The Writing Log & Daily Writing

You can find your voice and improve your writing by engaging in daily writing as opposed to binge writing.

There are serious disadvantages to binge writing as opposed to regular writing as research has demonstrated. First, binge writing tends to stimulate manic-depressive behavior (Boice). Proponents of binge writing may enjoy the adrenaline rush of waiting until the last minute to research and write and then frantically putting words to one’s thoughts. Yet once the project is submitted, people often feel an emotional letdown—particularly if they were up late trying to complete the task. Second, binge writing does not provide authors with the emotional and intellectual distance they need to be critical of our ideas and presentation. As all of us who have binged at one time or another know, we can have difficulty critiquing drafts that we just composed. In contrast, when some time has passed since we completed a draft, we’ve experienced the surprise of identifying large numbers of problems with our rough drafts. Third, if binge writing leads to a less effective final product, then we are likely to face additional criticisms from readers. Finally, and this may be the most important point, binge writing is likely to result in greater emotional and physical stress.

Engaging in binge writing may further your dislike for additional writing in the future, thereby ensuring a continuing cycle of extensive procrastination and bingeing. ‘

The value of regular writing as opposed to binge writing, like the story about the Tortoise and the Hare, is perhaps best depicted in the commonsense saying “Find a busy person if you want to get something done.” Successful researchers and writers have learned that momentum is essential to success, and momentum is enhanced by regular, daily writing. In short, as one wise author quipped, “Inspiration is the art of applying the seat of one’s pants to the chair in front of the word processor.”

Table 1: Suggestions for Maintaining Daily Writing

  1. Log your research and writing efforts on a daily basis
  2. Establish priorities and act accordingly
    1. Set aside a minimum of one hour each day for writing.
  3. Write on a schedule. If possible, reserve your most energetic time of day. Write when you are sick and tired if it’s on the schedule.
  4. Be easy on yourself.
  5. When all else fails, establish contingencies. (In Robert Boice’s research on the effects of daily writing on invention and creativity, Boice found that people can be motivated when they apply negative contingencies. For instance, in one of his research studies he found that writers were eight times more likely to write on a daily basis if they agreed to submit money to a despised organization if they failed to write daily. In contrast, you can make positive rewards contingent on getting the work done, such as exercising, buying flowers, having cream in your coffee, eating sweets, or seeing a movie).

Table 2: Sample Writing Log

Date/DayHours Worked – DurationUse of AI ToolsGoals

You may initially be hesitant about daily writing—what Boice calls “bds”—brief daily sessions. Some of you may have been told by other professors that binge writing works for them. And it is possible that binge writing can result in some fine prose (Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein comes immediately to mind). In short, you will be looking at a lifestyle change.  You will reap many benefits from regular writing. While you may never come to love writing, you will learn—once you’ve gained momentum—that you can find your voice, develop ideas with greater authority, and produce more effective documents less painfully and in less time.

In Table 2 above, a sample log sheet is provided that you may wish to use to help support regular writing on your part. As with any other “new habit” you try to develop, it is recommended that you try logging your work for at least 21 days before even contemplating whether it’s a helpful strategy. In the beginning, silence the critical voice within you that says this technique just won’t work.

By logging your work, you will be able to observe how small blocks of time spent writing can lead to major accomplishments. You can reward yourself, also, by noting how many different activities—such as locating a source in a library, talking over an idea with a friend, or going into the field or laboratory—are an integral part of writing.

The rationale for recording the date, hours worked, and number of words written and deleted is fairly obvious. By recording our true working schedules, we’re less prone to exaggerate our writing loads and more aware of exactly how much time it truly takes to complete a project.