Thursday, April 26, 2012

What My Authors Do

When they are following my advice, the authors I work with are writing at least thirty minutes every day and at most three hours. They are working about 27 minutes at a time on a single paragraph, then taking a break, and moving on to either a new paragraph, or some other activity (not writing). They always know what they are going to be writing about before they go to bed the night before. They know what paragraph they will be writing; they know what they will say. If they've got two hours set aside for their writing on a particular day, they go to bed knowing what four paragraphs they will be writing. They know what four claims they will be offering support for.

This makes my authors happy. For a writer, happiness is knowing that tomorrow you will write. Happiness does not follow automatically from writing, nor from a vague hope that you will write, which is too easily undermined by the equally vague worry that you will not. You must simply know that you will write and what you will write. This means that you must believe it, and your belief must be true. But your belief must also be justified. And in this case the only way to justify your belief that you will write tomorrow is by appeal to your habit of writing what and when you said would write. You know you will write tomorrow if you've planned to write tomorrow and your plan is realistic and you have the basic discipline to stick to your plan.

My authors also make steady progress on their writing projects. Every thirty minutes they produce or significantly improve about six sentences, 100-200 words, i.e., a paragraph. Even if they work only 30 minutes a day in a given a week, they might write a thousand words. That's one eighth of a journal article. They also find their ideas coming together in an orderly way around the topics they are writing about. They therefore read more effectively too.

Finally, my writers are continuously improving as writers. They are improving in the same way that someone who runs every day is getting into better shape and someone who plays the piano every day is becoming a better a pianist. Their prose is getting stronger and truer, better able to express their ideas precisely. Indeed, their ideas are getting more precise and my authors are getting a more accurate sense of what their words mean. That's because they are working at addressing themselves to their intended audience and it is ultimately the reader who decides what your words mean. My authors are comfortable with that fact.

No comments: