Super thrilled to have Author and Mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik agree to come on the First Book Podcast. Imagine a person who has authored 30 books (many of them bestsellers), tell you about his tips, techniques, and secrets of becoming a better author!! The Interview is scheduled for 25th Oct (day after tomorrow). If you had one question about authoring to ask Devdutt, what would it be?
To my friends in Singapore who are passionate about writing, I would recommend you participate in this short story contest. I’ve interviewed many bestselling authors in my FirstBook Podcast and many have told me that it was the little things like participating in contests or essay competitions that gave them the belief and confidence to become an author. Go for it. There is prize money but way more important and far more beneficial is the feedback and validation you get from the readers. Go for it.
I have always been decent in typewriting. I learnt this during my 10th standard annual vacations and that has laid a good foundation. However, I don’t know how to operate the number keys and the special characters.
Offlate, I noticed a lot of errors in my typing. This started to slow down my typing and worse, it has started to affect my flow of thoughts. And so I set off on a mission to brush up on my typing lessons. My goal: 70 words per minute with less than 1% errors.
I took up a paid subscription in GoodTyping.com, one of the best online typing mastery websites. I finished all the 48 typing lessons in the last one month. I devoted about half hour each day to practice the lessons and now I average about 50 words per minute with about 2% errors. I intend to take advanced tests every day and my goal is to touch 70 WPM with 1% errors by July 31st.
Why is flawless typing so important to me? For two main reasons. I have been consciously focusing on blogging everyday and aiming to complete the 1000 day blogging challenge. Second, I’m focused on finishing two books this year. Both these ambitious goals require a considerable amount of time at the keyboard. The better I am at typing means the better I will do at both these challenges.
Have you heard of this story of this woodcutter who spent sharpening his axe? That’s the same thing for me with typing.
KeyHero, is what I use to test my typing skills in order to reduce the errors.
I’m on a quest to become a better writer. I’ve started to invest time and effort into improving the craft. I’m on a mission to take any help I can find. I discovered an excellent tool at ‘The Himalayan Blogging and Podcasting Retreat’.
The Hemingway app.
Three minutes into the demo of the app, I am convinced that this is a tool I desperately needed. By the time the short discussion on the app was over, I had already purchased the professional desktop version.
Often, I give editing high importance when I author books but almost never when I’m blogging. I mean, sure, I double check for typos and grammar but never beyond that. To become a better writer, one needs to pay attention to improve the simplicity of the language. Especially, removing unwanted words and tightening the prose.
I love the fact that the app has an integration with WordPress. This way, I can write in Hemingway, fine tune my writing and then post the cleaned up text on my blog.
I also love the ‘Write’ and ‘Edit’ feature. When you turn on the ‘Write’ tab, it turns off any prompts and helps you to focus on your writing. This is very important to maintain the flow of thought.
Once the writing is done, we can turn on the ‘Edit’ tab and Hemingway does an excellent work pointing out areas for improvement.
At a one-time payment of US$20, this buy is a no-brainer. Highly recommended.
An important lesson I’ve learned is that reading a book only makes sense if you can put the learnings into action.
Earlier I would focus on finishing a book. (which I admit is a task in itself). Once I finish a book, a sense of relief comes over. I take a few days break before I start reading another book. What use is the book if you don’t become better than when you started it.
I’ve started to do the following activities that has made my book reading endeavor a lot more useful and worthwhile.
1) I do a lot of research before I chose a book to read. The subject must catch my interest and it should be related to a larger goal am working towards to. For example, right now, am very interested in improving my productivity. A key part is to learn to focus and that’s why I found the book, ‘Deep Work’ very apt.
2) Before reading the book, I watch a few YouTube videos of the book and interviews with the author.
3) I listen to podcast interviews with the author. Watching the YouTube videos and listening to the podcasts gives me an excellent overview of the book.
4) Next, I read the condensed version of the book on Blinkist. I have subscribed to the Pro version and this lets me read and listen to the synopsis of the book.
5) Then I download the audio book on Audible (again, subscribed to the annual package). Audio books have been a game changer for me. I have an impressive completion rate of all the studio books. I still suck at reading physical books and have almost completely stopped buying them. I now swear by Audio Books.
6) I listen to audio books during two occasions. a) During my early morning walks. I walk for an hour and listen to audio books. 2) While traveling in my car or in a cab. Also during flights. I have started the habit of taking notes as I listen to the audio books. I carry a small notebook where I scribble down important points.
7) Once back home from my walk , I expand on those important points and publish the key learnings on my blog. This has helped me revive my long dormant blog.
8) I’m also conducting a workshop on the subject of the book. For example, this Saturday, October 15th, am conducting a 3 hour intensive, interactive workshop on the subject of ‘Deep Work’ and how to use focused concentration to improve productivity. I’m a firm believer that teaching is the best form of learning. 14 years of being a professor has ingrained this view in me deeply.
9) Because I need to conduct a workshop, this gives me the impetus to thoroughly prepare. This motivates me to listen to the audio book for the second time, take notes, create a presentation etc. This helps me to internalize the learnings.
10) Finally, I’ve begun to slowly but surely put the learnings into practice in my daily life. For example, I’ve allocated undisturbed time to blog about the points I’ve learned from the podcast. This very blog post you are reading now is testimony to it. If I can keep up at it daily for a month, it will become a regular habit and I don’t have to put any conscious effort.
Continuous improvement is something I’ve begun to enjoy. This is a work in progress and I’ll continue to share the best practices and important tips which I hope you find it useful too. Have a great, productive day!