For me, the beginning of a new year is always a period filled with hope. Although 1 January is just another day and nothing really changes in practice, there’s something about this artificial milestone. I don’t usually set any New Year’s resolutions, but I’m in the mood to take on new challenges and learn new things. The 12 months ahead seem like a blank canvas for me to fill, an opportunity to leave the mistakes of the past behind me and start afresh.
The gloomy winter months aren’t my most productive part of the year. Usually, I have a few non-fiction books ready to read when I get stuck on a project. I want to learn something new and ‘sharpen the axe’ before the spring comes.
In the first post of the decade on this blog, I thought I’d leave you with five books that inspired me in the past.
Atomic Habits by James Clear
I put off reading Atomic Habits for quite a while because I’d read several other books on habits before. I’m glad that I gave in and read it because it blew the others completely out of the water.
Habits are an integral part of our lives, and James’s book will help you understand and manage yours better.
Mindset by Caroline Dweck
I read Mindset by Caroline Dweck years ago, but I still use what I learned from it almost every day. It opened my mind to how your fundamental beliefs shape everything you do. The fixed vs. growth mindset idea is such an important concept.
If you read one book in 2020, make it this one.
Deep Work by Cal Newport
I used to use the Pomodoro timer technique to pace my work (25 minutes of focus, 5 minutes break). That is until I’d read Deep Work by Cal Newport. Cognitively demanding tasks (such as writing) require uninterrupted chunks of time in a distraction-free environment.
After reading this book, I started turning off the Wi-Fi on my laptop when writing. I extended my working sessions to 90-minute blocks of time. Later on, I decided to permanently disable all notifications on my phone. DnD for life!
Hyperfocus by Chris Bailey
Hyperfocus is somewhat similar to Deep Work, but it focuses a lot more at managing your attention. Previously, I thought about focus as something that happens when I perform a task. Chris considers focussing an end for itself which comes with some interesting implications for managing distractions.
Well worth a read!
Story Grid by Shawn Coyne
Finally, since this blog is about writing, I want to highlight Story Grid by Shawn Coyne – an intensely practical guide to analysing your story to see whether it works. Regardless of whether you end up using the full methodology, part of it or not at all, you’ll learn a lot about story structure and how to apply all that theory to actually writing a book.
There are many story structure books out there, but this is my all-time favourite.
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