Filed under: Alzheimer's, Bipolar, Connections, Failure, Feedback, Health, Hospice, NPR, Preparedness, Science, Society, Writing stuff | Tags: All Things Considered, Alzheimer's, bipolar, blogging, Dark Playground, health, hospice, humor, jim downey, Morning Edition, NPR, predictions, procrastination, psychology, scarcity, science, Sendhil Mullainathan, St. Cybi's Well, Tim Wilson, Wait But Why, writing
OK, actually more like four. Maybe. Kinda. Sorta.
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Interesting item on this morning’s Morning Edition, looking at a new book about how scarcity has a psychological impact which pushes people to make poor choices. The transcript isn’t up yet, so here’s just one passage from the interview with co-author Sendhil Mullainathan:
When you have scarcity and it creates a scarcity mindset, it leads you to take certain behaviors which in the short term help you manage scarcity, but in the long term only make matters worse.
Specifically, it’s a coping strategy: by setting aside some long-term problem, you actually have more time to deal with urgent short-term problems. This is a very normal human reaction, and actually even makes evolutionary sense — not getting eaten today is more important than where that glacier up the mountain will be next year.
I still remember a poster my Resident Advisor had up on her wall in college, which distilled this problem nicely. It said (with appropriate humorous graphic): “When you’re up to your ass in alligators, it’s easy to forget that you came here to drain the swamp.”
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I’ve … struggled … with procrastination all my life. Sometimes more successfully than at other times. It can manifest as lethargy. Or writer’s block. Or simple distraction.
And I learned a long, long time ago that that struggle was made worse when I was confronted with other stressors in my life. A bad bipolar cycle. Financial stress. Emotional stress. Simple lack of sufficient sleep. Just look back through my blog posts while we were doing care-giving for Martha Sr, and you’ll see exactly what I mean.
So when I see someone come up with an interesting take on procrastination, I pay attention. Here’s a very good one:
In the monkey world, he’s got it all figured out—if you eat when you’re hungry, sleep when you’re tired, and don’t do anything difficult, you’re a pretty successful monkey. The problem for the procrastinator is that he happens to live in the human world, making the Instant Gratification Monkey a highly unqualified navigator. Meanwhile, the Rational Decision-Maker, who was trained to make rational decisions, not to deal with competition over the controls, doesn’t know how to put up an effective fight—he just feels worse and worse about himself the more he fails and the more the suffering procrastinator whose head he’s in berates him.
It’s a mess. And with the monkey in charge, the procrastinator finds himself spending a lot of time in a place called the Dark Playground.*
The Dark Playground is a place every procrastinator knows well. It’s a place where leisure activities happen at times when leisure activities are not supposed to be happening. The fun you have in the Dark Playground isn’t actually fun because it’s completely unearned and the air is filled with guilt, anxiety, self-hatred, and dread. Sometimes the Rational Decision-Maker puts his foot down and refuses to let you waste time doing normal leisure things, and since the Instant Gratification Monkey sure as hell isn’t gonna let you work, you find yourself in a bizarre purgatory of weird activities where everyone loses.**
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There was a great story yesterday afternoon on All Things Considered, about a little boy who was terrified by a statue of Frankenstein(‘s Monster). It was funny, charming, and insightful.
What insight? This one:
“Well, your nephew is a brilliant story editor,’” says psychologist Tim Wilson of the University of Virginia.
Wilson has been studying how small changes in a person’s own stories and memories can help with emotional health. He calls the process “story editing.” And he says that small tweaks in the interpretation of life events can reap huge benefits.
This process is essentially what happens during months, or years, of therapy. But Wilson has discovered ways you can change your story in only about 45 minutes.
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There’s a second part to that item about procrastination I posted above (hence my ambivalence about whether this blog entry was about three things or four):
There’s only one way to truly beat procrastination:
You need to prove to yourself that you can do it. You need to show yourself you can do it, not tell yourself. Things will change when you show yourself that they can. Until then, you won’t believe it, and nothing will change. Think of yourself like a basketball player on a cold streak. For basketball players, it’s all about confidence, and an ice cold shooter can tell himself 1000 times, “I’m a great shooter, I’m going to hit this next one,” but it’s not until he physically hits a shot that his confidence goes up and his touch comes back. So how do you start hitting shots?
