5 minute read – Book Review of “How to Write a Lot”
In general writing productivity and particular academic productivity boils down to simply how much one can write & publish. The book “Write a Lot” by Paul Silvia addresses this issue and gives practical solutions. Book is prescriptive and is a quick read. I could complete it in one sitting on the weekend. Few nuggets from the book:
· It quoted William Zinsser, “If writing seems hard, it’s because it is hard. It’s one of the hardest things people do.” Author provides ways to simplify it. He points that finding a block of time or waiting for inspiration is a catastrophic. Also he shuns the idea about writers block, particularly for academic writers. Writer’s block hits only those who believe in it.
· First advice he gives is to make a schedule, allot a time and stick to it. Daily two hours or so. One must protect this writing slot ruthlessly. Build and get into the habit of writing. This is single most important take away from the book.
· He suggests writing first and revising later. But just produce something in the allocated slot.
· Author gives the example of, Trollope – who despite full time job at post office published 63 books. That’s stunningly productive. Trollope’s writing schedule included 3 hours of writing every day before breakfast. He wrote average 250 words in 15 minutes.
· Second advice author gives is about goal setting. Goals for every month and then goals for the particular day. He suggests writing the goal down. Stick to them and emphasizes monitoring. He also advises rewarding oneself after goal achievement. Full cycle of goal setting theory included.
· Third advice author gives on agraphia (inability to write) is to form a support group. A small group of academic only (He advises separate group for doctoral scholars). Group should meet once a week and focus on writings of each one. He advises to confront anyone who is lacking in writing or goal completion. And provides some tactics to bring him in the habit of writing (first advice). This is a kind of constructive social pressure to maintain the habit.
· He demonstrates how single habit of regular writing can bring good balance in work and life.
· Book also gives a list of reference books on style, grammar, punctuation and motivation.
· There are dedicated chapters on style, journal article and book writing. But I didn’t find them much in sync with the book topic. May be just filler.
· I read that the new edition of the book is published in September, 2018 -with added chapter. The one I read is an older edition.
Paul Silvia himself writes a lot, daily from 08:45 to 10:00 AM in mortifying location. Being a social psychology faculty, he has beautifully blended the scientific principles of habits, motivation, and way to maintain them in this behavioural prescription for poor writers. I am also getting in the habit of daily writing, but couldn’t form the support group yet.
Finally the book is persuasive, quick and essential read for anyone who wishes to be a productive writer. I am looking forward to read another book from him on writing – it is specific on research or journal writing in psychology.