Geetanjali Mukherjee

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My Top 5 Creativity Apps of 2013

As other bloggers tend to create end-of-year lists around this time of year, I too wanted to write down the most useful apps for increasing my creativity and productivity this year.

No such list is complete without a mention of Evernote, the fantastic note-taking app. What appeals to me most is the ability to keep everything in one place, so I no longer forget ideas for books or research that I would usually put in some document or piece of paper and never find again. With Evernote, I simply have to create a new note with my idea, and tag with a label like “writing ideas”, and then its instantly searchable.
The other way I use Evernote is to keep track of my goals for projects - usually with a simple table - and I simply update my progress on my phone, which syncs across all my devices.
Finally, something that I only started doing this year, is sending articles that are relevant directly from my RSS reader (Feedly) to my Evernote email address (you can find this in account information), which automatically creates a note with that article. I save articles related to tips and interviews on writers and thinkers that I want to re-read again in this way. It saves having to copy the article, open Evernote, create a note - it’s a one-step process instead.
Feedly is my new go-to RSS reader since Google Reader shut down. It’s really easy to add subscriptions, and has a great streamlined feel. Most importantly though, I can save to Pocket with one touch, or email articles directly to Evernote from within the app.
3. Pocket
I had heard a lot about this app, but was initially reluctant to add yet another reading app. But this has slowly become invaluable, as I like to save not only articles I come across and want to read later, but also articles I have read and would like to read again later or reference for some reason.
This app I use exclusively on my iPhone, and I updated to the Paid version after a few weeks after I realised how useful it was for me. You can create activities to track, and each activity can be set up with a different icon and colour. With one touch, you can track the time on an activity, and again with one touch, you can end it. Over the course of the day, you can see different charts that add up what activities you did, and how much time you spent. The free version allows you 4 activities at a maximum, and the paid one allows unlimited.  You can track more than one activity simultaneously, for the multi-taskers amongst us.
I use it to track how much time I am spending on any one project, and anything else I want to increase my time on - blogging for instance, or writing in my journal. I’ve noticed that whatever I activity I start to track, over time I increase how much I have been spending on it. Additionally, time tracking allows me to see how much time I have spent on each session on my project, and gauge how effective my work sessions are.
5. Moves
This last app is indirectly related to creativity - as I believe improved fitness helps to increase productivity and creativity in equal measure. This free app tracks the steps you take all day, and gives you an accurate picture of where you have been during the day, and how many steps you have walked at each point. As we all know, walking improves health and fitness, and also increases mental clarity, and often ideas for resolving our creative roadblocks appear while walking. Ever since using this app, I have increased my walking almost subconsciously, and feel guilty on days I don’t walk much or not at all, staying locked in my home office working. The app reminds me that I haven’t logged any steps, and am often compelled to go out for a quick 10-15 minute walk.
So there it is - my list of apps that I use daily to help me continue to improve my quality and quantity of creative work. Please leave comments below to add to this list, I would love to hear what apps help others on their creative quests.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Smashwords Author Interview

I just published an in-depth interview on Smashwords, which provides this amazing tool for writers. .

I have tried to answer some questions about my writing, and writing process. I would love some feedback on this, so feel free to leave comments.

An excerpt from my interview:

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Calcutta, India, a city known for its cultural contribution to India. The only Indian recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Rabindranath Tagore, is from the same city, and in fact, I am named after his Nobel Prize winning book of poetry. Thus, in some ways, writing was in my destiny. I grew up surrounded by ideas, and one of my favourite memories with my mother is going to the children's library to spend an entire afternoon reading books.
What do you read for pleasure?
I love to re-read some of my favourite books, like the works of Austen and classics like "The Wizard of Oz". I am a huge fan of chick-lit, especially from British and Irish writers, and everyone in my family knows, once I have started on one, I won't emerge till I'm done with the book! I also love cartoons, especially Dilbert, and Calvin and Hobbes. I am also a huge fan of Agatha Christie, and have read every book of hers, many of them twice.

