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Jane Friedman Electric Speed

In this issue

A note from Jane

One of my bad habits is that when I receive what is clearly a thank-you card in the mail, I decide to open it later. But sometimes, I never do. I have one thank-you card still unopened from 2017. About six others (more recent) also sit on my desk.

I’ve often wondered what is wrong with me. I may have figured out the answer.

In his article What Makes Us Happy?, Joshua Wolf Shenk explores the Harvard Study of Adult Development, one of the longest-running studies of human well-being, started in 1937.

One of the study’s subjects was a doctor and well-loved husband. For his 70th birthday, his wife solicited letters from his longtime patients, asking if they would like to write a message of appreciation. A hundred people responded, and she put these letters in a presentation box and gifted them to her husband.

Eight years later, the man had still never read the letters. He told the interviewer, “It’s very hard for most of us to tolerate being loved.”

Shenk writes, “Positive emotions make us more vulnerable than negative ones. One reason is that they’re future-oriented. Fear and sadness have immediate payoffs—protecting us from attack or attracting resources at times of distress. Gratitude and joy, over time, will yield better health and deeper connections—but in the short term actually put us at risk. That’s because, while negative emotions tend to be insulating, positive emotions expose us to the common elements of rejection and heartbreak.”

His article concludes, and I must agree, that seeing a defense is easier than changing it.


P.S. The most popular blog post at my site this month: How I Landed a Book Deal Via Twitter—Unintentionally

P.P.S. There is more to this newsletter—keep scrolling!
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Jane’s Electric Speed List

Here are some of the latest things I’ve discovered. I have not been paid to mention any of these resources and there are no affiliate links.

Find a free tool to replace a paid tool

Are you spending too much money on software or tech tools and services? Open Source Stash is a collection of open-source alternatives. For example, if you’d like a free alternative to Photoshop, try Gimp. A free password manager? PassWall. Keep in mind that some open-source solutions require more tech savvy from you, the user.

If you like creating mind maps: Brainio

Brainio helps you set up a mind map for a new project and take notes at the same time. The free plan includes up to 10 documents and three collaborators.

Escape your literary echo chamber and get more unusual book recommendations

Here is a sophisticated tool for turning up book recommendations that you might not get anywhere else. You start by inputting three titles, then you can filter by fiction versus nonfiction, by level of eclecticism, and also by decade. Not to be missed!

Callisto: a Wordpress migration tool

Wordpress has decent import functionality, but it requires that you migrate either from another Wordpress site or another major platform (e.g., Blogspot). If a Wordpress migration might be in your future, take note of Callisto. It imports content from anywhere on the web into Wordpress in the simplest way imaginable: Just give it the link and watch it go. Note: Callisto is a free Wordpress plugin and requires you to have a self-hosted Wordpress site. Learn more.

Query Letter Master Class with Jane Friedman. $79 workshop. Wednesday, January 13, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Eastern

Next online class: Query Letter Master Class with Jane Friedman

On Wednesday, Jan. 13: The query letter has one purpose, and one purpose only: to seduce the agent or editor into reading or requesting your work. Learn the best practices of query writing (in any genre) and submit your work with confidence. You’ll also receive access to: recordings of past classes on how to research agents and publishers and how to write a novel or memoir synopsis; an archive of sample query letters to help you write your own; and the opportunity to join a Facebook group of other writers in the class.
Learn more and register

Your turn: Planning for the new year

In the last issue, I asked about resolutions for the new year and any methods or tools you use to track progress. Turns out that many of you do not like resolutions! Here’s what others said.
  • I’ve been “preparing” for my New Year’s resolution—to write more effectively. My preparation includes assessing my commitments and figuring out what to keep and what to let go. … I still have commitments, but fewer and what I’ve kept is more focused on what I want to do. On New Year’s Day, I’m going to make up a schedule for the month of January and see how it all works. —Aline Soules

  • Since 2016, I’ve implemented quarterly goals, an idea I got from Jenna Moreci. My system has evolved to using a Mead graph composition notebook, set up very loosely as a bullet journal—though definitely not fancy or overly elaborate like the ones you see on Pinterest because I don’t have the time or inclination for this. My goals are divided into categories: Writing, Professional/Work, Health, Finances, and Personal Sanity. I typically have a total of around 20 goals per quarter. Each day, I consult this notebook, check things off as they get done. At the end of the quarter, I do an ‘autopsy’—which goals did I meet? which goals were unmet? and then spend some time reflecting—why didn’t I hit certain goals? … After this, I make a list of goals for the next quarter and set up the notebook. The overall ‘goal’ of setting quarterly goals isn’t to, necessarily, meet every single one. The purpose is to provide myself with some structure and focus. It helps me manage my time better because time is more precious than money. This system has also helped me to identify things to cut from my life—I had to face the fact that I was never going to learn how to belly dance or speak fluent Japanese—and such revelations have freed up more time and creative energy. —Melissa Gardner
If anyone seeks a smartphone app for building better habits and routines, a few that I’ve seen: Fabulous, Streaks (Apple only), and Everyday. Look in your favorite app store for each.

Next question: Do you have a favorite online learning site (with offerings from varied instructors)? Here I’m thinking of sites like Lynda/LinkedIn Learning, The Great Courses, Master Class, and so on. Speaking for myself, I’ve greatly enjoyed the cooking classes on Master Class, even if there’s no chance I will ever cook quite like Massimo Bottura.

Upcoming online classes

👑 January 13: Query Letter Master Class with Jane Friedman

🏁 January 22: This Is the Year You’ll Finish Your Book with Allison K Williams

👁 February 10: Master Point of View to Strengthen Your Storytelling with Tiffany Yates Martin

💡February 24: Who Am “I” Really? Finding Yourself as an Engaging Character in Memoir with Dinty W. Moore

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Electric Speed is a free newsletter by Jane Friedman that launched in 2009. More than 35,000 subscribers receive it. You can support it by (1) sponsoring an issue or (2) sharing it with friends and colleagues.
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