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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Writers Group FAQ

Nobody has actually asked me a question, so these are not really Frequently Asked Questions.

1. Who can join?


2. How does it work?

You post a comment in the comment box once a week, following the very basic, easy-to-follow instructions.

3. What are the rules?

Follow the instructions or a reasonable approximation of them and don't be an asshole.

4. Do I have to post every week?


5. What is the role of the moderator.

I am the moderator and I post simple instructions every week. I might offer brief encouraging comments. I also post on my own progress.

6. Can I comment on someone else's comment?

Yes. The point is encouragement, so anything that is encouraging and non-judgmental is fine.

7. Can I contact you backchannel to ask your more questions?

Yes. jmayhew arroba ku.edu.

9. What is an arroba?

It is the Spanish word for the graphic sign @.

10. What are the benefits of the group?

If you set weekly goals and evaluate what you get done each week (and why you don't always meet those goals), you will improve your work habits and productivity.

11. Why couldn't I just do that on my own?

You could. The group creates a motivational incentive and an encouraging environment that some people might find useful.

12. Why be so "non-judgmental"? Why is that important?

My idea is that judgment just gets in the way. Feeling really bad about how little you get done doesn't really help, in my experience. It is a form of egotistical thinking. You can view the problems of writing instead as a set of pragmatic issues. What's helping you, what's holding you back? What is under your control? What is out of your control?

13. What do you know about any of this?

Not much. But I have had some success writing academically and also have had non-productive periods. I've made every mistake at one time or another, from procrastination to emotional self-sabotage. Some people seem to find my blog Stupid Motivational Tricks useful, so who am I to argue with them?


Clarissa said...

This blog is not just useful. It's a godsend. I culled 4 single-spaced pages of advice from it that I now consult on a regular basis. Already my productivity has increased dramatically.

Thank you so much for this blog, Jonathan!

Jonathan said...

Thanks. I started it to boost my own productivity, but it has helped others too.

Thomas said...

I'm following this with interest. I meet with two groups (one consists of early career faculty, the other of PhD students) every Monday, with a similar aim.

Some differences:

Everyone commits to coming to every meeting for 16 weeks. We do accept excuses, but people then have to make a written report. You can't just skip a week as though nothing happened and get away with it...

That's another difference. We judge. We assume that we are all highly intelligent and knowledgeable in our field, but that we are plagued by vanity and sloth. So we try to offer a "tough love", a sympathetic corrective to each other's bullshit excuses.

The questions are three:

1. What/when did you have planed to write last week?
2. What/when did you actually write last week?
3. What/when do you plan to write this week?

After each report we briefly discuss possible discrepancies (some of which are perfectly understandable).

We don't worry to much about "how much" we got accomplished. The question is simply whether we worked on the tasks we had planned at the assigned times.

Jonathan said...

I cannot really enforce attendance because it an online group. If this were in situ it would be run differently.

I plan to model the tough but non-judgmental attitude toward writing and hope that other people follow my example. Non-judgmental does not mean that you can't hold yourself to a high standard, but that you separate your "internal obstacles" from your true self.

For example, if I do not get something done because my research materials are a bit disorganized, as they are this moment, then I confess to that freely, but then I just accept that that is so and try to improve. It's more taking note of a fact that "judging."

Clarissa said...

In order to get over the obstacles, one first needs to identify them. I'm only now gradually getting to understand what my inner obstacles are. I hope that the group will help me identify them completely and overcome them.

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

May I join you?

Jonathan said...

You're in, Dame Eleanor.

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

Thank you! I'm trying to get back to work after a week of distracting domestic issues. I hope you don't mind if I assign pseudonyms to my research. I'm revising/expanding a conference paper for publication; let's say it's on Cheese in Chaucer. I want to continue adding to my spreadsheet of references to cheese in Chaucer's works; take notes on a useful secondary work; and produce 1000 words of new prose.

Unknown said...

Hello. I'm responding to Jonathan's question from the last post here.

I work on race and mass media representations. I'm a humanities person in a mostly social science department. I don't mean to be vague or evasive, but I'm trying not to use too many identifiers. As an assistant professor I feel like discussing my productivity (or, worse, my lack of productivity) in a public forum might raise some eyebrows so I'm trying to be a bit circumspect.

Bronwen said...

Query: would it make sense to move the writing group or some of it to an authors-access only blog and make are participants authors?

Bronwen said...

Ahem, "all participants" that is. It's been a long day.

Jonathan said...

I could do that if most people wanted it that way. Do you have privacy concerns?

Jon said...

I think I would prefer that.

Jonathan said...

Ok. I have a private blog now for it. You will need to send me your email addresses so I can invite you to be authors.