Do you think you’re losing your memory?

A few weeks ago, I questioned whether I was losing my memory. I’d do a task on my website and the next day I’d take a look to do it again, only to surprise myself that it had been done.

This wasn’t good news and for a few days I was quite shaken., I have a family history of Alzheimer’s and this might be a warning shot across the bow. But then I read a similar story from Copyblogger about eroding attention span and thought about this.

Two days later, I ran an impromptu test by asking myself to name just two of the titles I’d just read through my rss feed not two minutes before.

I couldn’t.

Oh crap! (That’s not what I really said but this is a family friendly writer)

I thought about this for a few days. I made notes to myself about the kinds of things I remember and what I forget and thought about it some more.

Internet Attention Deficit Syndrome

The bottom line is I clearly have Internet Attention Deficit Syndrome. A condition caused by trying to jam far too many unrelated items of news and information into my brain on a daily or even hourly basis.

I’m not sure any of us are meant to emulate a computer with all that data going into our memory banks. And while I’m sure it’s in my head somewhere, the problem is that I haven’t related the new information to anything else so that giant connected 4-d spider web we call memory is not functioning the way it was designed to do. It’s filled with irrelevancies and single unconnected facts.

I have to remind myself, my brain isn’t an “it’s overloaded” but rather I’m overloaded”.

I’m not really losing my memory, I’m simply overloaded. (Yes, I do repeat this to myself when I start worrying.)

Research On Aging Shows

Aging research shows that adults only slow down in memory responses because we relate everything to everything else in our brains and there’s just that much more inside us to access. It’s not we forget, it’s that it takes longer for the processes to work. Dr. Michael Ramscar wrote this as part of the abstract for a much longer study report:

”Rather the results suggested that older adults’ performance might result from applying a strategy that may have been shaped by their wealth of real-word decision-making experience. While this strategy is likely to be effective in the real world, it is ill suited to some decision environments. These results underscore the importance of taking into account effects of experience in aging studies, even for tasks that do not obviously tap past experiences.”

Personally Speaking

From a personal point of view, this means I’ll remember better if I’m more selective about what I read. Rather than trying to inject it with a firehose, I’m working to set up a selective system with fewer but richer resources.

It might be compared to building rock walls. Instead of taking a full truckload of rock and gravel, I’ll only take the larger rocks to build my walls. I’ll let the gravel stay in the quarry (or Internet) rather than in my working space (brain).

Digital Minimalism

It’s called digital minimalism and here’s a quick primer on how to transition to it. (link is to blog post but the book — link on his site — is excellent)

After six months with increasing amounts of minimalism, I’m feeling human and competent again. I’m one of those works in progress we like to confess to rather than the painful truth of not having done anything significant.

I’m now quite selective about who I read and listen to.

Pruning The Voices

Slowly but surely I’ve been pruning out words and authors that don’t inspire me or that are repetitive in their work.

I’ve deleted paid memberships in three online sites. I have none left.

I only take courses with limited duration and the specific training tasks I need.

My RSS feeds have been decimated with entire sections deleted.

My email subscription folder looks like a ghost town.

Note this isn’t a one time pruning. I constantly find new authors and new inputs and my feeds slowly increase over time. But now, I take a few minutes every month to prune newsletters and rss feeds to focus only on those that meet my current needs.

Curated Newsletters

My preferred reading now is via a curated newsletter and I’m intrigued and interested in those. I take very few straight newsletters anymore.

I also have a stack of books (this is another addiction I’m working on and will report back about) on a side table in the living room waiting for me to read.

Bottom Line On Losing Your Memory

I’ll have to get back to you with more memory research you can use. Consider this a first step.

What I can tell you is I feel much better already with the reduced information flow.

My info-stream is a richer flow with more useful and interesting information and far fewer bits of flotsam and jetsam.

The effect of my meditations last longer before I feel my body ramping back up.

I’m not as stressed about current affairs (having stopped constantly updating the feed and avoiding the current outrage-du-jour.)

And yes, my memory is fine. Thanks for asking.

