Are you Shutting Up and Writing?

Smiling_boy_seating_at_a_table_writing,_China,_ca._1918-1938_(MFB-LS0248A)Inspired by the awesome blog, the Thesis Whisperer and under the constant reminder that we must publish or perish, post docs from the School of Natural Sciences have been meeting on a weekly basis, on and off for the past year to sit down, shut up and write. Here is a bit of background on the Shut Up and Write ‘movement’, a little bit of what we’ve learned along the way and a big invite to any post grads, post docs and PIs in TCD’s School of Natural Sciences to come along and join us.

The post docs shutting up and writing. It’s that simple!
The post docs shutting up and writing. It’s that simple!

One of the most fun things to do while procrastinating on the internet is to read productivity hacks. There is a treasure trove of resources out there telling you how much better you would be at your job if you ate better, slept better, exercised more and bought their productivity app. Funnily enough, none of them tell you to just close the browser window and get on with it. On one of these jaunts through the internet I stumbled upon Dr Inger Mewburn’s, ‘The Thesis Whisperer’ blog and while I have spent longer than I should have trawling through her blog’s archives, it is such a great resource that I now annoy all the post grads in our lab with recommendations to do the same. One of the great ideas I found while procrastinating reading was that of setting up a Shut Up and Write group. These do exactly what they say on the tin, providing a place for interested people to come together and write. For some, this may seem counter-intuitive, going somewhere to meet takes time that could be better spent just getting on with the project in question. However, as Mewburn and fellow Shut Up and Write enthusiasts find, the problem with staying at your desk is one of continued interruption by email and requests for time by those who assume that because you are at your desk, you are ‘free’. Having a dedicated time to write also means that you are less likely to schedule other meetings/activities over it.

So, having met a couple of the School’s post docs and recognising in each other a desire to organise ourselves and meet with some sort of regularity, I proposed that we try out Shut Up and Write. What better group to sell the idea of regular writing sessions to, than post docs? Our group is small and we try to meet every week. We’ve tried the busy coffee house, but as our campus is in the city centre, busy is definitely too busy for our tastes, and we now meet on campus (in very close vicinity to tea and coffee facilities!!). We have also been derailed at times by the changes to our schedules that the switch between term time and holidays can bring. However, having regrouped recently after a bit of a break, I think the key is not to stress out about having spent time away from the group, or from writing and to just get on with it.

Once we’ve all come together, the session works something like this; we all grab a cup of tea/coffee and have a good natter. After about 15 minutes we sit down to our computers/notebooks and write for 25 minutes. We then have a quick breather (maybe 5 minutes) and then work for another uninterrupted 25 minutes (yes, that is the Pomodoro Technique). We currently tend to work on our own writing projects, but new collaborations and assistance with reading and editing manuscripts are all part of the potential a Shut Up and Write group has. Over the year we’ve worked on journal articles, grant proposals, blog posts, book chapters, technical reports and project management reports and the fact that we are still making time in our schedules suggests that it’s been a pretty productive experience all ’round. If you’re a post grad, post doc or PI in the School and would like to know more, please let us know in the comments!

Author: Caroline Wynne (@wynne_caroline)

Photo credit: wikimedia commons

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