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The Writing Center at Amherst College

Habits for Productive Writing


Environment
1. Establish one or a few regular places in which you will do all serious writing.
2. Regular writing sites must be sacred in the sense that no other temptations (novels, TV, Facebook, your cell
phone) are available. Do not attempt to multi-task.
3. Do not write in a place that you will feel that you must clean before you can write.
4. Minimize noisy distractions. Find a quiet site, or if you like music, use earphones.
5. Limit social interactions during writing.
6. Enlist another writer to share part of your writing schedule by joining you for mutual quiet periods of
work.
7. Make your writing site comfortable and appealing.
Habits
1. Make writing a daily activity, regardless of mood, regardless of readiness to write. Do not wait for
inspiration.
2. Write first/Write while youre fresh. Schedule other, less mentally demanding task for times of the day
when youre less alert and energetic.
3. Each day, do one hard thing first. With that out of the way, work on the easier things.
4. Schedule writing tasks so that you plan to work on specific, finishable units of writing at each session.
Setting manageable goals allows you to break a large project into small pieces and motivates you to write.
5. Set a start time AND an end time for each session.
6. Periodically re-assess how your small goals are moving you forward toward the larger goals.
7. Keep a writing log so you can see concretely how well you are doing at meeting your goals.
8. Keep to-do lists for your thesis so you know what you need to accomplish next. Keep to-do lists for other
things so you have a place to write down the ideas, obligations, and reminders that try to interrupt you when
you work. Your brain is working hard these days, so dont expect it to remember complex task lists and
schedules.
9. Reward yourself when you meet important goals and share your progress with supportive writing friends.
10. Know some strategies for dealing with obstacles (procrastination, writing blocks, flu, hard drive crash, etc.).
Do not expect smooth sailingbe prepared to deal with things that come up.
11. Manage stress, stay balanced. Get enough sleep, get it regularly. Eat healthy food. Know what is
important to you and say no to things that aren't high priorities. Allow yourself to refill your well when you
need to.
Sources
Robert Boice, Professors as Writers (1990) and How Writers Journey to Comfort and Fluency (1994)
Joan Bolker, Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day (1998)
Charles Lipton, How to Write a BA Thesis (2005)