Click here to join me as I explore the Net and Aging (and anything else that strikes me as interesting)

7 Books That Made Me A Full Time Writer

My passion for collecting and reading books knows no bounds

My passion for collecting and reading books almost knows no bounds and my wife and I haunt used bookstores and antique stores looking to fill in gaps in my collections. I have entire bookcases of history and science fiction books, and I’m only missing one or two titles in both the Hardy boys and Tom Swift Junior series to complete both.

As a full-time garden writer, my collection of old and valuable gardening books allowed me to write an award winning book about older garden books and their advice. I note I started collecting when prices were more reasonable than they are today.

But as a full-time writer for the last 25 years, I only have 15 books on writing.

The 7 books below are the most read, reread and marked up.

“On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft”

Stephen King

This appears to be everybody’s favorite book for writers and prospective writers. I own a copy I’ve read it and yes, it’s motivating. It may not be one of my favorites and I can’t say my writing is better because I read it. But I’m drawn to it again and again and that may be its greatest benefit — an ongoing reminder of what it is like to be a writer.

Favourite Quote

“This is a short book because most books about writing are filled with bullshit. Fiction writers, present company included, little understand very much about what they do — not why it works when it’s good, nor why it doesn’t when it’s bad. I figured the shorter the book, the less the bullshit.”

I admire anybody who’d start a book off like that.

“Zen in the Art of Writing”

Ray Bradbury

This is an excellent book aimed at motivating writers and “how-to-be a better writer”. Bradbury’s use of the exercise of collecting words and making lists of them alone and in combination have driven some of his best writing. He describes taking several of these word lists as he combined words and produced classic stories. I note if you don’t want to collect the words yourself and do the exercise of associating them, you can download the app “Brainstormer” (to Apple App Store)

Bradbury is the writer I’d like to be ‘when I grow up’. He’s written everything from pulp magazines and books to movies and theatre and is likely best known for Fahrenheit 451.

Favorite Quote

“Thomas Wolfe ate the world and vomited lava. Dickens dined at a different table every hour of his life. Molière, tasting society, turned to pick up his scalpel, as did Pope and shop. Everywhere you look in the literary cosmos, the great ones are busy loving and hating. Have you given up this primary business as obsolete in your own writing? What fun you are missing them.”

“Creating Short Fiction”

Damon Knight

If you’re at all interested in writing short stories, this would be my most highly recommended book. Knight leads you through story building, situations, characters, and if you’ll come away from this 197 page book with a far better understanding of how to craft a short story.

Favorite Quote

“The most valuable thing you can learn is how to use your own experiences that help you project yourself in imagination into the lives of other people. Write what you know, by all means, when you can, but fill in the spaces by finding out what you need to know.”

“The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller”

John Truby

This is perhaps my most marked up book with a significant number of Post-it notes and do-not-lose-this page notes. The one thing that he does is give you a 22 step story structure and while this is essentially a movie structure it is easily adaptable for novels. I note other how-to-write authors are adapting what he’s written to their own how-to books.

Favorite Quote

“Remember the simple rule of thumb: to have a moral need, the character must be hurting at least one other person at the beginning of the story.”

Writing Tools: 55 Essential Strategies for Every Writer

Roy Peter Clark

Again I’ve heavily marked up and made notes in my copy of this book. I consider it one book you should seriously add to your library.

Favorite Quote

“Active verbs move the action and reveal the actors.
Passive verbs emphasize the receiver, the victim.
The verb “to be” links words and ideas.”

That pretty much sums up that issue.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print.

Rennie Brown and David King

This was one of the first how-to books on writing that a friend recommended I read. The highlights in this book are the numerous checklists and exercises. 
Before you get to your third and final draft, it’s an excellent idea to review this book and apply its lessons.

Favorite Quote

“So when you come across an explanation of a characters emotion, simply cut the explanation. If the emotion is still shown, then the explanation wasn’t needed. If the emotion isn’t shown, rewrite the passage so that it is.”

Techniques Of The Selling Writer

Dwight V. Swain.

From the back cover: “This book provides solid instruction for persons who want to write and sell fiction, not just to talk and study about it.”

This is an excellent book for structuring your stories and for understanding what makes a story and how you go about creating it.

