How to Write a Lot (Washington: American Psychological Association, 2007)

What first interested me about this book was its publisher — the American Psychological Association. Subtitled A Practical Guide for Productive Academic Writing, it seemed like the perfect book for the PhD student I was at the time.

Silvia is a psychologist and takes a straightforward, no-nonsense, behavioural science approach to writing. Although intended for academic writers (specifically, for psychologists), the first half of the book is the most practical, widely applicable, concise and clear writing on writing effectively and productively that I have ever come across. Everything Silvia says in the first half of the book is useful for creative writers — more useful than any other writing book on the same topic.

The first two chapters — on establishing a writing schedule, and on common but specious barriers to writing — actually changed my life. The third chapter, on motivational tools, was a minor revelation, but a revelation nonetheless.

The fourth chapter, on being accountable to other writers and thus adding a social component to our writing, convinced me to begin a practice I sorely miss … my friend Caleb Zimmerman and I would meet up on campus every morning, just to verify that we were both awake and mobile rather than asleep, and then separate to go write somewhere. We would check in on each other later, usually. It was the simplest and best writing practice I ever engaged in, and I miss not having a job and focusing on writing like this. (I also miss Caleb!)

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