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.
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.
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.
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 discussion forum
A chance to explore questions and possibilities around writing or to share excerpts of work-in-progress with others keen to deepen their writing practice. Themes are circulated in advance,
Start the day with two timed writing sessions and all the structures you need to get the most out of them. Some have themes: starting something new, writing by hand, body awareness, sign up with your partner, or lucky dip (get a suggestion for something to tweak for the two sessions). Bring your own breakfast and set your alarm for the 8:30 start!
If you find afternoons tricky for focus, a writing afternoon will help you practise getting writing done in virtual company, with two writing sessions and a proper break in between..
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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!