WriteFest | Top Tips

This time last year, WriteFest looked a little different.  Although the format is still the same – dedicated month to focus on all things writing with writing retreats, workshops and resources available to support this – this year we’ve had to run the festival fully online.  This move to digital delivery has created a different writing dynamic with people having to write from home, which can prove challenging for some.

We’ve been running writing retreats at the IAD for many years now and receive so much positive feedback from participants about the value of having that protected space and time to write.  Participants feedback that their productivity during the retreats are high, with the structure of the planning session, the dedicated time to write, and being alongside other researchers who are also writing is what makes them so useful.  So how do you keep this productivity high when writing from home?

Back in March when we first had to adjust to home-working, most of the workshops and sessions we offered in the IAD moved fully online.  We were worried that our writing retreats wouldn’t be as effective in an online format; the benefit of being in a room with participants, hearing them tap away on their laptops and discussing writing project plans at the start would be lost.  We also didn’t want to lose the value that our writing retreats offered – which is simply allowing researchers to have that time set aside to get those writing projects completed.

However, our Researcher Writing Hours have been just as popular.  The format is the same with the retreat broken down into planning and writing, but they are now shorter and participants communicate via the text chat, instead of in person.  The only challenge they pose is ensuring you remain as focussed when writing from home.  With all possible distractions and opportunities to do other things, how can you ensure the writing time is just as productive?

During WriteFest, we’ve been asking participants to let us know their ‘top tips’ for continuing their writing during the shift to home working, and have received a number of really good tips, here are some:

‘Set a timer for 20 min to write with no emails or social media then take a break’

 ‘if I am getting stuck, I do 10 minutes of free writing (no notes or stopping) by hand to get some ideas down’

 ‘I have noise cancelling headphones which I only wear while writing and put me in the zone’

‘Open a window and put on a jumper (don’t know why but it works for me)’

‘Take regular breaks!’

 ‘Structure time for writing each day. Small chunks. Workshops like this are tremendously helpful for accountability while working at home‘

 ‘Preserve first hour of the morning whenever possible for research, even if it means getting up a little earlier. Use writing hours/workshops for most difficult parts of research–having others present even virtually helps me knuckle down and face the tough nuts’

 ‘Turning off email really helps!!’

 ‘Set clear and achievable small deadlines, and organize writing retreats like this one you organized, to keep motivated’

 ‘Do half a day writing and half a day reading in order to keep up your interest in the topic and develop your ideas’

 ‘Do not feel guilty about ring fencing time – this should take priority’

‘If you can close a door to other spaces in your home, do so.  I have also created a bit of a clean and clear writing cave space, cut off from the rest of the messy room with various props of furniture and blankets!!’

‘Break up sitting and writing with walks outdoors in fresh air (even if raining!)’

 ‘Bullet point all your sentences before writing them. Knowing your sources beforehand helps too’

 ‘Use the ‘focus’ button at the bottom of Word, if you are using Word, to reduce distractions’

 ‘Signing up for writing retreats in order to create protected time has been the most helpful thing I’ve done to write at home during the pandemic’

 ‘Keep everything close to your desk so you don’t use it as an excuse to get up all the time’

 ‘If you are feeling frustrated or blocked, change your location (I am currently writing as I stand at my kitchen counter)!’

Sometimes the most obvious and the simplest things are the most effective.  These ‘Top Tips’ aren’t demanding, but they do require you to be mindful of what would work best to allow you to get that writing done . . . from home.

What tips do you have?

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