Practicing two strategies can help authors fend off lack of time, distractions, and writer’s block—enemies that make writing harder than it needs to be.

Writing can be difficult, even more so when authors can’t find adequate time, a quiet space to think, or the words to say. These obstacles make writing especially difficult with merciless deadlines. Fortunately, daily writing habits can help authors be more productive when writing. 


Tara Gray, Laura Madson, and Michelle Jackson (2018) studied ways to help writers improve and then outlined the findings in the article “Publish & Flourish: Helping Scholars Become Better, More Prolific Writers.” The researchers focused their study on Publish & Flourish, a program that holds writers accountable for daily writing and weekly peer feedback. During the study, the 99 participants, who were graduate students or part- or full-time faculty at New Mexico State University, were asked to write every day for nine weeks, even if for only fifteen minutes a day. The participants were also instructed to form their paragraphs around key sentences to establish a narrow focus in their writing. Each week, the participants recorded their writing time in a group spreadsheet (to encourage accountability), and they attended weekly workshops in which peers reviewed each other’s work and tried to identify the key sentences. If the peers guessed a different sentence than the one the author had intended to be key, the author and peers discussed possible revisions. 

“95% of participants . . . reported that they improved their writing by making it more organized and reader centered.”

—Gray, Madson, and jackson (2018)

The researchers found that by the end of the study, 95% of the participants had made their writing more organized and reader focused. The participants also recorded that they increased their yearly average of scholarly manuscript submissions from around two to nearly six. Therefore, the researchers deemed the Publish & Flourish program to be a success.


If you’re an author, the suggestions outlined in the Publish & Flourish program can help you overcome the obstacles that prevent you from completing writing projects. If you’re an editor, when you notice that an author is struggling to finish a project, suggest that the author write daily and write with key sentences in mind. Not only will the author likely finish projects quicker but those projects will likely be more focused—a victory for the author, editor, and reader.

To discover more about productive and prolific writing, read the full article: 

Gray, Tara, Laura Madson, and Michelle Jackson. 2018. “Publish & Flourish: Helping Scholars Become Better, More Prolific Writers.” To Improve the Academy 37 (2): 243–56.

—Claire Parker, Editing Research


Find more research

Read Hailey Garcia’s Editing Research article “Unblock Editor’s Block” for tips on overcoming editing obstacles. 

Take a look at Hannah Charlesworth’s Editing Research article “How to Use Episode Structures to Make Readers Think” for more ways to keep writing focused on the reader.