We love a good life hack & fantastic, vetted advice. Here are a few of our faves lately :
Why Empathy is your Most Important Skill – and How to Practice it »
Hilarious – 31 Easy Hacks to Make Your Workday Better »
This crafty genius built an all-encompassing desk that rises when she stands, and lowers when she sits »
Many of our staff members have become complete wine geeks from reading Wine Folly’s Wine 101 articles – highly recommended from the winos among us »
How to read 52 books in 52 weeks and save yourself $21,000 »
Advice, but great to read: 5 Investment Lessons from Climbing Mt. Everest from Fortune Magazine »
A fave list from our most-loved Fast Company : 10 Quick Productivity Hacks to Make Life at Work Better »
This is by far the most beautiful, and helpful HTML cheat sheet we’ve found »
And lastly, an awesome & piece of cake infographic for 10 straight up fancy cocktail recipes »
Written by Drake Baer for Fast Company
To Ernest Hemingway, writers are like wells: “The important thing is to have good water in the well,” he told the Paris Review, “and it is better to take a regular amount out than to pump the well dry and wait for it to refill.”
In this way, Hemingway coined the phrase leaving water in the well: instead of spending all your creative juices all at once, you leave a little bit of inspiration so that you can return to the same momentum that you left it with. Hemingway, whose habits of badass productivity we’ve talked about before, said to never stop writing without knowing how you are going to start again, to, in other words, never end a day’s work without knowing how you are going to start the next day.
But why does this help a workflow work so well?
Read the full article from Fast Company, right here »
Cavallini Calendars are one of our staff’s most-loved go-to gifts for the holidays. The unveiling of beautiful vintage prints each month will give them moments of beauty and inspiration that will last all year! We’re thrilled to announce new editions of the Vintage Cats, Vintage Dogs, and Owls easel calendars to accompany Birds and other annual favorites this year. Of course, the best-sellers Japanese Woodblocksand Botanica are stunning as always. Which one is your fave? Click here to shop Cavallini Wall Calendars » Or click here to shop Cavallini Desk Calendars»
We’re always up for a little office design inspiration! Check out our friend Ana Reinert’s Well-Appointed Desk Pinterest board, and shop our favorite colorful must-have, Leuchtturm1917 notebooks, datebooks and accessories »
NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, takes place every November. The entire purpose of this fun, funky non-profit project is to encourage people to write a draft of a novel—50,000 words—between November 1 and November 30. It costs nothing to sign up at http://nanowrimo.org/ and roughly a half-million people on all continents (including Antarctica!) are expected to take part this year. The goals are enthusiasm, determination and a deadline—not gorgeous prose—but NaNoWriMo is responsible for germinating bestsellers Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. We turned to a NaNoWriMo veteran, Yu-Han Chao, for her best advice on tackling a novel-in-a-month.
1. Start with a title or opening lines: Sometimes a title or opening line comes to you; imagine the story that would go along with it.
2. Read a book, magazine, or newspaper: There’s probably a good story in there, and if not, ask “what if?” about something or someone so it becomes a good story.
3. Character: Visualize a character, then imagine the worst thing possible happening to your character.
4. Passion: Write about what you are excited or passionate about.
5. Steal: Rewrite another plot/story, but avoid clichés.
2. Develop Your Character, Central Conflict, & Setting
1. Develop your characters into round, not flat ones, by asking yourself questions about them: What does my character look like? What is my character’s background and psychology?
2. Decide on the central conflict of the story: Main Character + Goal + Opposition = Conflict. The main character wants something, the opposition thwarts your character’s plans and raises the stakes, and this allows your story to rise to a climax.
3. Decide on the setting: When and where. Jot down some notes about important settings, and later work these skillfully into action and dialogue (avoid boring, clunky paragraphs describing nothing but landscape).
Why outline in the first place? It saves time, something you can’t afford to waste during NaNoWriMo. Making plans ahead of time can be hard work, but it will save you the major writer’s block and possible inconsistency that may result from deciding on these things WHILE trying to write your novel. Not to mention, if something sounds like a bad idea, you can fix it right away in the outline, and not everywhere in a 100k word draft.
