How To Write A Lot -->

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How To Write A Lot

On WriteCast, the Walden University Writing Center's writing-focused podcast, we recently shared a “book club” episode in which two of our writing instructors discuss the strategies in Paul J. Silvia’s How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing. This is a great book for Walden students who have to write a lot as students at an online university! Today, I’m following up on that episode with some key points from Silvia’s book and some questions so that you can join our conversation. You can access WriteCast episode 65 on our podcast homepage by following this link. 

WriteCast podcast logo: A Casual Conversation for Serious Writers

Make a Writing Schedule
Silvia’s primary recommendation is to schedule your writing time. Look at your schedule, figure out when you can write, and protect that time like you would any other appointment. There’s a romanticized idea that writers write when they are inspired, but Silvia points out that inspiration doesn’t really factor into academic writing. In fact, by showing up for your scheduled writing sessions consistently, you are more likely to feel inspired and less likely to experience “writer’s block.” (Note: I've put this term in quotes because Silvia argues that writer's block doesn't exist. We discuss this in the WriteCast episode, so if you'd like to consider this idea more, check out the episode!)

I find that I am best able to keep my commitment to my writing time when I schedule it for first thing in the morning. Then, it’s less likely to be interrupted by emergencies, and I won’t be tempted to schedule a doctor’s appointment when I should be writing.

When do you like to schedule your writing time, and how do you protect it?

Shift What “Counts” as Writing
Once you’ve scheduled your writing time, think about what you’ll do with it. If you’ve scheduled yourself for an hour every day, you might be wondering how you can possibly spend that much time writing. The idea of scheduled writing is much more palatable if you follow Silvia’s advice and expand your definition of what counts as writing to include all tasks that move your project forward: this means everything from initial research to final formatting.

This holistic definition of writing has been really important for me to stay consistent with my writing. Earlier this week, I rolled out of bed after my toddler had kept me up in the middle of the night. I convinced myself to sit down at my desk and get started, but I couldn’t seem to focus on the revision task I had planned for that session. Rather than abandon my writing entirely, I decided to spend the time formatting my references. This task wasn’t what I had planned, but it still needed to get done and still moved me closer to my goal.

What are tasks that need to get done before you can submit your work but may not feel like “real” writing?

Track your progress
It can be easy to feel overwhelmed with how far you have to go, especially when it comes to longer writing projects. To combat these negative feelings, Silvia recommends tracking your progress with objective data like minutes spent working or words written. Then, when you feel like you haven’t done enough, you can look back at your data and be proud of how far you have come.

I find tracking progress to be incredibly motivating. I do track the number of words I write each day, but I have found that using this metric alone doesn’t allow me to track my productivity on research-heavy days, when I am still working hard but may not be writing new words. In order to account for the different kinds of productivity that take place over the course of writing a dissertation, I also track time spent on the project each day, writing streaks (how many days in a row I’ve shown up for my writing), and have a calendar on my wall with a sticker for each day I’ve worked on my dissertation.

How do you keep track of your writing progress?

If you haven’t checked it out already, How to Write a Lot is a quick read with lots of great tips and a no-nonsense tone. Check it out, and let us know which strategies you’re using!

Cheryl Read Author Image

Cheryl Read is a Writing Instructor and the Coordinator of Asynchronous Course Visits in the Walden University Writing Center. She loves finding strategies to get lots of writing done. When she’s not helping student writers at Walden, Cheryl stays busy playing with her son and working on her dissertation.

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  1. Writing and Reading are very importation to think creative. It's helps us to understand things in a better way. Thanks for sharing!