A few weeks ago, PhD in AVT and I decided to set up a writing group in our school, and ever since then, we have been working relentlessly to procrastinate from our pressing Annual Review presentations to put together the School of Modern Languages and Cultures’ first ever Shut Up and Write session. I thought I would take the time now and write a little bit about the experience, hoping to inspire a few others to set up their own writing groups elsewhere.
I think PhD in AVT and I were expecting to attend a session by ourselves. The prospect of having more people in the room, engaged in the writing activity, was an exciting one, but I reckon we were both feeling realistic about everybody else’s commitments. We scheduled this SUAW first session strategically after everybody’s Annual Review – we thought that, since APRs are full of writing promises, this was a good palce for everyone to start. In the end, however, I think we both knew that we wanted to do a SUAW session (I myself feel that I particularly need these to get things going), and that if other people would want to tag along and try it out for themselves, we were happy to organise it.
We booked a rather large room, and had it set up around one large table made up of smaller tables. In a way, we would not be able to see what everybody else was doing, but we knew what we were all there for. In total, it was five of us, which I think it is a massive success, considering our expectations.
We wrote for one hour in two pomodoro chunks. I had my doubts about how it would work to get everyone to simply “shut up, and write”. But everyone did shut up and write/read/think. I had brought with myself a notebook as I was concerned that my netbook might be too slow for writing and set up, and also because I wasn’t sure I wanted to type up everything. I needed the session to be about getting words and thoughts out, but I was not sure I wanted to have them set in stone – in a notebook, there is more room for strike-through, mistakes, abbreviations, etc. and it feels less formal.
And it worked great for me – got two paragraphs drafted, a section thought through, and lots of notes and arrows pointing at the right areas. I reckon everybody else went well as well – PhD in AVT said she had written 1,000 words once she typed everything up. Others completed their aims too – a presentation, a chapter read, smiles all around!
The great point as well was that we all broke the writing for five minutes, and then were able to get back to it straight away. When the hour was done, everyone felt that this was the right amount of time – not too long, not too short, demanding but within certain limits. At the end of the session, third years seemed keen to have this as a regular, weekly spot – something to look forward to during the week, knowing that it will be there, available for everyone. The agreement was to try to keep it going weekly on Wednesdays for just the one hour, and invite more people to try it.
As a co-organiser, I feel good that our idea managed to come to life, and I am hoping people will continue to engage, come to the sessions, shut up, and write. Many more words need to be written and I am sure everyone can use the space! Come on, give it a try!