then you can just Drag n Drop the information into your Idea Space.

taskMaster6.jpg Create Timelines and Add Due Dates – Sync it with iCal…. and plan all your schedules.

thatsNotAll6.jpg Add audio and video notes right from Curio.

StatusShelf.jpg Use the Status Shelf to track by Due Dates across all your projects…

So, basically, with Curio the possibilities are virtually endless.

I can simply drag and drop e-mails, folders and files (and option-drag n drop to simply add a link to these files and folders) to my Idea Space. I can mind map and think out spatially (like I love to do) and plan things out – make lists and add due dates for these tasks…

I can even convert my mind map to a list and vice versa.

There are a variety of pre-made templates which I can use, or even visit the community section of Curio’s website to get templates created by others using Curio.

I can search for images and data right from within Curio – using the built-in browser, Sleuth. And you can also configure the different places where Curio searches from.

If I like to think out loud – I can add audio and video notes to an idea space.

So basically, I have my Project Central right within Curio.

Now, I have configured my Geektool to show me only the first 5 tasks on the desktop – and they are sorted by date…Desktop Tasks n Weather.jpg

iStat Menus Menubar.pngCalendar.tiff

And I have configured to get my calendar and stats like CPU and RAM (which I compulsively have to know) etc on the menubar using iStat Menus.

So, now I have my project central on Curio, my stats on the menubar, my desktop is a little more cleaner… and I am getting things done!

To NaNoWriMo or Not?

Well, November is just around the corner and so is NaNoWriMo…nanowrimo_logov10.jpg

Seeing the fiascos of NaNoWriMos past where I jumped on to the bandwagon with much fanfare and then kinda fizzled out after the first 10-odd days, I am a bit terrified of participating this year.

So I am taking things easy – not putting too much pressure on myself – and just playing the ‘Wait and Watch” game ….

I am giving myself the freedom to join in and join out at any point – and not forcing it – and not forcing myself to over-compensate…

I find myself to be more creative when there is no sword hanging on top of my head… now, don’t get me wrong… I work well with deadlines – but that is because I always plan well and plan to have a few off days and so forth and so all my stuff is in on time.

But NaNoWriMo is a completely different story!

I got to write 50,000 words in 30 days – so, as usual, I got down to the Math. If I write for every single day, then I have to write about 1666.66 words every day. Or if I don’t write on weekends (30 days less 9 days) then I have to write 2380.95 words every day!

Now, isn’t that nice!

So it is a roundabout of 1700 to 2400 words a day to reach the 50k deadline.

Hmm…. the calculations have now been done… lets see how things work out on D-Day!

Installing Snow Leopard

Well… as the world knows it, today was the day that Snow Leopard was officially released worldwide.

Of course, I had pre-ordered it, and was waiting for the CD since early morning.

Post breakfast, I sat down and systematically backed up all my data – you know, just in case… I do come from the Windoze part of the world… Anyhow, then I plonked myself on the sofa in the living room upstairs, and added a book for good measure and waited… and waited … and waited.. for the FedEx guy to turn up with the CD.

The e-mail from Apple had said that the delivery would be made anytime before 3 in the afternoon. So… to cut a long story short… about three-quarters of my way into the book and around 2:15-ish, the FedEx guy rings the bell… sees me smile and smiles back!

Ahhh!

So, in true Mac / Geek / Mac Fan Girl style, I decided to click pics with my cell phone camera during this momentous occasion!

So, here is the Box in which the CD arrived! (Packed with 2 more Apple Logo stickers!!)

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I run down to the basement, where everything has been laid down in readiness… and boot up Leopard for the last time … and stick the DVD in the laptop!

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The install process begins!

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And continues….

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Till there are about 3 minutes remaining now….

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And now, less than a minute….

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And Finally! The Install is Complete!

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So, the computer boots up and we see the famous ‘Welcome’ video!

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And here is ‘About this Mac’!

My old wallpaper – and all my settings and data – all have been seamlessly included and updated into the install process!

Hmmm….

All the other bells and whistles are there… so I am not going to elaborate on that! Many people have written many pages about the stuff that Snow Leopard is going to add to the laptop…

Nah!

I got to report some buggy things – which are, of course, natural considering it is the first version of the new OS and whatnot….

