Is a Writing Group Right for You?

Some people are focused thesis-writers: the type that love to grab a mug of something hot and burrow down for a day of productive, distraction-free writing. They successfully ignore their phones, kids, pets, and internet browsers. They fire up their brains, start their pens, and don’t stop until they’ve filled pages with prose so pristine that supervisors and journal editors alike break into song and…

Haha, nope!

OK, so some lucky people can sustain concentrated writing for some of the time. But I don’t know anyone who can just sit down and churn out large chunks of a thesis. It’s too hard, and life throws out too many distractions. Most of us need a little help with motivation and productivity in our writing.

Person slumped over holding a mug labelled "Caution: Thesis writing in progress"

One option is to train ourselves to focus more effectively. Thesislink writer Dr Kathryn Oxborrow did this by collecting all her mental distractions on a list, rather than pursuing them during her writing time. Another option is to use distraction-busting tools to prime your environment for writing.

But a great way to boost your writing productivity is simply to write alongside others. That’s why many postgrads turn to writing groups for support. There’s something comforting about sharing your writing time with others going through the same process. And let’s be real: it’s easier to work if we know others will catch us skiving off!

These groups can not only boost productivity, but also enable writers to learn from each other, discuss writing strategies, and reflect on their writerly identity. A group of doctoral student writers even wrote a journal article about their experiences in their own writing group!

AUT has a couple of options already for postgrad research students who would like to write together.

There’s an online Shut Up and Write! group that meets every Monday morning from 9:30am to around noon. They use the Pomodoro method (25min writing / 5min break / repeat) to encourage everyone to stay productive and refreshed.

AUT also has a student-led Research Writing Group that meets online as well as (in non-COVID times) IRL, twice a month. This group focuses more on learning about writing by sharing ideas and resources, and discussing what works.

Even if you are one of those rare unicorn thesis-writers who can sit alone and write for hours with great focus, it’s sometimes nice just to have a chat with fellow writers. We can all use that – especially during lockdowns.

Happy (group) writing!

About Anaise Irvine

Dr Anaise Irvine is the Editor of Thesislink and leads the Researcher Education and Development team at Auckland University of Technology. Her PhD research analysed how contemporary films and novels represent genetic engineering as a social justice issue. These days she works with researchers at all levels to improve their research skills, and the most obscure of her own research skills is being able to turn novels into phylogenetic trees!

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