To be productive in academic writing and sustain that productivity over a long period of time, you need to come up with an effective writing strategy that works for you. Some people prefer to do long swathes of writing with sizeable gaps between them, and some tend to write frequently in short bursts.
So, are you a ‘binge’ or a ‘snack’ writer? Which approach is more productive?
As with many things to do with writing, there’s no hard and fast rule over which mode is better – it all depends on what works for you. Both of these approaches can work well on their own or in combination, and each has its own advantages and drawbacks, as pointed out by Murray and Moore (2006) and Murray (2017).
Let’s take ‘binge’ writing. Writing intensively for long periods of time can naturally lead to exhaustion and burnout. Also, getting going after a long period of writing inactivity may require large investments in warm-up. On the flip side, doing writing in large blocks often means having periods of uninterrupted time when you can really get into the flow of writing, achieve total focus and be very productive.
With ‘snack’ writing, there is a danger of producing disjointed bits of writing or falling into the trap of tinkering with a draft continuously rather than moving on. At the same time, doing small amounts of writing regularly can help you define your writing tasks, as well as set realistic and achievable goals for each writing session. Crucially, this regular pattern can help sustain your motivation throughout the inevitable highs and lows of the thesis writing process: ‘motivation comes reliably in the wake of regular involvement’ (Boice, 1994, p. 236).
According to Rowena Murray, the best approach is to combine these two writing modes strategically: snack write to continually progress your work and use binge writing sparingly – for example, in the run-up to a deadline. The trick is to plan beforehand and block out time to write in your schedule, whichever mode you prefer.
So, take a few minutes to reflect on your writing habits and come up with the most effective, for you, combination of binge and snack writing. Bon appetit!
Dr Nadya Yakovchuk, Teaching Fellow in Academic Writing, Doctoral College