Read, brainstorm, take notes, and write creatively to become a prolific writer.
There's not one invaluable habit that can make you a prolific writer. Highly prolific writers churn out a substantial volume of work by adhering to writing habits or rituals that work best for them. Nonetheless, I have observed that most prolific writers are either engrossed in the writing process, fluent readers, knowledgeable about the rules of language, or experts on the topics they write about. Most interestingly, most prolific writers know how to tap into their creative genius.
The novelist Stephen King recommends writers "write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open. Your stuff starts out being just for you, in other words, but then it goes out. Once you know what the story is and get it right — as right as you can, anyway — it belongs to anyone who wants to read it. Or criticize it." Rightly so, one of the harshest challenges shared by writers is distraction (Hassan, 2021). Not only can distraction hinder the drafting process and affect the quality of your writing, but you are also bound to waste your precious “mental” time. I recommend those new to writing to identify your key distractions at home, work, or school and develop strategies to defy them. If the issue lies in your electronic devices and notifications, turn them off for intervals of time. Alternate between bouts of productivity and moments of relaxation.
Fluent readers continuously practice, develop, and refine their reading skills, and once they masterfully decode words with accuracy and speed, they are more prone to express themselves fluidly while writing (Anderson, 1985). By practicing your reading comprehension skills (i.e., a type of metacognitive skill), you can learn new vocabulary and train yourself to solve more problems in the academic setting (Olshavsky, 1976; Quitadamo and Kurtz, 2007). Conversely, if you have not learned how to process information and question things, synthesizing knowledge properly onto paper can be very challenging (Mayer, 1998). The writer of plain prose and qualified physician, W. Somerset Maugham, was an avid reader. He acquired the habit of reading as a "refuge from almost all the miseries of life." Because I’m an eternal optimist, I love to read, read, and read some more. I do it because I enjoy learning from the best writers, philosophers, and inventors. The upside of reading for the sake of writing yet another blog post is that it boosts my self-confidence as a communicator and a marketer.
Ernest Hemingway, the American author of classic novels, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. He declared that his "working habits are simple: long periods of thinking, short periods of writing." Hemingway was on to something. Research has shown that brainstorming strategies can help learners organize their thoughts and improve their writing skills over a semester (Rao, 2007). My preferred brainstorming strategy is to write down many of my ideas on a writing pad. This rudimentary process of reflection makes writing easier because there is more food (for thought). Moreover, mind mapping tools help other learners generate ideas and create new solutions through word associations (Mind Tools, 2021). Still, some learners like to use prompts, like post-its, for the sake of inspiration.
Prolific writers of scientific ideas can transfer their knowledge into new situations and apply them to new contexts. They take copious amounts of notes and share their insights freely with others. According to Bereiter and Scardamalia (1985), several scientific note-taking steps prepare learners to become proficient writers. For instance, if you want to "write to learn" by outlining a paper (i.e., identify key concepts, break them down point-by-point, and collect examples with references from texts), then you are more likely to understand these key concepts. When knowledge is subsequently transcribed from your memory onto paper, also known as knowledge telling, you ease the load on your working memory and, in turn, "learn to write" (Boch and Piolat, 2005). The pioneer of business visualization and developer of the award-winning software Maya and Sketchbook Pro, Tom Wujec, is a firm believer in taking notes. He draws out his ideas for the sake of invention, not just communication. "Visual note-taking translates what we hear into pictures that give context, color, and meaning. By adding symbols, visual metaphors, likenesses of people, and room layouts, we add several dimensions."
To become a more prolific writer, Pawliczak (2015) recommends the practice of creative writing. It helps you to resolve issues, spot problems, and learn how to organize your text. You can start now. Write a letter to your future boss, describing why you love so much your career path. Just let your stream of consciousness flow on a blank page. Prolific writers can adapt their writing styles to meet the needs of varied audiences. Becoming a shapeshifter takes practice, not just grammar instruction. For example, the Russian-born science fiction writer and biochemistry professor Issac Asimov isolated himself in his room and wrote compulsively for hours. "[T]he only thing about myself I consider to be severe enough to warrant psychoanalytic treatment is my compulsion to write."
Whatever habits and rituals you choose to adopt in order to write more, practicing them can help you produce more work consistently and over long periods. Try the Freemium version of the GILO app to access academic literature and resources and write more impactful papers, better, faster, and easier.
Anderson, R. C. (1985). Becoming A Nation of Readers: The Report of the Commission on Reading. Urbana, IL: Center of the Study of Reading.
Bereiter, C., & Scardamalia, M. (1985). Cognitive coping strategies and the problem of "inert knowledge". In S. F. Chipman, J. W. Segal, & R. Glaser (Eds.), Thinking and Learning Skills: Current research and Open Questions (Vol. 2) (pp. 65-80). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Boch, F., & Piolat, A. (2005). Note taking and learning: A summary of research. The WAC Journal, 16, 101-113.
Hassan, R. (2012). The Age of Distraction: Reading, Writing, and Politics in a High-Speed Networked Economy (1st ed.). Routledge.
Mayer, R. E. (1998). Cognitive, Metacognitive, and Motivational Aspects of Problem Solving. Instructional Science, 26(1), 49–63.
Mind Tools. (2021). MindMaps: A powerful approach to taking notes. Retrieved on August 10, 2021 from mindtools.com.
Olshavsky, J. E. (1976). Reading as problem solving: An investigation of strategies. Reading Research Quarterly, 654-674.
Pawliczak, J. (2015). Creative writing as a best way to improve writing skills of students. Sino-US English Teaching, 12(5), 347-352.
Quitadamo, I. J., & Kurtz, M. J. (2007). Learning to Improve: Using Writing to Increase Critical Thinking Performance in General Education Biology. CBE- Life Sciences Education, 6(2), 140–154.
Rao, Z. (2007). Training in brainstorming and developing writing skills. ELT Journal, 61(2), 100-106.
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