Shut Up and Write!

It’s Monday morning, and you’re thinking about opening the dreaded Word document, and writing some of your thesis. But wait, you’d better just answer this email, check Twitter, make a cup of tea, and chat to a colleague. Do you ever feel like there’s always a reason to put off writing? And when you do finally open the document there’s always some editing to do, or a reference to look up.

Shut up and Write is a novel way to combat the many (self-imposed) barriers that we can encounter when we try to get some writing done.

I first read about Shut Up and Write on the Thesis Whisperer blog and I’ve been really keen to try it ever since. The concept is simple, a group of researchers meet up in a café, and after a brief chat and a coffee, they stop talking and get typing for a set period of time. In the Thesis Whisperer post Inger wrote about how the tapping keyboard of her fellow writer motivated her to keep going, and avoid the temptation to spend too long editing what she was writing. She also avoided any distractions in favour of solid writing. After the writing time period is up the writers have another quick chat and go on their way, hopefully with a good chunk of writing that they can come back and work on at a later date.

In my experience working on improving a draft that I’ve already written, however much of a mess it might be, is always easier than getting the words down in the first place. I also find that I often ‘work things out’ through the process of speaking or writing, so writing is about thinking things through as much as it is about getting it done. Perhaps that is why Shut Up and Write is so appealing to me. I also like the idea of writing being less of a solitary activity; sharing the experience and discussion of our writing could be a useful way of improving it.

If you feel that this idea might benefit you you’ll be pleased to know that the Hive scholars are setting up a monthly series of Shut Up and Write events for researchers this year.

The events will take place in the Library café; simply come and find one of the research hive scholars at 2.30 who will give you a voucher for free tea or coffee. After a 20-30 minute chat we will time two 30 minute blocks of writing with a short break in the middle. We will conclude with a short feedback chat. Please bring pen and paper or your laptop along with you; or ask us to hire an ITS laptop on your behalf, just email us a week before (researchhive@sussex.ac.uk). Researchers from all schools and levels are very welcome.

Particularly if you are early on in your research you might not be sure exactly what you need to be writing, or if you need to be writing at all. The tried and tested PhD advice ‘write early, write often’ applies here; for many researchers writing is useful and important throughout, and not just in the final year ‘writing up’ stage. It is important for your thought process even if none of the words you write make it into your final thesis. Below are some suggestions for the kind of things you might write about during a Shut Up and Write session:

·         Reflections on your research findings

·         Your response to a text you’ve recently read

·         Draft an introduction or conclusion to a chapter

·         Draft a blog post (if you blog about your research)

·         Draft a key point or argument

·        General reflections such as how your research has changed since induction, what you think your original contribution is, what you think your overall argument is.

There are just two rules: shut up, and write. That means no editing, no re-drafting, no distractions, no email, no social networking, no admin, no chatting, no looking something up. Just type as if your life depends on it!

Shut Up and Write events will take place on:

Tuesday 13th November, 2.30pm, Library café

Tuesday 11th December, 3.00pm, Library café

Tuesday 15th January, 3.00pm, Library café

Tuesday 12th February, 3.00pm, Library café

Tuesday 12th March, 3.00pm, Library café

Tuesday 9th April, 3.00pm, Library café
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