Spurred on by November writing challenges like NaNoWriMo, DigiWriMo, and particularly Academic Writing Month (#AcWriMo), I sent out an email to our campus community asking if anyone wanted to join me in a November writing challenge. Within a few hours I had two faculty members and four staff members contact me expressing interest. My hope is to turn this group into one or more writing circles to help Trinity employees maintain writing productivity even during the academic year when students demand most of their time.
At this point, I see the group as primarily a social support and accountability framework wherein members will meet regularly to share their progress, talk through behavioral roadblocks and make plans for achieving their goals. The role of the group at the outset will have more to do with encouragement and habit formation than writing per se. The group may evolve into co-writing groups or partnerships that get together to write. I did this a few times while working on my dissertation and found it helpful to be in the same place as someone else who was writing, even if we weren’t working on the same thing. Depending on the group’s priorities we may also agree to read and critique each other’s work. I think critique circles may emerge as the group grows and splits off into clusters around types of writing (creative vs. academic, for example). The first meeting is scheduled for Monday at 4 in the library’s Java City coffee bar.
Claire Curtis of the College of Charleston wrote about her writing group in The Chronicle of Higher Education last year. This group successfully saw its three members through tenure and promotion. This writing group was a critique circle, meeting once a week to go over members’ drafts. The rules she and her group came up with were
- Set a meeting time and stick to it.
- Be prepared to share a draft of something you’ve written every three weeks (The group had three members, which they saw as an ideal size.) The draft doesn’t have to be work for publication.
- Read the draft to be discussed carefully and thoughtfully.
Curtis’ essay, along with another CHE commentary by Rachel Toor of Eastern Washington University, highlight the importance of trust for successful writing support. Toor writes,
If I didn’t know Nancy so well, I would be ashamed to have her see the soiled workings of my untidy mind, my bad sentences and shoddy insights, my pathetic arguments and unhinged paragraphs.
The agenda for Monday’s meeting will be to assess each member’s goals for the writing challenge, determine the compatibility of the members’ projects and gauge the level of trust in the group.
Other Writing Groups in San Antonio
Image Credit Fritz Ahlefeldt