The Power of Writing in a Community*

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In a recent blog post we reported Professor Diane Cox’s enjoinder to Publish! Publish! Publish! This message was specifically targeted at an audience of academic occupational therapists but in her Casson Memorial Lecture in 2017 she encouraged all occupational therapists to write about their work:

I put it to you that publishing is our next shared occupation and is part of you being an occupational being. Let’s create the next occupational therapy revolution for the 21st Century. As occupational therapy researchers and professionals in your field, consider writing that one piece that expands the evidence for occupational therapy each year, and find a place to publish – whether you are a researcher aiming at a journal, or a practitioner writing about your innovations in practice for a professional magazine, blog or newsletter. So here’s my message to you all:

Publish, Publish, Publish.

It’s part of your life as an occupational being! (Cox, 2017, 531)

Whilst most of us would concur with this, the problem is writing locks many of us into our experience of imposter syndrome.

The good news is we are not alone and there are lots of resources to support us with overcoming this, for example:

  • #AcWriMo: AcWriMo is short for Academic Writing Month. It is a month-long academic write-a-thon that happens every November. AlthoughAcWriMo is targeted at academics anyone can join in (it started out as NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month). #AcWriMo is good for people experiencing imposter syndrome because it encourages you to set and publicly commit to goals, monitor your progress, and you are linked into information, advice and support from people all around the world who are also doing it. Essentially

The month helps us:

  1. Think about how we write,
  2. Form a valuable support network for our writing practice,
  3. Build better strategies and habits for the future,
  4. And maybe – just maybe – get stuff done! (PhD2Published, n.d., para.2.)
  • Social writing: This approach involves writing in a group with other people; everyone works on their own writing. It recognises that, whilst finding time to write is a perennial issue,there are other barriers to writing, as well as imposter syndrome, such as motivation, accountability and distractions (Murray, 2015). Writing in a group provides a sense of being in it together; we feel less alone doing an activity that can feel very lonely. Sessions are organised to fit around the lives of the people involved and can be short, i.e. 90 minutes, to do one session of writing or longer with breaks between sessions.
  • Writing retreats: are a more formal approach to social writing. They are facilitated and everyone involved completely unplugs, i.e. turn off electronic notifications and wifi, to reduce all distractions. They are organised in such a way as to make best use of energy—self-care is as important as writing— the day starts with using free-writing to set goals and then writing sessions are interspersed with breaks throughout the day where you are actively encouraged to leave your desk and move.

My #AcWriMo

As someone who struggles with imposter syndrome I have to make full use of resources like these to get writing done. I used #AcWriMo to complete two book chapters and to start writing a book that I have been commissioned to write by Sage. Even though it was November—one of the busiest times of the academic year—we were in the middle of a global pandemic that has turned working life upside down and I moved house, I still did writing. This is the point of #AcWriMo if you can commit to writing when you are busy it should help you write at other times. I used a tracker to monitor my goals which was a big deal for me because it involved me making a public commitment to writing and then being honest about my progress day after day.

I did social writing in different groups in the University and I went on a two-day writing on the go structured writing retreat led by Nicole Janz. Due to the pandemic it was online but that worked really well for me because there was no travel or additional accommodation costs which can sometimes make attending a writing retreat prohibitive. The goal setting exercises at the start of the day not only helped to focus my day but also enabled me to monitor progress and learn what is a realistic goal for me. This was a big breakthrough because I had very little sense of what is achievable for me in a writing session. I also loved being with people from all over the world, all engaged in diverse, interesting projects, who shared the commitment to just get some writing done. This made me more productive; I truly experienced the power of writing in community.

Unleashing the power of writing in a community in occupational therapy?

To end, I think it is interesting that imposter syndrome seems to affect more women than men and writing in a community seems to particularly support women to write. It would seem that writing in groups is the perfect solution for occupational therapy— a female dominated profession—in its quest to Publish! Publish! Publish! Perhaps it is time to start writing groups in occupational therapy and, by unleashing the power of writing in a community, grow the evidence for occupational therapy? Are you interested in engaging in an online writing group on a regular basis? Please contact OTWG@gcu.ac.uk

[*This blog post is dedicated to Shirley Morrison-Glancy. She knows why.]

References

COX, D. (2017) The Dr Elizabeth Casson Memorial Lecture 2017: Life as an occupational being. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 80(9) 525–532. DOI: 10.1177/0308022617722331

MURRAY, R. (2015). Writing in social spaces. Routledge.

PhD2Published. (n.d.) What is AcWriMo? Retrieved November 15, 2020, from http://www.phd2published.com/acwri-2/acbowrimo/about/

8 Replies to “The Power of Writing in a Community*”

    1. I wan’t being cheeky about you needing to write (Honest!) but if you heard it that way its all good. This is the blog post you prompted me to write 🙂

      Like

  1. I am the coordinator of a Writers Accountability Group (WAG), which I have found to help me with producing more writing. However, I have found it difficult to build a writing community with this WAG. These are good ideas to institute to try to build this community.

    Like

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