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01/21/2021

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Bob

While I like these points, I was a little irked by a few parts of the original post. Particularly the idea that one should aim for an hour of writing a day and that that could lead to writing a first draft of a paper in a week and revising it in a week.

I, for one, would never be able to finish a draft of a paper in 7 hours. I doubt I could finish a draft of a paper in 40 hours.

This is probably bad for me in terms of career prospects, but I don't think it means I am bad at philosophy.

It seems to me there are two important things to keep in mind whenever reading advice like this:

First, the goal of philosophy is producing knowledge (or whatever epistemic success object you prefer) not papers or mere writing. While we all need to write to share our ideas (and sometimes to develop them), the ideas are what matters centrally.

Second, people write at different paces. If you write slower you will have to spend more of your time writing than someone who can write a whole draft paper in 7 hours. This sucks for those of us who are slower, but if we remember that what we want is to be good at philosophy, not just good at writing, then we can stay motivated in the face of these seemingly magical people who can write a paper in 7 hours.

Finally, be skeptical of self-reported success and working methods. People who are good at writing papers are not necessarily good at knowing why they are good at writing papers. As an analogy: being a great athlete doesn't mean you will be a great coach: coaching requires skills that athletes don't always have. Of course, having first hand experience at a sport probably makes you a better coach, but it is not sufficient.

Helen De Cruz

Hi Bob -- I think these are all relevant points. Personally, I like my philosophy to mature and ripen over time. It typically takes about a year from idea to submittable paper. Maybe that's also because my papers tend to be relatively long and large in scope, and try to set out new things rather than being responses. The idea to help counter a very slow publication stream in this case is to have multiple projects run at once. Also, when you get a bit discouraged in one project, you can then turn to the other!

Michel

It's amazing how much you can accomplish when you set small, achievable goals for each day and work at them consistently. This is true over time, of course, but also over relatively short periods of time too. This is the model I've adopted over the last couple of years, and it's seriously increased my productivity despite my 4-4 load, and without significantly impinging on my daily life and activities. Usually this means an hour of writing a day. Sometimes it's a little less, sometimes a little more.

I wrote a ton this last summer, including two papers which took just a month each. One was accepted in a T10 generalist journal, the other got a solid R&R in a top specialist venue. Both involved jumping off from material I know well into wholly new territory. In both cases, I worked at them for about 2-3 hours a day, because I had that kind of time to devote to them in those months. So: it's certainly possible to be quick like that sometimes, even without (I think!) sacrificing quality. Don't expect that to be there norm, though!

One thing I can say is that working consistently brings its own energy. And when it's on material that actually interests you, well, there's nothing more energizing than that!

Helen De Cruz

Michel, this is all excellent advice. I think this works very well and I have the same method. I set aside a few achievable goals every day, alongside the urgent stuff. My teaching load is very low (only 3 courses/year) but if I am not careful I will let lots of other things take over, e.g., grad advising, journal editing, refereeing, grant writing, etc etc. So I set aside most days especially non-teaching days dedicated time to work at an achievable research goal.

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