Deep Thoughts About Deep Work

I have been thinking about giving up writing because I have no self-control. I was also thinking of getting checked for late on-set ADD. I had to force myself to finish my personal writing work. I would find distractions and excuses everywhere. I would clean the microwave, lose hours on social media, anything to run away from my writing. Time to bring out the big guns and get a self-help book.

I like self-help books, particularly the ones that are prescriptive and with formulas, you can apply to you every day. I didn't want to unpack why I was avoiding my writing, instead, I wanted to know how to stop the bullshit.The bullshit antidote came in the form of a book called Deep Work. It's by a huge dork called Cal Newport, who is a computer scientist and seems like a bit of a tool in his TEDx talk and I hate TEDx because they don't pay their speakers, but Cal's book isn't tool-ish, which is great news for everyone.

If you are struggling with committing to your work and living in the shallows of life, and need help, then this is the book for you. 

Here are my top takeaways from the book:

1) Social Media is a networking tool and nothing more. People who see it as something more in their life clearly need to get a life. Take a 30-day break and see which ones you miss and which ones you're missed on. This will tell you which ones matter in your life. BUT remember they are products, owned by companies, designed to sell to you and sell your information to other companies with products.

Also, I realised I'm a tool on social media.  So I unfriended myself with Facebook and keep it now only for my gorgeous and private writing group which I run and love. Twitter was taking up too much of my time, as I tried to be clever and pithy, endlessly scrolling, but really avoiding writing pithy and clever dialogue for my book characters. 

Keep social media for networking purposes only and don't log in unless you have to, and I mean really have to! I promise, you're not missing anything in the general feed. 

2) Put more thought into your leisure time. God, how often did I sit and scroll looking at shit on my phone? Don't answer that, because it will hurt me like a punch to my colon. Finding ways to get the most out of your leisure time is personal. Some people might like to garden, or do craft. I like to read, and if I want to be a craftsperson in my writing, I need to read more. In a week, I have read three books, because I'm not scrolling in a vacuum of echoed, irrelevant content, wishing I was doing something better with my time.

3) Respect your time. This isn't just about social media, it is about using your time properly. This week I have written a huge tender, taken on a new paid job, edited a 50k manuscript, and written a treatment for TV show, because I showed up and respected the time I had allocated to work. And I did work in this time, without any distraction. No phone calls, texts, messages, no internet besides for research reasons if needed, and I set myself up for success. Coffee made, water bottle on the desk, some snacks, and a quiet space. It is kind of embarrassing how easy it was and how long it's taken me to commit to this style of work but my output is the evidence that it works.

4) The work you do at night is shit. I would often work at night, and it was usually always shit. Tired thoughts, distracted ideas, messy structure. No wonder I wasn't inspired to keep working. By deciding to not work at night means I am giving myself permission to read or I am allowing myself to take a break and watch Killing Eve and become obsessed with Villanelle. I am refilling my well.

5) The less information I am exposed to, the more I am learning and mastering my craft. The other day I was getting petrol, and I could hear someone was talking about the weather. I looked up and there was a TV, attached to the pump. I knew it was cold. I was outside getting petrol. Why do I have to be informed about everything all the time? Turn it all down. The radio, the news, the internet, social media. You have so many wonderful thoughts and idea everyday, but how can you hear them over the din of information clamouring for your attention.

I do think that social media has damaged my attention span but this week has also shown me that I am able to repair it if I set my rituals and routines up to do the deep work. I actually found myself wanting to go back to my work for the first time in two years. It was exciting and that felt like a freaking miracle!

I recommend this book if you want a solution to your concentration issues but like anything, it only works if you work it.

Good luck!





What's your work ethic like?

I was talking to one of my closest friend who is an actor, and who is reading a spoken word book for a big, important, prize-winning book at the moment, and feeling the weight of expectation and the pressure of being charged with such a task. 

She mentioned that she was her own worst critic and she would work and work at the delivery in the studio, ensuring she used every minute of time to get the delivery right. 

This is why she is asked to read the important work. Because she gives a fuck about doing it right.

