Writing about (not) writing


IMG_0005There have been a number of discussions in this blog about writing theses, papers, essays, proposals, and other documents within academia. To switch gears a little, I will be writing about NOT writing. (In the same moment of writing that last sentence, I just realized how haphazardly it reads and decide to use it as title for this (written) blog entry.)

You will probably agree if I say that most of us are writing all the time. Apart from the classical documents I mentioned, there are other occasions for writing: emails, texts, Facebook posts, tweets, and many more.

Independently of whether you are focused on productivity based writing, or communication and leisure based writing, it can be quite time consuming, and sometimes the output is not very satisfying. In those cases most people would wish to somehow boost their writing output. That’s what I am trying right now. What exactly am I doing to achieve this? The answer is: NOT writing. Here is what I am doing and how it is working out:

To begin with I must clarify that by NOT writing I don’t mean not writing at all, but rather reducing the amount of time spent on writing. This means to reduce time spent both on productivity writing, as well as writing in the previously mentioned leisure and communication activities.

My motivation for that (ongoing) experiment is my impression that it is really hard to increase writing output in terms of pages written per day. Based on that observation I thought that maybe it would be better to increase writing efficiency instead of (net) output. As everyone knows, the simplest way to increase efficiency is doing more in less time. This is easy said, but not so easy to follow. Besides that, I realized that there is an upper bound for writing productivity. I think of that upper bound as a maximum number of meaningful sentences someone is able to write each day. When that number is reached, the quality drops rapidly. So in my opinion it is not worth continuing to write once that point is reached. Consequently, when it comes to writing I don’t even have to write more in less time; it is sufficient to write less in less time. (Is this the second meaningless sentence in this post?) I will explain why that makes sense. If less net output is written, the overall quality of the output is likely to have a better quality than otherwise. That means that less editing is necessary while less time is used on the original writing and, thus, the efficiency increases.

Notice that I also mentioned at the beginning, that I aim to reduce the overall amount of writing. So there is also an important side effect. By writing less emails, less posts on Facebook, and so on, more time is gained that can be used for other purposes.

It remains to be determined if the described system works well. At least it worked for not writing on the grad life blog…


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