LEARN – to organize your life

learn kékIt all began with finding out that personal organizers are available in small, pocket size. I used to have one in A5 size back in high school, but then I already had a school bag packed with books that I had to carry around, so it was not such a huge extra. Then I grew up, started to work and wear chic bags (well, chicer than a school bag anyway) where an organizer does not fit. I am also very modern, so who needs paper-based stuff these days? When you have a Google Calendar, tons of task apps, note apps, reminder apps and whatnot to remember everything for you?

It turns out, I do. Task apps simply do not satisfy all my needs for constantly organizing, reorganizing, and replanning my life, not to mention the countless occasions when I need to jot down something quickly, usually longer than a few words. Writing down an idea for, say, my book or my blog, using my smart phone is horror. It takes tons of time and cursing as the software tries to guess the words I need. I might never have found out the most practical way to handle these problems without this post, which changed my life in many ways. My tasks and deadlines don’t stress me the way they used to and my future ideas all have their blank space to fall into.

 

Filó fotó

I (yes, I!) have even bought fancy-looking paper and cut out the dividers, then I added little icons (cut out and glued on with my own hands) to maximize transparency and my eagerness to check the thing every now and then. I have

  • a calendar section more for tasks than for events (for that purpose, Google Calendar works just fine)
  • another task section for to-dos that don’t claim a spot in my calendar (yet)
  • a ‘check this out every day’ section with positive sentences (call me a dreamer but it works), my short-, mid-, and long-term goals, stuff I should do every morning/day/evening (habits being born), and quotes I think are worth re-reading every once in a while
  • and of course, the section for notes, a new page for each topic of my life.

The result? Less freaking out from those lurking little thoughts at the back of my mind – you know, the feeling when you know you are forgetting something, but you have no idea what. I know how each of my tasks relate to the goals I set for the week/month/year/life and see this at once thanks to the colour marks. It all suits my life perfectly and I can change it anytime when something in my life changes.

Does it take time? Yes. Does it take less time and worrying than keeping things in mind or in apps and on notes lying around? Definitely. 🙂

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The power of praise

write narancsReaders return regularly to your blog if you write regularly. Always publish your posts on the same days so that your readers know what to expect and even look forward to your posts. If you want a popular, visited blog, write frequently… etc etc. I know all this. From time to time I even decide to publish, say, every Monday and Wednesday. Or every Tuesday. Then, I do for a while. Then, I don’t any more.
In December, when I realized that I had once again failed in keeping to my well planned schedule, I made another decision. I felt the urge to publish a few things here, but I resisted. I made a resolution to make a blog calendar and not publish anything until I have at least 30 days worth of posts or at least post ideas and I would always be far far ahead with my plans, so that I would never miss a day again. I did make plans and I have prepared that calendar, but 30 days are a long time and a lot of posts and I never got that far. And I know it’s new year and all, but I have now made another decision.
But before I tell you what I decided, here is what led me to this. A few days ago we were out with some friends, drinking, chatting, and someone I had not seen for a while started praising my blog, my writing, my English. I didn’t even know he had ever read it and suddenly there he was saying things that would have made me blush if I hadn’t already from the rosé. It has been bugging me ever since, it would not go out of my head, a little voice strengthened by his words that keeps calling ‘write a post’, ‘write a post’. And then, I made this decision.
I decided to accept my blogger self for what it is. For now, at least. It is an ad hoc writer, sometimes so eager to write, other times forgetting about it completely. And that’s fine with me. Because, and here is the selfish reason, if it weren’t, then I might not post anything for a long, long time to come. I don’t want that. The blogger in me wants to write and with her own rules. And now she can.
Conclusion: I am an ad hoc blogger. The only thing I can promise my readers is that there will be no more unkept promises. Because there are no promises at all. I will write and post when I feel like it and be silent otherwise. I might post several times a week and then not post for some weeks. I know this is not efficient, that I may lose potential readers, but you know what? For now, I don’t care. If you like reading what you find here, come back and read it, leave me comments (I will answer those – sooner or later;), but if you don’t, that’s totally fine. I am writing for fun. For my own and for anybody’s who comes to read my posts. No more than that. No more calendar and guilt. Just fun.

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The PhotoReading method by Paul Scheele

read zöld

I have found Paul Scheele’s book on photoreading very exciting. A technique for reading stuff at multiple speed? A heaven for lovers of books and learning like me. But does it actually work?

Various views can be found about Scheele’s whole mind system method by doing a little search. Many claim to have achieved fantastic results by using it, like reading and learning things faster and with higher efficiency than before. Others (like the NASA Research Center) are more sceptical and put such good opinions down to self-hypnosis: one has the feeling of knowing the text, but in reality, when checked with tests, it is simply not true. Let’s see the method, prepared my way – in a mind map, to give you an idea of the process.

Copyright of this method is Paul Scheele's, this mind map is only intended to give an idea about it - if you would like to give his method a try, buy the book or the audio material, or visit one of the courses where it is taught

Copyright of this method is Paul Scheele’s, this mind map is only intended to give a general idea about it – if you would like to give his method a try, buy the book or the audio material, or visit one of the courses where it is taught

I have read the opinions and the book, but I haven’t believed either side. I had to try it for myself. I used the technique to read two books and tried to activate the knowledge. As long as I don’t have some material that someone else knows very well and could test me with, as they did for the NASA research experiment, I must trust my intuition regarding the result. Which is? I do feel like I know the text better, but I would not dare claim to know it as well as if I had read the books in the ‘traditional’ way.

There are several possible reasons for this outcome:

  1. I have only learned the method from a book and not at a proper course, besides I am a beginner with not much experience (even though I have also used some mind control technique I learned earlier, recommended to reach the quick-study state)
  2. The NASA research was right
  3. Both or neither of the two. It is certain that I am taking some value from this little experiment with me. I will not photoread texts as such in the future, but I will use the rest of the steps because they do provide a good overview and a better understanding of the material.
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Lessons about language learning everyone should know – before they start learning a language

learn kékIn the past year I have made huge efforts to bring my German to a higher level, to be able to communicate with Austrian customers in their native language. This included a lot of private lessons and much more. German is my third foreign language – the first is, guess what, English, the second is French. Now my French and German are at about the same level. In February they weren’t even close.
So I have some experience in language learning, and some also fresh, so let me share some good piece of advice with you fellows trying to master some foreign language.
  1. It’s okay to make mistakes. One of the most difficult lessons for the perfectionist me was this. Yes, I understand, but to apply it, I needed to speak a lot. I admit to have some space to improve here, but it is going way better than before and even better when I am tipsy. 🙂 Now really, just think it over. Who has the right to criticize you? Someone who speaks the language better than you? Is it a foreign language for them? Then they will know exactly what an effort it takes to learn it and won’t even think of laughing at you. Is it their mothertongue? Do they speak a foreign language? Yes? See the previous point. No? Then they should feel some respect for you because you are trying.
  2. It’s okay to forget stuff. Sometimes the words just don’t come, even the simple ones. But think of it, sometimes you can’t find the right words even in your mothertongue, so don’t stress about it. Just say whatever sounds the second best for the situation. As long as they understand it, it’s just fine.
  3. Practice all the time. You can’t master a language by taking a lesson once or twice a week. Sorry if it disappoints you, but if you are not in a country where everyone around you speaks the language all the time, you will have to actively find the sources that can teach you the language and spend a lot of hours in their company. Use your spare minutes to add a few words to your vocabulary, use the time you travel to listen to an audio book. Make it your firm goal to improve and manage your time so that the language always fits in there.
  4. Now something really practical. What are the best methods to learn a foreign language? First the bad news: you will have to find out for yourself what works best for you. Word cards? Mind maps of grammar? Relaxation? Music? Go for it then! What you shouldn’t miss are four ways to improve the four areas: listen to learn to understand what is spoken, read to learn to understand what is written, write – to write better, and speak – to speak better. That is, practice. What has worked best for me:
  • Watching a series that I love, without subtitles(!). Even if I don’t always understand what is going on. Believe me, subtitles draw your attention away. You will read them if you have them, so don’t have any. Series are good because you don’t have to think what movie you should watch next – just go on to the next episode. And watch something you love so you won’t give up so easily.
  • Read something you know and love if you have problems with understanding. Read something you are interested in but you haven’t read yet if you can basically understand what is going on. Read real books, not simple ones. At the time when I started to learn French I also started reading Narnia. I had already read the first four books in Hungarian, so in the first one I didn’t really mind not really understanding what was going on, sometimes for pages or half chapters. Do not use a dictionary, only for key words, otherwise you will be translating, not reading. When I started with the fifth book, quite a few months later, which I had not read in any language before, I could understand what was going on. If you are confident enough, read original literature, not translated books.
  • Find natives of the country whose language you are learning and talk to them. There are ‘language exchange’ sites where you can teach your own mothertongue and in exchange someone else will teach you their own. Or you can have discussions with other learners of the same language. There are institutions for most languages with great programs like movie nights. There are Facebook groups for getting together and chatting in a certain language. Find them!
  • Find natives of the country whose language you are learning and exchange written messages with them. Do you have friends who speak the language you are learning? Great, start chatting with them. No? Find some and chat with them. For example, find forums of your interest in the given language and get to know the people there. You will get familiar with your hobby’s vocabulary and make friends. Awesome, right?
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Good news