I have lately become a fan of John Gardner's James Bond novels. I also have read every single Amy Tan book, and wait eagerly for her next offering. I enjoy some literary fiction as well.

In terms of non-fiction, I read business and productivity books voraciously, as well as an eclectic mix of books on economics, public policy, science and history. I also love cookbooks and nutrition / diet books.
Who are your favorite authors?
Depends on genre, but in no particular order: Jane Austen, JRR Tolkien, JK Rowling, Enid Blyton, Agatha Christie, Malcolm Gladwell, Vikram Seth, Amy Tan, Azar Nafisi, Daniel Coyle, Oscar Wilde, Leo Tolstoy, and many many more that I can't remember right now.
Read the rest on my Smashwords profile.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Accomplishing Your Goals in 15 Minutes

Creativity, in any field, is hard. Not only do you have to squeeze out time from your schedule and already demanding life, you also have to conquer your inner demons in order to create something original.
You know what I'm talking about, that voice in your head that says, nay shouts, “Don’t bother, it’s been done before”. Or if it truly is original, then it will say, “You’re not good enough to do something this ground-breaking”. This voice is always telling you why something can't be done, or shouldn’t. It is difficult to take any creative steps with this voice nagging away.
I have been working on a project, one that is very close to my heart, and the main reason that its taken so long is because of this voice in my head. It makes me so nervous I avoid working on my project altogether, and set it aside sometimes for weeks, even months at a time, giving myself excuses like ‘I’m too busy’, or ‘I’ll work on it after I finish this current project’, or ‘I just need to take some more notes first’. Despite all these excuses, I know deep down, that they are just those, excuses, and I really should be working on my project. Its only when I can't bear being away from it anymore, that I get back to it, wishing I hadn’t spent all that time away, wishing I didn’t succumb to that voice.
Recently I decided that I was sick of the voice’s control over me, and also that I needed to clear house, accomplish some of the older pending smaller projects, all the better to gather steam for this larger one. I decided to republish an e-book I published online a few years ago, on a different site; one that provided better distribution options, but required a fairly involved submission process. I had been putting off this task, since I was quite apprehensive about what it would entail. As the end of the year approached I was determined to accomplish this task, however long it would take; but secretly I didn’t believe I could do it. Not that I wasn’t capable of doing it, just that it would be too difficult, or I would make lots of mistakes, or find some reason or the other to give up.
While I started work on this mini-project, I was finishing up a research project with a collaborator, and in between edits on that manuscript, I decided to start working on this one. I told myself I only had to work for short bursts of time, which was the only way I could do it, as I had to keep going back to my collaborative project. While waiting for my colleague to revert with changes, I would put in 10-15 minutes on formatting my manuscript. These little bursts of work were non-threatening to the voice, pre-primed with thinking you can't really get into something in 10 minutes, so therefore there was no need to criticize. By flying under the radar of detection, I started to pile up the amount I got done. And it started to look like I was making real progress, like I might really get there.
Finally the other project was done, handed in, and I breathed a sigh of relief. This would usually be my cue to take a break, call it a day, after 2 days of almost non-stop work, late into the night. But I was pumped with adrenaline, and besides, I was really into the task now, and decided to see how much further I could get before bumping into trouble.
I did hit a few trouble spots, and each time the voice came back, telling me I would have to give up. Or wait till I found someone to help me. And then it told me that it was unlikely I would find help. But I took a short break, refueled, and told myself I would give it another 15 minutes, and if I made no progress in that time, I would give up for the day. Each time I either found a solution in 15 minutes, or was so engrossed that I kept going, and eventually figured it out. Ultimately, I did it. I published my book. But more importantly, I realized, that I may not believe in myself and my creative ability all the time, but I can manage it for 15 minutes at a time, and that may be enough.
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