6 Jun 2013

How to Write a Lot

I am always trying to encourage more LIS professionals to write about their experiences, and undertake and publish research (to the extent that a colleague recently called me a "journal pusher", in the nicest possible way of course ;)). It should be an easy sell in theory: you develop valuable skills; increase the visibility of your library and its services; learn from, and share with, your colleagues to improve how things are done. The list of positives is endless. However, in practice it is incredibly difficult for many of us to translate our motivations and intentions into actual output; our day jobs of keeping understaffed libraries ticking over can quickly drain us of both our time and enthusiasm.

An excellent, short book that I would recommend to anyone who finds themselves in this position is Paul J Silva’s How to Write a Lot. It is around a hundred A6-sized pages, so importantly does not distract you from the task at hand - writing. Many of the techniques and approaches that Silva suggests are simple, and indeed obvious, but yet they can be incredibly powerful.

One of these is the idea of specious barriers – those difficulties we often construct for ourselves that in reality can be very easily solved, or at least managed. The first and most often-cited of these being:

“I can’t find time to write” also known as “I would write more if I could just find big blocks of time” (Silva, 2007, p. 11)

The trick is allotting or scheduling the time to write, instead of trying to “find” it – because, let's be honest, you will never, ever “find” it. Indeed, regularity is the essential ingredient in productive writing, not necessarily the length of time or the volume of writing. This is why I believe that blogging can be such a valuable tool for developing your writing output. Blogging encourages you to write regularly, but does not have to be lengthy or time consuming. It is the habit and implicit commitment to writing that is the powerful concept behind it, or in the words of Keyes (The Writer's Book of Hope, 2003), routine is often a better friend than inspiration. This explains why people can find blogging very difficult at first, simply because they may not have developed a regular routine or habit of writing yet. If bloggers persevere beyond this initial threshold, most find that it becomes much easier once writing becomes embedded as a behaviour.

Silva also suggests other useful strategies that people may often overlook. Setting concrete and explicit writing goals can be a motivational tool. But it is important to stick to these goals in the same way that we stick to our non-writing goals. Actively monitoring your progress not only helps you focus on your writing objectives, but seeing your work progress over time in a visible way can encourage you to follow it through to completion. Social strategies, such as engaging with peers or friends about your ideas and exchanging feedback, can also be incredibly valuable ways of sustaining your writing.

I will finish this post, with two of my favourite ideas from Silva's book that are worth remembering at all times. Firstly, "writing is not a race", and secondly it is about "less wanting, more doing".

Source: Wikimedia Commons, Tonydcwill


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