So plan and plot ahead. Try Aristotle’s three act structure–it’s old, but it works.
Act I. The Beginning: Present your world, establish the tone of the novel, introduce your main character & opposition, and have some kind of disturbance/conflict happen that pushes your main character across the first threshold.
Act II. The Middle: Confrontations happen, relationships deepen. A second threshold leads your story inevitably towards the climax.
Act III. The End: After that long awaited climax, pick up broken pieces and tie up loose ends for closure.
4. Maximize Word Count
Since writing an outline for your novel helps at the macro level, try it at the micro level as well: spend five minutes at the beginning of each writing session deciding and summarizing in a few sentences what will happen in the scene you’re about to write.
Basically, plan what you will write, then write it.
If you still feel stuck, read something awesome, something you love, something similar to the novel you’re writing, for inspiration. If you’re genuinely stuck, there are two common reasons:
1. There is something wrong with your plot/scene/character/story.
This is difficult to admit to yourself, but deep down in your gut you know that something in your novel or story isn’t working, and that’s why you’re resisting. Try to diagnose what is dragging you down, fix it (which may be hard work, but so worth it), and write on!
2. You are lazy. (We all are sometimes!)
Try forcing yourself to sit down and write for five minutes—tell yourself to just try it for five minutes—and often that’s all you need to get started.
Yes, you are brilliant and talented, but your first draft is nowhere close to its full potential. Before sending your completed NaNoWriMo draft to a beta reader or agent or publisher, read through it and fix things that need fixing, ideally several times. This may take months or even years, but you’ll be glad you did.
7. Know the Industry
Please do not self publish or query an agent until you’ve not only finished your novel, but made it as good as it can be. At that point, you’ll need to research and make decisions about publishing (self or traditional?) and querying agents. But you can worry about all that later—for now, plan a little before you write, have fun, and happy noveling!
Meet the Writer: Born and raised in Taipei, Taiwan, Yu-Han (Eugenia) Chao received her MFA in fiction from Penn State and teaches a novel writing class at The University of California, Merced. She made a yearly event of NaNoWriMo until she had a baby and no longer had time. Her stories have appeared in Bellevue Literary Review, Zyzzyva, and other venues. The Backwaters Press and Dancing Girl Press published her poetry books and chapbooks. Her website is www.yuhanchao.com.
Something else we love from Gandhi? This stunning Paperblanks Embellished Gandhi Manuscript Wrap Journal. – Makes a wonderful gift for aspiring masters!
Happy Weekend from the European Paper Company.
It’s October, finally. The swarm of back to school has abated—and perhaps made us a little nostalgic for long ago days of reading lists—and schedules are beginning to settle back into patterns. The weather is turning cooler, and rain pelts the window. In all, it’s the perfect time to curl up with a cup of tea (or something stronger) and a favorite book. It’s also National Reading Group Month and, we gotta say, sharing the joys of a great book with dear friends is almost enough to forgive the end of Daylight Savings Time.
Are you in a book club already? If not, why? Granted, sometimes book clubs get pegged as wine-sloshing gossip groups—we’ve gone to some like that, and they’re great fun—but they don’t have to be. Book clubs come in every style, from alumni reading groups led by professors, to re-reading children and young adult fiction from an adult perspective, from avant-garde sci fi to military history or memoirs. Just like there’s a book or genre for anyone, there’s also a book club.
Getting in to one—now, there’s the rub. If you’re looking for low initial commitment, we recommend checking out your local independent bookstore or public library. They often host public book clubs, providing the books in bulk (library) or even at a discount (bookstore). There’s seldom a need to RSVP or register; just slip into a chair to learn about and discuss Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone or Barbara Kingsolver’s latest. (See our list of some favorite indie bookstores and their reading groups below).
