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One Easy Trick To Write More Words

Yeah, sorry for the clickbait headline again. I’m kind of enjoying it, though. But I promise I won’t make you read through thirty slides. I don’t do that.

Anyway, today I want to talk about the trick I’ve used to write pretty much anything I’ve ever finished: dissertation, novel drafts, articles, you name it.


Or, as one of my colleagues calls it, “proximal writing.”

Dr. Cox’s actual, literal desk. While editing this post. Meta, right?
Photo by the author.

I don’t know why it works, but it works this way: You make a commitment with some group of people (it can be as small as just one other person) to meet at a certain time and place, and at the beginning of the session you declare a goal. Then you more or less ignore each other and work!

If you are getting distracted, combine it with the pomodoro technique, in which you set a timer for a small amount of time (I usually use 10 minutes for first drafts, 15 or 20 for more complex things). I learned this as “word wars” from doing National Novel Writing Month–in fact, I learned the whole concept of write-ins from National Novel Writing Month.

I am, as of writing this, freaking out about being innundated with work. (Seriously, my thought process was: what is the easiest post I can write right now and check this off the list). But, I’m pleased to say that I wrote 700 words on a novel this week. Last week, it was 1,000. That’s… not zero. And that’s saying something. Likewise, I’ve already put more work into cleaning up some data into a presentable article this semester (in week 5) than I did for the entire previous semester. How?

Once a week, per project, I meet with some people and we declare our goals, write, and then declare how close we made it to those goals.

Moreover, I really treasure that time because at least at those times I know what I’m supposed to be doing. They’re anti-stress times even though they’re work times.

How do you make time to write? Have you tried “write-ins” or “proximal writing”? Do you have any other ways of making it a more productive time?

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