Wrapping up WriteFest 2018

Today marks the last day of Academic Writing Month, which has led me to reflect on what we have achieved this November. This is the first year that King’s College London has been involved in WriteFest, and I have been delighted with the engagement from our research staff. I organised 7 formal workshops/events through November, with 111 attendees. Furthermore, I have hosted 8 Shut Up and Write! sessions, with 32 attendees, and approximately 27000 words were written – which is an awe-inspiring number.

Over the month, I have had some amazing conversations with those attending workshops or Shut Up and Write! sessions and I have found myself having a similar conversation with different individuals or groups. The majority of people found that coming to the workshops/writing sessions helped them feel motivated and more productive; spurring them on to write more. It is easy to stay focused in a silent room with strangers! But what happens next? How can you stay motivated when research, kids, pets, politics, students, and managers demand your attention?

There is one key way to do this – make writing a priority. Give it, and yourself, the respect of time and space to think. Then the words will flow.

Admit It

It is very easy to say that writing is a priority, but you also need to admit to yourself that writing is an equally important part of your job as conducting research. Some of you may love writing, some of you may hate it. But all of you know that ultimately, dissemination of your research is achieved primarily through publishing, and you need grants to get funding to test your theories and conduct research.

Prioritise writing

Okay, so you’ve admitted that writing is important. Now what? Well, now you need to find out how you write most effectively. My previous two blogs offer tips on creating the perfect writing environment and using music to aid your writing; but you also need to consider how you work best. Are you a morning, afternoon, or evening person? Carve out the time to write when you know you are at your best. Honor the importance of writing and actively pursue it as a priority. This is likely to mean that you have to forgo other things, maybe an hour of sleep, TV, or gaming – but if you give these things a higher priority than writing then unconsciously you are telling yourself that writing isn’t important.

Make a plan and set goals

Writing can be a struggle when you don’t know where to start. Take the time to create a plan, with your ultimate goal broken down into manageable writing sessions – and remember to allocate time for editing and proof-reading! This is equally as important as the writing itself. Additionally, if you have this time allocated later in your plan, you don’t have to worry about editing as you write. This will help you to get your thoughts in order on the page and more words written.

Commit to writing something every week

On average, it takes over 2 months before a new behaviour becomes automatic; however, this can vary from 18 to 254 days depending on the person and behaviour. Forming habits is difficult, and will take consistency and commitment. But in the long run, this will pay off in dividends. You will become more efficient, and you may even start to look forward to writing!

Write Collectively

It has been clear this month that writing with a group helped everyone achieve more. I will continue to run Shut Up and Write! through the year (including adding a webinar option for remote group writing) but why not set up a writing group yourself? Use each other as motivation and peer pressure to stay focused.

Finally, it is important to be able to take a step back every now and again and see the bigger picture – what are you writing for? Sometimes writing in research can feel formulaic and dry because of all the rules and formatting. Start by writing to engage your audience, instilling all your enthusiasm about your research onto the page; you can worry about the strict formatting later.

What have you achieved this month? I would love to hear about your successes! Email amy.birch@kcl.ac.uk.

Join me for the final Shut Up and Write! sessions of 2018 on 13th December.

Creating your Perfect Writing Space

Dr Amy Birch, Centre for Research Staff Development

Over WriteFest 2018, I have hosted a number of Shut Up and Write! sessions where researchers have space, time, and peace to write. I have been delighted with the number of people I have met and the engagement they have brought into the sessions. Often our discussions in our short or long breaks from writing have focused around recreating the Shut Up and Write! experience in their own workspaces, so I decided to write a blog this week that could summarize all the tips we have discussed for creating the perfect writing environment.

However, as a serial procrastinator, I have found I will use any excuse not to write. This meant that even with all the things I know about creating the perfect environment for my writing, I still decided that I needed to find the perfect images of clean vs. messy writing spaces before I could start writing this blog! It was pure serendipity that I happened upon this great vlog that summarized most of what I was going to write, albeit with more references, and better narration and production quality.

I hope you enjoy – as the title suggests, this is intended to help you create the best study space; however, the same rules (and distractions) apply to creating your perfect writing environment. This is an American vlog, so here are some more UK friendly links to standing desks in a range of sizes. Did anyone say Black Friday deals?

Thomas Frank has created lots of vlogs to (his words) help you be more productive – check them out on his Youtube channel. You can check out the study spaces gallery here, and get a free version of Cold Turkey Writer here.