Favorite Quote

“Actually, the happy ending is infinitely less important than the satisfying ending. Given reader fulfillment, you don’t necessarily have to close with a clinch, the Marines landing, or the villain snarling, “foiled again!”
Forget the phony, therefore. Distortion of reality will get you nowhere. What your reader seeks is less nirvana than the feeling, “this is as it should be.”

Again, while I have other books about writing on my shelves including Robert Mckee’s “Story”, “The Chicago Manual of Style”, and an old copy of Strunk and White, the seven books above have formed the foundation for my writing career.

I hope they help you as well.

You can get updates whenever I post something new. Click here.

You Read How Many Books?

I’ve accidentally discovered the newest form of competition among the younger high-performing set. They read books. A lot of books.

And they blog, podcast and share those titles.

When I first started listening to some of these folks on podcasts, I have to confess I felt quite inadequate. So I upped my game.

Understand I have always read a lot of books (at least one a week) but many of those aren’t heavy-duty, non-fiction or self-help tomes. They tend towards science fiction and other stories.

But this week, with a growing stack of books on the coffee table in front of me, I had to rethink this. I’d just read a fun book on creativity (Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert) and I wanted to think about it for a bit. I wanted to absorb some of her notes and think about them. But there’s another “creative lifestyle” book sitting there and I’d also finished one just ahead of hers.

He takes a short break to make and start sipping on a cup of coffee (this writer is sometimes fueled with the stuff). I digress…

How can I absorb the last two books and run some experiments, change up a few things and take more creative control if I’m reading yet another book on the subject. It’s like my shopping bags are already filled. Both arms and pockets are full and the only way I can add more is if I dump something from the existing load.

Without taking the time to absorb and practice what excited me about those two books (and I may now have to reread the first one) I’m just paying lip service to having read them.

So what’s the point of all this? It seems to me, having read a book one must acknowledge the time it takes to incorporate those behaviors into your life.

Or, decide there’s little there and move on.

You can decide to be a browser or you can decide to be a change agent.

Browsing is non-threatening. It’s safe and easy. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s a How To Grow Tomato Book or a book on creativity such as Gilbert’s.

What’s hard is taking the lessons, applying them and accepting the outcomes — be they good or bad — as your own.

Or continue to browse, read a great many books and pretend you’re learning something.

That’s Harsh?

You think? Imagine reading two self-help books in a row.

Could you tell me right after reading the second what behaviors from the first you’re going to change?

And how effective do you think you’d be?

So Yes

Color me a skeptic right about now.

Many of these productivity and self-improvement gurus have the patter down, have the background info but really, there’s not a chance in hell they’re really moving forward on a weekly basis using all the stuff they’re talking and writing about.

My Takeaway

Is to relax.

Stay curious.

Find your own pace and remember that creating a life is about you making choices, not what the gurus are promoting for flavor of the week.

Keep moving forward.

Book Review: The End of Alzheimer’s

“The first program to prevent and reverse cognitive decline”

I won’t bore you with the statistics about Alzheimer’s disease, suffice to say the numbers are growing and as the baby boomer generation approaches the age when Alzheimer’s begins to emerge, the numbers will be horrifyingly large.

From a personal point of view, I am within that baby boomer generation and to make matters worse, Alzheimer’s runs on one side of my family. As you might imagine, this has sharpened my focus on the disease and the prevention of it. So when I saw this book pop up on Amazon, there was no question that I was going to buy it. And, I am delighted that I did.

A very quick summary would be that Dr. Bredesen, in his lab at UCLA, has identified 36 molecular variables that can, when combined, create Alzheimer’s in any individual. Those of us with a genetic predisposition will be more likely to have some of these variables go active.

The important thing about this book is that it is scientifically, testable, and all 36 variables can be measured.

And once measured, solutions to all of these can be found.

Table Of Contents

Part One: The Alzheimer’s Solution

1: Disrupting dementia
2: Patient zero
3: How does it feel to come back from dementia?
4: How to give your self Alzheimer’s: a primer

Part Two: Deconstructing Alzheimer’s

5: Wit’s End: from bedside to bench and back
6: The God Gene: three types of Alzheimer’s disease.

Part Three: Evaluation and Personalized Therapeutics

7: The Cognoscopy: where do you stand?
8: ReCode: reversing cognitive decline
9: Success and the social network: to people’s daily routines.

