I am writing this blog entry to once again express my affection for a writing group. My sabbatical was passing me by, in some ways, as I drowned in the multiple research and writing projects I was trying to work on simultaneously. Thanks to the self-imposed deadline that I shared with the writing group, I have one article draft done and another on deck. There is something about accountability and a sense of camaraderie that really helps me make the right decisions about how to spend my time.
I have been a member of three writing groups in my professional life, and each has been a boon to my work. All groups revolved around food–usually lunch–and included reviewing other people’s work.
One group was very large and interdisciplinary, and that was both challenging and fun. It can be difficult to understand the conventions of another person’s discipline, and disagreements and defensiveness occasionally ensued during those paper discussions. I sometimes had to go outside the group for useful feedback, but I did feel like I had people who were in my corner. I also learned a lot about the work in other disciplines and built wonderful friendships that I still maintain.
The second writing group was within my department, but it was a large group that was open to all comers, as it were, as long as you were pre-tenure. Once again, the group did some good work, and many of us saw our productivity improve. Some problems emerged based on temperament and style that caused some members to want to discontinue participating in the group. Several people (myself included) also struggled with doing so much extra reading of papers, which we felt pulled us away from our own work. Eventually, we decided to discontinue that group.
The newest group is small, self-selected, woman-only, and friendly in tone and style. We agreed to set our own goals, hold each other accountable to those goals, and not get stressed about how productive anyone else is… We have people versed in different topics and kinds of methodologies, so there is always someone who can comment knowledgeably on a paper. Who knows how it will shake out? It looks good, so far.
I plan to continue participating in the writing group, even when the semester sabbatical is done, because it is the best way for me to be continually productive. It makes me think that perhaps my goals for the sabbatical, which are quite lofty, are still reachable. Even if I don’t meet them, though, I know I will do enough to be relatively pleased with myself.
All hail the writing group!