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Editor's Notes #56, The 4-Hour Workweek
August 17, 2008

Writing is a way to legitimize daydreaming
because that's what you really get to do.
You get to just dream up this world and live in it,
like living inside a book.

--Christina Schwarz

In this issue:

1. Lessons From The 4-Hour Workweek
2. Ticked My Funnyone
3. What Does It Feel Like?
4. Similes Are Like An Electric Shock

1. Lessons From The 4-Hour Workweek
After reading all sorts of comments in an online forum, I decided I'd better read The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. (If you can't click this link, just copy and paste it into your browser.)

Let's be clear upfront. This book does not tell you how to write a book in four hours per week, but following its advice could free you from your J.O.B. to give you months on a tropical island, or in Antarctica if you'd rather, to write your book. Best of all, The 4-Hour Workweek has helped me to eliminate a few time-wasters I've adopted over time -- some I'd even made into virtues.

I'm reporting on a few tips I've found helpful. Maybe something will resonate with you. If so, pat yourself on the back. Maybe something will poke you in the eye. If so, take a deep breath and change your ways. I'm trying to.

So here are the tips for today:
  1. Ask if any activity is important. If it isn't, stop doing it. ("If this is the only thing I accomplish today, will I be satisfied with my day?")
  2. Keep to-do lists short: 1 or 2 items per day. List only important tasks and actually do them.
  3. Give yourself short deadlines to focus your attention.
  4. Do not multitask.
  5. Stop consuming information. Go on a media fast. I did this in 1989. For personal reasons, I decided not to turn on any electronic noise-maker in my house for about six months. In case you've forgotten, the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. I heard about it from others. That experience taught me that I'd been spending far too much time following the news.
  6. Don't finish useless tasks just because you started them.
  7. Check email no more than twice per day.
  8. Use voicemail to screen calls. Respond only to the truly important calls. I got smug when I read that one. See
  9. Avoid all possible meetings.
  10. Batch activities such as paying bills. Do several at once according to a schedule.

If you find any of these ideas helpful in moving your writing forward, or you have other writing tips that would help others, submit them at


2.Tickled My Funnybone
Here's a humorus headline I thought you would like...
“New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group”


3. What Does It Feel Like?
Have you ever written something that lacks appropriate emotion?

If so, here's an exercise to try...

For each event you recount, ask yourself, What was that like?

Your first answer will probably not reach emotional depths, but it will head you in the right direction. So take your answer, and ask, What was THAT like? Keep asking until you find the emotion you need to convey.

Note that at first you may not be thinking emotionally at all. You may just be saying that one event is like another event. Don't worry. Keep going. Eventually, you will hit the emotional mother lode.

A counsellor uses this technique to help clients get in touch with deep feelings. Good writing has an element of passion. Find your own emotion and use it to move your readers.


4. Similes Are Like An Electric Shock
In the last issue, we took a look at the metaphor. A simile is similar to the metaphor in that it compares two things that we usually think of as unlilke each other. What sets a simile apart is that it makes the comparison using the words like or as. A good simile can be like an electric shock of recognition. We say, A-HA! I never thought of that before, but it's right!

In the example that opens this issue of Editor's Notes, Schwartz says that writing is like living inside a book. Exactly what that means is up to each reader to decide. What does it mean to you?

Here are a few similes I've found on writing.
"Writing is just like lemons." --Amy Shultz
"Writing is like a nine to five trade." --Shane Neilson on Stephen King
"Writing is like breathing."--Mempo Giardinelli
"Writing is like planting a seed."--Alan Cumyn
"Writing is like having a conversation."--Dorothy M. Stewart

Which is your favorite? You can comment or add your own simile about writing at .


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