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Should You Exercise When You’re Sick?


Recently my son came down with a bad head cold, and I soon caught it from him. Some combination of echinacea, zinc, extra sleep, and luck probably saved me from a week-long ordeal, because I woke up less than 24 hours after symptoms started feeling well.

The illnesses, though, started some discussions in our household about activity when you’re sick. My assumption about illness was that once you start getting sick, you should rest intensively until you’re better, but it turns out that the experts don’t necessarily agree. A Rodale News article on the subject quotes researcher David C. Nieman saying that people who exercise more get and stay less sick, which may be no surprise, but in the same article Nieman points to research he has done that seems to suggest that moderate exercise when we’re mildly sick (like with a head cold) can cut the length of the illness by half.

Nieman and article author Emily Main are quick to point out that exercising with a chest cold or severe illness is a recipe for trouble, and give pretty specific guidelines on when to exercise during an illness and when not to; read the full article for details.

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Online Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing Courses with Cat Rambo


Writer Cat Rambo has recently been offering online classes and workshops that have proved fairly popular. Cat is a highly accomplished writer of fantasy and science fiction. Her work has appeared in top pro venues like Asimov’s Science Fiction, Clarkesworld, Weird Tales, and Strange Horizons, and from there a number have made their way into year’s best anthologies. My experience is that she’s personable and insightful. If you write or are interested in writing science fiction or fantasy and want to improve your skills, the classes below might be just what the doctor ordered. They run from one to six sessions, are priced in the $100-$250 range, and are described in detail with schedule and price list at .

(Note: I don’t get a cut of any of this; I’m just mentioning it because I think Cat is an unusually good source of writing knowledge.)

About the class format, Cat says “I do them on Google Hangouts, which means that people can participate via video (or if they are shy, by audio only). The format allows for a class that is conducted both during the class time and also outside of it via discussions on Google+. I’ve been very happy with this – I feel as though the combo of in and out of class exchanges has let me connect with students in a deeper way than in a once a week face to face class, weirdly enough.”

Here are the current offerings:

Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction Stories: A six week workshop focusing on the basics of writing speculative fiction short stories, including plotting, creating believable and engaging characters, world-building, what to do with a story once it’s finished, dealing with editors and markets, and other necessities. Students will have the opportunity to workshop two stories over the course of the class.

Editing Basics: This three week workshop targets editing both other people’s works as well as your own. Topics include how to edit at both the sentence and story/book level, working well with writers, theory of ToCs, electronic publishing, copyright, and making a living as an editor. Each session is two hours and includes in-class editing exercises, with week one focusing on developmental editing, week two on copyediting and fact checking, and week three on publishing.

Bring On The Flash: A three-hour session focusing on writing flash fiction and consisting of a mixture of lecture, in-class writing exercises, discussion of how to turn fragments into flash, and an overview of flash fiction markets.

Your First Page: Co-taught with Louise Marley. Louise and I have done this workshop several times with great success – we thought we’d try an online version. You give us the first page of your novel and we’ll critique and discuss it in a way that will be helpful with the overall work as well as talking about agents, and editors and how important the first page is when engaging them. More than one students had told me this was the single most useful workshop they’d ever had.

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Writing Motivation for Academics


I recently wrote an article on motivation for academic writing, an especially tough area, and it now appears on the academic writing site PhD2Published: “The Will to Write: Getting Past the 6 Most Common Obstacles.” The site posts daily articles to encourage and support the process of writing dissertations, papers, theses, monographs, etc.

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New Futurismic Column: Wait, You’re Not a Real Writer at All!


Some time back I posted here about Impostor Syndrome, which was a recent topic of discussion on Codex, the online writing group I run. That discussion led to my most recent “Brain Hacks for Writers” column on Futurismic, “Wait, you’re not a real writer at all!” which you can read here:

You might also enjoy reading Alex J. Kane’s follow-up on the subject on his blog.

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Breaking Bad Habits by Changing Cues


Here’s an article with some useful points about breaking bad habits, based on the results of studies by psychologists at the University of Southern California: “Obesity and Overeating: How to Break a Bad Habit.” The key points here are 1) that negative behaviors are sometimes driven more by habit than by short-term pleasure, and 2) that changing minor environmental factors can help break bad habits. While there are many situations where these particular concerns don’t apply, they point to some easy and potentially effective methods of breaking bad habits in situations where they do.

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Another ToDoist outage (now over) …


UPDATE 10:54 AM EST: ToDoist seems to be back up

Original post:

For ToDoist users, it appears the site is down again. Last night, Todoist tweeted “We had an 2h outage today, the service should be back up. We are still investigating why this happend, but we think it’s related to our host”; 12 hours later, unfortunately, more trouble. Under Chrome I get “504 Gateway Time-out nginx/0.7.13” and under Firefox, “An unknown error happend [sic] while loading data… We will try to reload Todoist.”

This is a great service, and considering I’m getting it for free at the moment, I can’t complain much, but I certainly am disappointed.

I’ll post updates if I hear anything.



