A Productivity Tip from Ernest Hemingway

At the moment I am reading/listening to Daily Rituals by Mason Currey. Currey has meticulously hunted down the daily rituals of hundreds of famous creative thinkers; Darwin, Beethoven, Franklin, Kafka, and Bacon all make an appearance. But the one that made me pause the audiobook to write this post is Ernest Hemingway’s entry. I haven’t read any Hemingway (to my shame) but I am fixing that next year.

Currey quotes Hemingway from an interview he did with the Paris Review. Hemingway describes his early morning writing habit, detailing how he always stops when he knows “what is going to happen next”. The next morning then, instead of sitting down and not knowing what to write, Hemingway does; he’s been anticipating this moment since yesterday.

Hearing this, I realised how transferable this is to other areas. When you are designing a website, writing code, editing photos, doing your tax return, or, yes, writing a novel, don’t work until you are unsure how to continue, instead work until you are certain how you will continue. End your work session when you know that you must next code the footer, write a specific method, use a particular photoshop function, input certain receipts, or write your favourite characters dialogue in a key scene. Next time when you sit down to work, you know what must be done. I’m going to try this for the next while and see what happens! I suggest you do too.

52 Weeks, 52 Books – The List

As I mentioned before, I am planning to read at least 52 books next year. And they have to be, on average better than my usual fare. This is the list as it presently stands.

1 | The Gun: The Story of the AK-47 – C.J Chivers
2 | On The Road – Jack Kerouac
3 | Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas – Hunter S. Thompson
4 | The Catcher In The Rye – J D Salinger
5 | For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemingway
6 | The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
7 | The Fountainhead – Ayn Rand
8 | London Fields – Martin Amis
9 | Less Than Zero – Bret Easton Ellis
10 | The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – Junot Díaz
11 | The Fall – Albert Camus
12 | Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead – Neil Strauss
13 | This Game of Ghosts – Joe Simpson
14 | APE – Guy Kawasaki
15 | The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France – Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle
16 | Live and Let Die – Ian Fleming
17 | Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
18 | Sailing to Sarantium – Guy Gavriel Kay
19 | Consider Phlebas – Ian M. Banks
20 | Dodger – Terry Pratchett
21 | Annasi Boys – Neil Gaiman
22 | Guns, Germs and Steel – Jared Diamond
23 | 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus – Charles Man
24 | Average Is Over – Tyler Cowen
25 | Shadow Divers – Robert Kurson
26 | Catch 22 – Joeseph Heller
27 | Smarter Than You Think – Clive Thompson
28 | The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism – Pascal Bruckner
29 | Two Girls, One on Each Knee (7) – Alan Connor
30 | Lord of Emperors – Guy Gavriel Kay
31-43 | Books from the Tim Ferriss Book Club
44-52 | Books to be decided as I go, maybe sequels to books I love, or new releases, or sudden recommendations.

Also, a few stats about the list. These will be added to as I calculate them.
Fiction: 16
Nonfiction: 13
Classics: 7

Encircle Africa Released

I’m happy to announce the release of Encircle Africa: Around Africa by Public Transport written by Ian Packham on Kindle and iOS. Ian spent more than a year travelling around the 25,000 mile coast of Africa using whatever transport was locally available. This was less Planes, Trains and Automobiles and more Buses, Bush Taxis and Minibuses. I worked with Ian to create the ebook. The kindle version is just the text and the iOS version includes more than 30 gorgeous images that Ian took on his travels.

Here’s the blurb:

Encircle Africa: Around Africa by Public Transport is the account of Ian’s attempt to complete the first solo and unassisted circumnavigation of Africa using public transport. The decision to travel using transport only available to local populations ensured immersion with populations across the continent. It led Ian to cross Africa riding in battered minibuses and bush taxis, on the backs of flatbed trucks, over rivers in dugout canoes, and along the coast of South Africa in a van delivering freshly-made meat pies.
Travelling 25,000 miles (40,000 km) – equivalent to circumnavigating the Earth at the equator – with no communications but an old mobile phone, and all his kit for more than a year of travel hauled onto his back, Ian was as reliant on some of the one billion people that call Africa home as he was on his own wits.
Lasting more than 13 months his journey took Ian along the coast of 31 countries, where he discovered for himself the daily struggle of living in and travelling through Africa. Starting his journey in Gibraltar before crossing to Tangier in Morocco, he travelled westward, experiencing Africa at its most raw and real.
He is forced to fight off thieves in Senegal, is mistaken for an undercover UN official during Liberia’s presidential election, refused entry into the Democratic Republic of Congo, and while in Sudan becomes perhaps the only person teargassed trying to visit a museum. Travelling during an electrifying year for Africa, he is one of the first tourists to visit the Libyan capital after the revolution that wrenched Colonel Gaddafi from power.
An honest and personal account of his journey, Encircle Africa: Around Africa by Public Transport acts as a powerful contrast to the perception of Earth’s oldest and poorest continent.

It’s an excellent book and I’m proud to have been involved. Go pick it up now on Kindle or iOS! You won’t regret it.

Not Having Time Is Bullshit! You Have Time

This article from Steve at NerdFitness is one of the best I’ve ever read.