Other places to try would be that clearinghouse of social groups, meetup.com, or asking around at your office, gym, place of worship or favorite coffee shop. Someone has probably had this great collective reading impulse already, and it’s fairly simple to join a book club that’s already up and functioning; however, you’ll probably have to RSVP, perhaps provide snacks or take a turn leading, and it’s sometimes more difficult to make schedules align.
And if you’ve struck out at the coffee shop and the library? We suggest starting your own book club. It takes a little organization, but there’s also a lot more liberty in terms of location, reading specific genres, and so forth. Before you get started, take a few minutes and ponder what you want from your book club: do you want inciting commentary and scholarly contextualization or a reason to catch up over delicious desserts (or something in between)? To read the classics you only Cliff-noted in college or the fluffy summer fiction you missed? Do you want to read the collected works of one author? To reunite with old friends or get to know the neighbors better? Where will you meet, will you take turns leading and hosting with other members, and how large do you want the group to be (for meeting in a home or quiet cafe, 6-12 tends to be an ideal size)? Decide if you want refreshments and if they’ll be themed, homemade delectables, or simple cheese and crackers.
When you have a decent idea of what you want in terms of tone and theme, start floating it around your own social group and see who’s interested. Ask everyone to bring 2-3 book suggestions to a first, organizational meeting. Set some ground rules about how often (usually once a month) you’ll meet, where, and for how long. Discuss hosting and leading responsibilities as well. Ironing out a schedule can easily be the most difficult part of this process. Finally, discuss book suggestions and see if a clear favorite emerges for the next text. If not, take a vote, take turns or even toss them in a hat and draw the first few months’ of readings.
Next thing you know, you’ll be deep into plot points, authorial perspectives and crudités. You’ll be getting to know your books—and friends—more deeply, and what can better than that on a chilly autumnal evening?
To get off to the right start, you can shop book club tools that will keep you inspired, in-sync with your club, and organized. Try scheduling your chapters by due date in a new 2014 datebook. We’d recommend the planner+notes format - dates on the left, your thoughts of the book on the right. If you’d like to keep notes in an exclusive journal, you’ll love Paperblanks journals, with embellished manuscript covers from great authors like F. Scott Fitzgerald and other muses. If you’re into more of a polished/professional notebook, we’d recommend the Rhodia Webnotebook, Moleskine Classics, or the Blackwing Luxury Notebook. Of course, to write all your notes, you’ll love the Blackwing pencils, the preferred world-famous pencil of writers for it’s all around grace, smooth lead, and replaceable erasers. When you’re all wrapped up with your book, check out the unique format of the Moleskine Book Journal, an organized way to record your thoughts for an overall book review, with step by step prompts to draw the most out of your experience. To wrap it all up, carry your book club tool kit to your hip book club meetings in this uber-cool Moleskine Messenger Bag. With the right products, every page turn will bring your well-read adventures in your book club to life!
Here are some of our favorite indie bookstores (you can tell we spend more time in the West: what are your favorite East Coast and Southern bookshops?) and the reading groups they support:
Pasadena, CA: Vroman’s Bookstore
San Francisco, CA: Books, Inc.
Boulder, CO: Boulder Bookstore
Denver, CO: Tattered Cover
Washington, DC: Politics & Prose
Seattle, WA: Elliot Bay Books
Tell us: what is your book club currently reading?
Something else we love from Michelangelo? This stunning Paperblanks Embellished Michelangelo Manuscript Wrap Journal. – Makes a wonderful gift for aspiring masters!
We’re always up for a little office design inspiration! Check out Ana Reinert’s Well-Appointed Desk Pinterest board, and shop our favorite black and white desk must-haves:
1. Alwych All-Weather Cover Notebooks » 2. Moleskine Messenger Bag » 3. Cretacolor Black Tin Box Drawing Charcoal & Pencil Set » 4. OMG! Cavallini Eraser » 5. Rhodia Side Spiral Bound Polypro A5+ Meeting Book » 6. Blackwing Soft Graphite Pencils »