In honor of national academic writing month #AcWriMo, we will share a series of techniques to get you writing. The first post from Mary Churchill is about writing accountability groups.
I started a Writing Accountability Group earlier this week and it was awesome!
I first read about WAGs in the National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity. Kerry Ann Roquemore is a major rockstar. She wrote about WAGs in her “Shut Up and Write” piece at Inside Higher Ed as one form of writing group to support your specific writing needs.
The Writing Accountability Group is very structured and specific and I like that. At this point, I feel like I need accountability. The structure includes four people who meet once a week for one hour and each person gets 15 minutes to talk about writing goals for the prior week, if you met your goals, if you didn’t why not?, and sharing your goals for the next week.
For me the power of the writing accountability group is the power of the confessional (ok, this is the framing device of a former Catholic). I found that just being able to talk about what gets me stuck and sharing techniques for moving on and getting unstuck was incredibly helpful.
I found three amazing women who were willing to give this a try with me. We found a time that works for us most weeks. That just happens to be at 730am on Tuesday mornings.
The four of us are at different institutions - all in Massachusetts but that was a fluke more than a plan. One of us is a full time faculty member working on several writing projects and her second book, one is returning to the professoriate after several years of administrative work, one is a college president who started her new presidency this summer, and the other is me - an administrator currently working on two book projects - one a co-authored book about the Wheelock/Boston University merger and another an edited volume that brings together some great work from writers at University of Venus.
We started the Zoom video conference call early to warm up with idle chit chat and to introduce the members to one another. Each person got their 15 minutes to share goals from the prior week and answer the questions: Did you meet your goal or not? If not, why not? If yes, how were you successful? Then folks shared their goals for this week.
Goals looked something like this: I will write 5 days Monday through Friday for a minimum of 15 minutes per day for a total of 5k words or I will write 3 days Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday for a minimum of 30 minutes a day for a total of 4 hours over the 3 days.
When we didn’t meet our goals it was often due to breaks in our normal schedules. For me, that break was travel. I was traveling for a conference Wednesday evening through Saturday morning. I had wanted to write both Thursday and Friday but I didn’t. I was able to keep up with my daily journaling at 750words both days but didn’t log time on either book project. If you haven’t discovered 750words.com, I highly recommend it. I journal there first thing in the morning and for me, getting up early and getting all the random thoughts out of my head is crucial.
To counter my tendency to stop working on book projects when I travel, one person recommended I do work on the plane and I will try to do that in the future (maybe I will take non-drowsy Dramamine so I will still be able to access my brain). I was also called out on mistaking the seagull badge (30 consecutive days) on 750words for an albatross...
I do not want writing to be my albatross and I am actually looking forward to next week’s WAG check-in. I really enjoyed talking to these women about the process of writing and it was a very supportive environment. For more on accountability partners, read this piece at the Quiet Revolution blog.
Have you ever participated in writing accountability group? Was it successful? Why or why not?