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3) Aim for slow, steady progress—Storylines are rewritten one page at a time.In the same way a great achievement happens unglorious brick by unglorious brick, a deeply-engrained habit like procrastination doesn’t change all at once, it changes one modest improvement at a time. Remember, this is all about showing yourself you can do it, so the key isn’t to be perfect, but to simply improve. The author who writes one page a day has written a book after a year. The procrastinator who gets slightly better every week is a totally changed person a year later.So don’t think about going from A to Z—just start with A to B. Change the Storyline from “I procrastinate on every hard task I do” to “Once a week, I do a hard task without procrastinating.” If you can do that, you’ve started a trend. I’m still a wretched procrastinator, but I’m definitely better than I was last year, so I feel hopeful about the future.
* * *
Wait — I said three things? Or maybe four?
I suppose it’s really only one, after all.
Time for me to get back to work.
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Amazon, Arthur C. Clarke, Connections, Feedback, Health, Hospice, Humor, Kindle, Marketing, Promotion, Publishing, Science Fiction, Writing stuff | Tags: Alzheimer's, Amazon, blogging, care-giving, direct publishing, feedback, free, health, hospice, humor, jim downey, John Bourke, Kindle, literature, promotion, reviews, Science Fiction, St. Cybi's Well, writing
I found this to be a helpful account of what to expect as parents age. The two men in the account were truly devoted attendants and I was impressed by them.
I enjoyed this book from start to finish. It was my “recovering from Christmas insanity this weekend” selection on my kindle and it was just perfect for the purpose! I started Saturday and read until I was bleary eyed and finished Sunday.
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I very much loved the weaving of deep lines of spirituality throughout the story and how integral it was to the story from beginning to end. Unlike several books I’ve read that attempted this, Communion of Dreams actually succeeds in making you WONDER! Mr. Downey’s writing definitely favors Clarke and evokes the same beautiful but disturbing feelings that 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Well, gee …
Like I said, it’s a fairly lengthy review, and not all gushing. Check it out when you get a chance.
Work continues apace on St. Cybi’s Well. I’m starting to get feedback from several “alpha readers” on the first batch of chapters, and so far I’m pleased with the overall response. Which isn’t to say that it is all praise; that wouldn’t be of any help to me at all. As I’ve noted before, if you check my FB page, I often will post small passages from the working text there.
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Amazon, Bad Astronomy, Feedback, Health, Hospice, Humor, Kindle, Marketing, Phil Plait, Promotion, Publishing, Science Fiction, Slate, YouTube | Tags: Alzheimer's, Amazon, Australia, Bad Astronomy, blogging, Brazil, care-giving, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, free, health, hospice, humor, Japan, jim downey, John Bourke, Kindle, literature, memoir, optical illusion, pareidolia, Phil Plait, promotion, Science Fiction, Slate, video, www youtube
Via Phil Plait, another wonderful illusion:
Plait has the full explanation (and a number of other links worth checking out), but here’s the critical part:
The key to this whole thing is the way your brain sees perspective, specifically convex and concave shapes, coupled with its uncanny ability to pick a face out of patterns (called pareidolia). Your brain wants to interpret the dragon as a face, and faces are convex: The sides of the face curve away from you (when you look at someone’s face, their nose is closer to you than their ears).
Definitely worth checking out!
Quick note about the promo results: 175 copies of Communion of Dreams were downloaded, including first-time downloads in Japan and Brazil! Her Final Year had a total of 63 downloads, and before the promo started someone in Australia bought a copy. I should be used to this by now, but I still really get a kick out of the fact that people around the world are reading both books.
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Amazon, Health, Hospice, Kindle, Marketing, Promotion, Publishing, Religion, Science Fiction | Tags: Alzheimer's, Amazon, blogging, care-giving, Christmas, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, free, health, Her Final Year, hospice, jim downey, Kindle, literature, Merry Christmas, promotion, Science Fiction
Merry Christmas, whether you observe it as a religious occasion or a secular holiday!
And for all those who have new e-readers/phones/tablets/laptops/desktops, here’s a little gift … actually, make that *TWO* gifts: both Communion of Dreams and Her Final Year will be free to download tomorrow through Saturday! You don’t need to own a Kindle — there’s a free Kindle emulator for just about every electronic device. And you don’t need any kind of special code or anything — just go to the Amazon page for either book, and it will be free.
Again, wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas!
