Summary Write a lot

2008/07/02 by Lassi A. Liikkanen

Summary : How to write a lot

This is an edited summary about Paul J. Silvia's book 'How to write a lot' on effective scientific writing. He argues that the only way to write a lot is to write a lot, that is to spend lot of time regularly writing.

The approach

Silvia has three different kinds of solutions for productive writing:

  • Identifying and overcoming mental barriers
  • Motivating and organizing your work

Mental barriers

Silvia has identified the following barriers and work arounds common to many scientific writers:

Issue: Lack of time
Solution: Make time.
Organize a writing schedule so that you truly devote some time to write. During that time, write! Do not read emails, organize papers, clean up office, or water flowers
Issue: Lack of knowledge, data, or literature
Solution: Ignore it.
No one can read all literature on a topic. Do not make lack of something that's not in the essence of your work an excuse to avoid writing.
Issue: Lack of proper equipment
Solution: Forget about it.
If you can not afford a new LCD display, upgrading your laptop to MacBook, or an Aeron chair, then use to old one. Sometime ago people used pen and paper under a candle light. Monetary investments needed for productive writing are minimal now in the 21st century.
Issue: Lack of inspiration
Solution: Do not wait for it.
Just go ahead and write. According to a study by Boice (1990, Professors as writers : a self-help guide to productive writing) people who wait for inspiration are the least productive.

Motivating and organizing your work

The lack of motivation was not mentioned above, but it truly is the greatest obstacle. People do not write much, because writing is demanding, difficult, and not inherently rewarding. The author suggests several solutions:

  • Set goals. Set both grand, abstract goals and concrete, everyday goals. E.g. number of words written, pages read and revised, etc.
  • Assess your progress. See how you meet your goals. You can even compile statistics.
  • Prioritize activities related to writing. Prioritities can help you organize your daily work once you start having several overlapping writing projects. Author notes that people in different positions (faculty, doctoral student, graduate, etc.) will have to prioritize differently
  • Seek peer support. Silvia devotes a whole chapter for estabhlishing an 'agrafia group' for binge writers
Example of activities

A list of different topic you can prioritize:

  • Checking copyedits and pageproofs for publication
  • Project writing
  • Revising manuscripts for re-submission
  • Reviewing manuscript and grant proposals
  • Developing new manuscripts
  • Curricular writing
  • Other writing

Get the book

It's short and sweet. Get one for yourself from Amazon etc. Paul J. Silvia (2007) How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing. American Psychological Association by

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Keywords: [writing] , [psychology] Document's status: Ok (Document dates explained)

This document created: 2008/07/02
Modified: 2008/07/02
Published: 2008/07/02


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