How do some productive scholars get so much research done?
We’re all different, but might benefit from some of these strategies
Any improvement counts
– Author E.B. White claimed that “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”
-author J.K. Rowling insists that “Moments of pure inspiration are glorious, but most of a writer’s life is, to adapt the old cliché, about perspiration rather than inspiration. Sometimes you have to write even when the muse isn’t cooperating.”
Find a place
The author Maya Angelou rents a hotel room only to write, from 7.00 am until noon.
Find time slots that work for you
Political scientist Hege Skeie set aside three week-long periods to write every year.
Many prefer to write in the morning. Others, including Robert Frost, Pablo Neruda, and Rachel Carson, in the evening.
-Author Barack Obama wrote his memoir A Promised Land (2020) while occupied with another daytime job, during nights between 10 pm and 2 am.
-Political theorist Raino Malnes advises to find out when during the day you work best – for him, a couple of hours from 5.00 in the morning
-Philosopher Cheryl Misak would write for 25 minutes every day even when a provost of the University of Toronto.
-Philosopher Knut Erik Tranøy wrote a book on Philosophy and Science in the Middle Ages while Vice Chancellor (prorektor) of the University of Oslo, one hour every morning.
Boring is good – embrace routines
-Author Sloane Crosley tries to have “three days that look alike. Ideally more. But three is good. I know I produce better work when things are regular and silent. …. it takes a few days of total nonsense before the real work begins.”
-Author Alice Munroe writes every morning, seven days a week.
-Author Haruki Murakami writes from 4.00 in the morning for 5-6 hours, then runs 10K or swims 1500m. The routine itself mesmerizes.
-In contrast, author Stephen King also writes in the morning, at least two thousand words, or six pages, with the blinds down to remove distractions, while listening to music and without phone or internet access. After that he naps and enjoys his free time.
Confront your weaknesses: Tie yourself to the mast
The author Jonathan Franzen writes with headphones on a computer without internet access.
The author Victor Hugo, when faced with a deadline, had his clothes taken away so that he could not leave the house before finishing the book.
The philosopher John Perry advocates structured procrastination: Commit to some apparently important task that you will try to avoid doing – by finishing all your ‘less important’ writing obligations instead.
Stop in time!
Several stick to daily writing habits, but often committing no more than three hours – and often less.
The author Ernest Hemingway advised that “you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next.”
The author Henry Miller, in Henry Miller on Writing, reminds to “Stop at the appointed time!”
The author Lars Saabye Christensen brings two cups of coffee to his study every morning and writes. When they are empty, he stops – be it after half a page or one and a half.
More suggestions – in case you want more ideas, or want to postpone your own writing…
Stephen King On Writing
Henry Miller On Writing