Writing events designed to take everything but the writing out of your hands.

All events are open to everyone in the Humanities at Oxford, regardless of whether you have a writing partner or not.

See the homepage for current event listings and booking links.

bootcamps (on hold for covid)

1-day bootcamp

An intensive day dedicated to writing supported by planning and writing prep and interspersed with stretching and other breaks, as well as admin sessions for targeted dispatch of non-writing tasks or computer housekeeping sessions to finally stop putting off cleaning up your virtual environment.

Longer themed bootcamps

Anything from 2 days to 5 mornings, themed bootcamps include an extra element alongside the core writing time, like work-sharing/surgery sessions, careers exploration, yoga or body awareness, or even knitting.

2+morning bootcamp

The same basic format as the 1-day camp, but including support for making good use of the intervening working time. Variations include 2-5 consecutive mornings and Mon-Fri or Mon-Wed-Fri mornings. Learn how to start your day well and then continue it well, whatever that means to you.

other events

Orientation session

A termly introduction to the programme, covering your ideal versus real working day, how long things take you, what you do when you “sit down to work”, basic principles of good writing, and how your writing partnership can anchor experimentation and change in all these areas. Come along when you first join the programme, or any subsequent term.

Writing drinks

An informal 2-hour meeting on Friday 17:00 to 19:00. Bring a drink (alcoholic or otherwise) and try out some academic writing in a relaxed group setting. This can work particularly well for making a rough, low-stakes start on a new project. Come for either hour or both; no need to register in advance.

Zooming out on your writing practice

A 2-part event on consecutive Monday or Friday mornings, this is a chance to rethink your writing practice from the ground up, mapping out what you’re doing and how to make good decisions for the future; what your reasons are for writing what you do, and how to make sure your activity is aligned with them; and a deep dive into habit formation as applied to your writing. Also includes timed writing sessions with the group.

Getting ahead for your writing year

[offered before the start of Michaelmas Term] With meetings on 2 consecutive Mondays, this is a chance to take stock of your writing and other professional commitments for the academic year ahead, as well as to make explicit to yourself what your writing is for. Includes planning/reflection sessions as well as timed writing sessions for starting to put your plan into practice.

Writing breakfast, lunch, or afternoon

Breakfast (8:30 to 11:30): Start the day with two timed writing sessions and all the structures you need to get the most out of them. Bring your own breakfast and set your alarm for the early start! Lunch (11:30 to 15:00): Make good use of the midday slump with this event spanning the lunch hour: 1 writing session with planning and review before lunch, a 30-minute offline break, and another session afterwards. Afternoon (14:00 to 17:30): If you find afternoons tricky for productive focus, a writing afternoon will help you practise getting writing done in virtual company, with two writing sessions and a proper break in between. ** Some of these 3.5-hour events have themes, e.g.: starting something new, writing by hand, body awareness, dealing with negative attitudes around writing, etc.

Writing sprint

Three meetings spread over a week will get you to finished with a project of your choosing by 5 pm Friday, devoting all your writing time in the week to this. The event offers guidance on meaningfully defining “finished” and mapping out the remaining tasks to completion, and you’ll use a detailed tracking template to share your goals and progress with the group, as well as generate rich data to help you learn about your planning and writing process and help you finish projects more confidently in future.

Summer planning bootcamp

[offered near the start of the long vacation] Four meetings over 2 weeks to help you learn and put into action a four-layer life design system: making a weekly plan that honours your intentions for the summer, making daily plans in line with your week’s goals, and setting session goals aligned with your plan for the day. It’s assumed that writing will be somewhere in the mix, but the system also works for any other personal or professional goals you may have. Includes shared writing time.

The advice on estimating tasks during the orientation has revolutionized my approach to work. It will be a life skill for me to take with me.

The early morning sessions are terrific for getting started

The writing sessions have made a tremendous difference this term: I’ve written more than I would have otherwise and the sprint helped me to see that it’s possible to complete something quickly *and* well. Tracking tasks and hours spent, and estimating them, was really helpful.

These events were the best part of the writing course for me! They were extremely revealing and full of useful tips.

The themed Monday events that I was able to attend were SO helpful, and I’m sad I couldn’t attend more due to seminar scheduling conflicts. I attended both “body awareness” and “lucky dip,” and I’ve continued implementing practices from both sessions as term has ended and the long vac has started and I finish up work for my first year.

During the summer, the year-planning event helped me be more mindful of my priorities and career development choices.

I just loved the sense of group accountability and of knowing that I would walk away having achieved or exceeded my goals.

Being forced to focus on writing for a given time. I found this to be helpful during Writing Bootcamps. Before this, I would often allow myself to get distracted while writing, thinking that I had to either write something perfectly, or not try at all. Not allowing myself any kind of distraction has actually helped me overcome perfectionism.