Steve talks about a simple trick he picked up from a Wall Street Journal article that I’ve found really useful. Whenever you say to yourself, or to someone else, “I don’t have time to do X”, mentally change it and reframe it as “X is not a priority”. There are 168 hours in a week. Even if you are working 40 hours and sleeping 56, that’s still 72 hours of time to spend as you choose.

This idea has been really useful in getting me to focus on doing things I want to do instead of just wasting time in front of the TV. Let’s be honest, if you are sitting in front of the TV for an hour or more each evening, then you need to realise that watching TV is your priority and not hitting the gym, or reading a book, or learning a new language.

The utterly unique adventurer Alastair Humphreys has a similar idea with his MicroAdventures movement. Even if you work 9 to 5, the 5 to 9 is your time to do whatever you want. Al suggests getting a train out of the city, walking up a hill, getting up early the next morning, swimming in a cold river, and getting the first train back in so you can be at your desk at 9. As I said, Al is unique! However his point is totally valid. You need not swim in a cold river in the hours you are not in work, only recognise that you have the time to do what you want.

Okay so you might not have the full 72 hours of free time, some of it time is spent travelling or showering or cleaning; but it needn’t go to waste. Read more. Listen to audiobooks while you go about your day. If you spend two hours a day in the car, you’ll listen to a book a week. That alone will change your perception of travelling!

Trust me, try this reframing technique for a month and see how it makes you confront the time you waste. If you spend your lunch break on Reddit and then claim you didn’t have time for the gym, the only person you are fooling is yourself.

A few of my favourite audiobooks

I have a serious love affair with audiobooks. I could never easily do a short list of my favourite audiobooks. For one thing, too many of them are part of long series and I love all the books in it! Instead this post will talk about a few audiobooks that I have particularly enjoyed for one reason or another.

Guards! Guards!

Written by Terry Pratchett; Read by Nigel Planer

Terry Pratchett is one of my all time favourite authors. He’s published close on 50 books in his Discworld series and all of them are wonderful. The books are all loosely tied together, though there are a series of arcs each focused on a different group of characters. My favourite arc is the one focussed on Commander Vimes and the City Watch. Guards! Guards! is the first book in that arc and if it doesn’t hook you, you have no soul! It’s 10 hours, 10 minutes long, so perfect for a week worth of commutes.

One Summer: America 1927

Written and read by Bill Bryson

One Summer is the most recently published book on this list and it is a stand in for anything Bill Bryson has written. All of his books are somewhat similar, they take a time period or a theme and use that as a jumping off point to tell wonderful stories about how the world changed, and the people involved in changing it. One Summer is focussed on, what Bryson argues, is the critical moment in America’s ascendancy in the 20th century. This is not a short book, clocking in at a hair over 17 hours, but it is well worth listening to.

Outliers: The Story of Success

Written and read by Malcolm Gladwell

Like Bryson, Gladwell’s whole back catalogue is excellent and Outliers is merely a stand in for anything he’s written. It is however, Gladwell’s largest contribution to pop culture. In it, he popularised the 10000 Hour Rule, the idea that it takes 10000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert in anything. Again, in a similar manner to Bryson, Gladwell uses this as a hook to discuss a wide variety of people and situations, all of which are fascinating. It’s nice and short, just under 7 and a half hours, and poppy enough that you will breeze through it and come away feeling slightly cleverer (which I think is Gladwell’s aim).

The Name of the Wind

Written by Patrick Rothfuss; Read by Rupert Degas

I cannot stress how awesome this book is. I have recommended it to countless people, and countless keep have recommending it to me. I have not spoken to one person who has not adored The Name of the Wind. Think of this book as a far more adult, and far better, spiritual successor to Harry Potter and you won’t go far wrong. No mere plot summary can do it justice so I won’t even try. Just trust me. It is wonderfully long, Part One is over 16 hours, Part Two almost 12, and not one moment of that is a drag.

The Fry Chronicles: An Autobiography

Written and read by Stephen Fry

The Fry Chronicles picks up from where the previous volume in his autobiography, Moab is My Washpot, and Stephen Fry gives the perfect example of how good an autobiography read by the author can be. The emotion in Fry’s voice as he describes his bipolar disorder and depression even when he was at his most successful, is moving. Eloquent and engaging, The Fry Chronicles is definitely one to listen to. It won’t take too long either, at just under 12 and a half hours.

The Eye of the World

Written by Robert Jordan; Read by Kate Reading and Michael Kramer

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the book that got me started with audiobooks. The Eye of the World is the first book in Robert Jordan’s epic Wheel of Time series (and by epic, I mean epic, the entire fourteen book series runs to more than 460 hours). Written, in part, because Jordan didn’t think the Lord of the Rings was long enough, it is my all time favourite series and if you want to be entertained for months, listen to the whole thing through. Like with The Name of the Wind, a plot summary from me can’t do it justice. The series starts in a small village and ends up dealing with the political clashes of countries and cultures. The first book is just over 30 hours so you’re getting your moneys worth from the start!

So that is a small taste of some of my favourite audiobooks. Even if none of these books interest you, pick up a free audiobook from audible and try out something that does. You won’t regret it!