Friday, 12 August 2016

What are Shut Up & Write! Sessions?

What are Shut Up & Write! Sessions?

I'm currently in the second of our Shut Up & Write! sessions writing this blog post, so I thought I'd explain a little bit more about what the sessions are and how to get the most out of them.

Shut Up and Write! sessions are designed for people to come along and get some writing done.

They are not designed to help you with how to write an article/book/thesis or anything else. They do not include any critiquing or feedback on the work you are doing.

You simply turn up and write.

Why would you need to go somewhere to write?

You can do that in your home/office/favourite cafĂ© etc…

If you can get writing done in in those places then that's great, keep doing it. However, it is very easy to get distracted by students, colleagues, friends, family, Facebook (insert your distraction of choice) in your normal working environment.

Shut Up & Write! sessions are designed to give you some focused writing time without distractions from other people. It doesn't work for everyone, but some of the reasons it might work are:
  • You turn up with the intention to write
  • You are surrounded by other people quietly writing
  • It puts an external pressure on you to write

How to get the most out of the sessions:
  • Decide beforehand what you are going to work on
  • Bring anything with you that you will need to get your writing done
  • Set a small, achievable goal for the session
  • If you're on a device with the internet – turn off your wireless connection during the session!

The goal for the session will vary tremendously. It depends on what you are working on and how quickly you write.

For example, I know that in a 2hr (with break) fiction writing session I can usually manage at least a 1,000 words of first draft writing – but only if I already know who the characters are and where the story is heading. Non-fiction writing is much slower for me, so I might aim for 500 words to allow for thinking time.

Types of goal for an academic session might be:
  • Outline a journal article
  • Write a short book review
  • Work on a specific part of a longer project e.g. introduction, methods etc.
  • Edit a section of a project
  • Make notes for a peer-review of a paper

The main thing is to feel you have achieved something by the end of the session. It will mean you are much more likely to carry on writing on your own time or in the next session.

If you like the idea, but can't make it to the organised sessions…

The nice thing about the principle of Shut Up & Write sessions is that you can also organise them yourselves.

It can work even if there's only two of you, as long as you turn up with the intention to write and at least one of you is willing to enforce the rule that after a chat/break you get back to writing!

You just need:
  • A time and place to meet
  • Preferably somewhere with power sockets & refreshments
  • A structure to the session
    • e.g. get set-up/chat, write for a specified amount of time – rinse/repeat.

If you don't know anyone locally then you can even run sessions online:
  • Decide on an online form of communication e.g. Twitter, Google Hangout, Chat
  • Decide on a time to start the session
  • Join the chat/hangout/twitter hashtag (e.g. on Twitter see #suaw)
  • Introduce yourself & say what your goal for the writing session is
  • Write for a set amount of time
  • Go back online and say whether you met your goal & chat with the other participants

More resources:
ShutUp & Write blog post by The Thesis Whisperer 
Writeswell with others blog post by The Research Whisperer 
ShutUp & write - so hot right now blog post by The Research Whisperer 

The Library Research Services Team are running Shut Up and Write!sessions every Friday morning in August.

We'll be collecting feedback at the end of August to find out if the sessions were useful and if there is a demand to run further sessions in the future.

Any comments about Shut Up & Write – email Selina on  

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