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Is it really "slow" writing?

Over the years, I've noticed academic writers have several common frustrations. By far the most common is their frustration about how slow they write and how everything takes longer than they think it will.  Almost every writer I know is haunted by that niggling feeling that the work could be going faster.  We all complain that we're making "slow progress."  But are we?  One of my friends was reporting earlier that he'd written "only" 2500 words that day--but he still felt that it was a slow day!  That would be a phenomenal day for me. In fact, if I could write even 2000 words every day, I'd be more than happy.  And yet this person wasn't happy, because he still felt like he could be doing more.  Pushing more, moving more.

The reality is that there's always more we can do, and there will most likely always be at least one person who is faster.  But that doesn't invalidate our progress.  If we're in there, writing away most days a week, we're doing what we should be doing, regardless of how much our word counts are increasing.  Let's face it--sometimes during revision, we actually lose word count, so we can't always rely on word count as an accurate method of measuring our achievements.  And sometimes we need those "slow" days to think through a particularly knotty problem.  Even slow days can lay the groundwork for more prolific sessions later on in the week and often contribute to a writer's momentum.

We all move at different speeds.  We write in different styles.  We each have our own unique ways of processing and synthesizing information.  It's important to find out what writing rhythms work the best for you and then stick to them.  Don't try to move at anyone else's speed.  Find your speed.  And remember, even if you "only" produce a page a day, that is one page more at the end of the day than you had going into it.  Over time that one page a day will add up.


  1. This is wonderful! I love the bit about hoping. That's the thing that really got me to make my final decision to sign with my agent; she had this amazing optimism just leaking out of her pores when she called to offer representation.

  2. Anonymous2:56 PM

    Seriously, I am a really slow reader and a really show writer. I have a master's degree and am currently pursuing a doctorate. I have always gotten good grades in school, but writing the dissertation proposal is killing me because it is so painful and is taking me so long. The literature review has been the worst for me. It takes me forever to read an article, summarize it, and put it into the review. At this pace, it's going to take me forever to write this thing! I am not sure I can do it! It's horrible to figure this out at this stage of the game!


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