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Got writing issues? You bet you do.

Yellow Notes

If there's one thing I'm proud of in my years in this department, it's not getting to this stage in my degree program, it's not publishing, and it's not realizing that I enjoy teaching. It's starting a writing group that will celebrate it's fourth anniversary this year. All told, the group has pushed through two dissertations (and another two will defend this year), three theses, two prosectuses, at least four articles or book chapters, and numerous conference presentations, job applications, and seminar papers. This is good work, and if all goes well, my mates will help carry me through to dissertation enlightenment.

But if there's one thing I regret about the group, it's that I have to keep it small. If it were feasible, I'd invite you all to a huge orgy of writing brilliance and productivity. What I realize, though, is that there's nothing stopping you from setting up your own group or participating in the groups on campus that already exist. r>

Recently, David Beard, an alumnus of both the department and my writing group, sent me a valuable article on starting and running your own group from the Chronicle of Higher Education. If you're thinking of organizing your own group, this is highly recommended.

Also, if you want to get away from the department, I would strongly suggest the interdisciplinary writing groups offered by the University's Counseling Services. You won't review writing, but you will set and meet goals and talk through all your crazy writing issues. Don't be shy: we all have them.

My own initial advice for anyone starting their own writing group would amount to a few things:

  • Bring together people with a work ethic similar to yours.
  • Bring together people that challenge you, even if you don't know them. You'll soon learn more about them and their hang ups than you ever imagined :) It's a wonderful process.
  • Consider inviting people from other disciplines.
  • Meet every week at the same time and place. Make it a habit. Be disciplined.
  • Set goals, set a schedule, and limit the amount of time you bitch. Believe me, the bitching will be very very enjoyable. Keep it contained.
  • Have fun. Celebrate your achievements. Drink wine. Have chocolate.

At the moment I'm a member of three different writing groups (including one of the counseling groups I mentioned above). Each does something different for my writing and thinking. But the most important thing is that I took the initiative to be responsible for my own work and to hold myself publicly accountable to progress. I can't recommend it highly enough.

If you have questions about creating your own group or want more advice gleaned from running my own group, feel free to ask.

Finally: Do you participate in your own group? Do you have advice for others who might want to begin one of their own? Please share it in the comments.


Greg Schneider's GSD group, as it was called when I was a member, was one of the best aspects of the community in RSTC.

It's also proof of Robert Scott's claim that the most important contacts you make in graduate school are your peers, not your professors. Your peers will invite you to be on panels, contribute to special issues of journals, and so on -- building the CV early in the career.