1. My Evernote icon disappeared from Safari and won’t come back! Although, the icon is in the menu bar…..

2. My Glims plugin also won’t work anymore in Safari.

3. I cannot see the preference pane window for QuickSilver, although I can see the other panes windows like Triggers and Plugins and the Clipboard and Shelf…

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So, what are the good things that I have to say? Here they are:

1. The colors look more colorful as compared to before (I don’t know how else to put this!)

2. New wallpapers are great.

3. GeekTool’s new latest release thingy works in Snow Leopard.

4. The whole ‘Minimize Window into Application Icon’ is really amazing because this way my dock doesn’t get cluttered up with minimized windows and of course, add to it the whole new Expose!

5. New Stacks are beautiful – and the ability to browse through folders is amazing!

6. Most of my apps like NoteBook (from Circus Ponies), Ecto, Hulu Desktop NetNewsWire – all are working….

7. The Dictionary includes the New Oxford American Dictionary along with the other stuff….

8. Automator also looks great!

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So, so far so good!

After the install, I just went back to work doing what I was doing… isn’t it nice to have an OS upgrade that lets you do that… upgrade and go!

6a00e5538b31a0883400e553bae9848834-800wi.jpgRemember Stephanie Meyer from the Twilight series of books?

Well, she has written yet another book called The Host.

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When Twilight came out and made such a huge noise (especially when the movie featured the dreamy Robert Pattinson as Edward), I had to rush out to the nearest Barnes and Noble and buy the entire series!

Yeah, I know, I am a little freaky that way: if I know that a book is a part of a series, then I have to buy the whole thing, because then I read all those books one after the other… if not, I go stir crazy!

Anyways. I read the whole Twilight series. And I liked it – for the most part. To be honest with you – I am a huge fan of Vampires, but I just cannot stomach the stupid Vampire books / movies. In any case, the Twilight series has all the elements to make me want to just keep on reading – vampires, a love story, a vampire and a girl falling in love with each other, the girl wanting to become a vampire, hints of a historical / mythological background … I was hooked!

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But towards the end of the fourth novel I figured the author just wanted to tie up all of the loose ends she had created so wonderfully during the series of books. She just wrapped things up – suddenly. It was jarring.

But overall, I think as a series, the books are a total hit!

So, when Ms. Meyers came out with yet another book – which did not belong to this series, I was a little skeptical to say the least. But I ventured out and bought it.

The theme of The Host has been done before (remember Body Snatchers?) but I wanted to see how she had handled it.  

See, when someone has written a very successful series of novels, that has a huge fan following, the movies coming out and all that jazz, it is a very, very bold and crazy move for such a writer to put out a new book that follows a different theme and does not belong to the aforementioned series of novels.

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Bold because she is really telling her fans to test her mettle. And crazy because the verdict may go either way.

End of the day, it is her talent at storytelling which will be tested through and through.

If she wins, she will remain in the limelight and be recognized as a talented writer through and through. And if not, she will be a one-series wonder – and may even be easily forgotten.

Ms. Meyers, has however, succeeded in reducing all the fears to dust with her new book.

Not only has she proved her mettle at writing with her storytelling, but she has also taken the reader deeper into a perspective of the theme, in a way that wasn’t done before. With The Host, Stephanie Meyer has proved to me, that she is, in fact, a really amazing writer and really gifted at her craft.

Smashing plot. Amazing insight into the characters. Not a dull moment in the narrative. And most of all, this time round, the plot wasn’t hastily closed or wrapped up. The story wove together well, leaving me wanting to keep on turning the pages to find out what happens next… and then too, the ending was well put together.

Hats Off to Stephanie Meyer! Ten Out Of Ten!

My recommendation: This is one writer to watch out for. Go buy her books. They are a worthy addition to your collection.

In the past couple of years, I have been fortunate enough to get the chance of reading the Dune series of novels. Written by Frank Herbert, the first book was published in 1965. And in 1966, the book won the Hugo Award and also the Nebula Award for Best Novel. A series of at least 7 novels (the last of which was finished by his son Brian Herbert), the scope of these series of novels is vast and amazing.

Of course, the series of novels had a great impact on me: first as a writer, I was spellbound by the way the author has constructed the fictional world and its mythology, geography, rituals – the whole jazz (this is called as ‘World Building‘ by most sci-fi authors); and, secondly as a tarot card reader the philosophy and the pros and cons of prescience and the ability to see (and even meddle with) the future is something that certainly made me think.

