Hell Yeah Or No

I’ve been faced with a lot of choices in the past few months as I disengage from old projects and adopt new ones. (as an aside, there are few things as powerful as a world-wide epidemic to focus your attention on the truly important stuff.) I remembered a mantra from “back in the day” and hunted down the author.

Derek Sivers produced a lot of content, and one thing that stuck with me was his approach to projects. When approached with an idea, his response was either ‘Hell Yeah” or “No”. If he couldn’t get excited about the project in a major way (Hell Yeah!) then he turned it down. There was no middle ground. If he couldn’t get truly excited about a project, he didn’t do it.

I’ve adopted this mantra over the last few months as I evaluated the project lists I keep.

  • I was updating DougGreensGarden.com, but a quick analysis showed there were no tangible results other than better looking posts. Hell no.
  • The outlines for two other gardening books went into the same Hell no category.
  • Stone walls around the garden. Hell yeah
  • Stone walled compost bins. Yes.
  • Losing Covid’s weight gain. Hell yeah.
  • Learn yoga. Yes.
  • Read Durant’s ‘The Story of Civilization’ Finally!
  • Writing the fantasy bumping around in my head. Yes, indeed.
  • Writing fiction. Yes.
  • Posting garden notes when and if the spirit moves me rather than on a schedule. Hell yeah.
  • Feeling free to change my mind. You have to know that’s going to happen.
  • Feel guilty about abandoning other projects. Nope, no longer.

There’s more, but you get the idea. Unless the idea really charges up my creative urge, it’s not going to happen.

And in case, I slip into my old ways, my screen saver now reminds me with a ‘Hell Yeah or No!” message across the screen.

Check out his website, there are some classic posts there that may speak to you the same way “Hell Yeah or No,” just changed my creative direction.

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Trees and Writers Keep Growing Or Rot Inside


One of the hardest things a writer has to do is constantly outgrow their world.

The hard reality is it is only by recognizing multiple paths forward in both craft and creativity and abandoning old visions will a creator have room for innovation.

But the fan base you’ve built, those who’ve bought your work and paid the bills, those people don’t want you to change. Nope. Not a bit of it.

Here’s my dilemma, I can stay in the old way of doing things to make my fans happy or I can go all creative and make myself happy.

My guess is that by staying in one place — a safe place —I’m going to have to tell myself a story about how creative I am or how my work is “growing” somehow or how it’s helping so many people.

But deep down, in the corner of my soul, I’ll know I’ve compromised.

I like to tease my children about being on my 9th (or is this the 12th?) midlife crisis. But as my children also know, I reinvent myself with each change. From consultant to nurseryman, to award-winning, garden-writer to writing fiction to… (maybe stone carving or sculpture) I try to live the advice I pass along.

Note this is not the same thing as taking a job to pay the bills or writing at something while I create in other spaces. Those things are bread-of-life.

When I talk about taking creative leaps, I’m talking about soul-of-life.

Another way to imagine a creative career is to imagine a tree. A tree is an interesting life form and I like to think of an artistic career as a multi-branched tree with tons of big branches leading to smaller ones. When you get to the end of one, you get to find another, walking out the new branch to the very end as well.

But creativity, like a tree, is either growing or it is dying. And like a tree, it is either balanced in its growth or it falls over in a storm.

I also note trees take many years to die once they stop growing — mostly rotting from the inside. You see where I’m going with this?

I grow or I die as a creative person and without that active, visible growth showing in my work, I’m rotting away from the inside.

By the way, this is a tough one because there’s a real world out there where the bills have to be paid. But — nobody said following a creative dream was easy.

I wouldn’t want to do it if it were.

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You Want Free Beer or Free Speech With That?

Let’s look very briefly at free beer versus free speech concept where it’s applied to online content.

A brief summary is the concept of free speech (where you have access to a “right”) versus free beer (where you have open access to a “product”).

Net users have to decide if they’re happy with “free” all the time where the accuracy, honesty and availability is variable.

Or, whether they’ll look for good resources and pay for the information.

So What’s Free Speech or Free Beer Really Mean?

In the real world, any relationship only works when it’s a mutually helpful one.

If you choose to only use the “free” from a person without some reciprocation – (be it free online, always using the neighbour’s lawn mower, borrowing a tool without filling up the gas tank or cleaning it after use, hesitating to do the driving to hockey or basketball, never doing your share with neighbourhood cleanup, or never sharing really good wine with friends but always buying the cheap stuff) – then the relationship will weaken.

