The Seinfeld Strategy

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

In her recent release, The 4% Fix, bestselling author Karma Brown shares time-management and goal-setting strategies that have worked for her as well as for others. Here’s one strategy recommended by Jerry Seinfeld:

Brad Isaac was a young comedian just starting out when one night he ended up at a club where Jerry Seinfeld was performing. He was able to catch up with the king of comedy backstage and asked Seinfeld if he had any tips for a newbie on the comedy circuit.

The story goes that Seinfeld told Isaac the way to be a better comic was to write better jokes, and the way to write better jokes was to write every day. Every day. He told Isaac to get a wall calendar and hang it somewhere he would see it regularly, then, with a red marker, put a big X through each day he wrote. He explained that, after a few days, Isaac would see a chain of those X marks, and after a few weeks, that long chain would be pretty satisfying. Isaac’s only job, Seinfeld told him, was to not break the chain.

This has been referred to as the “Seinfeld Strategy.” One of the main reasons it works is because it removes the pressure of focusing on a huge accomplishment (for Isaac, to deliver the best ever comedic performance, à la Jerry Seinfeld) and moves your gaze instead to a smaller, more manageable and results-based goal: write every day. It’s process-based rather than performance-based, so it isn’t about how “on” Isaac might feel during a performance, or how motivated he is, but rather about growing the chain of X days. A simple, habit-focused task.

Source: The 4% Fix by Karma Brown

On Navigating the Murky Middle

I love beginnings—in life and on the page. Anything and everything is possible whenever a blank slate appears before me. That momentum can last for days, weeks, months, and sometimes even longer.

At least, that’s what I like to think whenever I begin a new writing project.

A linear pantser, I write brief character sketches, plot the first three chapters and the last, and then let the words flow. At some point, usually around Page 80, I encounter the murky middle, that nebulous place where I find it difficult to continue or sustain the tension of the novel. In short, I’m lost with no clear trail or direction in sight.

Continue reading on the Sisterhood of Suspense blog.

RIP Oxford Comma?

An editor at one of  the online writing sites asked me to stop using the Oxford comma in my articles.  He then referred me to the AP Stylebook which advisesagainst it.

At first, I thought it was an “American” thing, but later discovered that journalists do not use it and it goes against punctuation rules in many other languages.

What is the Oxford comma?

Also known as the Harvard comma  and the serial comma, it is the comma that was traditionally  used  by printers, readers, and editors at the Oxford University Press to clarify the meaning of a sentence when listing three or more items.

For example… Harriet visited France, Spain, and Portugal.

The Oxford comma is the comma that precedes “and.” It can also be used to precede “or” and “nor.”

Last year, the University of Oxford Style Guide dropped the Oxford comma.

Here is the official entry:

As a general rule, do not use the serial/Oxford comma: so write ‘a, b and c’ not ‘a,b, and c’. But when a comma would assist in the meaning of the sentence or helps to resolve ambiguity, it can be used–especially when one of the items in the list is already joined by ‘and’:

Leave out the Oxford comma in this sentence:   Harriet visited France, Spain and Portugal.

But include the Oxford comma in this example:   The two-tone dresses are available in black and white, red and blue, and orange and green.

Any thoughts out there?