Writing Groups Pt. 3: Purpose
Across all the different types of writing groups I've done, including the one that the late, great Mike Rose did, I wanted to unpack the differences between the purposes and structure.
WE MEET TO WRITE: TIME TO JUST WRITE
Sometimes, you just need time to write. You need a group of folx to write with, so that when you're tempted to go "off task," you can see everyone else who is concentrating. It these types of writing groups, often I find that have timed check-ins is key, so that the conversations don't overshadow the time to write. Models I've experienced include:
WE MEET TO PRESENT: TIME FOR FEEDBACK
This is the Mike Rose format, so check that post first. As a couple of additional notes, I think this works best when it is regularly done ever week. It's a hard form of accountability but that 2-3 page is huge. I also appreciate that it's a git more of a granular look at your writing and composition. In the groups I do this with, we often break apart sentences, focus on my propensity to write in run-ons, and look at repeated word choices. Are your sentences conveying your points?
In terms of what works best, I'll definitely say that if you are on the (academic) market [see post here], this is an especially great format for your cover letters, your statements, etc. For longer pieces like dissertations or manuscripts, having that regular group helps because they'll be able to connect from previous weeks. For a deeper explanation about the format and structure, read about it here.
WE MEET TO BRAINSTORM: TIME FOR IDEATING
Sometimes, what's really helpful is to do a presentation and then from there, talk over ideas. This is often what my peers and I did at UCLA through RACs, or Research Apprenticeship Courses. With weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, meetings, people would have the chance to present their work for about 20 minutes with 30 minutes of discussion following. I found this particularlly helpful for when I was struggling with the organization of a paper or if I was stuck on analyzing findings. For example, it's helpful to share different quotes of a qualitative project and see what resonates with your audience. And as I've written about here, sometimes when writing, making a presentation helps with drafting. Other tips with this:
WHAT DO I DO?
Well, it depends, ha! But in reality, I have all three types of groups. For one of my groups, we do just a Mike Rose every week. For my other writing groups, it's generally a combination of the three in rotation since it's hard for me to commit to writing something every week for more than just one group. When I was dissertating my findings chapter, I appreciated having the 3rd type; job searching for the 2nd. For new groups that are starting out, I think the most important thing is for your group to be on the same page about goals and to check-in about them every semester and/or quarter.
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