Kinds of Academic Writing Groups

Decorative: "Your Guide to Writing Groups


A. "Shut Up and Write" (post) addresses challenges faced by many "graduate students, post-docs and new faculty" when trying to get necessary writing done.

1. We may "need community, support, and accountability, and ... [we should] embrace the[se], create mechanisms to meet them, and find that participating in these types of supportive systems brings [us] increased productivity."

  • Ask, "What do I need, and what kind of writing group will best support my needs?
  • "Knowing what you truly need to maximize your productivity is what will allow you to construct a writing support system that is effective for YOU."

2. See also

B. First Things First: "It's Okay ..."

  • "if you need support and accountability."
  • "if you’re not productive in isolation."
  • "if you need community, feedback, a safe space to take risks, and a group of people who genuinely celebrate your accomplishments."
  • "[M]eeting your needs for community, support, and accountability will increase not only your productivity but also your enjoyment of ... writing."

C. "What Do YOU Need?"

1. "Academic writers have lots of different needs. For example ..."

  • "[S]ome people need to physically share space with others while writing."
  • "[S]ome need a stern authority figure to answer to."
  • "[S]ome people need solitude and the kind of support that is silent."
  • "[O]thers need regular cheerleading from their peers."
  • "Some need quantitative accounting of their progress."
  • "[O]thers need substantive feedback from those in their specialty field to stay motivated."
  • "Some people need therapy, and others need an occasional exorcism (from the demons of bad academic socialization)."
  • "It’s even OK if you need all of these things at different times!"

2. Connect with a writing group that meets your needs 

  • There are "a few different types of writing groups" so let "your needs guide your selection of an appropriate group."
  • "Writing groups flourish when everyone’s needs are being met and flounder when they don’t meet the primary needs of members."

C. (Some) Kinds of Academic Writing Groups

1. Traditional Writing Groups 

a. "[A] small number of people who commit to a specific period of time (e.g., a summer) to meet face-to-face, once-a-month, for the purpose of reading, critiquing, and providing substantive feedback on each other’s written work"

  • "[R]equires a commitment of 5-8 hours per month to read other people’s work, draft comments, show up, and engage during the meeting time."

b. "[W]ork well if a participant’s primary need is substantive feedback and if members are able to provide that for one another."

  • "[L]ess effective when participants have other more pressing needs (support or ongoing accountability) and/or the feedback is the sort that could be obtained more efficiently from a professional editor." 

2. Writing Accountability Groups 

"[A] committed group of people to answer to each week"

a. "[F]airly simple [structure]: four people agree to meet once a week ... (either face-to-face or by conference call)"

  • "The groups meet for exactly one hour per week and each person gets 15 minutes to discuss the following items: 1) my writing goals for last week were _______, 2) I did/did not meet them, 3) if I didn't meet them, it’s because of _______ and 4) my writing goals for next week are _______."
  • "Developing a daily writing routine tends to bring up people's stuff, and the group helps to support one another by identifying the limiting beliefs and behaviors that hold members back from productivity."

b. "Nobody reads anyone else's writing in this type of group."

  • Focus: "the writing process and moving projects forward so they can get into the hands of people with subject matter expertise (not group members)"

c. "[W]orks well when the participants' primary needs are accountability, support, community, and peer mentoring"

  • "[I]neffective when individuals cannot sustain the weekly commitment to the group or daily writing and/or their primary need is for ongoing substantive feedback" 

3. Write-On-Site 

For those who "nee[d] to be around others when [they]'re writing and/or [they] feel isolated"

a. "An organizer selects a time and place for meeting and disseminates that information to a group of interested others."

  • "At the appointed time, people descend on the designated space, and everyone writes."
  • "Everything else is optional."
  • "[C]an be a weekly attendance commitment (or not), the group can range from two people (writing buddies) to as many people as the space will hold, and it can occur in a public or private space"

b. "[N]o reading each other's work ... no discussion during the writing time"

  • "[A]bout getting into the same physical space and actually engaging in the act of writing"
  • "The collective writing energy of the group is energizing, and people are free to come early and stay late for socializing." 

c. "[W]orks well when participants are getting their needs met (everyone comes to write)"

  • "[D]oesn’t work well when people arrive and their primary needs are support, substantive feedback, or processing why they are stuck" 

4. Online Writing Groups 

a. Various online writing groups "provide support, accountability, and tracking progress over time"

  • For example, "the NCFDD [National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity] Discussion Forum's Monthly Writing Challenges or our 14 Day Writing Challenge)."
  • "Some are free and some cost money."
  • Structure: "Participants commit to a period of daily writing, check-in each day at the end of their writing time, track their daily progress over time, and engage in discussion about writing with other participants."

b. "[W]orks well for people who need daily support and encouragement, feel isolated in some way, and/or find electronic relationships are genuinely satisfying and significant enough to elicit the feeling of accountability" 

  • "[L]ess suitable for people who need face-to-face contact and interaction in order to feel a tangible sense of accountability and community" 

5. Writing Coaches 

a. If "you have a variety of needs but your schedule disallows you from committing to any kind of group ... [or] you have no idea what you need, and you would like to work with a professional to figure it out, [t]here are a variety of writing coaches out there who will consult with you weekly (for fees ranging from $75-$150 per hour)."

  • They can help you "increase your awareness of what’s holding you back and help you to develop and implement strategies to move you forward."

b. "[W]ork well for people who either aren’t clear what their needs are or need more personalized and intense accountability than a group can provide"

  • "[D]oesn’t work for people for whom the mere idea of being coached feels oppressive" 

6. Bootcamps 

a. "[B]ootcamps ... provide a professionally facilitated group, intense structure, and are filled with people who have made a commitment by investment."

  • "This high level of commitment, structure, and accountability combined with the attention of a dedicated coach tend to result in tremendous transformations in productivity."

b. "[B]ootcamps are not for everyone."

  • "[T]hey require a willingness to experiment with new writing behaviors."
  • They "continually question your beliefs about writing."
  • They "force you to explore the fears and anxiety that underlie your resistance to writing."
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