Clickhole: “We Asked 8 Famous Authors For The Most Important Advice They’d Give To Young Writers”

Donna Tartt: “When you first start writing, it’s tempting to make every character Tom Hanks. I know I wrote at least a hundred stories where all the characters were Tom Hanks, because I thought that was ‘real’ or ‘authentic’ or something. But it wasn’t. In real life, most people aren’t Tom Hanks. They’re other people, except for the one guy who is Tom Hanks. Be honest in your writing, and limit yourself to one Tom Hanks character.”

We Asked 8 Famous Authors For The Most Important Advice They’d Give to Young Writers – no author listed, ClickHole (3 June 2015)

If you don’t already know or can’t already guess, Clickhole is a parody of sites like Buzzfeed.Read the full piece.

One law for rich and poor alike

The story about how rich kids profit from the way they use the internet and poorer kids don’t just puts me in mind of a saying that we all tend to get wrong.

This is how we think it goes: “One law for the rich and one law for the poor”. Meaning, we believe, that there is a different law for each. We can discuss whether that’s true but we would struggle to doubt it.

But the original line is starker and I think far, far nastier. It goes:

In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread.

Le Lys Rouge [The Red Lily] – Anatole France, poet (1894)

Clever software gone stupid

Stupid is a harsh word. But a thing happened today that tells me I shouldn’t rely on software as much as I do.

Last night I was at a party with Angela and at various points we were talking with a particularly funny, fine guy. He gave Angela his card and this morning she typed up his details into Contacts on her iPhone and sent him a nice note.

Aha, says I, there’s a way to save that typing. I gets out my iPhone, open Evernote, take a photo of the man’s business card and, wallop, it’s done. Every detail off that card read and popped into an Evernote document. Name, phone number, address, email, the lot. It is brilliant.

But not quite brilliant enough.

Much as I use Evernote all day long, it is a fat lot of good having someone’s details in there and not in my Contacts address book. Can you get that data out of Evernote? Presumably yes, apparently yes, but I couldn’t.

I found a button that seemed to suggest it would send the details off to my Contacts so I tapped on that.

And instead it sent my details off to my contacts.

This man who had talked more with Angela than he had with me, who had given her his card and not me, now got an extremely terse email from Evernote listing my contact details. Nothing else. No message. Just name, number, email.

Fortunately he used the email and replied or I wouldn’t have even noticed. I was able to send him a non-terse message even as I was saying something very terse to Evernote.

Don’t ask for permission

There’s the old idea in writing and possibly most of all in journalism: don’t ask for permission first, just do it and apologise afterwards if you’re caught. But there is another thing you can do that avoids the pitfall of permission and the way that abdicates your responsibility to whoever said yes. There is another thing that takes this lack of permission and produces productive results:

Instead of higher-ups making decisions, often far removed from the real problems that team members face, you give the decision making power to those that are closest to the problem.

24 People, No Managers: Our New Experiment in Getting Work Done at Buffer – Leo Widrich, Buffer (6 October 2014)

I’m not sure that gives you the whole picture. But then the full piece goes into a lot more detail than I think you need. So here’s the halfway skinny: don’t ask for permission but do ask for advice.

Buffer is a technology company and author Widrich details how they go about making decisions on the way from idea to product. It’s rather empowering: have a read.

Also a hat nod to 99U for their take on this.

Not convinced: making Mondays better

I do like Mondays. I think you can finally get to do some serious work and all the things you’ve thought up over the weekend now snap into action. But there’s this fella who has more specific motivational ideas about making your Monday fantastic.

They’re a bit saccharine for me, bu he says that the most successful people begin their Monday in specific ways starting with:

They start with a positive attitude.

So much time and energy is used up by a bad mood. Super productive people don’t like to waste any energy and they certainly don’t want the week to lag from a bad start. They focus their mind on joyful productivity from the moment their feet hit the ground in the morning. They revel in the excitement of what they can accomplish. Instead of lamenting going to work, focus on where you truly want to be and what will take you forward.

5 Simple Things Super Productive People Do on Monday – Kevin Daum, (9 March 2015)

Read the whole piece for more.

“No Meeting Wednesdays” and other good advice

Dustin Moskovitz, the co-founder and CEO of Asana and former co-founder of Facebook holds, “No Meeting Wednesday’s.”

