Shut Up and Wrote

This is a quick blog at the end of a self-imposed exile to the Borders to get a few key bits of writing done ahead of my holiday. I used the principles at the heart of our writing retreats but used twitter to replace the colleagues who are usually in the room with me when I run or attend these. Sharing objectives at the start of the day has helped people focus on the retreats I’ve helped out on over the summer, so I wanted to keep this element despite my isolation.

A couple of my writing goals were pretty straightforward (writing up notes from an interview for our upcoming fellowship guide) and turning a workshop on resilience into an article for Fearless Femme. I started with the easiest because it also involved someone else who I needed to review and approve my work. I wanted to give them as much time to do this as possible and to make the deadline even more “real” I told them that they’d get it today.

With productive use made of the short break, I got back to the keyboard. This was a tough hour – it took three attempts to find the right voice for my article, but after about 25  minutes of false starts I managed to find a flow and hit the word target. more importantly I wrote something I was pleased with. Happily, it looks like the Fearless Femmes are happy to – this is an important piece as it will be in a rare printed edition of Fearless Femme that we’re producing for Freshers’ Week (I don’t think they call it that any more but I’m very old and don’t spend enough time with undergraduates to change my ways…). So, time for another tweet update.

This mimics the updates that we get people to give during the retreats – it’s helpful to be reminded that you haven’t failed if you haven’t hit your word count, but that it might be a sign that you need to be more realistic with the next target. I managed to achieve both of these first two goals, although it’s worth noting that I was very generous with myself when anticipating the time I’d need. In reality it wasn’t quite enough and by lunchtime I was running about 30 minutes behind schedule.

I took the planned lunch break (the breaks are important in our retreats, especially if you are struggling!) and then onto the big meaty project. It’s worth noting why I chose to write in this order. The project after lunch was the most important but I didn’t start with it because I’ve been struggling a little to get to grips with it over the last month. I wanted to have a morning of getting into flow and hitting targets. This time, that strategy paid off, but I’m aware that the writing muse is an elusive little beast and she doesn’t always strike twice in the same way…

One thing I did before lunch was to get everything I’d need to for big project ready to go. All the source material I needed and a document ready to populate with content –  i just needed to pop things into the report structure which was all ready. Time to shut up and write…and write… and write.

I managed to get the report finished, but it took a lot longer than expected (to be honest there was no way I was going to get it done in an hour), but once I was making progress it was easier to keep going. This is one of the weaknesses of our retreats – if you hit your stride we will still interrupt you to stick to the plan – write – rest – write – rest – write – share schedule. Sorry.

I don’t think I would have made the progress I’ve made if I was in my office, as I’m easily distracted by colleagues and not very good at resisting the call of Levels. So some lessons on why I think my writing worked today

  1. I told people I was writing at home today and I would have been embarrassed to show my face tomorrow with no progress made
  2. I had someone else (important) waiting for the first thing on my to do list which helped me get on with it
  3. I took breaks in the morning when I wasn’t writing very productively rather than trying to push on
  4. I turned off email, social media and wifi to minimise distractions
  5. I drank plenty of water through the day which I think helped to keep my head clear

If you are trying to make progress on writing projects over the summer, I hope this might spur you on to finding your own best methods. Don’t forget that you can download the guide to writing retreats and other resources to help you write on the Researcher Development website. 


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