At the heart of this programme is the simple and amply evidenced principle that scheduling regular writing sessions with someone else helps us write more, better, and with more pleasure.
The writing programme offers a range of options to help you enhance your writing practice, from pairing you with your new writing partner to providing ongoing support throughout the academic year.
Find a partner
Complete a questionnaire to register your partner preferences and log your baseline on writing-related metrics, so we can see what difference taking part makes for you. Visit the homepage to access the baseline survey and begin.
Join the termly orientation to learn how to make the most of your new partnership. Your partner request form is also a booking for the next orientation session (typically held in 1st week of each term), so the link from the homepage is all you need to find the next date and get started.
Apply writing tips
Receive weekly emails suggesting writing tips to try out at your writing meet-ups or during solo sessions. You’ll be added to the programme mailing list once you’ve been matched with a writing partner. Meanwhile, you can explore writing tips and other resources here.
Attend writing events
Inject some strictness and variety into your week with writing breakfasts, afternoons, and bootcamps (virtual or in person). Find out more on the Events page, or check the homepage for upcoming dates.
Contact the coordinator Emily for a 1-1 consultation to talk through any aspect of your writing practice. Emily can normally offer consultations only to programme participants. If you’re already taking part, email Emily to request a consultation. If not, feel free to get in touch via the contact form and Emily will try to direct you to other useful resources.
Explore the Resources page for more writing tips, guidance materials, readymade planning templates, reading suggestions, and more. Note that these require single sign-on authentication, so are accessible only to Oxford University members.
This year was better than 2019-20 post-Covid but I am still having trouble letting go of the guilt that has built up from being way behind where I thought I would be at this point.In this term, I established two habits that I find useful. The first is the weekly review. I review what I have done for the last week and check my mental state. It helps me to monitor my working habits and make more realistic plans. The second one is having reading meetings with my friend. We discuss what we have read for the last week and how we think of them. It pushes me to think of my own ideas and prepare for future writing.
Because of a mandatory class for my degree I can’t really make the writing breakfasts, bootcamps, or afternoons. However, the weekly correspondences with Emily were always uplifting and helpful – I love the variation of her tips and the way they explain different “methods of writing and working” so thoughtfully. On top of that, I had a GREAT meeting with Emily at the beginning of term that really helped me figure out some ways to “protect my writing time” and treat it as something crucial that needs its own habits and patterns.
I think Baillie Gifford allows for more of that “style and craft” type reflection that I’m not getting in tutorials, and these weekly tips are great ways to do that reflecting and improvement.
It’s made a huge difference to my enjoyment of the DPhil, particularly through reassuring me that I was not alone and that I would eventually get through the work, like the other people on the programme. The events have helped to make writing more fun and rewarding, as well as providing reassurance that I was making progress rather than spending lots of time working and not getting anything done.
I found the writing bootcamp very useful, I had a lot of writing done. I reproduce now the model of 75 minutes and then a break which has helped me to structure my days better. I also know that when the time is up I am allowed to stop for the day, which is motivating. However, I would prefer to start the bootcamp a bit later, at 9.
Getting used to describing my research to a non-specialist academic audience (i.e my writing partner is a medievalist while I am in Chinese literature) has been very helpful in framing my book proposal and various blog posts
Having someone sincerely ask questions about my progress and my approach to tackling problems forced me to think out loud about problems and make decisions or arguments on the spot, which perhaps would have taken me longer to articulate if only in my head or on paper.
Talking about our writing goal(s) for the session has been most helpful, as it forces me to define my task in a specific and manageable way, while also giving me an impetus to finish it within the allotted time because I know my writing partner will ask me about it at the end of the session.
Meeting up in person this term has been one of the regular highlights of my week. It’s really helpful to have a reason to get out of my room and spend some time with my writing partner who is also doing academic work. I have found this was much more effective than virtual writing meetings (which I did for the last few months with another writing friend) in terms of reducing isolation and increasing productivity. Even when I was feeling demoralised at the end of another grey week, it always made me feel better to go to college and meet my partner.
Writing sessions are a great way of ensuring that I make the best use of the little time I have to write each week. They provide a lot of structure and motivation, particularly at the moment when I’m working solely from home. Usually I would go to a cafe or library to focus, and the writing session gives me the ability to get into a focussed space even though I have to stay at home. The writing sessions help me to create a clear cut off between my day job and my thesis. Sharing obstacles and difficulties can be helpful, and hearing someone else’s problems helps me to be more sympathetic with my own problems (i.e. I become more self-compassionate).
What’s been most helpful for me is discussing how to prioritise and plan what I can reasonably accomplish in a timed session. In other words, getting a sense of how to better estimate how long tasks really take. It’s been comforting knowing someone struggles with this, too. Together, we’ve been able to support each other by suggesting different research and writing approaches.
I am super grateful for the writing partnership it has taught me so much about my style of writing and when and how I can be productive. Most importantly, I enjoy writing more than I have before.
Programme participants 2019-21