In this blog post Dr Anna Pilz, Academic Developer & Trainer at the IAD, discusses her experience of running writing retreats, what different retreats are on offer from the IAD and how they can help in your role.
Recently, I ran a Writing Retreat where all participants had never attended one before. To me, that’s an exciting prospect as I’m always curious to witness how that first experience plays out. I smiled and nodded knowingly at their surprise at how productive the session was. Participants are often in the final stages of a writing project (whether that’s a PhD thesis or the revisions for a peer-reviewed article), keen to get a long-dormant writing project off their desk (be it a co-authored review article or a stalled book chapter), or starting afresh with a chapter, article, or grant application. By turning up, they made a commitment to (re)start.
Running Writing Retreats is one of my favourite parts of my Academic Developer role. I enjoy hearing about researchers’ writing projects, learning about their writing challenges, and how they go about drafting and re-drafting as they briefly articulate their writing goal at the beginning of each session. The sessions are open to both postgraduate researchers as well as research staff to emphasise the fact that writing comes with its challenges regardless at what research career stage, as each writing project comes with its own specific framework, structure, and voice. There’s something motivating about that shared commitment to move a writing project forward, to think and type together for a set amount of time. In the break, we exchange some thoughts and I invite questions or encourage participants to talk to each other about their writing practice. We learn about writing programmes from Scrivener to Overleaf, and various referencing tools by getting a glimpse of how other people write and organise their drafts, notes and references.
Curious to experience it yourself? Come along to one of our online morning or afternoon writing retreats, online researcher writing hour, or 3-hour in-person writing retreats to progress your writing project and get your research out there.
Our Writing Hours & Retreats help you to:
- protect writing time in your calendars and unplug from distractions.
- ensure that your writing project keeps fresh in your mind through short but regular writing sessions.
- set realistic writing goals. Whether you commit to writing for a certain amount of time or aim for a word count or a number of paragraphs, set yourself an achievable goal. Even half an hour a day makes a difference; every word counts.
- compartmentalise the ‘writing’ task into different components to set your writing project goals. (Do you need to fix footnotes and references? Are you aiming to improve the structure? Are you addressing reviewer’s comments? Is your draft too long and you have to cut words? Do you seek to improve your writing style with a more active voice?)
- be motivated about your writing projects. Talking about writing goals & word counts can be intimidating for some & feed a language of ‘guilt and shame’. Rather than asking ‘When is your article done?’ or ‘Aren’t you near the end of your thesis?’, why not focus on ‘What idea motivates you to write?’
- find strategies to move a writing project along, especially on days when the writing isn’t ‘flowing’. You can cling to something tangible– analyse / unpack a quote; add in contextual information; or try free-style writing to sketch out an idea.
- be curious about what your colleagues find most challenging about writing by learning from others how they plan & structure their drafts; how they develop a ‘voice’ or write for different audiences etc. Every published text starts out as a first draft!
- remember to leave the draft even when you feel you *could* keep going. Leave yourself a note where you want to pick it up next & look forward to returning to write.
- embrace the drafting process at the end of which awaits the opportunity to reach out to friends, peers, and/or colleagues for feedback. To share your ideas is an exciting step in the process & through conversation you start the revision & editing process.
- celebrate your writing achievements. The IAD has set up a writing padlet where staff and students share their writing tips and achievements, go have a look and add your own achievements!
BOOKING Dates for future writing retreats can be found here.