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Academic Coaching & Writing

XXV. An Academic, Writing: Building Writing Communities

Jun 13, 2013 by Lee Skallerup Bessette

I’ve written before about how much ACW’s Virtual Writing Room has helped me become a more productive writer. However, as I found out, when the Writing Room ended, I slipped back into my old, unproductive habits. To sustain my productivity for the long term, I know that I need to reach out and connect with a larger community of writers who are sharing in my experience.

Face-to-face writing groups or writing workshops have been around for a while now, particularly for creative writers. There’s no reason why academic writers can’t take advantage of the same setup to form a close community of academic writers who meet regularly to write, share, offer feedback, and support each other. It’s often more difficult, however, for academics to commit to a regularly scheduled period of time. In response to this constraint, less formal “Shut Up and Write” sessions are gaining popularity. For example, writers can post on various social media platforms that they will be writing in a certain place at a certain time and inviting anyone who is interested in joining them to come down and write alongside them.

Many of us, however, may live in places where there isn’t a high concentration of writers, or because of our situation, our writing needs to take place at strange times, and in isolation. But that doesn’t mean we have to write alone! Social media is a great way to create asynchronous writing communities. There are a number of hashtags on Twitter to support academic writers, such as #ecrchat and #acwri. There’s even a Twitter handle, Friday Night Writes, devoted to these kinds of virtual writing communities. The account tweets out support on Friday nights, as well as re-tweets the accomplishments of the night’s participants.

I’ve personally found Twitter to be very beneficial to my productivity. I tweeted throughout the entire Writing Room during the winter semester. I shared my accomplishments and my frustrations and challenges, and my community of academic writers would offer their support and advice. It was really helpful to me, even when I wasn’t writing, I knew that they were there to bounce ideas off of and that they wouldn’t judge me harshly for my writing blockage.

But if Twitter seems too open for you, you can use more closed spaces on other platforms like Facebook or Google Plus. Using these platforms, it’s easier than ever to create private groups or communities by invitation only. What is shared in that space is only accessible to the people who have been invited into the group. Here at ACW, we are experimenting with closed Google Plus communities for those who are participating in the Summer Virtual Writing Room to help our writers feel more connected and less alone in their process.

Once you develop a writing practice, you need to develop ways of sustaining it. I have shared with you how I have created my own writing community. How will you, virtually or otherwise, create a community of support for your writing?

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