Part Four: Maximizing Success

10: Putting it all together: you can do it
11: This is not easy — workarounds and crutches
12: Resistance to change

And not to put too fine a point on it, there are a great many other things that Radisson agrees with traditional medicine when he says that controlling variables such as stress, and a regular exercise program are critical in pushing back against Alzheimer’s.

Personal Note re Alzheimer’s:

Having all of the tests done is expensive. ($C 4K in 2018) But, given my family history, I took the money and on a recent trip to the US, I worked with a functional medicine physician and had the tests done. Note while I went “all in” my physician indicated there were some that “might’ be avoided because of the cost.

I am not able to describe the feeling of relief when the tests came back with few problem areas.

To be sure, there were some things that needed improvement but I was under the number of variables that indicated the disease was well established. And, by adding three supplements to my daily list, I could drive the test results to almost zero.

But what this means is that I have to maintain my fitness regime, my meditating, and have this testing done every few years to ensure I’m still on track to avoid mental degradation.

You can read the reviews and find the book here on Amazon

I note that fitness and meditation are recommended for a wide variety of anti-aging medical conditions.

From my point of view, the $4K was money well spent. And I know my mom would approve. (at 91, she’s had Alzheimer’s of increasing severity for over 16 years now and is in a nursing home) I do not want to go down that road and if you’ve ever had one of your loved ones take this journey, you too will recognize what level of commitment you’d make to avoid it for yourself.

The bottom line is that I would recommend this book highly to both potential patients and their families.

For more book reviews and posts about books, click here

If This Was My Last Day

What five things would I do?

If this were my last day, what five things would earn a place in those precious hours.

  • I’d take a walk along the road leading to the woods where owls hang out.
  • I’d play with my grandchildren and tell them stories either in person or over the Net.
  • I’d sit on the dock in the afternoon to reflect and record notes about my life.
  • I’d go for a swim and watch the sun go down while sitting on the dock.
  • I would eat unlimited amounts of butterscotch ice cream.

And you? What would you do?

I Think My Brain Took A Holiday

It’s been 10 months now since we took a speed-run north to shelter against Covid in our Canadian home.

And it’s been a spectacularly unproductive time for me as a writer. I’ve had lots of ideas and lots of time but the motivation to sit for hours and crank out the words just wasn’t there. One peek at the headlines and I was done for the day.

As an aside, I’m a compulsive reader and news junkie and I’m really working to stop “doomscrolling.” Given the worldwide headlines, and the fodder that gave me for stories, I was overwhelmed.

Two weeks ago, my brain “apparently” went into gear and redesigned my writing life. I say “apparently” because warning bells started going off yesterday as I was reviewing some of my book stats. There was something not quite right in my writing universe.

(Ever get that tingling in your back/neck that says, “somethings wrong!” Well, I often have my creative muse do that – but this time it was screaming and banging at the back of my head to get my attention.)

Update: OK – the small child won.

This is now a full bore writer’s blog with every fiction genre included as well as my personal blog. There are some times when I should really listen to my inner child and after trying to “fix” some stuff – I realized it was right.

I can spend my life coding or I can spend it sharing stories and thoughts as simply as possible. One site to rule them all… hmm, nice line – I wonder where I got that idea? 🙂

I Did What?

Seriously, I reorganized my writing life? And I did it when?

Who Was In Charge Last Week?

Turns out the inner-child in me was in charge and decided things needed shaking up. An impish grin filled my mind and all I could do was shake my head, rein in that curious lad and investigate what he’d done in my adult-absence.

  • He’d left my gardening sites and ebooks alone. (Thank goodness for small mercies!)
  • He’d taken this site intending to make it a fiction site.
  • And he started an entirely new site for this blog
  • He started a new website for fantasy fiction but did leave the old one for other fiction.

So while some of his ideas were interesting and had some merit, the adult in me is back in charge.

This is my blog.

I’ll be writing about a wide range of things – from issues for writers, for seniors, and for sharing about whatever happens to get through my new filters. (I had to install new info-filters to weed out all the crap that’s out there.)

You can get updates for this blog (about writing, aging research, longevity, and whatever comes across my mind in creative living.)

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