Advantages of incremental writing

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Key advantages

Key advantages of incremental writing in SuperMemo are:

  • Incremental approach helps capture all creativity and inspiration as granular ideas
  • Incremental approach eliminates writer's block
  • Creative elaboration works best when it is incremental. This makes it possible to employ natural creativity cycle (esp. sleep)
  • Neural creativity can be helpful in sparking new ideas. It also helps organizing descriptions of complex models
  • Dendritic progress: new branches keep sprouting new ideas, which sprout more ideas
  • Incremental approach provides for a better focus on the task at hand
  • Memory consolidation typical of incremental reading is an advantage that helps the writer keep the big picture in his head
  • Consistency is achieved by a degree of randomness in review and by writer's memory consolidated in incremental review
  • Incremental approach makes it possible to compile new texts from old texts that need resolution of duplicates (e.g. converting two or more versions of older texts into a newer reconciled text)
  • Priorities can be used to start from the most important portions of the text. In the end, lowest priority material may never be processed and left neglected or relegated to future versions of the text
  • Working with the knowledge tree (Contents) as opposed to a linear text makes it easy to see the big picture of the entire text, and organize its logic
  • Search returns whole chapters instead of just marking words in the text. This helps the writer review keywords that are too frequent to make them useful in linear searches (e.g. as in MS Word)
  • Search&Review is great for minor edits, comparisons, reprioritization, safe search&replace, and more
  • SuperMemo Analysis tools make it easy to see progress (see: Statistics)
  • Open-ended writing and a never-ending writing are easy and natural
  • Writing in SuperMemo is fun. It is not just more fun than writing. It is an order of magnitude more fun than traditional writing! Naturally, a high degree of fluency in using SuperMemo toolkit is necessary to experience the fun factor

Fun of writing boosts efficiency

When the fun of writing is gone, the writer's block can ensue. SuperMemo makes writing fun as compared to traditional methods (e.g. writing in a word processor). If you are in no mood to write about one topic today, you might be more inclined to try something else. If you are in no mood for writing at all, tackle some minor clean up jobs. Very often, once you start writing, you get sucked into the effort and the mood returns. A piece of information can trigger new ideas. If it happens in your writing slot, you can instantly write down new ideas. You can write them rough and short. But you need to write them instantly. If you keep waiting, the memory of the inspiration whittles down to just the need to write about a subject! This is how forgetting affects your own ideas! Strike the iron while it's hot. Process inspiration incrementally, and pick the pieces that raise most enthusiasm at any given moment. Those pieces will generate most new creative value.

Creative explosion vs. deadlines

Excess creativity and wish to include valuable information or ideas may cause an unstoppable bloat of writing materials and a never-ending writing loop. It is vital to keep all ideas well prioritized in a TO-DO branch of knowledge tree, while the article grows independently in the ARTICLE branch.

Separating TO-DO from ARTICLE is the best solution that makes it easy to cut off the writing process at any stage depending on the writing goals, opportunity costs, and/or deadlines. Whatever is left in the TO-DO branch can be processed later or not at all. As long as strict priorities are applied, loss of value to the main article should be minimized.

The figure shows that Science of sleep had a sizeable TO-DO branch that has never been processed (647 topics). It lives in the database for future use though:

Knowledge tree in incremental writing
Figure: Science of sleep was written using incremental writing. Individual chapters have been compiled into a knowledge tree displayed here in Contents in SuperMemo. The main table of contents is separate from the TO DO branch (bottom) that keeps the material that is still to be processed (written, elaborated, or polished)


Analysis options in SuperMemo make it easy to plan and supervise progress in incremental writing:

Creative and consolidation phases in incremental writing
Figure: Incremental writing begins with an ascending creative phase and ends with a descending consolidation phase. In the example, the ideas for a book peak in 5 months of creative elaborations, only to consolidate into a 180-chapter Problem of Schooling, 10 months later

For more texts on memory, learning, sleep, creativity, and problem solving, see Super Memory Guru