Shut up and Write! turns writing from a solitary, to a social experience.

The concept is simple: meet up with others in a cafe (hopefully one with plenty of power points), and write. The concept originated in the San Francisco Bay Area, amongst creative writers and now has a not for profit foundation to spread the word. Research students and academics around the world use Shut up and Write to get work done. The idea is to make the act of writing fun and relaxing, as the San Francisco group puts it:

No critiquing, exercises, lectures, ego, competition or feeling guilty

Anyone can start a Shut up and Write! group – you don’t need permission or any extra resources, but we have found it works best if you:

  • Meet at a regular, pre-arranged time: this means there is no organisational work required and anyone can join at any time. Have at least one person committed to turn up at the assigned time and greet new members. You might want to share this duty with another person so it doesn’t become onerous.
  • Create a contact point for new members. This can be someone’s email, or a social media presence, such as a Facebook page, which acts as a rallying point. Some groups even make posters advertising their sessions and put them up around campus.
  • Keep the writing sprints short. Use the Pomodoro Technique (a pomodoro is a 25 minute stretch of focussed concentration). Between the pomodoros, take as much time as the group would like to drink hot beverages, talk and eat. Have one person willing to act as “Pomodoro chief” who will do time calls (there are many free Pomodoro apps which you can use to keep time).
  • Work on anything, so long as it’s work — transcription, analysis, reading, organising your notes – even email (although we don’t recommend it). No exercises or judgment remember? The only rule is to be silent when everyone else is.
  • Accept that Shut up and Write! is not for everyone. Some people may only come once; others will be regulars. If no one else turns up, Shut up and Write! is almost as much fun on your own (it’s nice to work somewhere other than office every now and then).
  • Remember, it doesn’t just have to be PhD students who do it. Early career academics, professional staff and others need to put time aside for writing too. And it’s the perfect opportunity to create cross institutional links – be open to people from other universities coming along.

Want to know more? read the original post I wrote about the concept at RMIT and a follow up post from our sister blog, The Research Whisperer “Writes well with others”.

You don’t have to start your own group, there might be an existing Shut up and Write! group near you which has a meeting schedule and a venue – have a look on the official Shut up and Write website. It’s a great way to make friends during your study.

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