A person who has not done one half of his day's work by ten
o'clock runs a chance of leaving the other half undone. ~ Emily Bronte, Wuthering
writing would you get done if you were told to abstain from writing
or to write only when you were inspired?
reported on a "writing intervention" with faculty
members, each of whom reported problems getting their writing
finished, yet all had perfectly manageable writing projects to
complete. Boice assigned faculty to one of three conditions.
Perhaps the most desired assignment was given to faculty who were
told not to write for 10 weeks except "in case of
emergency." Faculty in this "abstinence" group
assumed that the 10 weeks away from writing would let them develop
more and better ideas for their writing.
Boice told a
second group of faculty to schedule 50 writing sessions over
10 weeks but to write only if they felt in the mood to write. These
"spontaneous" writers also predicted they would
experience more creative writing ideas. Boice told the remaining
faculty to schedule 50 writing sessions over the 10 weeks. There
was one catch: Those who did not write at least three
pages during each of these scheduled times (for a minimum total of
150 pages) would have a check they previously signed sent to an
organization they hated. (The Democrats? The Republicans? The NRA?
Planned Parenthood?) Faculty in this "expensive contingency"
group, clearly having drawn the short straw, predicted that they
might be productive but definitely not creative.
Do you know
what happened? The group "forced" to write produced over
three times as much as the spontaneous group and over 15 times as
much as the abstinence group. By the faculty members' self-report,
the third group, forced to write with an expensive contingency, had
a "useful, novel idea" each writing day; the rate was
half as often and a fifth as often for the other two groups, respectively.
One faculty member, forced to write, said: "It really isn't
what I thought it would be. I don't feel pressure.... It feels good
to be so self-disciplined. What I really like, though, is how easy
it is to start writing. No struggle. I look forward to it. Sometimes
I'm tempted to start sooner. That sure doesn't sound like
me" (Boice, 1990, p. 81).
So if you are
in need of a writing intervention, schedule your daily sessions for
the remainder of the summer, write that check and give it to a
friend who will hold you accountable...and write!
How much have you written today?