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Amazon, Connections, Failure, Feedback, General Musings, Health, Hospice, Kindle, Marketing, Predictions, Promotion, Publishing, Science Fiction | Tags: Alzheimer's, Amazon, blogging, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, feedback, free, health, Her Final Year, hospice, jim downey, John Bourke, Kindle, literature, predictions, promotion, Science Fiction, St. Cybi's Well, writing
So, without a lot of fanfare I went ahead and scheduled a two-day promotion for the Kindle edition of Communion of Dreams the other day, as mentioned. After I posted something about it on Facebook, John Bourke, my primary co-author on Her Final Year asked whether we might as well do a similar promotion for the Kindle edition of that book. D’oh! An oversight on my part.
But, I think, an understandable one. Right now I’m focused on writing St. Cybi’s Well, the prequel to Communion of Dreams. So there’s that.
And there’s something else. This passage from a post last February sums it up for me:
I am frequently struck just how much of our life doesn’t make sense until seen from a distance. Just recently I was surprised at the revelation of *why* the failure of Her Final Year to be more successful bothered me as much as it did: it was because I had seen the book as being a way to create something positive (for the world) out of the experience of being a long-term care provider. To have the book only reach a limited audience was, in my mind, saying that our roles as care-givers didn’t matter.
Yeah, that. In a word: disappointment.
And when things disappoint, it is only natural to disengage somewhat from them, to not sink a lot of additional emotional energy into it. At some point you just say “well, OK, that’s done — time to move on.”
Except moving on isn’t always the best course, or even possible. John reminded me of that. So I went ahead and scheduled the promotion for Her Final Year to run the same time as the one for Communion of Dreams did.
And guess what? Her Final Year, for the very first time, did better in terms of the number of downloads than Communion of Dreams did. Not by a lot — just a dozen books — but still, it did better. Whereas in the past when we did promotions for the two books at the same time, CoD almost always did better, by upwards of a factor of 10. And for the first time, one of my books was downloaded through the Amazon Australia portal. Guess which one it was. Right: HFY. And I think that’s pretty cool.
I hope you had a similarly good Thanksgiving holiday.
PS: If you missed this promotion, don’t worry. For people who get new computers/readers/mobile devices, we’ll repeat in shortly after Christmas. And of course you can always just go to the links above and buy either book for only $3.01.
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Amazon, Connections, Feedback, General Musings, Health, Hospice, Kindle, Promotion, Publishing, Science Fiction, Society | Tags: Alzheimer's, Amazon, blogging, care-giving, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, feedback, free, health, Her Final Year, jim downey, John Bourke, Kindle, promotion, Science Fiction, Thanksgiving, writing
As those close to me know, I’m not really “into” holidays the way many people are. Oh, I’m happy to have an excuse to eat and drink more, to visit with family & friends, to relax a bit more than usual. And I can appreciate the rituals which surround the holidays, and how those rituals can give some definition and context for things. Marking birthday milestones. Taking time to remember loved ones and Veterans. Observing the change of seasons and acknowledging the passing of years. Giving thanks.
Those forms are important. I understand why holidays exist even unto this modern age, when everything seems to exist in a constant froth of work, commerce, and entertainment.
But it is easy — far too easy — to come to think of those holidays as things in themselves, rather than reminders. The meanings of the rituals are lost, and only the rituals themselves become important.
And there, I just did the same thing. I just fell into the ritual of bemoaning how holidays have lost their meaning.
What I want to say is this: thank you. Thank you for being family, thank you for being a friend, thank you for just reading my stuff. I try to remember to be appreciative for all this, and for so much more, to make that appreciation more of an attitude than a holiday.
Filed under: Amazon, Astronomy, Connections, Emergency, Feedback, Health, Hospice, Kindle, Marketing, movies, NASA, NPR, Predictions, Preparedness, Promotion, Publishing, Science, Science Fiction, Space, Survival | Tags: Amazon, appendectomy, appendicitis, blogging, bookbinding, care-giving, Communion of Dreams, David Casarett, direct publishing, emergency, feedback, free, health, hospice, jim downey, Kindle, leather, literature, movies, NPR, Philip James Bailey, predictions, promotion, reviews, science, Science Fiction, space, travel, video, Voyager
This morning, NPR repeated the story of Voyager 1 having apparently left the solar system.
I wonder why?
* * *
Philip James Bailey, Festus:
We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts, not breaths;
In feelings, not in figures on a dial.
We should count time by heart-throbs. He most lives
Who thinks most, feels the noblest, acts the best.
Life’s but a means unto an end; that end
Beginning, mean, and end to all things,—God.
