Home » Posts tagged “How to Write a Lot”

Time to Make the Doughnuts?

February 11th, 2011

Last week in faculty groups we discussed Robert Boice’s statement, quoted and expanded upon by Wendy Belcher, that

Those who wrote in regular, unemotional sessions of moderate length completed more pages, enjoyed more editorial acceptance, were less depressed and more creative than those authors who wrote in emotionally charged binges.

The words we focused on here were “unemotional” versus “emotionally charged.”  I’ll blog more about emotion and how it gets in the way (especially in author-editor relationships) in a future post, but for the time being it makes sense to think about how to step away from it in a writing session.  From brushing your teeth to bagging the trash to driving to work every day, we do things unemotionally that we may not be objectively inclined to enjoy… yet somehow writing often falls into the “do I feel like it” category.  Learning to de-emotionalize writing sessions can make a world of difference, and can vastly improve mood as well as output.  My friend Christy from grad school–channeling an old Dunkin’ Donuts commercial–used to say it was “Time to make the doughnuts” again.

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Writing a complete book draft in 30 days

January 25th, 2011

Although this method probably won’t fly with scholarly writing, we’ve been enjoying the lively do-it-yourself kit Book in a Month for narrative nonfiction, a genre in which many of our scholars work.  Even though it touts itself as a fiction guide, the methods work just fine when you’re dealing with a story that actually did happen.

I waited to blog about this one until I had used it for a few days, but now, on Day 6, I’m sold.  Unlike the vast majority of vague, copy-each-other writing guides (it’s such a bleak genre), this one actually gets you somewhere helpful on Day 1, and it continues to get better as it goes along.  Author Victoria Lynn Schmidt, who has a Ph.D. in psychology, also studied writing, and she seems to approach writing as a scientist rather than an artist.  Personally, I find that helpful.  Every day you will have boxes to fill in, questions to answer, or patterns to establish, and at the end you even get a sheet of stickers to reward yourself.

If you want a fun jump-start to your work for the new year, this might be the most fulfilling $15 you’ll ever spend.

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Guest blogger: Jim King on our first assigned book

June 3rd, 2010

Jim King observed the following in his first week with his faculty scholarly publishing group:

Completing my assignment, reading the first four chapters of Paul Silvia’s How to Write a Lot, I see that his techniques apply to the effort to tame any unstructured, creative or extracurricular activity. In fact, I applied his planning advice, inadvertently, to get those four chapters read. Not a huge task, but one that had to be fit into the available nooks and crannies of available time.

Silvia’s writing is fun to read and so I imagine fun to write.  When I can take the liberty, and when I am not otherwise foiled by my subject matter, I also try to make my writing fun – and in so doing, make it better (I hope) more readable and more memorable but most important, more prolific. I get charged up when I am having fun writing. But it is sometime difficult to see the line between “fun” and “glib”, or worse “self indulgent”; and I find I have to get pretty ruthless as my own editor, throwing out the otherwise beloved “cutecisms” and distracting parentheticals; which makes me wonder about what I’m writing now. Silvia belies his own statement, though – writing is not necessarily like repairing a sewer or running a mortuary.

Curiously, my writing topic – “Alternative Workplace Solutions: Coworking and Consolidation” – is focused on the ability (technically, socially, organizationally, spatially) to work anywhere, anytime, through laptop immersion and the suspension of peripheral perception, with all tools and resources available at a series of keystrokes; and without the necessity of an established workplace or “large blocks of time” Silvia mentions. Certainly, there are minimum “dive-times” (immersion process), but it’s not necessarily a long weekend – it can be as brief as a 2-hour airport layover. But, back to Silvia and the challenges he lays down (specious barriers, in some cases) –

  1. Cannot find the time (I allotted the time to read the four chapters) – GUILTY
  2. Binge writing (or binge anything) – BIG TIME GUILTY
  3. Waiting till a large block of time can be “found” – EXTREMELY GUILTY
  4. Failing to schedule – GUILTY
  5. Allowing e-mail distractions – GUILTY
  6. Getting set up, with the right space & equipment, first – GUILTY
  7. Not in the mood – GUILTY
  8. Setting too many goals – GUILTY
  9. Not setting any goals – GUILTY
  10. Failing to schedule time to think – GUILTY
  11. Neglecting to monitor, measure and so improve my productivity – GUILTY
  12. Writers Block – NOT GUILTY
  13. Complaining – GUILTY

Perhaps this is just one more “distracting parenthetical”, but I can’t not include my favorite Silvia quote:  “The best kind of self control is to avoid situations that require self control.” I see why you suggested this book. It really is helpful; and chapter four leads to your group. Thanks Carole.

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