Creating your Perfect Writing Playlist

Everyone has a different opinion about the best type of music (or no music at all) to listen to when writing or studying. In this week’s vlog (video blog), Dr Victoria Williamson shares her evidence-based top tips for creating the perfect writing playlist.

Dr Williamson is a lecturer in Music Psychology at University of Sheffield, where she leads a research unit studying Music and Wellbeing. More information on her interests and career can be found here. She has created this vlog as part of WriteFest for University of Sheffield.

For more information about how to get involved in WriteFest 2018 at King’s, please check out our website.

What’s your Writing Place?

Written by Nudrat Siddiqui, CRSD

Photo source: http://sarawookey.com/dance-in-museums/awareness-through-movement-reading-wellcome-collection/

Writing well can be a tough task, no matter how seasoned a writer you may be. Good writing often comes from stumbling across the perfect formula for you, in which all the conditions to foster creativity are right. For many writers, the place where they write feeds into that formula.

I realised early on in my PhD that my formula involves inconsistency. I would have a productive day at a library or cafe and rush back the next day expecting similar results, only to have a miserable day that would conclude with me having strung together a few feeble sentences of my thesis. So I now alternate between libraries, cafes, and my living room couch, finding that the constant rotation in setting drives my writing.

As part of WriteFest 2018, we’re putting on Shut up and Write! retreats throughout November, which are a great opportunity to escape your usual surroundings and access protected time and space to work on your papers, chapters, and grant applications. If you can’t make it to King’s this month and are based in London, you can still make progress on your writing in one of the many quirky and interesting locations around the city.

Check out some of my favourite writing spots in London:

  • The British Library Reading Rooms – If you are looking for silence, these reading rooms are an oasis within the busy clamour of the Euston and King’s Cross area in which the library is based.   
  •  The National Art Library at the V&A – Situated in the V&A museum, gain inspiration from the chandeliers and beautiful views of the John Madejski Garden as you write.  
  • The Wellcome Collection Reading Room – a mixed bag of vintage arm chairs, sofas, a winding staircase complete with floor cushions and a ringing telephone that tells you the history of medicine when you answer it. When you need a break, have a wander through the free exhibitions downstairs.
  • The Barbican – Brutalist architecture, dim lighting, and ample seating and socket plugs. I find the creative vibe inherent to the Barbican often jumpstarts my own creative process.
  • Parks – Take your laptop or notebook and settle down on a bench in one of London’s numerous parks. Admittedly this might only be an option in warmer weather, but the scenic views go a long way in unclogging my ideas and thoughts.
  • Look Mum No Hands! – Doubling over as a café/bar and bike repair shop, this venue is a great spot to immerse yourself among other writers and freelancers busily tapping away on their laptops, with caffeine and baked treats to fuel you.

Finally, open yourself up to the possibility of writing anywhere, even when you’re not planning on it. Fragments of my thesis, sentences, and even whole paragraphs uncover themselves in unexpected moments when I’m on the tube or eating dinner, and the ‘Notes’ app on my phone is a handy way to quickly record them before they’re gone. Venture into some of the locations in this post and see if you can discover the right writing place for you this Academic Writing Month!

Join us for WriteFest 2018

November is Academic Writing Month, an academic write-a-thon that happens every year, inspired by NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) but catering to the specific needs of academic writers. Originally hosted by ‘PhD2Published’, the global academic community has now taken up the annual challenge to support each other to pledge their writing projects, record progress, and share thousands of writing tips via the #AcWriMo hashtag.

WriteFest 2018 (#AcWriFest18) was developed by colleagues in University of Sheffield, and this year King’s College London is contributing to this campaign with activities aimed at research staff and postgraduate research students. We are delighted to be working with colleagues across King’s and beyond, including Centre for Doctoral Studies, Centre for Technology Enhanced Learning, Research Design Service, University of Derby, University of Sheffield, and Wellcome Trust. Our aim is to bring together people from across the university to recognise and celebrate writing.

Drawing on the format of the very popular Shut Up and Write! retreats, WriteFest 2018 has some added bitesize workshops, a guide to crafting your own ideal writing soundtrack, a creative writing element, and a KEATS module with curated discussions. We encourage all academics, research staff, and research students to join us and write!

The festival aims to provide protected time and space for writing to help you to:



How can you get involved?

  • Join the discussion on KEATS and twitter
    • Consider what you are hoping to achieve by the end of November
    • Share your goals and log your progress
    • Consider the support you will need to achieve your goals
    • Support your peers and celebrate your progress