Even though I got my PhD almost 2 years ago I am still working on papers from my PhD and research positions I had since then – it seems previous work just follows you around. Over time it gets harder and harder to find the time and motivation to write up projects that you no longer work on. I am determined to get all the papers related to previous work out the way in the 1st year of this post doc – mainly so I can focus on writing about my current work as I go along.

So about 6 weeks ago I started a writing group called Hide & Write at Heriot-Watt University – mainly to increase the time I spend writing during my work week & to improve my writing quality through regular writing. This is a good blog post why regular writing is great and how to write every day. There are other writing group set ups out there, e.g. Shut up and write .

Here is more about how our group works:

At the moment the group meets twice a week for 1 hour each time – usually in one of the cafes on campus. Most people get a coffee and then we just sit together and write – to help the group stay focused we decided to have themes and challenges. The 1st challenge we set ourselves was a publication challenge: Write a paper in 7 weeks – this is now week 5 and I think it’s going well. The bulk of my manuscript is done and I really think I will get it finished in the remaining sessions and some extra work outside the sessions. This has actually amazed me – I didn’t think I would manage it but here I am. I think this down to 2 things. Firstly having sessions planned with a rough schedule helps to focus my preparation – I did the reading before the 1st session, got my graphs and tables done for the results sessions etc. Secondly it is amazing how much writing you can get done when you focus for 60 minutes on nothing but your paper.

As with a lot of new things it’s a slow starter – the group size varies between 1 and 4 – however I think this is partly due people being on holidays at the moment. But I am determined to keep going and I try and “recruit” new members all the time. Usually once they tried it they tend to like how much writing they get done away from the office. But it seems that researchers tend to be reluctant to give it a try. I hope that after the summer the group will find more regular writers and here are 7 reasons why I think you should join or start your own group:

  1. Realise you are not alone with the struggle to find time/motivation to write in your office – it’s always nice to know that other people feel the same way – having an appointment to write makes it harder to cancel or fill the time with something else
  2. You’ll be amazed how much writing you get done when you just write – I average about 2-3 pages in a session – not my best writing (typos, flow) but definitely something to work with and edit
  3. Seeing other people writing gets your juices flowing – I hear this a lot when people join us for the first time – they start writing because everybody else is hard at wok and they don’t want to feel left out
  4. It helps to structure your work around the writing sessions – having fixed sessions (with themes) means that the data has to be analysed, papers read and summarised by certain dates to be able to write about it
  5. Nice to get to know some other people – this writing group is open to everyone and we have researchers from a range of fields – after our first challenge we might add a social component and have a wee celebration
  6. Ask for advice and share tips – usually after the writing session there is time for a wee chat – we discuss blogs, apps and how to structure etc – it’s nice to be able to do this in a small group
  7. It adds some FUN – I didn’t enjoy writing papers – I always thought of it as the bane at the end of cool and exciting lab work – however meeting up with colleagues, treating myself to a coffee and seeing how everyone else is doing makes this a fun experience and I actually look forward to my Hide & Write sessions

Why not give it a go and see how much writing you can get done when you Hide & Write with others.