Among other things, the novel talks about a Kwisatz Haderach or a super-being. Such a super-being has been defined in the book as ‘the one who can be in many places at once’. In the novel, the Bene Gesserit sisterhood has been involved in a breeding program. The aim of this breeding program is to create this Kwisatz Haderach. Along with unlimited powers of prescience, this super-being would also be able to predict several possible futures and select certain threads from among the different time-lines, so as to manipulate and create a particular future to happen.

Growing up a Hindu, we have always been regaled by the stories of Krishna. We heard stories of his mischievous childhood, of his inimitable teenage years, and then his exploits as an adult, followed by his role in the Mahabharata where he divulged the text of one of the most sacred books of the Hindus, the Bhagwat Gita. As a human being, and as a God, Krishna stood for what is considered to be the poorna purusham – the complete man.

Krishna is considered to be the Avataar of Vishnu. He is also said to be all knowing, all seeing, and aware of the past, present and future. All this, is also combined with the power to change the future, and the ability to ‘be at many places at once’ (remember the ‘Raas Lila‘ where he simultaneously appeared to be dancing with Radha and all of her friends).

It just struck me a few days ago, that the qualities described in the book – the qualities of a Kwisatz Haderach, are pretty much the qualities that Krishna possesses.

Often enough, myths and mythological characters / ‘Gods and Goddesses’ are the sources of inspiration for many a good heroes, heroines or special / central characters of many a well known and well loved stories.

Now, I don’t know if Krishna was the source of inspiration for Frank Herbert for his template of the character of the Kwisatz Haderach. But one thing that I certainly do know is that the characteristics possessed by Krishna and the Kwisatz Haderach are pretty much similar.

Myths and Mythological characters are the main sources of inspiration for many a interesting stories – and even plots. After all, these Myths were in fact, the first stories ever told.

I personally also feel that these character sketches of these Gods and Goddesses are based on real people – perhaps a mixture of 2 or more real people, plus with a whole bunch of other characteristics that often we may like to see in us / other people. The characters of Gods often are personifications of certain good qualities which we idealize and want to idolize. But then too much perfection doesn’t set in well with our perception of any particular character. So we end up throwing in some ‘human’ characteristic or two.

In the same spirit, I feel that the characterization of Krishna and the Kwisatz Haderach are based on the similar blueprint or model.

For a while now, I have been exploring how to go about implementing my GTD strategies in place for ensuring that my workflow remains consistent with deadlines and what-not. Sure enough, I have spent time searching for and using a variety of tools (read software programs) that will help me Get Things Done!

But see, that is just me – if I want to do something, I will ideally look for a software, nay, a freeware, to do this for me etc. And that is how the long saga back home began. I did encounter and use a number of good programs. But, to my utter amazement, I discovered that my Mac has all the tools that I require to Get Things Done.

And given below is the article that practically showed me the light!!

[From Getting Things Done (simply) in Mac OS X | pronductive]

Go ahead and give it a look! I am sure you guys will find the technique useful.

I know I have.

So, now without any further ado and dawdling, let me get back to work and Get Things Done.

P.S. :: Sorry for the non-Mac readers of my blog – but I am sure you can find a way to implement a similar strategy in your Windoze programs too! I suppose a little creative thinking wouldn’t hurt!

I never thought that I would do a follow-up post after my previous post about Writing Online In The Cloud, but then I kinda stumbled on this new site. Adobe has launched Acrobat.Com – a website which uses your Adobe Id to give you access to a number of online tools – and all that in a wonderful interface.

Personally, out of all the different interfaces I have worked with, this one is THE BEST.

When you log in, you see a wonderful screen that really invites you in!
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So, out of all these different things, what did I like the most?

The first one is Adobe Buzzword. Word Processing Online – in style!

adobe buzzword.png The interface has all the standard bells and whistles that any good word processor program would have – and in fact, I find myself comparing it to the iWork Pages interface.

Hmmm…

The next thing that I really love is the Adobe ConnectNow screen sharing and web conferencing thingy…

adobeconnectnow.png In the free version, you can share your screen with 2 more people – by sending out a URL.

Plus, you can even do a web chat and an audio chat as well…

Nice! Really Nice!

So, if you want to work online, with a whole lotta functionality and even more lotta style, then Acrobat.Com is absolutely THE site for you!

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