Book Recommendation: How to Write a Lot

Paul Silvia, How to Write a Lot, Second Edition (American Psychological Association, Washington DC: 2019)

For anyone looking for a short, easy-to-read book with basic tips about writing, this is a good one. Silvia’s writing is friendly and practical at the same time. The book is a broad overview of all aspects of writing, from starting a project through submitting an article or finding a book publisher.

As a psychologist, he spends time dispelling the myths that haunt many writers. In particular, I was intrigued by his dissection of “writer’s block.” He proposes that it doesn’t exist; that it’s a fallacy to explain why writing doesn’t happen. Basically, the only way through it is to write.

Much of his advice is similar to other books about writing, but he writes it without adding fluff or extensive explanations. He integrates examples and distills his advice in ways that make you think “of course I can do that!”

Unique to his book is a chapter about writing grants. Because he comes from academia, this focuses more on getting grants to bring in funding research projects. However, archivists can glean some good advice by thinking of grants as writing projects. Grants are ways to practice writing good context, being concise, and refining language.

This is a great book for new and early writers. It breaks down the writing process in a way that archivists likely did not learn in graduate school. Its simple and practical approach will coach writers through the obstacles and make the process achievable.

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