You’re a taker and not a giver. And we all know people like this.

Why Would This Differ In The Online World

The difference between the two is the online world is so much wider, with so many more resources you can find to use without paying anything for it – you’re getting free beer.

You can skip from resource to resource, always taking and never giving back.

But if you land on a resource and take advantage of it, then you run the risk of burning out the resource.  If enough people do this, the resource will simply pack up and move on.

We all know websites that have simply disappeared. They’re full of good advice one day and “site not found” the next.

But then again, that’s not your problem if you’re a taker.

You can simply move on to another free resource in the almost-limitless online world.

Bottom line:

Takers continue to take without regard for the resource.  The move on always looking for the free beer.

And the survival of those who create those resources are not their concern.

Hell of a way to live.

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How do you support the creators you enjoy? Or do you? Let’s talk about it in the comments below.

Review: Dragon Naturally Speaking Dictation Software

A year ago, I added a Dragon to my working repertoire. Before you raise your eyebrow at me, let me be clear I’m talking about Dragon Naturally Speaking the voice software recognition system. This software allows me to dictate words to a text editor rather than type them using my hands.

The Two Reasons I Started Voice Dictation

The main reason I added this software was to increase my word productivity. It’s that simple.

  • I wanted to produce more words, and
  • I wanted to do it safely and easily.

When it comes to producing words safely and easily, you may have questions. How hard and how dangerous can typing be? Well, when you’re producing over a half-million words a year, the issue is one of repetitive stress injury. I am reading about more and more writers who are struggling with finger and wrist problems and I’d rather not be included in their number.

My main concern was whether using software such as Dragon Naturally Speaking would increase my word count or whether it would be “one more thing” to complicate my life.

I Have Past Experience With The Mac Version

A few years ago, I installed this software on my Mac and it was an unmitigated disaster. The software was buggy, and after two weeks of trying to make it work, I gave up.

This time around, I did a significant amount of research about the topic, read some author blogs, listened to a few podcasts, and I even purchased an e-book. I was satisfied this software had developed enough to make it useful, but I took it one step further.

Even though I work on a Mac system, the recommendations were to use the Windows version of this software because the Mac version isn’t as good. (I don’t want to enter any conversation about whether Mac or Windows is better but in this case Windows wins any contest.)

The Technology

To run the Windows version of Dragon Naturally Speaking, it was necessary to first install a virtual machine on my iMac. While there are several options available, I went with software named Parallels.

After Parallels was installed, I then had to download and install Windows 10 to run the voice recognition software. With Parallels running Windows 10 I installed Dragon Naturally Speaking.

My Personal Reaction To This

  • Talking to a microphone instead of typing is an interesting change in work behavior. There are a few things that I need to do in order to become productive:
  • I need to relax when I’m talking.
  • I needed to work out a workflow so I know what I will talk about.
  • I need to learn the software commands so I can add it to the finish dictation and teach the software to be more efficient and accurate. I’m told I should be able to achieve a 98% accuracy rate after training.
  • I need to learn to know all the things I don’t know yet. Or, the things I don’t know I don’t know yet.

My personal sense of this is that I can type approximately 1000 words an hour of nonfiction. But I know 100 words is roughly one minute of a podcast. That means if I’m speaking at 100 words per minute, I’m producing significantly more words per hour than if I were typing them.

That assumes I can learn how to speak or create as fast by using my voice as I do when I am typing.

You’re seeing this in action, or rather reading the first output of this right now in this article. And it took approximately 20 minutes for me to dictate the (approx) 680 words.

Update After Several Months Between The Rough Article And Reality.

I confess that using Parallels running on a virtual machine on my Mac, was clumsy and while the software itself worked well, I decided I wanted something that would run as a native program. Frankly, I also resented paying $100 a year for the Parallels software. I did not try any other virtual machine and I did not use the Mac System of installing windows. Either of those two options would not have given me a native and smooth transition.

My biggest mistake in 2018

I then made a serious error in judgment. I purchased Dragon Naturally Speaking for the Mac.

For the life of me, I cannot see how any company can put out a product so bad, and one that is so buggy and full of errors as to make it unusable, and charge money for it. I reviewed it on Amazon, which is where I bought it, and my only regret is that I had to give it one star– I could not give it zero.