Dean Wesley Smith: “All my early report cards said I had no talent for writing”


I do tend to go on a little about the myth of inborn talent, but then, it’s an idea that’s been smushed deep into the fabric of our culture, like gum ground into a carpet. Still, my apologies to people who’ve heard me play this tune a couple too many times already.

To see what I have to say about talent, read my posts “Useful Book: Talent is Overrated” or “Why I’m Proud to Have Been an Unoriginal, Talentless Hack,” or “Do you have enough talent to become great at it?,” or my Futurismic column “Critique, Mentors, Practice, and a Million Words of Garbage.” Or else ignore me and read Dean Wesley Smith’s post, “The Myth of Talent,” a chapter in the book he’s writing called “Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing,” in which he writes:

In school I hated writing because I was so bad at it. If I had listened to all the people who told me I had no talent for writing, I would have quit four decades ago. No, make that five decades ago, because all my early report cards said I had no talent for writing.

Now, after millions and millions of words practiced, many books and stories published, I get comments all the time like, “You are a talented writer, of course you can do it.”

Or one I got the other day. “You have the talent to write fast.”

Talent is something we build, not something that’s bestowed on us. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to build it naturally in the course of other activities, and other times we have to work like hell to get it, but what’s a little working like hell in the grand scheme of things?


ToDoist Is (Was) Down


FINAL  UPDATE: Todoist is back up: time to immediately save my data!

UPDATE: Todoist tweeted and posted about the problem at 1:35 EST: see . They say that their database became corrupted for unknown reasons and that they’re fixing the problem. They also apologized for the outage. I’m no longer worried about having to switch systems, but will take my own advice (below) and start backing up.

In my post “Why Organization Improves Motivation, and Some Organization Tips” from a couple of years back I extol the virtues of Todoist, a free online task tracking system with a modestly upgraded, slightly less free version available as well. Today I’m not so much in an extolling mood. I can open Todoist, and each of the categories shows the proper number next to it showing how many tasks I have in that category, but clicking on the categories themselves opens up a screen with no tasks except for (bizarrely) the completed ones.

I have a work account and a personal account for Todoist, and I’ve tried them both, on different computers and browsers, with the same results, making me think it’s a universal problem. ToDoist Mobile on my smartphone is giving me even more flack, claiming I have no projects (categories) at all.

To my surprise, Google reports that no one has blogged about this, and there appear to be no news articles on the subject. If you’re experiencing this problem, though, I’m here to tell you it’s not just you.

Oh, and did I mention that their support site times out? I can’t even ask what’s going on.

I understand it’s a free service, but it’s still very damaging to have a large amount of critical information disappear on you and to not know whether or when you might ever get it back. Being able to access Todoist on my phone as well as on computers wherever I may be has been terrific, but going forward I may give that up just to get some peace of mind that I won’t lose it all. Losing my task list would set me back enormously and cause problems in many areas of my life.

The moral? Back up your data. In my case, it would have been smart to get into the habit of at least once a week (and preferably more often) entering “view all” in the search box on todoist and saving the resulting page, which lists all current tasks in all categories, but I’ve tended to think of backup as only applying to data on devices I own–bad mistake. If my data does reappear, I’ll certainly get in the habit of doing this. If you’re not in my position, may I please very strongly recommend regularly backing up your task list (and calendar, for that matter)?

And if you are on Todoist, like me, could you comment on whether you’re experiencing the same thing today (Thursday, July 28th) or not?

Update: I should have thought to check the Twitterverse; when I did, I found others experiencing the same problem. Not long ago, @JB66 reported “It’s still mostly down, but if you view Completed Tasks it shows your current tasks as well buried in there.”


On Mental Paralysis and Choosing Tasks at Random


Gustav at the Fiction-Writing Directorate offers this useful-and-weirdly-entertaining post: “The Phrenologist’s Apprentice: The Directorate Guide to Getting Enough Done,” which John Burridge kindly pointed out in comments to a recent post of mine.

The pitfall of the article above is the danger of getting the wrong things done, as described in the post John replied to (“When Being Productive is Just Another Way to Procrastinate“), but it still makes a fair point. Gustav offers this discussion of the pitfall:

“Absurd!” Frederick cried. “Why, if I picked tasks at random—“

“—With synchronicity,” I corrected.

“With synchronicity,” he continued, “how could I ensure that important tasks would get done?”

“I understand your skepticism,” I said. “But it seems to me that you spend all your time weeping and paralyzed, so nothing is getting done, important or otherwise. Is that not true?”

He nodded, ashamed.

“This way, you will achieve at least a modicum of success. However, I suspect you will be pleasantly surprised at how often this method presents you with precisely the right task. Synchronicity, lad.”

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Psychological Warfare Against POWs and Against Ourselves


Elaine Isaak, a fellow Codexian and author of The Bastard Queen and two other novels, pointed me to an interesting post:

This was posted by another blogger, but I thought you might be interested from a Willpower perspective.  About how we can learn from North Korean POW camps:
It’s interesting how this kind of psychological warfare reflects particular types broken ideas, specifically mental filter, emotional reasoning, “should statements,” and probably labeling. There are other things at work here too; the post is worth a read for a different perspective on how we handle ourselves emotionally.

Photo by remuz

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