source: http://www.cbc.ca/books/

So, there were no applicants for the humble request in my previous post (‘someone please give/sell/steal me some time so I can get done with all my tasks, like, within a month (year?) of the deadline I set for myself’) and see the result? The year part was actually not such a bad guess.

This is not such good news, so? So
1. I’m back, hooray!
2. I have improved my German a lot during this time, so I can give you fabulous language learning tips in the LEARN section
3. I have learned to photoread and a few other things worth sharing
4. I have found out what a kettlebell is, so how about a few posts about physical training, or at least the mental training part of it?

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LEARN to WRITE on Coursera

learn kék

write narancsNow which category does this post belongra to? Learn? Write? I am starting to realize that Read-Learn-Write overlap a bit more often than I expected. But the purpose was to post about all of them, so not a big trouble if one post contains several of the Thought Factory’s major topics, right?

I haven’t taken much time to visit Coursera recently but I always check out their course selection they send me, just in case. And just in case has just popped up in my mailbox: they are now offering the course ‘Crafting an Effective Writer: Tools of the Trade’. I have never seen such an opportunity on Coursera, so precisely ‘on-topic’ for me – so of course I have enrolled. Honestly, I do not know how much time I will have to follow it (just look at how much I have posted nowadays to see what I mean), but it’s just something I have no chance to resist. A free online university course on Fundamental English Writing? Whatever, I’m in!

Which means that hopefully you can now expect to see snippets of interesting information about the craft of writing here in the Thought Factory. Only… someone please give/sell/steal some time for me so I can get done with all my tasks, like, within a month (year?) of the deadline I set for myself.

Categories: Craft of writing, LEARN, READ | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Two-three-four stories – Your story structure’s building blocks

write narancsHave you read the two-stories e-book of P J Reece (Story Structure To Die For)? If not, do, it’s free to download but would be worth reading even if it cost money. It could have just confused me even more when I had finally put togehter the three and four part story structure in my head. It didn’t. It made it all clear, so let me share the wisdom I gained.

 

source: polka dots & teaching tots

source: polka dots & teaching tots

Three units

The classic, ancient dramatic structure of three acts. ‘A whole is what has a beginning and middle and end’, taught Aristotle and teach the Plot Whisperer and many others today. Everybody knows this from literature class, so let’s move on to the variants.

Four units
This is what I have learned from Larry Brooks. Two plot points which basically coincide with the separating points of the first, second and third parts of the classic structure plus a mid-point. Relatively easy to grasp. He has built his whole story structure model on these cardinal points, including character development and it is all fantastically logical, I love it. He says that the most important point in your story is the First Plot Point (at about 25% into the story), which I was happy to believe and then came someone who said it is not. It is in fact all about two stories, separated by what Larry calls the Second Plot Point, right after the lull before the end.

Two units
According to P J Reece the lull-before-the-end is THE separator of the TWO stories you are writing. That’s where the character gets the chance to become the hero. His belief system is challenged so that he has no choice but to give it up and adapt a new one or fail. He sees the big picture and makes a choice. His own choice that can raise him up from the ‘hole in the story’.
Examining this in practice it gets quite easy to really see this hole, which is really there in every good story. It also means that the starting point, which Larry also stresses, that you need to know when building your story, is the end. It is the very end, the choice made, too, but also the hole. The belief system and how it gets challenged. Because that’s what the story is about and you need to know when typing the very first word of your story where it is heading. It is heading towards the vacuum in the hole.

My own conclusion
Begin with the end, continue with the First Plot Point – where the real story begins – and build the rest on it. And then it doesn’t matter how many stories you write: two, three, four, or a hundred. The plot will follow the direction.

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Construct your dream life

learnOne saying I have come across on many occasions and adored at first, then got a bit bored of after seeing a gazillion times on Facebook is ‘Don’t dream your life – live your dream’. My annoyance caused by its overuse does not decrease its truth and value. It could be my slogan if I had not created one of my own. (That, by the way, carries a very similar, bloody optimistic message, only a bit harsher and even less realistic. The reason why I love it. Now it would be unfair not to tell you what it is, so I will. Read to the end to find out.)

