productivity GTD efficiency results methodology

Book Review: How to write a lot (Paul Silvia)

August 22nd, 2007 by

This is a that one can read on a flight (I did), but it packs a lot of good advice. Silvia is sick of ‘self-help-like’ books on writers block, etc., and it shows. He writes from the point of view of a seasoned author, and shows quite a lot of ‘being there, done that’ advice in both publishing papers and books. If you are planning a book, the last chapters are the best advice I could find on book planning; he even discusses how to negotiate with your publisher.

So what are the basic recommendations?

- Writing is hard, so there isn’t much of a point trying to find a method to ‘make writing easy’.

- Write on schedule, and in a very consistent manner. Try to create a habit.

- Track your productivity (He uses a SPSS file where he inputs number of words typed per day, and whether he achieved the goal for the day). Tracking is a favorite of mine: it’s surprising how worrying little you get done on a day that feels like you have worked a lot. Tracking will tell you this. It’ll help you planning better: how many words can you write a day, on average? Well, if you have stats, you can say.

- don’t let yourself fall into what he calls ‘specious barriers’. For example: “I’m waiting until I feel inspired” or “I need to do some more analysis first.”

- Use social pressure: create an agraphia group with friends/peers, and get together so you can feel ashamed if you didn’t write what you said you would.

The book clearly lives out to its ambitious title. It demystifies productivity (which is always a good thing), and it’ll probably make you laugh outloud… which is more than what I can say about most books that try to do that for you.

Of course, there are chapters that deal with style. Don’t skip those; they are probably the funniest.

This is probably the best book on the topic I have found. Highly recommended.

PS: Paul cites a whole lot of books that look really interesting.

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