Like Theron, I have not written much in the past year and I am planning on changing that. My slump started when I was on sabbatical last spring; I have no excuse for the fall.
I spent some time a couple of years ago talking to my mathematical friends who publish a lot. I asked them questions about how they work. Do they work in the morning or at night? How many problems do they think about at one time? Do they work in the office or somewhere else?
Basically, I was hoping to replicate what they were doing so that I would be more productive. But I was being like the young, hopeful comedians who would ask Steve Martin for advice. They likely hoped that Martin would tell them something like to find the right agent. Of course, his famous advice to them was, “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”
I had a similar moment. The last friend I talked to about productivity was Jay Pottharst. He gave me some great, Martin-esque advice about being productive in research. He basically told me that I had to find a problem so interesting that I couldn’t not think about it. I didn’t appreciate the advice at the time, since I had never really experienced it.
I finally appreciated Jay’s advice about six months before my sabbatical when Dana Ernst and Nandor Sieben posted this article to the arXiv. I fell in love with the problem and my productivity has been high ever since. Additionally, I have gotten a chance to work with Dana and Nandor, which has been both a joy and an education.