Dedicated Reading, using the 45-minute method, needs a complement in writing. Before this idea planted itself solidly in my mind, I made loose-leaf comments while I read my course books, and wrote some snide two-word comments in the margins, or drew lines, question marks and exclamation points in the text.
If anyone else is supposed to read your books as well, scribbling in the margins is an unkind habit. So I recently quit scribbling, but I still keep hand-written notes while I read. The important question is, however, what you do once finished. I remember reading some dry textbook once, and when I filed my notes I found another pile of notes on the same book, compiled a few years earlier. In order to avoid surprises like that, I now re-write my notes with the addition of my own observations and comments. Ideally, I do this every day. The true task is, again, to summon the discipline, while observing a reasonable time-frame for this job.
There are some brilliant books on writing available, and they contain an enormous amount of fantastic information. One recommendation I tried was to write 500 words per day. In this method, it is important to just sit and write, and to not edit the text too much – editing is done at a later stage. I suppose that this is a very good method for people who are uncomfortable with what they write and must kill the nagging inner critic before they get going. Occasional I have fits of this behavior, but my usual technique is to rough-edit a text while I write. So the 500-words method is tricky for me, since I do not really want to silence the inner editor at all.
My own solution is Writing Hour, a similarly simple and effective principle: you sit down and write for exactly an hour, no matter how much text you produce. Like in the 500-word method, the first goal is to write, so in spite of everything I said above, during Writing Hour, I do try to suppress my urge to edit. I sit down at four in the afternoon, set the timer for one hour and write. After the beeper goes, I spend a little extra time to iron out the bumps but I try to get off the computer after an extra half hour or so. I admit that this project is easier because it is a joint venture: Robin has her writing hour at four every day as well.
One can, in fact, write a lot in one hour. If there are no notes from reading to be worked out, one can always write blog posts about time management instead. Last week, an article that has been smoldering in the back of my conscience for months finally got started.
The advantage of this method is, again, that one uses a rather limited chunk of time for actually achieving things, which must be seen in contrast to all the almost unlimited time we normally spend agonizing about what we should do first and what we don’t like to do at all, and what we should have done a day, a decade or a lifetime ago. A page written each day is better than all that stomach-ache without anything ever written at all.