Moskovitz says that, “No Meeting Wednesdays” is something he borrowed from Facebook. “With very few exceptions, everyone’s calendar is completely clear at least one day out of the week whether you are a maker or manager.” He goes on to explain, “this is an invaluable tool for ensuring you have some contiguous space to do project work. For me personally, it is often the one day each week I get to code.”

He explains further in a internal document you can read the full post here.

Tech CEOs Favorite Productivity Hacks – Julie Bort, Business Insider

I think this is my favourite of all the advice in Julie Bort’s Business Insider article – and not just because today is Wednesday. (I do have meetings today, by the way.) But she’s collected productivity tips from many CEOs and while they’re all bosses of technology companies so, as you’d expect, tech tips score heavily with this group, there is much for everyone. Read the full piece.

Career advice from successful women

I hesitated over that headline because I think this collection of quotes is smart advice for anyone and so surely the gender of the speakers makes no difference. But some of it does address issues that especially affect women, such as sexism in the workplace.

Also, the more I thought about it, the less I thought it was necessary to use the word career in the headline. This is all ostensibly about work and careers and business but I’m taking general life lessons from it.

Actually, what exactly does successful mean either? If it means being successful at being a woman then if you’re a woman, success. I’m a man, so I’ve failed already.

And if I were the type of man who ignored advice because it’s from a woman, I would truly be a failure then. So I’m taking this advice.

I just suspect the better headline would therefore have been “Advice From”.

It’s Advice From a longish blog post that specifies it has 15 such tips, though I note they come from only 11 women: Tina Fey gets quoted four times. But my favourite of them all and the one I think is most relevant to us as writers is one of hers in which she says:

The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready; it goes on because it’s 11:30…What I learned about bombing as a writer at Saturday Night is that you can’t be too worried about your “permanent record.” Yes, you’re going to write some sketches that you love and are proud of forever—your golden nuggets. But you’re also going to write some real shit nuggets. And unfortunately, sometimes the shit nuggets will make it onto the air. You can’t worry about it. As long as you know the difference, you can go back to panning for gold on Monday.

Tina Fey quoted in 15 Career Tips from Smart Women – Joanna Goddard, A Cup of Jo (16 September 2014)

Do go read the other 14. They are smart quotes. But then also go buy Tina Fey’s book Bossypants: I’ve never met Fey and don’t really know her work beyond a few episodes of 30 Rock yet the book feels like she’s sitting there with you telling you these great stories. Fantastic writing style and a huge amount to say.

Making email addresses as secure as passwords

I do know someone who deliberately picked a hard-to-remember email address, something like because that looked professional. No, I have not one single idea either. I’d email to ask her why, but I can’t remember her address.

However, friend-of-the-blog Daniel Hardy has spotted another, better, easier-to-do way of making an address that’s hard to guess. Easy to remember, hard to guess. He tweeted:

I remember you saying you use this to combat spam, turns out it’s good for security too
Tweet – Daniel Hardy (3 September 2014)

The thing I’d use to counter spam was creating sort-of fake email addresses. They’re only sort-of fake because they really work. But they’re not your real one. What I really recommend is getting your own domain name so that you can make up any address, any time. So I might sign up for Tesco with an address of and it will work. But should Tesco ever sell out its email address to, say, an alien invasion force from beyond the stars, I can just block anything sent to

But there is now also a very smart way to do this without the trouble of getting your own domain name. If you’re a Gmail user and your address is, say, then you can give Tesco the address and it will work. It will work, the fine people at Tesco will be able to email you whatever it is they burn to email you, but at any time you can nobble this new address. And at no time do they know your real one.

Dan saw this on The Verge which goes on to say:

Now, this is not a security panacea by any stretch. You should still be using a password manager to help you keep track of all your different passwords — and now, different email addresses. If you forget the specific email address you’re using, you’re even more out of luck than you are if you forget your password. If you don’t even know the email address you registered with, you won’t be able to even get to those security questions. I personally use 1Password, which I like because it securely stores my data in the cloud (yes, there is an irony there), but there are others like LastPass that seem generally trustworthy.

How to make your email address as hard to guess as your password – Dieter Bohn, The Verge (September 3, 2014)

The full piece does cover the times that this can’t work. And while this particular trick is specific to Gmail, the piece goes on to at least begin covering some similar things you can do with Outlook and others.