TMN058: Dr. Rachel Watson on Writing

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This week our friend Dr. Rachel Watson, professor of American Literature at Howard University, joins us with some writing tips, mutual kvetching about Microsoft Word, and our favorite notebooks for writing.

Show Notes

We had a great time as always hosting “The Admiral”‘s friend Dr. Rachel Watson last weekend.

(You may recognize some certain Cuban cigars we may or may not have indulged in… See Ep. 55 on Sailing to Cuba)


On Writing Well

I hope you’ll tune in to the audio or video podcast to hear the whole interview with Dr. Watson. Meanwhile, if you’re wondering about the book we mentioned, here it is:

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction

Love this book! I got it on Kindle and got it for my Dad (author of Depression Baby and currently working on a follow-up).

Perhaps my favorite quote in here is something to the effect that after the first “Inspiration” phase is over, the rest of writing is as straightforward as filling out a grocery list. What I think he’s getting at is attacking your initial writing blob logically:

“Well, I shouldn’t suddenly be using present tense here, because I don’t anywhere else and it’s jarring.”

“Well, this character would never do that because…”

You get the picture. Zinsser talks about unity and simplicity. I’m all about “Less is More,” so I can definitely relate. Sound advice!

Winners & Losers

This week’s Winner (“Winners and Losers”) is Ya Minko (@MinkoEmmanuel on Twitter, on Soundcloud… **Some lyrics NSFW!!!)


What the HECK are you Doing?

We’re gear-heavy today! Well, okay…software-, app-, and notebook-heavy. In this episode, Dr. Watson mentions Apple’s Pages and the Freedom app, and I mention RescueTime and Headspace.

Apple Pages

Dr. Watson has had a “contentious and dramatically destructive relationship with Microsoft Word,” so she is currently liking Apple’s Pages app as an alternative.

From Apple:Pages lets you create stunning documents on a Mac, iPad, or iPhone — or on a PC using iWork for iCloud. And it’s compatible with Microsoft Word.”


From the website:

“Freedom is the app and website blocker used by over 350,000 people to improve focus and productivity.”


RescueTime-iconI mentioned RescueTime in this episode. RescueTime helps keep me on track by tracking how much time I spend on various apps and websites, and blocks certain websites like Twitter and Facebook if I spend too much time there.

Multimedia Ninjas can check out RescueTime HERE.

Headspace Guided Meditation App

In this episode and others (like Ep. 57 with Steve Dancz), we mention Headspace, the guided meditation app and program. As of this writing, I get no commission or anything else from them for mentioning them (other than maybe a virtual pat on the back and a heartfelt “attaboy!”. But I’ve found Headspace to be helpful in my daily routine (well, almost daily…about 57 days since I missed a day), so perhaps you will too.

I find that regularly practicing “mindfulness” (a less loaded word than “meditation”) helps me cage the monkey mind and be more present and creative. There are packs within the app on Creativity, Acceptance, Patience, Focus, and much more, including topics related to Relationships, Sports, Business and Creative Performance, Health, and more.

Headspace lets you track your progress and statistics, so I can see that I’ve meditated 186 sessions for a total of 41 hours. (Oh, and there are 23,527 people using the app at this moment.)

If you’d like to check it out, click HERE. Maybe someday they’ll send me a check. Meanwhile, I’ll settle for a silent “attaboy.”


Wouldn’t you like to be a Ninja too? Sign up for my FREE email list here, and stay ahead of the pack!

Also mentioned, for you longhand writers, scribblers, drawers and sketchers out there…

Moleskine notebook

Dr. Watson is modeling (I believe) the Moleskine Cahier Journal in the first part of the interview. However, she was super stoked about the Blackwing Slate notebook below…and now I can see why!

Click to Order

Blackwing Slate – Ruled

Dr. Watson also mentioned the Blackwing Slate – Ruled.

Update: As promised on the show, Dr. Watson sent me one of these fine notebooks, and it is awesome indeed. The binding lets you actually lay the book flat for writing (or drawing, or whatever ya like), there’s a built-in pencil/pen holder (Blackwing 602 pencil included)…very cool! I will be getting more of these puppies! Thanks, Dr. Watson!!!

Click to Order

Draplin Field Notes

Meanwhile, I’m showing my bright orange Draplin Field Notes Expedition memo pad. It’s great fun to whip out at the cantina an act like an anthropologist. They also have various other colors, and you can get them with blank, ruled, or grid paper.

I gotta give credit to this guy Draplin for a useful, yet tongue-in-cheek product.

(These notebooks are smaller than the other two discussed (see the video podcast), and are best suited for carrying in your pocket for notes, logo sketches, and whatnot. The other two are all about writing…especially the Blackwing Slate.

Click to Order

Disclosure: I do make a commission on some of the products listed on this site, if you use the links here to purchase them. So help a ninja out, would ya?!?? If you’d like any of these useful things—all of which I have purchased, used, and/or liked myself, unless otherwise noted!—you can do me a huge favor by purchasing them from these links. A Ninja’s gotta eat! 🙂
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