Book recommendation: The Blank Screen

Earlier this week I sort-of recommended David Allen’s book (and accompanying cult) Getting Things Done. But amongst all the praise I had and have for it, I said this:

Getting Things Done (UK edition, US edition) is a self-help book by David Allen. The strange things first: it was written in 2001 and you will be amazed how long ago that seems. (Example: Allen talks a lot about how, for instance, you obviously can’t access the internet unless you’re in your office. It’s practically Victorian.) Also, it feels as if Allen is focusing on office workers and people who may do fantastic things but aren’t the kind of messy-minded creatives that writers are.

Getting Things Done – book (half) recommendation – William Gallagher, The Blank Screen (24 June 2014)

No question: my own productivity techniques owe a huge amount to Getting Things Done and in fact I credit David Allen extensively in my book. But The Blank Screen is written for us writers. I know normal people will get a lot from it too, but it’s written for us. So it’s about coping with the kinds of things we have to cope with – how to be productive when no editor ever bleedin’ phones us back productively – and it’s very much about making more of your computer. Jonathan Davidson of Writing West Midlands (a truly fine charity without whom The Blank Screen wouldn’t exist and which you should definitely be supporting, please) said this to me once:

Writers were the first to go digital.

He means it and he is damn right. We went digital back in the 1980s when we saw, we understood and by hell we coveted word processors. The rest of the world that is now so mad keen on digital, they’re just catching us up as best they can.

I’m just not sure they all come with our writer neuroses. That’s another big issue with us: we have to battle the curse of ourselves as well as the curse of other people when we’re trying to make our way as working writers. That’s something The Blank Screen is riddled with.

And the book also has one especially popular chapter on specifically how to cope when you either have too much work or you don’t have any at all. Those are both crippling for writers and we get them all the time. I suppose I should try to flog you that chapter, but I’ve seen how it helps people: I want it to help you too. So go on, since it’s you: download the free chapter, Bad Days, from The Blank Screen. If there’s someone you know it will help too, give them the link.

There comes a point when my free Bad Days chapter has solved that time when you are so fraught you have to hold your chest and breathe slowly, when you’ve passed it to other people and been thanked for how it’s done the same for them, and when you should really be buying the book.

The Blank Screen is on Kindle and iBooks plus – my favourite – it’s in paperback. Seriously, check out the free and complete Bad Days chapter but then:

The Blank Screen is on Amazon UK (Kindle and Paperback)
The Blank Screen is on Amazon USA (Kindle and Paperback)

And it’s a rather gorgeous iBook too.

One thing. I’m saying this to you today because I do want to celebrate a little milestone. You’re reading the 600th article on The Blank Screen website and I’m rather proud of how this spin-off from the book has become a productivity resource of its own. I do hope you keep reading and I hope that you enjoy it.

Distraction-free writing with Noisli

You may never have seen such a brightly-coloured screen for writing. Wait. You may never have seen such a gently soft and reassuring – no, it’s bright again, hang on, now a kind of brown? Whoa, yellow.

Noisli is a web-based text editor that deliberately throws distracting colour changes at you and optionally adds in noises. Oooh, I like this blue. Cyan now. Not so keen on green.

You’re not supposed to so consciously notice the colour changes, it’s really intended to be a purposeful distraction. Especially with the sounds on, Noisli helps you focus on your writing by slipping background noise into your noggin. Just enough. It appears that we work better when there is something going on, just a little something, than when we work in total silence.

It works, too. I really don’t like the yellow but most of the colours that come by as you type are quite restful or quite sparking, quite energising.

I’ve played with the sound of rain but there is also lightning, waves, lots of things I don’t understand from the icons.

There’s just one thing to note: as the website itself says, this is in beta. Your work should be saved but do yourself a favour for now and copy the text out to somewhere else every now and again. And go have a play with Noisli.