Over at The Chronicle, The Shadow Scholar has been getting more than his 15 minutes of fame for cheerfully admitting that he makes a good living at writing papers--nay, theses and dissertations--for students willing to pay his prices. Everyone in the comments is shocked and outraged by his admission and his lack of ethics, but I was sort of struck with awe at this: "It's not implausible to write a 75-page paper in two days. It's just miserable. I don't need much sleep, and when I get cranking, I can churn out four or five pages an hour."
Wow. Is it possible to write 75 pages in two days?
I've concluded that there are really two parts to the actual writing process (not the editing process, which is also part of a larger writing process). These are Getting Started and Keeping At It. Keeping At It is not hard. Getting Started is misery.
When I've asked highly productive colleagues and friends how they get started, sometimes they seem confused ("What is this Getting Started of which you speak?" their expressions say) and sometimes they say, "Well, I get up and start reading things, and then I start writing." None of them mention the Dither Period, which unfortunately seems somehow essential to the Getting Started process for me.
The Dither Period is that time period when you know you should be writing but can't manage it. You sit at the desk and leap up as if you're on a hot stove. You've already cut down all distractions--no internet, no going to the store or seeing friends, no cleaning binges--so on top of everything else, the Dither Period is boring. You think about the work, read a little, wander around the house, sit down, leap up, and wander some more. Finally, you can't stand it any more and you sit down, write the word count on a pad of paper (an ignominious "0," but you have to start somewhere), set the timer for 20 or 30 or 50 minutes, and get going. Now you're in the Getting Started mode.
Actually, you're in Blather mode. You just write things down based on what you know and think, making side notes when you have to. Your quotations look like this: "Put down that quote where he says this--I think it's in X book." When the timer rings, you write down your word count, because in Blather mode, every word does count. Maybe you set little goals for yourself about how much you'll write before the next timer period. And so on.
At the end, you'll have words. They may not be what you want, or they may turn out to be all right after all. The important thing is that you've created something you can work with--a Blather fabric--that you can then cut and stitch into something worthwhile.
But 75 pages over a two-day period? I don't think that even Blather mode could produce that much.