How to Write A Lot

Hongtao Hao / 2021-12-14


The following is my notes on Dr. Paul J. Silvia’s book of How to Write A Lot (2nd Edition)

Chapter 1: Introduction #

  • making a writing schedule,
  • set clear goals
  • keep track of your work,
  • rewarding yourself,
  • building good habits

Productive writers don’t have special gifts or special traits–they just write more regularly and use their writing time more efficiently.

  • don’t try to find the next “big block of time.” You’ll NEVER have them.

Academic writing should be more routine, boring, and mundane.

Let everyone else procrastinate, daydream, and complain–spend your time sitting down and flapping your flippers.

Chapter 2: Specious barriers to writing a lot #

Barrier 1: I can’t find time to write #

If you allot 4 hours a week for writing, you will be astounded at how much you will write in a single semester.

Barrier 2: I need to do more prep work before I can write #

No worries. Schedule your writing time and do the prep work during that time.

Barrier 3: I need a new computer/a new office/a quieter place #

You can write only with your brain. – Fowler (2006)

Barrier 4: I don’t feel like writing now. #

Forcing yourself to write makes you more createive.

Baeeier 5: I need to wrap up other stuff before I can write. #

A professor’s decks are never going to be clear

Chapter 3: The care and feeding of writing schedules #

  • Writing time should be defensible.

  • Place your writing schedule in a biologically active period.

  • Goals should be specific: writing at least 250 words; write the first two paragraphs for Discussion; Read three papers and write literature review, etc.

  • Track your progress: you can track word count goals; or counting “pomodoros”; or simply whether you write or not (yes/no).

Productive writers follow their writing schedule regardless of whether they feel like writing.

stick to your writing schedule, week-in and week-out.

If you find the right times and places, set concrete goals, and track your progress, your writing-schedule class will be smashing success

The book should stop here.

Chapter 4: Starting a writing group #

Chapter 5: A brief foray into style #

  • Use simple and silly words that everyone understands.

  • Learn to use semicolons and em dashes in your sentences.

  • Don’t use “research shows that…”. Simply add the citation and people will know your statment came from that study.

Chapter 6: Writing journal articles #

  • Introduction has three parts:

    1. what is the problem;
    2. what are the relevant theories and research about this problem;
    3. how are you going to solve the problem.
  • Present major findings only. For peripheral findings, put them in online supplementary material.

Chapter 7: Writing books #

You don’t need a sabbatical to write a book.

Chapter 8: Writing proposals for grants and fellowships #

Chapter 9: “The good thigns still to be written” #

Don’t assume that after grad school you’ll be happy and have time to do whatever you want: When you have the coveted tenure track job, you’ll have much more pressure. And don’t think when you get tenured, you’ll be happy and have time to do whatever you want: when you get tenured, you’ll want to get promoted to full professor. And don’t assume when you are a full professor you’ll be happy and have time to do whatever you want: you have so much work to do that you want to get retired soon and focus on your book. And yet don’t assume that when you ge retired you’ll be happy and have time to do whatever you want … Maybe you don’t have time at all. You are going to die very soon.

Last modified on 2022-10-01