Writing is one of our main tasks as researchers: we author papers, books or book chapters, grant applications, blog posts, newspaper articles, etc. for a broad range of different audiences. However, setting time aside for writing is rather challenging, as it is so easy to fill up our schedule with the variety of other assignments we need to accomplish: teaching, supervision, administrative work, data collection, reviewing other researchers’ publications or grants, and more. In the HTO group, we have thus implemented several strategies to help us write more and better.
Following in the footseps of some of our colleagues at Uppsala University (see article above taken from Uppsala University’s magazine, Universen), we are launching afternoon “Shut Up and Write!” sessions every last Tuesday of the month. The idea is simply to sit together and write – each person working in silence on her or his own project – for a few hours at a time. We sit in a meeting room instead of our usual offices to create a change of scenery and atmosphere. The session schedule – the length of each writing slot – is decided beforehand. For example, we might write for an hour to an hour and a half, and then take a break together, possibly with a little fika. Then we move to the next slot. Since it is very focused work, three writing slots in an afternoon can result in significant progress.
Writing retreats, consisting of one or two days of writing in a row, have also become a tradition in our research group. We then gather in Åsa Cajander’s house in the countryside, and sit together the whole day, enjoying fika toghether between writing slots. We wrap up the day with a shared dinner we prepare together, which is a really nice teambuilding activity. Such writing retreats are thus not only an opportunity to be really productive and reach our writing goals, but also to get to know each other in a different context, and to develop friendly working relationships. The discussions that arise throughout the day also give us insights into what others are working on, and can inspire and guide us in our own work. Although writing for several hours is very energy-consuming, I always come back from such writing retreats with renewed motivation and fresh ideas!
Writing sessions and writing retreats can sound over-the-top, but they have definitley been opportunities for very productive work for me. In my experience, getting into the habit of writing often, for a few hours at a time, makes it possible to improve one’s writing and to become a more efficient writer. When are you starting?