UPDATE:

Nuance — the makers of Dragon — have discontinued the updating of Dragon for Mac. Those of us who own the software may continue using it but it is no longer supported. There will be no new versions.

Side by Side Tests:

I will not post the data here, but I then ran a series of the side by side tests with Dragon Naturally Speaking versus the native Apple Dictate. (if you have a Mac, enable Voice Dictation in System Preferences>Accessibility and then press the function key twice to enable Dictate and again to close it.)

I found the Apple software to be as good as, if not slightly better than the Mac Dragon. But it’s not ready for a writer’s demands as it still makes too many mistakes.

The only advantage the Dragon had was that it would do transcription from my iphone recording software Voice Record Pro. I note the transcription on the Mac was as bad as the direct dictation results.

The Windows version works fine from transcription.

Moving Forward

I am committed to a dictation software system.

There’s a learning curve to dictating and the best advice I can give you is to “just do it.” Cut yourself off from the keyboard and rely on the dictation system for the rough words. Use the keyboard for editing.

Check out Scott Baker’s page as he’s one of the experts in using this software.

He’s written a book here on Amazon (not affiliate link)

Before you buy, ensure your computer has the technical requirements to run the software. Seriously — do not screw up here as Dragon is a power hog.

My Current Work System

Given that I write for a living, and that it is important to me to push the words out:

I bought a Windows laptop,

Installed Dragon and use the laptop as a dictating system.

Cut and paste the words into Evernote to easily transfer it to my working Mac (and Vellum for layout if needed.

Update again (May 2020)

I now use an iPhone app called Just Press Record It works well enough, is really inexpensive compared to Dragon. I dictate, share/upload to Evernote inside the app and then copy/paste from Evernote to Scrivener.

Scrivener Software Issue

Scrivener is my writer’s word processor and for large projects it can’t be beat but…

I also experimented with dictating into the current version of Scrivener for Windows, saving to Dropbox and then opening it on my Mac.

But the Mac and Windows versions of Scrivener are no longer compatible. If you open a Windows Scrivener file on your Mac, the software modifies it such that Windows can’t open it again. That’s why I moved to transferring files via Evernote. (As of June ‘19)

Bottom Line:

If you’re looking for a serious productivity improvement as a writer, dictation software is the way to go but the state of the art is in flux.

Update March ’21

I’m now using the native Mac dictation that’s available by pressing the Function key (fn) twice. It works well enough for first drafts.

I continue to use the Just Press Record if I’m using my iphone for notes.

Divorce The Enjoyment Of The Creative Act…

You have to divorce the enjoyment of the creative act from the business and outcome of that creation. That image really says it all.

But every now and then I have to pull myself up short to remind myself I am a writer. A storyteller.

And if I’m not enjoying being a writer and telling stories, I’m doing something wrong.

If I’m honest with myself, most of the problem lies between my ears.

When I find myself planning what I’m doing based on a desired outcome rather than the sheer joy of telling a story, it’s time take a deep breath and sort “stuff” out.

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Your Author Website Does Two Critical Things

Your author website fills two important functions in your career. These are (imho) general principles and while I know of authors who are breaking both of them, they hold true for the average writer.

Author Websites Aren’t Sales Systems

Author websites aren’t book selling machines. Seriously, there’s a lot of work and potential hassle to set up a system to sell your own books. Not only is the selling part technologically “interesting” but you’ll also be your own support system when a reader can’t get the ebook into their reader or can’t find the download on their computer (seriously, been there and helped with that.)

From a business standpoint, I think authors have to focus on the important thing – the words. That’s where the money is – more words.

When we get sidetracked into “maximizing” profits or doing tech stuff or social media recommended by gurus, our productivity goes down. And those recommendations are the “sexy” stuff rather than the slogging for days and weeks to write a book you can be proud of.

ps. But, it you think you’ll make more money and want to do this, BookFunnel has what I think is the simplest system I’ve seen.

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What Purpose Does An Author Website Serve?

I believe they are anchors to display your humanity and competence.

To achieve those two objectives, you can:

  • post some examples of your work and
  • write posts about things that matter to your reader and to yourself.

To the extent your author blog does these two thing, you as an author can be satisfied.

But Never Forget

It’s easy to be sucked into the black hole of technology (raises hand with guilty look on face) and think you’re moving forward when you’re really treading water.

Write, I tell myself every morning. Just write

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