Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Becoming a More Productive Writer

Like most faculty I know, I could stand to be more disciplined in my writing. There are times when I'm really productive, and stretches that I don't do anything. One tactic that has been extremely helpful (at least when I use it) has been keeping a writing log. Although I've mentioned this before, it bears repeating. Robert Boice (the acknowledged master of research on faculty productivity) did quite a few workshops on faculty productivity. He did a study where participants were put into three groups
  • The first group (the "control") continued as they normally did, and continued to write occasionally in large blocks of time (what I call "binge writing"). In a year's time, they produced an average of 17 pages of output
  • The second group wrote daily and kept log of their time spent writing and their approximate output. In a year's time, they produced an average of 64 pages of output.
  • The third group wrote daily, kept a daily log, and showed it to someone else weekly. They produced an average of 157 pages in a year!
I'm sure that there are some other issues that would effect this experiment, like self-selection. But the differences across groups are pretty striking.

So this time, to tweak things a bit, I set up a spreadsheet on Google Spreadsheets with a current student, a former student, and a regular coauthor of mine. We've all committed to record out writing time and output daily. It should be interesting--there's already been one day that I put in a half hour at 11:00 p.m. just to avoid having to show a goose egg for the day.

Ya gotta love accountability. I'll let y'all know how it turns out.

update: In case you're interested, two books by Boice that are well worth picking up are Advice For New Faculty Members (the title is misleading - I got a lot out of it even 6 years out of grad school) and Professors as Writers.

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