Thanks to the writing sprint, I made my goal of completing a thesis chapter this term!

I found the writing sprint extremely helpful as a way to get work done during a week booked off work. The combination of many things made it a success: sharing goals, working with others, tracking progress on the spreadsheet, forcing myself to set realistic goals, preparing for the ‘sprint’ well in advance, timed sessions with others to structure the week and to connect with, having a buddy to check in with, being encouraged to reflect on how I would celebrate meeting my 5pm deadline (I wouldn’t usually reward myself for meeting a deadline!), committing to emailing someone the project… It was perfect for me and I’m still feeling the positive effects of having completed that project.

The writing sprint in week 5 was brilliant. The timing of the sprint encouraged me to be more ambitious with my goals for the term, and I got far more work done than I otherwise would have. With the help of the writing sprint, and other writing events this term, I wrote a whole thesis chapter (and started editing it), while also editing two earlier chapters, investing time in career development, making job applications, teaching, organising a weekly working group, attending talks, etc. 

I wrote far more than I planned for or expected in the writing sprint week, even if quite a bit of it needs reworking and editing. I wasn’t feeling very up for writing the week beforehand (with some emotional stress), so set a deliberately low goal, and was pleasantly surprised to “switch on” for the week and get a large section of a chapter drafted.

The Writing Sprint was such an eye opener for me! I learned a lot about how planning and preparation is something I should dedicate time to.

The sprint system has worked really well for me and I set up my own spreadsheet based on the sprint template to track all my work on my thesis this term. This was really useful for guiding my work and being aware of how much I had left to do and how long it was all likely to take. This was reassuring (in that it made the total number of hours look doable) and motivating (because I could tick off each one).

I found all four writing lunches excellent: very productive, but also interesting and enjoyable. I found it much easier to stay focused in these moderated group sessions than in the individual sessions with my assigned partner, even though they were longer. I really enjoyed talking about writing and trying out various techniques and tricks. 
I found the casual vibe of the drink sessions really helpful for dealing with my anxiety surrounding writing projects. 

I really enjoyed the getting started writing lunch because it helped me become “unstuck” on a section of writing. Likewise, I found the writing by hand very informative because I wrote far more than expected and my style was improved in comparison to typed sessions.

I’ve loved the writing drinks, it’s a nice way of remembering that writing can be fun, and I’ve been so pleasantly surprised at what I can achieve after 5pm, which is usually “dead time” for me. As I work full time they’re also a session I can regularly make. Please keep doing them regularly!

Events philosophy

The writing events are carefully designed to maximise your capacity for sustained focus on your writing. Some aspects of the design may feel counterintuitive or even uncomfortable at first. The events philosophy document explains in more detail why the events are structured as they are.

Event feedback

Feedback from participants often emphasises how…

  • All the structure makes calming down and focusing feel more concrete
  • The controlled environment helps you press on when you hit a snag
  • The dangers of reading too much are set aside for a while
  • You know no one else is using their phone, so you don’t need to
  • The struggle makes you think about the point of writing
  • You realise your mind has been waiting for permission to create so much stuff
  • Making writing mundane is often assumed to mean just churning out the words, but this is better
  • It’s like going to yoga or the gym with other people
  • You’re establishing a social contract of trust with everyone else, to help you and them stay on track; your companions can come to feel like writing comrades
  • A writing-centred day can feel soft, light, open, and driven
  • It’s always worth making time to think, plan, and see the bigger picture
  • Having writing sessions of different lengths helps you see how much time you need for each task
  • Having admin sessions is great for knowing you’ll have time for it later so you don’t need to worry about it now
  • Having absolutely no distractions is radical
  • Even if you expect to hate the structures and the rules, and even if you do hate some aspects of them, you may also find they work
  • Being pulled by a method can be good
  • The little brass bell is powerful – even though it can be hard to stop when it rings

comments from a participant, MT2019

Having recently changed the scope of my thesis considerably, I’m currently facing the scary reality of having to finish the research and writing of more than 50% of it in less than 6 months, while at the same time balancing teaching and taking care of a baby. This task often leads me to complete paralysis as there is so much to be done and I often find myself almost unable to even make a start.

The Bootcamp was a real revelation to me because it forced me to consider specific tasks, structure the time, and avoid distractions. This allowed me to start making small but significant changes in my work that brought in great progress. I learned to be productive not only in my research and writing but also in the way of approaching my admin, which gave me a treasure trove of extra time I never knew I had access to by making procrastination and time wasting obsolete.

As a student in the Humanities I found this bootcamp extremely helpful and I will jump to the opportunity to take part in more of them in the future. In the meanwhile I hope I will be able to incorporate what I learned into my every day work. Thank you very much! 

Want to take part?

Writing events over the summer were instrumental in helping me finish my DPhil, and Emily and the groups got a prominent shout-out in the first paragraph of my acknowledgements!
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