How to Write A Lot by Paul J. Silvia

November 11, 2014 by Claudia Scholz

Binge

Paul Silvia is a psychology professor at UNC-Greensboro.  In his aptly titled book “How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing“, Silvia admonishes faculty to resist binge-writing, that is, all-day (or all-night) bursts of writing activity, usually inspired by an impending deadline.  Such habits create aversive associations with writing (e.g. fatigue, stress, loss of social life)  making it harder to motivate oneself for future writing.  A better approach is to schedule time for writing on a regular basis.  “Binge writers spend more time feeling guilty and anxious about not writing than schedule followers spend writing” (p. 14).

His advice is to schedule writing time and to protect that time strictly.  He even advises writers to track how much time they spend each day and how much they get done.  This tracking serves as a motivation and builds self-awareness.  To sum up: schedule writing time, defend it, track it, and reward it.

Successful writers, regardless of whether they’re writing novels, nonfiction, poetry, or drama, are prolific because they write regularly, usually every day.  They reject the idea that they must be in the mood to write” p. 27

Silvia advises setting reasonable goals for using writing time.  Advancing just a little on a project, even if it’s to review the target journal’s submission guidelines, is better than postponing all activity until a deadline looms.

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