The title is a marketing ploy so that someone struggling to write, be it  a graduate student. a researcher or a  professor , buys the book thinking that they will get some magical advice from it. The author himself admits this towards the end of the book that the title is not exactly what the book is all about. He says the actual title should have been, “How To Write More Productively During the Normal Work week with Less Anxiety and Guilt ?”. 

This book is targeted towards people in academia who need to publish their research / write research grants/ write books etc. This book isn’t about cranking out fluff, publishing second-rate material for the sake of amassing publications, or tuning a crisp article in to an long winding exposition. The author makes it clear that the book is not targeted towards the creative/ artistic kind of writers.  He jokingly remarks, “The subtlety of your Analysis of Variance(ANOVA) will not move readers to tears, although the tediousness of it might”

The suggestions by the author can be applied to any domain, any activity I guess. Personally I could relate the suggestions given in the book to programming. Its better to be a “disciplined/scheduled programmer” than a “binge programmer”.  Came across the word “Binge Writers”, in this book. It’s a nice word to describe those who wait for a break, for a 3 day weekend, for a vacation, for a sabbatical, etc. to write their inventory of thoughts. Sadly when a break does come by, they tend to accomplish less than what they had expected. I find this aspect particularly relevant to programming.

Though there are various aspects mentioned in the book, there are some core ideas around which the content is organized. They are as follows :

  • There are some specious barriers to writing
    • I can’t FIND time
      • As though we run through our weekly/monthly planner and figure out that we have absolutely no time to spare. Crap…The author suggests that  you need ‘ALLOT’ time, not ‘FIND’ time. Make a schedule and stick to it
    • Need more analysis to do 
      • Binge writers tend to be binge readers and binge statisticians. meaning Binge writers more often than not tend to do not so great analysis too.
      • Write what you have analyzed , whatever partial work you would have done, at frequent intervals.  It will only help you in doing better analysis/research.
    • I need a new desk/new computer/new ___( fill in the blank with whatever fancy gadget that you need) / new printer / a study room to start my writing
      • All of them are mere excuses and the person who gives the above reasons also knows that they are mere excuses.
    • Let me wait for my inspiration. Will write when I feel like
      • Another barrier which crumbles under close examination. There are tons of experiments that show that  “scheduled writing” always triumphs “writing whenever you feel like”.  Schedule automatically brings in creativity sooner or later
  • Set specific goals, prioritize and track them religiously.As they say, anything that gets measured gets done.
    • The author shows his own system of tracking where he uses a simple file to track the following
      • Date
      • Duration of writing
      • Project worked on
      • # of words written
    • The utility of the above data is that when you sit down and see the metrics like average #  of words you have written over  day / month/ year , the number of days you managed to write, your whole outlook toward writing is improved. These simple stats will make you aware of the limitations / short sightedness in your planning + writing process.
    • Writer’s block is an utterly crappy notion. There is nothing like that. It is a dispositional fallacy(A description of behavior can’t explain the described behavior). Its like saying you can’t write because you are not writing. Prolific writers follow their writing schedule regardless of whether they feel like writing.
  • Start your own Agraphia ( pathological loss of the ability to write ) group
    • The author mentions about an interesting development in North Carolina’s faculty group. They have started a group where they meet regularly to discuss specific writing challengers, to understand others’ ideas and insights in to writing etc. Well, it is basically a “weight watcher” community approach to writing I guess.

Stephen King, the prolific science fiction writer says (about your writing room )

“It needs only one thing, a door which you are willing to shut”

This book, in way says, the same thing with a tweak , “a DOOR which you are willing to SHUT & a TIME that you are willing to ALLOT each day.”