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We went shopping yesterday.
Big deal, right? Actually, it kinda was. It was the first time my wife had been in good enough shape to do so since her emergency appendectomy. Things are slowly returning to whatever passes for normal.
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Dr. David Casarett is the director of hospice care at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He works with families as they try to navigate end-of-life decisions.
At least once a week, Casarett says, one of his patients expresses a desire to end his or her own life. “It’s a reminder to me that I have to stop whatever I was doing … and sit back down to try to find out what is motivating that request,” he says. “Is it really a carefully thought out desire to die, or is it, as it is unfortunately many times, a cry for help?”
It’s a good story.
* * *
Tomorrow’s the last day this month to get the free Kindle edition of Communion of Dreams. And this week is the last one to get entered into the drawing for a hand-bound leather copy of the special edition. Remember, you have to have posted a review on Amazon of the book, and then post a comment with a link to that review in this blog entry. There are currently 65 reviews on Amazon, but only 8 entrants for the drawing — don’t delay, as the end will come sooner than you expect.
As it usually does, for good or ill.
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Amazon, Feedback, Health, Hospice, Kindle, Marketing, Predictions, Publishing, Science Fiction | Tags: Alzheimer's, Amazon, blogging, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, free, health, Her Final Year, hospice, jim downey, John Bourke, Kindle, memoir, promotion, Science Fiction
… that the promotion is now running, and both Communion of Dreams and Her Final Year are now free to download! Things are off to a good start, and as I write this Communion of Dreams has been downloaded 500 times already, and is currently doing quite well in the Kindle rankings. Things have been a bit slower for Her Final Year but it is still doing well, and for the first time ever I’ve had one of my books downloaded by someone in India. That’s pretty cool.
So, if you haven’t gotten your copy of either book — or if you know someone who may be interested in either one — this is the time to act! Get ‘em while they’re hot!
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Amazon, Feedback, Health, Hospice, Marketing, Promotion, Society | Tags: Alzheimer's, Amazon, blogging, care-giving, dementia, direct publishing, discount, free, health, Her Final Year, hospice, jim downey, John Bourke, Kindle, memoir, promotion, reviews
So, some big news to share about our care-giving memoir Her Final Year.
But that’s not the big news.
During the same period, Jan 1 – 4, the paperback version of the book bought through our CreateSpace store will be $2.00 off: just use discount code ZZYCFFG2 when you check out. Please note that this offer is only good through the CreateSpace store, not on Amazon generally.
But that’s not the big news, either.
The big news is that we’re permanently lowering the price of the book — in both Kindle and paperback editions — by $3.00. Yup, the new Kindle edition price will be just $5.95, and the paperback edition price will be only $13.95. These price changes will go into effect on January 1, and will be the new baseline prices across the board.
To date we’ve given away 7,191 copies of the Kindle edition of Her Final Year. That’s a very good start in terms of getting the book into the hands of people who need it, and the reviews have been *very* positive. But we would like to see it have even further reach. So even though we haven’t yet broken even on the costs invested in the book, we’ve decided to go ahead and lower the price permanently, and to kick off that new price with these special 4 days of promotions.
Help us out — be sure to get your copy of the book, if you haven’t done so already, and to let others know. Caring for people with Alzheimer’s and other age-related dementia is a huge, huge problem for families all around the globe. Our experience as care-providers can make the journey easier, sharing how we coped with the joys and sorrows, the personal failings and the personal growth.
Thanks — and Happy New Years!
Filed under: Amazon, Health, Hospice, Kindle, Marketing, Promotion, Publishing, Science Fiction | Tags: Alzheimer's, Amazon, blogging, care-giving, Communion of Dreams, direct publishing, free, health, Her Final Year, hospice, jim downey, John Bourke, Kindle, literature, memoir, Merry Christmas, promotion, Science Fiction
Just a quick note to wish everyone a happy holiday, and to remind you that today the Kindle editions of both my novel Communion of Dreams and our care-giving memoir Her Final Year are both *free* all day long today!
If you haven’t already gotten a Kindle copy of both books, I invite you to pop by Amazon and download them — you don’t even need a Kindle, because there are free emulators for just about any electronic computer/mobile device you may have gotten from Santa today.
And if you know someone who likes good classic speculative fiction, or who has someone in their family/circle of friends who is dealing with care-giving, please share the news of this promotional day with them.
Merry Christmas to one & all!