This summer I knew I needed to keep in touch with folks who would be mired in writing just like me. I'm hip deep in my dissertation, prepping articles for submission, and revising job search materials. I don't need to be on campus at all, which is great, but also, it can be isolating, as writing is a pretty solitary endeavor. If you've got a lot to do, and perhaps relatively little structure in the form of external deadlines and campus meetings (hello, dissertations stage) I definitely recommend finding a community of writers, or if you can't, starting the community of writers that you need.
Last November, I participated in AcWriMo, encouraged by a friend who shared this article, and wrote more than I probably would have otherwise during that extremely busy month of the academic calendar. Being able to tweet with others about progress using the hashtags #acwrimo, #phdchat, and #phdlife, especially in light of a public declaration of my intent to wri, helped to feel that I wasn't in it alone. And also helped with my procrastination needs, which, let's face it, can be significant.
Some graduate schools and departments host shut up and write bootcamps, and as The Thesis Whisperer writes here, you can also kick one off yourself. Some institutions have the finding to organize dissertation writing retreats, and of course there are institutes that you can apply to where you can workshop chapters or articles in progress, as well. I figured though, that I needed a writing community that would fit my summer situation, which has shaped up to creating a writing zone with all my books and materials nearby and not leaving it very often.
I started a Facebook community of writers, and we check in throughout the day with writing intentions, support and resources, and calls for virtual pomodoro partners. Some folks in the community have completed prospectus and dissertation work and passed their defenses, others have published articles, and even been awarded a postdoc fellowship on the basis. These are the successes we slow down to cheer about in the midst of the daily, weekly, monthly trudge. I've heard a few articulations of the helpfulness of the community, and I know I feel the same way.
Here are my tips for getting the most out of writing in community:
1. Create the community you know you need
You might start an online writing group, or you might be someone who prefers company in person. I have a colleague who hosts a meet at a cafe once a week, and I know of a woman who started a writing group for women of color and got some funding (!!) from her university for their activities. There are many ways to build community, so you can get in where you fit in, if you know of an active writing group, or you can always start your own, at varying levels of organizing work.
2. Keep it constructive
It can be easy to fall into a pattern of socially catching up for most of a meeting, or even complaining about the writing work for a larger percentage of time than actually doing the writing work. This Chronicle article gives tips for keeping it constructive, and you might find that it describes a level of structure that you need. If you don't want a significant percentage of your time given to moderating the group, however, something more relaxed might be up your alley.
3. Pool your resources
Everyone who shows up to a writing group is thinking about writing, and has probably read fiftyleven articles on the subject. From staying organized, to tracking progress, to tools and apps, to drafting strategies, youknowwhati'mtalmbout, you've read a ton. Well, start a repository for everyone to share the ones they've found to be most helpful. If someone shows up with a question about the best paperclips, direct them to that Facebook group thread or Dropbox folder.
The bottom line is, stay in touch with other writing folks. It reminds you that you're still a human bean, and not solely a word producing machine. Commit to creating a space free of competitive vibes or (too, too much) griping. Hope you get the most out of your summer writing time.