Help me become a higher-output writer!
August 8, 2008 10:55 AM Subscribe
Academic writing filter: I am a painfully slow writer. How might I go about developing a composition process that's higher-output, requires less concentration, and is more revision-friendly?
posted by Bardolph to education (13 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
I've never been the kind of person for whom words just spill out onto the page. When I'm able to write anything at all, I usually manage it by pacing and thinking through things until sentences shape themselves spontaneously in my head, at which point I transcribe and move on. What emerges is (I'm told) fairly high-quality, but to get into "writing mode" at all requires hours of unbroken concentration-- and once I'm in the zone, I generally have to write the paper more or less continuously for the next few days, without doing anything else (including social interaction) that might break my focus. At my best, I can squeeze out an average of about four pages per 24 hours, assuming I do nothing but write.
Now that I'm staring down the barrel of some serious writing, I'm realizing I really need to overhaul my composition process. If I'm ever going to tackle book-length projects, I'll need (a) to be able to work in reasonable stretches-- say, five hours at a time instead of 96-- and (b) to find a way to write with only a reasonable investment of concentration and effort, as opposed to the torturous, childbirth-worthy levels of focus I currently require.
I suspect the answer might be to aim for lower-quality, higher-quantity prose, and to revise as necessary. Thing is, I have
no idea how to do this. I'm not some crazy perfectionist saddled with debilitatingly high standards; at this point, I'd be perfectly happy to pour out dreck, given that I suspect my advisors won't read half of what I write anyway. It's just that my mind doesn't really allow me the option of producing high-volume, bad writing. In the throes of composition, it doesn't come down to a bad sentence in five minutes vs. a good one in 15; it's the good sentence, or else a blank page. If there IS some time-consuming process of mental revision at work, it's taking place way below the surface of my consciousness, at some level where I can't presently access it. (An additional guilty secret: I've never really revised an academic essay. All the sentences end up being so bound together by rhythm, logic, sound, shape, etc. that I can't really amend much without just taking everything apart and starting over from the beginning.)
Any advice, suggestions or inspirational stories would be very very welcome, particularly if there's anyone out there who's successfully turned this corner. Useless advice thus far: "Just relax, don't worry, and do it!" (I'm not worried, but I can't), and "Just sit down and type anything, without thinking!" (I've tried; nothing comes out, which is my problem in the first place). Any ideas?