How to Write a Lot

I was a little skeptical that writing a professional weblog would be of any benefit to anyone, but it has actually already paid off for me. As a response to my post on Getting Things Done, two friends/colleagues wrote to me about How to Write a Lot by Paul Silvia. I read this over the weekend, and enjoyed it.

The book roughly says, “To write a lot, schedule time each day to write.” This might seem simple, but it can be a little difficult to implement. Before reading the the text, I had scheduled myself time to do math for 70 minutes every other day. So far, this has not paid off a lot. However, I think that I might change that to daily starting next week. When this happens, I hope to see a rise in productivity.

A second thing that I am doing is to apply for a fellowship. This fellowship will release me from one course next year, giving me time to work on a textbook I am writing. I have to imagine that this, combined with a schedule, will help me to “write a lot.”

A second benefit of the book is that it spelled out the difference between psychology research (Silvia’s field) and mathematics (mine). Silvia wrote that most psychology professors have a backlog of data, and they could produce many papers if they could find time to sort through the data. Basically, psychology professors are not lacking for things to write about. I find this not to be true in mathematics. My struggle is to create original mathematics that people care about. I would love to have the problem of having too many ideas stashed away in my filing cabinet. Because of this, I expect that most of my “writing time” will actually be “thinking time.”

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2 Responses to “How to Write a Lot”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    I totally hear you, on pretty much all counts. Philosophy isn’t a field where you build up a lot of data and spin a whole bunch of papers from it at once. Some people appear to get a lot of mileage out of one idea, but (a) that’s probably a bit illusory, and (b) it sure isn’t me.
    I’ve tried to give myself an hour a day as well, and it worked for a long time last year. This year, not as good. But I expect a number of barriers to fall after November 9, so I should be able to get back to it. If not, you can kick me in the a$$ and remind me to get back in gear.
    –Erica

  2. bretbenesh Says:

    Erica,
    I am curious to know what other fields are like this. I suppose the sciences and social sciences are mostly like to have the problem of “too many paper ideas, not enough time.” Perhaps all other fields behave like this? I do not know where, say, history would fall.
    At the very least, it is nice to know that I am not alone.
    Bret

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