Optimism is one of my most important drivers, so the article I recently read on LinkedIn has touched me and inspired me to share my thoughts on the topic. Called The Most Important Hour of Your Life gives a six-step way that leads to, basically, constructing the image of the life that you would wish to lead if you had a free choice. Here goes:

construct your dream life

Image by wollymood at deviantART

‘Step 1: If possible get out into nature where you can feel the natural pace of the earth and not the hyperactive and inhumane pace of modern life.

Step 2: Write down the question “What would I do if I only had a week left to live?” and take 10 minutes to write down your answer.

Step 3: Write down the question, “What would I do if I only had a month left to live?” and take 10 minutes to write down your answer.

Step 4: Write down the question, “What would I do if I only had a year left to live?” and take 10 minutes to write down your answer.

Step 5: Write down the question, “What would I do if I only had five years left to live?” and take 10 minutes to write down your answer.

Step 6: Write down the question, “What would I do if I only had a life left to live?” and take 10 minutes to write down your answer.

Step 7: Finally, take 10 minutes to reread all of your answers while asking yourself, “How can I design my routine this week to more closely align with these answers?”’

Ingenious. Who says you don’t have the choice? My experience so far has led me to believe that you can become whatever you want to and lead the life that you really wish for. The two main problems that keep people away from the life of their dreams is
1. Not knowing what the life of their dreams is
2. Not believing that they are able to / deserve to have it

The above method provides a one-hour solution to one of the two. That’s what I call result.
I instinctively base my decisions on the shortness of life, not in a ‘carpe diem’ way where only the moment matters, but focusing on the long-term and avoiding short-sightedness. The above steps help anyone do this consciously: plan so that their actions take them closer to their dreams, one step at a time. This is something I would definitely teach at school – and since I can’t do that, something I will teach my own children one day. As a first step, although I believe I am acting according to the principle of this exercise I will still do it. Just for the fun of it and then, who knows what I might find out?

Who will join me in dreaming their life so later you can live it?
As for the other obstacle – not believing yourself capable or worthy of living your dream – I might tackle the question in a later post, although not strictly related to the main topic of this blog. Besides, clever people have already filled books with self-confidence advice. Maybe I’ll just publish a list of my favourite self-improvement, EI and psychology books.

I promised you at the beginning to tell you my self-created motto and promises must be kept, so here goes.
You can have the cake and eat it too
No spelling mistake there. You can if you really want to.
And if you have come straight from that first paragraph, let me just tell you that it is worth going back and reading the rest.

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READ – LEARN – WRITE

This is the subtitle of the Thought Factory and I have already told you why. Now let me show you how.

Every post that belongs to one of the above categories (meaning hopefully every post published on this blog… umm, except this one) will have one of the little pictograms that have magically appeared in the header picture today, with their distinct colour, in the top right corner, so you can know at once what to expect.

READ in green –

if you are interested in books, short stories, poems, in reading the written word, look for green to find book reviews, news of authors and pieces of information about whatever has been written down

read zöld

LEARN in blue:

if you like improving yourself and developing new and interesting skills, blue is the colour of the posts to find out how – this is also the place where I will drop random information about the curious ways of the human mind

learn kék

 WRITE in orange:

authors, don’t stop till you see orange because this is where I delve into the endless universe of story structure, character building, and grammar rules and games and also share little pieces of inspiration – music, pictures, places, whatever has inspired me to create my own art of words

write narancs

I might further divide these sections into smaller parts, locations, rooms within the factory, but for now, enjoy these three large areas.

A big thank you for the magical work that resulted in these wonderful pictures to Kata Boromissza! In any colour, if you like good graphical art, check out her blog.

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Learn about Comic Books!

I have already written about Coursera and look what they have to offer now: Comic Books and Graphic Novels. An entire course by the University of Colorado Boulder, starting in September, about comics as part of the literary culture.

What do I expect to get from this? ‘You will learn a mode of reading that will allow you to appreciate comics in a new depth.  You will learn an effective mode of writing that will allow you to express your thinking clearly.  Most importantly, you will also learn the power of the imagination as a force for change: Art is Generative, so there is always hope.’

This in itself makes it worthy of my literary attention – not the graphic, because me and drawing are quite distant beings. But I am interested in all forms of literature and even though I am not a comic-fan I believe that this mode of expression may teach a lot about character creation and story structure building to any novel-writer. New perspectives are always worth considering and this here is a whole new perspective.

So, who is participating and what is your main motivator?

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