In recent months I’ve resumed my commitment to writing daily. I have been trying to write 1000 words each workday. These words end up in a variety of places. They cover this blog, short pieces, chapters, papers and book projects. It’s a practical response to suddenly having a lot more professional responsibilities than I’ve had in the past. I’ve observed from senior academics I know who maintain their productivity that they do by writing in the gaps. By setting myself the goal of writing 1000 words each day I challenge myself to write in the gaps as and when I find them.
It contrasts to my preferred rhythms of binge writing in which I procrastinate on a project for months at a time before having periods of intensely focused writing in which I produce between 2000 and 5000 words per day. I can’t maintain the latter past a single day which points to the challenge involved in binge writing. I find I rapidly become depleted and on those rare days when I’ve written 5000+ words in a day I find it impossible to do anything creative or even meaningfully focus the following day. In the years I’ve alternated between daily writing and binge writing I’ve become aware of the need to bake ideas in the unconscious mind as Bertrand Russell described it:
I have found, for example, that if I have to write upon some rather difficult topic the best plan is to think about it with very great intensity – the greatest intensity of which I am capable – for a few hours or days, and at the end of that time give orders, so to speak, that the work is to proceed underground. After some months I return consciously to the topic and find that the work has been done
In practice this means that thinking feeds writing. Unless you give yourself time to think, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to sit down and write later in the day. This is the problem I suspect I’m likely to find this term, at least based on the amount of my time in the last two weeks which has been consumed by administration. The challenge to write 1000 words a day certainly carves out a space in which I am committed to expressing my thought. But I’m concerned it risk squeezing out the thinking (and reading) on which that thought ultimately depends.