Third Faculty Writers Retreat this June


Want to Jump Start Your Writing for the Summer Months?

Announcing the Next On-Campus Writing Retreat for Faculty and Staff, June 6-10, 2011

"This week gave me the opportunity to re-establish some much needed
momentum on my project."

"The week felt like a comfortable writing bubble. I felt pleasantly immune
from other work pressures."

"This has been more than I hoped for due to the camaraderie
and disciplined time to write."

The June on-campus writing retreat will take place in the Center for Writing, JRC 361, from June 6th through the 10th. Faculty and staff are welcome. Registration materials will be sent out by the Office of Faculty Development. But please contact me, Dr. Susan Callaway, with any questions you may have. We anticipate an early August retreat as well.

It’s been almost a year since I proposed to Faculty Development a week-long on-campus retreat for faculty and staff writers, and since then we’ve had two retreats and a series of Friday afternoon “Hide and Writes,” culminating in what we hope will be a thriving and vibrant Faculty/Staff Writers Program at UST.
Here’s what we’ve learned so far from the retreats about what best inspires writing productivity:

Being in the presence of others who are writing.

Overwhelmingly, the retreat participants rejoice at the time to write in a room filled with other writers. But once the retreat is over, how do writers maintain their productivity? Writing groups formed quickly at the end of the January retreat and they’re still meeting in quiet spaces where they can work together one day a week. But they’re not the typical writing groups that require writing to be share each week. They are meeting to work independently on their own projects each week. And they are thrilled to also have access to those same group members to share what they need to when they choose. Groups have also organized their time together more traditionally around having writing due at the meetings, but they may alternate the due dates among the group members.

Getting perspective on the challenges of writing itself.

In the retreats, faculty have been inspired by their colleagues’ projects as they describe them the first day. Yet listening to the daily reports on the successes and challenges they have encountered has been transformative for many. Writing is hard—to get started on, to continue, and to complete. In a retreat or in a group, writers support other writers as they struggle with a publisher’s deadline or with their own, or with the demands of their department or their families. We can explore potential solutions together, so by extension we see that none of us should feel ashamed when we don’t meet deadlines or if we’ve over-estimated or underestimated the time it will take to finish a project.

I also encourage retreat participants to examine their realizations about their writing to inform their teaching. For example, as scholars we struggle with the audience for our target journals. If we have to think explicitly about audience, shouldn’t we teach our students to do the same? We need to revise our introductions, crafting them continually to capture our main argument and to lead our readers carefully into our text. Shouldn’t we show our students that this takes time—to arrive at a strong argument and then create an introduction appropriate to our discipline and what we really want to say? And as we realize we all feel emotional about our successes and failures and how others think of us, we should remember that our students can also feel strongly about their writing in our classes.

Creating and protecting your writing life.

If writing weren’t hard enough, life, of course, also gets in the way. We can draw strength from each other in the retreats or a writing group, but we also need to create and manage our individual writing lives, starting with when we write. Choose a day and time you can keep. Protect that time. Like a work-out schedule that enables our bodies to expect and welcome exercise at particular times of the day, a writing schedule trains our minds to anticipate and prepare for the time we’ve set aside specifically to write.

Think carefully about where you write. Create the best environment for yourself, which means planting yourself in a predictably quiet space that is free of distractions. Hide. Keep away from Facebook, the Internet and your email. Set up an internet blocker on your laptop and turn your phone off. Although reading the relevant literature and data analysis are key to our projects, these can quickly consume those precious hours we’ve set aside to write. Get away from your office and chatting colleagues, away from students and the draw of administrative duties. Pack up what you need and head to your out-of-the-way writing space.

Some of my colleagues are quite independently productive, and I admire them. But for me, having someone who is expecting me to show up and wants to hear the next installment in the saga of my writing life, or who needs my feedback, or is just expecting me to show up, helps me get writing done. If you want to maintain your productivity, involve someone else in your writing life. They’ll pester you and support you. They’ll help you establish a writing practice and work through what otherwise might have derailed your progress.
If you’re interested in finding a group and negotiating the time to write and also to share with engaged and interested readers, please contact me.

See what a quiet space and some colleagues in the room can do for you this June. Come to our next on-campus retreat.

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