Today I read an article in The New Yorker on Donald Glover. The man works all the time, and he betters himself all the time. He is never complacent nor is he unaware that he has to work harder to be noticed, even if he is more talented, because he's black. And according to the Bell Hook Hierarchy, black men have the same rights as white women.

“I went to school with white people who had less talent than me—because I’m talented as fuck—and they’re doing way better than me. I went to N.Y.U. with Lady Gaga.” There was a burst of laughter and applause from the den. “Now, CBS ran Grammys ads this week, and I’m one of the hotter acts, and they had a visual of the performers on the show: Lady Gaga, Pink, and me. Only they showed some black kid from a fan video—it’s not even me. I was, like, Fuck this, fuck them, I’m not going to do the show!” After a moment, he added, quietly, “The sad thing is I’m going to do it, because black people don’t get that chance very often.”

He also says, 

 When he was ten, he said, “I realized, if I want to be good at P.E., I have to be good at basketball. So I went home and shot baskets in our driveway for six hours, until my mother called me in. The next day, I was good enough that you wouldn’t notice I was bad. And I realized my superpower.” During a lunch break on set one day, in the gym of a Baptist church, I had watched Glover play 21 against five crew members. He made three long jumpers, then began charging the lane to launch Steph Curry-style runners—stylish, ineffective forays facilitated by the crew’s reluctance to play tough D. “It sounds like I’m sucking my own dick—‘Oh, he thinks he’s great at everything,’ ” he said now, leaning forward. “But what if you had that power?” 

We all have that power. To work and get better and work and get better again. Beyonce pulls all-nighters with her team to get the moves right, the look perfect, the sound better. Did you really think she woke up like this? No way. She works harder than most and it pays off.

Cristiano Ronaldo still trains after every else had left. When he wakes up, he is the first one on the bench. He starts to work one hour before the training starts. He trains and after the training, he keeps working.  A fellow athlete says of him, 'He always wants more. He knows that if he wants to be at this level, he needs to work more and more. He has been always a winner, who when he wakes up he just thinks of work and work.”

The basketball star, Kobe Bryant worked harder than anyone else, which is why he is the best. According to a Team USA trainer, Kobe once held a workout from 4:15 a.m. to 11 a.m., refusing to leave the gym until he made 800 shots. He worked harder and longer and was stricter than anyone else on the court, this is what made him MVP.

Elon Musk works 100 hours a week.

J.K Rowling keeps working because she wants to. She sets aside her time for writing and sticks to it, no matter what else happens in her day.

Serena Williams does tennis practice, Pilates, Bikram yoga, uphill running, gym workouts, and that's just a single day. 

Anthony Trollope wrote 45 books and he wrote by the clock day in and day out, wherever in the world he was. He set up that clock and wrote at home, in hotels, at his club, on the road, in his cabin on ships, and for all I know, while he was visiting America, on a stagecoach. When the time was up, he would finish. And to prove his worth ethic, if he had eleven minutes left on the clock, and he had just finished a novel, he didn't sit back and enjoy a celebratory cup of tea – he started a new novel. Then eleven minutes later, he finished for the day. 

Why am I writing about these particular people? Because their stories are on the web and easy to access, but I know of a pediatric surgeon who works in Melbourne who has co-raised her daughter with her parents because her work ethic is so strong and her work so important.

The father of my actor friend, who is very successful says, when things are tough, you just peddle the bike harder. Work harder. Make it count. Do the work. This is why she is successful.

Right now my closest friends are working harder than ever. I am working harder than ever. The other day my son roasted me and impersonated me saying, 'Let's hustle.' Is this a bad thing? No way. He has to know this success comes from the work I do. There isn't ever 'failure' just trying again and getting better at your craft.

Yesterday I wrote 3200 words. I did this because I work hard. I had a list of things to do but this was the most important one. Everything relies on me writing. My sanity, my income, my reputation, my commitments to my publisher and agent, and my readers.

Do the work and the rest will follow. I promise. Do it. Work harder. And if you can't rock n' roll, then don't fucking bitch about it.

I don't want to hear it. You want the success? Do the work. You want respect? Earn it. You want opportunities? Push for them.