Thanks to a colleague who mentioned the book on Twitter, I have been reading How To Write A Lot: A practical guide to productive academic writing by Paul J. Silvia. It is a quick read, written a bit tongue in cheek (imo), and quite honestly, hasn’t quite rocked my world with new information. The key points I’ve taken away so far (and I admit to being just over halfway through the book)
- schedule writing time and stick to it.
- write goals down. This is a two part-er – general “write x paper”, “grant proposal” etc, then the smaller tasks w/in each goal as well as “write X # of words a day….(which I recall a few colleagues using a web app for this …)
- Track progress: this one I liked a lot – not because I haven’t thought about it before (I like the writing a list and checking boxes off), but because he suggests using SPSS or excel to track progress so you can make charts and see progress in percentages etc — and I like charts!
- Start a writing group of peers (been there, done that – have had both great and not so great – or rather productive – writing groups).
- Reward completion. This one I really like – I never really thought about “rewarding” work I SHOULD be doing ….
As I said, I am not done reading the book – I am not on the chapter about writing well – and I haven’t learned the “secret” to being a productive writer – I was hoping there would be a magic formula …my problem is never the in the planning, but always in the follow-through… I make the best budgets in the world!! 😉
If anything, the book is good for a few hearty chuckles thanks to Silvia’s candid writing style.
*Update (March 27)
I finished the book today, and have to say, I enjoyed it much more from chpt 5 on – where he talks about style, how to write journal articles, books, co-authoring etc in APA style (my style of choice and intellectual upbringing). There are a few nuggets in the last few chapters, but my first summary stands – still no secret to writing a lot other than the “put butt to chair and ‘git’er done'” as I was so eloquently told while writing my dissertation.