Alison Pearson- Cohort Building Fund

Shut up and write sessions at St Luke’s, 2019

St Lukes Campus Image
St Lukes Campus, University of Exeter

As a PGR at the St Luke’s campus at the University of Exeter I had noticed that not many events and activities happen here – if you are lucky you bump into a colleague in the café or library, but it can leave you feeling a bit isolated.

When I heard about the SWDTP Cohort Building fund I thought this might be the ideal way of getting something off the ground here – I know that people are busy, so I thought it would be good to find a way of combining social support with getting some work done. By chance I had recently heard about the “shut up and write” concept via some online communities, and so put forward a proposal to the SWDTP to fund a series of “shut up and write” events – the idea being to use the funding for refreshments to have at the end of the sessions to encourage people to stay on and develop those important informal social networks.

With great thanks to the SWDTP for their support we managed to run a total of 23 sessions – and to have an event most weeks between January and July. The sessions evolved over this time – we found that the format that we liked the best was to have 3 writing bursts of 25 minutes each (with very short comfort breaks in between) and then to finish with coffee and cake. We had enough budget to finish with lunch every few weeks which added to the social feel and encouraged lots of productive writing – and good attendance!

The only challenges really were working out how to order catering and getting a budget code set up, and deciding how best to promote the events. This was easily solved by setting up the events on Eventbrite and asking for these links to be included on internal emails and newsletters both at Exeter and through the SWDTP. Our biggest event was our first lunch, with 16 people: most weeks we had 8-10 people and it was great to get to know people at different stages of their PGR journeys and from different subject disciplines.

There is something about writing in the company of others than creates a focussed and disciplined approach to your writing, as expressed by some of the attendees:

“ I really appreciate these sessions because they help me focus on my writing. Additionally working in a quiet environment helps me produce good quality pieces of writing. It’s good to set a goal and then come to these sessions and achieve it!”

“The shut up and write sessions have been great for me. I am a part time PhD researcher and spend most of my time at home working on my own. I find the sessions helpful in bringing a focus to my work – both while I’m in the room and also in advance in getting something ready to write. Also great to have some social contact and to share some of the stresses of PhD life. Really useful focussed and purposeful atmosphere.”

“I have found these sessions invaluable for providing protective time for writing as well as peer support. Its really helpful to timetable/ provide structure for my week. The refreshments have supported networking. I have made huge amounts of progress by using these groups.”

Thank you SWDTP for your support,

Alison Pearson

Year 2 PhD Student (University of Exeter)