“How to Write a Lot” (Even though you won’t) pt. 1

I’ve always had a difficult time getting on a writing schedule, but now that I’m entering into more writing-intensive aspect of my graduate program, I need to figure out how to be more regular, disciplined, and prolific as a writer. When I say prolific, I don’t necessarily mean a large volume of polished words; I mean prolific in terms of the number of hours I actually devote to becoming a better writer. So I ordered what I’ll characterize as a writer’s self-help book. It’s called: How to Write a Lot, by Paul J. Silvia. The first thing I can say is “At least it’s cheap.” Less than $20. It has some excellent points (which I’ve outlined below), but I just don’t see his development or exploration of these ideas warranting 130 pages of text. The size, layout, spacing and overall length-lengthening publication strategies go a long way in supporting this. I can’t really fault him for it, though. It’s just part of the publishing industry. People like me will buy the book, thinking that there will be more to it that merely the common sense advice that floats around among writers at writing workshops and classrooms all the time. It’s common sense, right? Look at the list below and ask yourself if you didn’t already know any of these already? I doubt it. Everyone knows these aphorisms. But people who want to be writers still don’t do it. Why? What’s going on? What I’m getting at is that there IS an audience for Silvia’s book, but I don’t know, exactly, what he’s offering them beyond what they already know? Maybe then Silvia’s book doesn’t live up to what it purports to be: a book that will actually help people to writer more. If they follow his advice, sure they will write more. But if “writers” already knew these pieces of advice (and they have), then why would this book change that? It won’t. Here’s why:

Take Dave Ramsey, for instance. He’s a conservative, Christian, radio talk show host who offers plenty of simple, sound financial advice. Here’s what it boils down to: start living as cheaply as you can, pay off your debt, start saving, start investing when you’ve saved enough. Who doesn’t already know this stuff? Everybody knows it. Yet, for some reason, Ramsey’s advice works (as evidenced by an endless progress of turned-it-around callers into his show). But why? Because he knows that these are the “sensible” things to do. But he also knows that money isn’t just about sense. Its about emotions. It’s about getting excited about the right parts of financial success. Patience, pride, freedom, hope. Yep, that’s his financial advice. 10% logical, 90% emotional. There you go. It works. It’s worked for me.

[I’ll continue this train of thought tomorrow. The post is getting a little long at the moment. Below I’ve included a paraphrase (potentially accidentally quoting at times, I’m sure) of some of Silvia’s main ideas, so you can get a sense for what I’m talking about.]

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