How to write a lot?! Paul J. Silvia has a solution.

Usually everyone has a list of books that he or she wishes that they had read earlier; 'how to write a lot' by Silvia is one of those books for me. This is a how-to book on the popular subject of how to become a productive academic writer. After years of research and writing in Psychology, Silvia has a simple yet effective system to introduce.

Before Silvia introduces his system, he starts with common barriers to the goal of productive writing. In this post, I list these barriers.

Silvia suggests that the number one barrier mentioned usually by academics is that:
I cannot find time to write, or I would write more if I could just find big blocks of time.

In order to resolve this barrier, Silvia asks readers to ask themselves a simple question:
Do you need to "find" time to teach, to clean your teeth, or to have breakfast?
He then mentioned that if you think writing time is 'hidden somewhere deep inside your daily schedule', you won't get anywhere (he meant as an academic writer! but certianly these barriers are also commonly used in other aspects of our life, e.g., having a few push-ups daily!). Silvia emphasizes on rejecting the thought of finding time (as is used in making it a barrier to writing) and instead "allotting" time to write (e.g., an hour per day before breakfast?!).
His message is simple: make a schedule and stick to it.

To further tackle this obstacle (i.e., being so busy that you cannot find time to write), Siliva has some more advice:

  • "The secret is the regularity, not the number of days or the number of hours."
  • "If you don't plan to make a schedule, gently close this book (i.e., give up on the whole idea of how to write a lot)
  • "Defend your writing time, even if others don't understand. Make no excuses! There is no other way to write a lot." ... and "you'll be surprised, astonished, even dumbfounded, by how much you'll get done by writing regularly at scheduled times."

The second barrier mentioned is that
I need to do some more analyses first, also known as I need to read a few more articles, write more codes, verify this or that, etc.
Silvia simply advice readers to do whatever they need to do during the allotted writing time because, as he says, writing is more than typing words: Any action that is instrumental in completing a writing project counts as writing.

How to write a lot? A photo of the book helped also many people such as Rebecca in their writing challenge
Photo from the blog post of Rebecca Steffy Couch

The thid barrier is the one that deals with fooling ourselves by saying things such as
To write a lot, I need a new computer (or a nice chair, a better table, a faster computer, a desk lamp, etc.). I personally use one of these excuses to help myself being an unproductive academic writer (like many others)—for example, as also said in the book, bemoaning the lack of 'my own space' to write. Silvia suggests that equipment will never help one to write a lot; he again emphasizes that only making a schedule and sticking to it will!!!

And the barrier number four (the worst of all...)! Silvia ask us to stop telling ourselves I'm waiting until I feel like it or I write best when I'm inspired to write. To cancel this negativity, should you believe it, Silvia suggests to ask yourself some simple questions:

  • How has this strategy worked so far?
  • Are you happy with how much you write?
  • Do you feel stressed about finding time to write or about completing half-finished projects?
  • Do you sacrifice your evenings and weekends for writing?

It is crystal clear (at least to me) that waiting for inspiration doesn't work. As Silvia says, serious writers write, inspired or not, and that over time, one will discover that routine is a better friend than inspiration.

In the next post, I will list motivational tools that "how to write a lot" introduces; if you cannot wait till then, buy the book or borrow it from a library. It is worthwhile to read it even if you are not an academic; you can simply adapt the ideas to other subjects such as "how to save a lot money" or "how to lose a lot of weight" or in general "how to developing a new habit".

You may also like this post on the APA website.

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