Friday, 19 December 2014
Write Club - The first rule of Write Club is that you do not talk at Write Club
One of the biggest issues my colleagues in ScHARR and Information Resources face these days is that of trying to put concentrated time into writing. For anyone working in a shared office or providing a service, as we do in Information Resources will know, is that all too often interruptions can impact on your flow of work. There are various articles and books published on the issue of modern technology affecting our attention spans. Some argue that it can take about 15 minutes to refocus the brain to one task properly once you switch to another, such as going from writing to reading emails. For the modern student it must be worse with Snap Chats, Facebook updates and text messages all vying for attention when you are trying to complete an important essay. At ScHARR we have tried to address the issue of researchers trying and often failing to finish various writing projects, usually those kind of projects that do not have a strict deadline.
I attended a University of Sheffield hosted writing retreat which opened my eyes to the idea of silent, writing focused events. An event where staff and students are not allowed to access any form of communication, email, Social Media or their phones. Everyone begins by discussing in small groups what they hope to get out of the retreat and sets out a few clear objectives. We then wrote for a solid hour followed by a short break to hunt down coffee, tea and sweets. Another one hour session followed and we finished by discussing what we think we'd achieved and how well we had done. My group, all from ScHARR agreed that it had been a really worthwhile exercise, the silence had given it a feeling of sitting an undergraduate exam. It took me back to the late1990s and sitting in a wood-clad Firth Hall, head down writing an essay about the role of jazz in modern music, fearful of sneezing or needing the loo (OK, not that bad). The subtle peer pressure of writing and not peeking a look at your email was effective enough to make this a worthwhile event.
In the end I managed to write two thousand words in two hours which just goes to show the kind of output you can have if you have got a topic or objective to write about and the right environment to facilitate that. The format is so simple and effective and has brilliant results. Obviously it is not for everyone, there are those lucky individuals who can stay incredibly focused these days, or do not have the distractions others have. As a result we are running a pilot over our writing week in January by hunkering down in the Library at ScHARR for six, two hour sessions where academics can work with colleagues in total silence and hopefully make some progress on their writing.
I've aptly called it Write Club - based on the cult film, Fight Club. This does not mean academics will strip off and fight in pairs in the underground car park, although this may already happen. Instead they will work on the simple rules of Write Club - that being.
The first rule of Write Club is that you do not talk at Write Club
The second rule of Write Club is that you do not talk at Write Club
Dates for the first Write Clubs have been distributed to ScHARR staff