Work without interruption

Via Tobias Buckell, here’s an interesting talk by Jason Fried — co-author of Rework, a counterintuitive look at work culture — on why work doesn’t happen at work. “Why,” he asks, “do we expect people to work well if they’re interrupted all day in the office?” Anyone who works in an office will find his argument all too familiar: interruptions by “managers and meetings” disrupt the flow of work to the point where people actually have to go outside the office to get anything done.

For creative work, he says, uninterrupted time is essential:

What you find is that especially with creative people — designers, programmers, writers, engineers, thinkers — that people really need long stretches of uninterrupted time to get something done. You cannot ask somebody to be creative in 15 minutes and really think about a problem. You might have a quick idea but to be in deep thought about a problem and really consider a problem carefully, you need long stretches of uninterrupted time.

Fried also makes an interesting comparison between sleep and work: both, he argues, work in stages: if you’re interrupted, you can’t go back and pick up where you left off, you have to go back and start over.

Here’s why this is relevant to my interests.

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Making Book

Late last week, a copy of Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s Making Book finally arrived from Amazon; I’d ordered it in late December (that’s “special order” for you). It’s an interesting collection of short pieces on diverse topics — often autobiographical, such as getting excommunicated by the Mormons or dealing with narcolepsy, and often whimsical. It reads, in other words, like a blog before the fact: proof positive that such writings did exist before them thar Internets; they were just in zines and such, and as such harder to find. More to the point, it reads like Teresa’s excellent blog.

The meat of the book, in substance if not in length, is the essay “On Copyediting,” derived from an internal document at Tor Books for their copyeditors. Since my work has, from time to time, included such diverse elements as may be considered copyediting, this was compelling stuff. But, probably because my own copyediting was highly specific and technical, viz., federal statutes and regulations, I wasn’t aware of some of the more general idiosyncracies of the field. Notably, style sheets — I’d never heard of them before in a copyediting context (an article reprinted in a 1994 book is probably not referring to CSS). So much for doing any freelance copyediting. But, Google is my friend: here’s a sample style sheet and, from the SFWA, A Writer’s Guide to Understanding the Copyeditor. Aha. Now, we had those at Justice; they just weren’t individualized, naturally.

Travel writing

If you’ve been following my del.icio.us links — and you should; they’re over there on the sidebar — you’ll have noticed that I’ve linked to a few travel writing resources. I’ve long been interested in the genre — if nothing else, I enjoy reading it, especially the non-service-journalism, non-luxury, off-the-beaten-track stuff. It’s a little disheartening to find out what a grisly business it is, with writers getting next to a pittance for their work. In part, that’s because publishers can: lots of people want to be travel writers. Anyway, in addition to these guides on travel writing, there’s also a blog that covers “the travails of travel writing.” (Most of these links were found via Gadling, an adventure-travel blog.)

I can think of at least two friends who will find this stuff very interesting.

Related: My travel writing links.

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