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How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing (Lifetools: Books for the General Public) 1st Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 243 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1591477433
ISBN-10: 1591477433
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

A contemporary admonition tells us, "If you talk the talk, you have to be able to walk the walk." Paul Silvia does both; he writes effectively about how to write effectively. Without being either a scold or a Pollyanna, he identifies ways in which each of us can achieve our goals of being more proficient authors.
--Lawrence S. Wrightsman, Professor of Psychology, University of Kansas, Lawrence; author of The Psychology of the Supreme Court and coauthor of Forensic Psychology (2nd ed.) with Sol Fulero.

A common complaint among faculty and graduate students alike is that writing often takes a backseat to other professional and personal commitments. For those who have trouble writing enough, Paul Silvia explains how to write more. For those who already write plenty, he shows how to do so more efficiently and with lower cost to one's other obligations. Every researcher will benefit from the gems of advice in this book.
--Mark R. Leary, Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina

Paul Silvia's new book is just the tonic for academics who want to be more productive. Silvia demolishes all of the typical excuses that people use to put off getting to work, and he gives a few concise, practical tips that will help anyone to write more. Psychologists are the target reader, but professors in any discipline would benefit from the advice in this book.
--R. Keith Sawyer, Associate Professor, Department of Education, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri; author of seven books, editor or coauthor of three more, and author of more than 50 articles.

About the Author

Paul J. Silvia is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. His research explores the emotion of interest, particularly what makes things interesting or boring. In his free time, he drinks coffee, pets Lia, his Bernese Mountain Dog, and
writes books. He is always asked why he finds interest interesting, but he doesn't know. Exploring the Psychology of Interest is his second book.
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Product Details

  • Series: Lifetools: Books for the General Public
  • Paperback: 149 pages
  • Publisher: Amer Psychological Assn; 1 edition (January 15, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591477433
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591477433
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (243 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,189 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Megan L. Mccall on April 19, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I picked up this book knowing that it was going to tell me to stick to a writing schedule. I thought, "Well, I'll just ignore that part and pick out the stuff I like." I really did not want to hear that in order to be productive, I would have to schedule several hours a week in order to write. I am a busy person; where on earth will I "find the time"? Long weekends and school breaks are when the writing will get done. Well, P. J. Silvia shattered that illusion into a million pieces... He made it clear that I will never complete my papers if I keep waiting for the perfect moment, because during those perfect moments I will find something else that needs to be done (e.g. catch up on sleep, call my mother, wash the laundry, etc.). Unfortunately, it is my job to write. Problem, no?

But you see, I DETEST writing. I become paralyzed by anxiety, and I dread the exhaustion that inevitably follows a bout with my computer. So, I avoid it. But Dr Silvia argues that if I wrote at a specific time, on specific days, every week--and gave myself small goals for that session (e.g. write 200 words)--there would be no anxiety. Afterall, who can't write 200 words in an hour or two? Moreover, that small task won't drain me of energy. Research would not become enjoyable, but it would lose its status as cruel and unusual punishment. It would simply become an unpleasant part of my work, comparable to having to attend boring committee meetings.

I picked up this book intending to ignore the nasty scheduling piece, and I left converted. This book shatters any illusions you may have about binge writing being the "technique" that works for you. So, if you don't want to schedule writing time, maybe you should ask yourself why--and then read this book.
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Format: Paperback
This little volume carries a lot of punch; don't be confused by it's small stature. While Silvia outlines his method right from the start - Schedule Time to Write - his development of the things one needs to consider in order to be productive is wonderfully insightful.

Perhaps the most useful chapter is the second in which he lists a number of "Specious Barriers to Writing a Lot," i.e. poor excuses. It may be his background in psychology, or just his keen observational and analytical skills, but he is right on target in identifying those excuses we use time and again to prevent productive writing. His combating of these barriers is both humorous and motivating.

The only downside, and it is minor, is that he writes as if to an audience comprised solely of psychologists. Granted, he is one and the book is published by the APA, but the psychological examples can become a bit grating. That said, his book still speaks to a wide readership that can glean wonderful tips from his book. (My field is in the humanities and I found the book to be top notch!) I highly recommend this book to anyone who is a writer - especially the academics out there!
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Format: Paperback
This is a mercifully short and amusing book on writing for academic psychologists. I read it in two days, and I enjoyed it--for the most part. I have read a few books that treat the subject of writing in the academic setting in more depth, though, and I would not recommend this book as the only book you should read on writing. It discusses some subjects that I haven't seen addressed in other books, which is great. The chapter on publishing in journals and dealing with reviewers is nice. The discussion of different goals for grad students and faculty is very helpful; I will definitely borrow from it when I teach another professional seminar for grad students. I also enjoyed the opening chapters, which discuss commonly offered excuses for not writing on a schedule. Now, the quibbles.

First, I found the discussion of how to make the schedule to be too opaque. If you want more advice on how to actually make an academic work schedule, with realistic examples, I would recommend Eviatar Zerubavel's "Clockwork Muse." He breaks it down so that really any idiot can follow the advice. He also talks about finding your most productive times for writing. Silvia's advice is essentially to write in the morning, but this might not work for everyone. Some people work better at night. Zerubavel discusses methods for finding your most productive times. He also identifies some useful techniques for making writing easy and enjoyable--something that Silvia has not found a way to do yet, judging from what he says repeatedly about how unpleasant writing is.

Second, the section on style was very weak, in my opinion. Silvia recommends Strunk and White as the go-to style book, which is kind of bizarre...
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Format: Paperback
All of my grad student friends went to a talk by Dr. Silvia during a recent conference. I decided to go to a different talk on some boring topic I don't remember anymore. Everyone came back raving about what a good talk it was and how helpful the advice seemed. So I decided to buy this book because I didn't want to be left out of the conversation.

Over the last month, I followed the advice in this book and tripled my average writing output even though I had a master's thesis to defend and was teaching my first class. I owe 3908 words in my thesis and 11452 words overall to the method in this book. I think I owe a piece of my sanity to it as well.
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