Author: Mark Szymczyk

Deep Work Scheduling Philosophies for Writers

I’m reading the book Deep Work by Cal Newport (Amazon Page). Deep work involves the ability to focus on a cognitively demanding task, such as writing a book, so that you can get more done in less time. Writing a book is difficult if you check your email and Twitter feed every 10-15 minutes.

To get into a state to produce deep work, you need to schedule time for focused, uninterrupted work. Newport lists the following philosophies of deep work scheduling:

  • Monastic philosophy
  • Bimodal philosophy
  • Rhythmic philosophy
  • Journalistic philosophy

Monastic Philosophy

The monastic philosophy maximizes deep efforts by eliminating shallow obligations, such as social media and email. Eliminating shallow obligations gives you large blocks of time to work.

This philosophy is the most difficult to live by, as most of you have lives that don’t let you isolate yourselves from the world for long periods of time. But if you can live by the monastic philosophy, it’s a great way to schedule enough time to do deep work.

Bimodal Philosophy

The bimodal philosophy divides your time between deep and shallow work. During the deep time you act like you would in the monastic philosophy, seeking long periods of intense and uninterrupted concentration to do deep work. The shallow time can be spent doing things like answering emails.

The most common ways to implement the bimodal philosophy are to block out one or more complete days a week for deep work or to spend one season of the year in deep work. If you were a teacher, you might spend the summer in deep work, allowing you to concentrate on teaching during the school year.

Rhythmic Philosophy

The rhythmic philosophy says the easiest way to consistently start deep work sessions is to transform them into a regular habit. Generate a rhythm that removes the need to invest energy in deciding if and when you’re going to do deep work.

There are two common methods to implement the rhythmic philosophy. The first method is the chain method. Put a calendar up on your wall. When you do deep work on a day, put an X through that date. Use the calendar to build up a chain of consecutive days of deep work that you don’t want to break. The second method is to schedule a block of time (usually 1-2 hours) at the same time every day for deep work. A common approach for people with full-time jobs is to wake up early and do the deep work before going to their jobs.

The rhythmic philosophy is the best philosophy for most people. It’s easier to carve out 1-2 hours a day for deep work than to carve out the days or weeks of time that the monastic and bimodal philosophies require.

Journalistic Philosophy

The journalistic philosophy fits deep work wherever you can into your schedule. If you have 20 minutes free, spend that time doing deep work. The journalistic philosophy gets its name from the fact that journalists are trained to shift into writing mode at a moment’s notice to finish articles in time to meet deadlines.

On the surface the journalistic philosophy is the easiest of the philosophies because you don’t need to schedule large blocks of time for deep work. You work when you get a chance. But the journalistic philosophy is difficult to practice because of the difficulty in shifting from shallow to deep mode. It helps if you have confidence in your abilities and feel that what you’re working on is important and will succeed. If you can practice the journalistic philosophy and quickly shift from shallow to deep work, go for it.

Call for AM Pages iOS Testers

I have the iOS version of AM Pages at a point where I can show it to external testers. If you would like to test AM Pages, read this post and follow the application instructions.

System Requirements

An iOS device running iOS 9, 10, or 11.

Application Instructions

  1. Go to the AM Pages page.
  2. Click the Email Support button.
  3. In the email you send, tell me your name and the iOS devices you will use to test AM Pages.

I will assume the email address you use to send the email is your Apple ID email address. If you use a different email address to send the email, please include the Apple ID email address in your email.

Installing AM Pages

You must download and install the TestFlight app before you can install AM Pages. TestFlight allows you to run pre-release iOS software on your devices.

After installing TestFlight, launch it and accept the invitation to install AM Pages. Please keep in mind you won’t receive an invitation until I add you to the list of external testers on Apple’s iTunes Connect site.

What to Test

I want you to look for problems with AM Pages and report them to me so I can fix them before I submit AM Pages to the App Store. Some specific things to test include the following:

  • Make sure only one entry is created each day.
  • Make sure you can see what you are typing when using the onscreen keyboard.

But don’t limit yourself to this list. If you notice a problem or want to suggest a way to improve AM Pages, send feedback by going to the AM Pages page and clicking the Email Support button.

Places to Publish: Smashwords

Smashwords is a place to publish, sell, and distribute ebooks. Smashwords provides ebook distribution to many retailers, including Apple’s iBooks and Barnes and Noble.


Smashwords charges no upfront fees. They take a percentage of each ebook you sell. For books you sell through the Smashwords bookstore, you keep 80% of the book’s list price. For books sold outside the Smashwords store, you keep 60% of the book’s list price.


Smashwords provides an easy way to distribute your ebook to many stores.


You can make more money per sale by using Paddle or Gumroad. A $10 ebook would net you at least $1 more using Paddle or Gumroad instead of Smashwords.

You can’t sell books on Amazon using Smashwords.

Smashwords does not print books.


If you want to sell ebooks at many retailers, give Smashwords a try.

Tools for Indie Authors: Canva

Canva is an online graphic design app. Canva won’t help you write your book, but it can help you market and promote your book. Indie authors can use Canva to create the following:

  • Book covers
  • Logos
  • Flyers and posters for book signings
  • Twitter header images
  • Images for blog posts and tweets
  • Business cards

Using Canva

When using Canva you start by choosing what you want to design: book cover, logo, poster, etc. After making your decision either start with a template (Canva calls them layouts) or a blank canvas.

If you start with a template, the next step is to modify it to suit your needs. Some of the ways you can modify a template include the following:

  • Replace the placeholder text with your text
  • Change the color of text and other elements
  • Change the font and font size of the text
  • Change the text alignment

If you start with a blank canvas, you’ll have to add a background, text, and other elements. You can either go with a solid background color or choose from dozens of background patterns. For text you can add headings, body text, or choose from dozens of templates that let you have text inside shapes. Canva has the following elements to add to a design:

  • Photos
  • Grids
  • Frames
  • Shapes
  • Lines
  • Illustrations
  • Icons
  • Charts

Text and elements can also be added to designs that start from a template. You can also upload your own photos and images to use in your designs.

What’s nice about Canva is the templates provide a good starting point towards designing something that looks professional. But there are also enough ways to customize your designs to make them stand out.


Canva provides a free version for teams of up to 10 people that includes 1 GB of storage for your designs. The free version should be sufficient for indie authors. There’s also a paid version for $13 a month that provides the following benefits:

  • Unlimited storage
  • More templates, photos, and illustrations to choose from
  • The ability to upload your own fonts
  • The ability to quickly resize your designs
  • Support for teams of up to 30 people

Choosing the Line Spacing for Your Book

Line spacing is the amount of space between lines of text in a paragraph. If there’s not enough space between lines, text becomes difficult to read. Place too much space between lines, and the lines in the paragraph don’t look like they belong together.

The line spacing for paragraphs should be 120-145% of the font size. If you have a 10 point font for your book’s body text, the line spacing should be 12-14.5 points. I recommend starting with the lower end of the scale, 120% or 125% of the font size, and see how that looks. As a point of reference, the line spacing for paragraphs on this blog is 130% of the font size.