A good structure for non-fiction writing

I read a fair number of books every year. Based on the stuff I’ve read last couple of years, I have observed a winning method of structuring concepts in non-fiction books. The easiest to consume non-fiction books appear to use this familiar structure to present the chapters/concepts:

  1. Start with an anecdote, or a story. The story displays, or better, ends with the concept the chapter intends to impress.
  2. Follow up with an explanation of the concept—its definition, origins, benefits, why-it-works, side-effects, etc.
  3. Reinforce with references to research, or interviews with researchers who have studied the characteristic in depth.
  4. Finish with a few more short anecdotes. Even better if these are follow-up stories to the ones in the first section, and/or lead to the concept in the following chapter.

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My cricket legacy—fractions of 6th

Growing up in India, cricket was one of the central parts of life. I am also curious, and a tad numerically inclined. So, my favourite pass-time while watching cricket while growing up was calculating run rates, required run rates and other similar fractions while watching a match on TV. This was before the live statistics on TV really kicked off.

An over in cricket is 6 balls. Calculating those averages every 6th ball ensured that I became really good at knowing the various fractions of 6—⅙ to ⅚—in decimal, and at quickly manipulating them within themselves and with other non-3-x numbers.

I don’t really follow cricket anymore. But some of this skill has stayed with me even all these years later :)

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Light, weather, and productivity—thoughts from a summer rain shower

My (home) office is in a small attic conversion. I have a large window right in front of me, and a smaller one behind. Light from the small window creates a reflection on the monitor, so its shade stays down. I like a lot of light in the room, so I prefer keeping the shade on the large window open.

The large window faces south, and overlooks my backyard. The trees on the mount provide the backdrop. When the sun is up, the south-face means it shines straight through the window, and into my eyes. There’s a cluster of trees to the east end of the backyard that stops the sun coming in early in the morning. Later in the evening, the sun dips sufficiently to the West for the light to not fall straight on me. However, if the sun is out, for most of the day it shines straight into my eyes, forcing me to close the shade—darkening the room.

…if the sun is out.

That phrase is at the centre of my paradox.

I am happier when it is sunny. I am also a lot more productive when there’s a lot of light in my room. Sadly, the position of the window means that I can’t be both.
If the sun is out, I can’t keep the window open so am neither uber-productive nor very happy.
If the sun is not out, I can keep the window open, so am quite productive, if not as happy.

This is where the seasons also make a play. In winter, the days are short, and the sun rarely makes an appearance even in those short days. This makes most people sad, including me. But this also means that I can keep the window shade open all day. This gives a tremendous boost to my productivity (and relative mood).1

In summer, the days are long, and the sun makes an appearance more often. So I need to keep the window shade closed most days—a dampener to both productivity and the mood. The mood recovers a bit from walking/running in the sun during the midday break, but productivity does suffer.

Why am I writing this now? Because I just recorded this observation.

I had quite a productive autumn-winter-spring this year. However, I have been struggling a bit to keep the work going at the same pace since the sun started showing up. However, for the last 10 days or so, we have had a fair amount of rain and rain-like weather. This has meant very little strong sun, and I have been able to keep the window shades open. Productivity has been through the roof!

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Procrastinating through work

I need to do two big, hairy, scary work tasks. One is important and scary (unknown outcome), the other is hard (unknown input quantity, unknown outcome).

Instead I have been working all morning finishing off the less important, less scary tasks from the todo list.

I am procrastinating—escaping work by working on other stuff.

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Ankle pain..

.. is a sign of weekend spent well.

Started yesterday with the year’s best time at the parkrun. Only by 2 secs, but on a very windy day.

Then walked the boys, fixed the bathroom door, almost fixed the shower holder, did a bit of weeding, and played with the boy in the backyard.

Ended the day totally knackered, with almost 18000 steps, and an aching ankle. Happy but hurt.

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