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.

Write-ins.

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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