I want to introduce you to my new e-course ‘Well/Written’. My course develops the best elements of my own learning and reconnection with my writing.
I wanted to create a different kind of writing course. ‘Well/Written’ borrows from both creative and academic writing approaches. It encourages you to play with styles, conventions, structures, motivations, vocabularies, politics.
This blended approach helped me to write more than ever; but more importantly with more purpose, passion and audience resonance.
I think it could help you too.
Retreating: how writing courses helped me
In February 2016, I was heading out of Glasgow to the village of Gartmore, feeling travel sick in the back of a rain-soaked shared taxi journey with strangers. We were all academics, under the shadow of the next REF cycle. The shared sense of trepidation was palpable – it was why most had signed up for a ‘writing retreat’ – run by the fabulous Rowena Murray. Following a structured plan and model, these retreats involve writing 10.5 hours over 2 days. Without distraction of work, home, cooking, caring, the internet.
Writers usually sign up for retreats to become ‘unstuck’. To have the time for flow, for thinking space. This is a familiar story. A familiar ‘reality’, particularly when writing is a requirement of certain jobs. In my previous life as an academic, I was, like most, treating writing as something to do on top of the rest of the work. At night, at 3am. Or, by taking annual leave to write.
My experience of writing retreats – I have attended many – was great. If you can go – do! In addition to producing words and completing drafts, I enjoyed the solidarity that I found among fellow writers. The exposure to different research and disciplinary practices. To differing perspectives.
However, while producing words in these intensive retreats, I did not feel like I was doing my writing, the writing that made an impact and a difference. I still felt rushed. I still returned to work as usual and gaps between writing.
I decided to try other forms of writing. I had always wanted to be more creative, but had never dared. Being a ‘writer’ – an author – was not for the likes of me. My disciplinary home even continued to say in reviews ‘we don’t use ‘I’ in political science’ (yes, that is the sound of my eyes rolling back in my head).
I started to take online creative writing courses. In secret. This was just writing, not work.
Yet, creative writing was like cutting myself open. Blood gushing forth. Coming back to writing as a craft. Art. Political. Purposeful. Personal. Feminist.
Writing that was shouting and swearing and punching on a page.
This began the process of reconnection with my academic writing. As well as writing my first novel.
Engaging with different forms of writing and different expectations and conventions untapped my thinking and analysis.
It also made me understand that the block in my writing was the circumstances and structures in which it was being made ‘recognisable’. The problem was not with me, but with why I was being made to ‘write’.
Writing for my politics and purpose, for change, not a star rating, gave me the confidence to seek an alternative life, career.
Not everyone can, or wants to, leave their job or career.
Most do, however, want to be better writers. Not, in terms of the mechanics, but in terms of enjoying writing. For it not to feel like a chore. For it to feel necessary.
We all know the prolific writers who seem to have systems and schedules in place that work. If that is you – fab.
Yet, there are many more of us who share in whispers, or on Twitter, how difficult it is to find ourselves through our writing.
To not feel lost in it.
Re-drawing: creating a different kind of writing course
I wanted to create a course that would bring reconnection and joy to writing. A course that could blend creative approaches to writing with political purpose. Often what great creative writing does. It communicates lived experience and analysis with beauty and passion. We need more of that. We also need the analysis that academic writing brings. The evidence driven and well-argued foundations.
Many of us do are already doing this – neither approach exist as, or suits us, in isolation. Yet, we often feel hemmed in and stuck in our writing.
I wanted a way to make the joy, fun, passion, craft of writing obvious. Embedded in and through our own writing projects.
I want to provide an environment that provides helpful prompts and friendly accountability and genuine solidarity. I want to see people soar in their writing.
At no time more than now do we need the best academic analysis and the best writing.
So, what is ‘Well/Written’?
‘Well/Written’ brings together the ways in which writing can both make us feel better and do better. It calls on us to think about what we might assume to be ‘good’ and ‘bad’ writing based in our respective work environments.
We can’t simply rip up conventions and disciplines and audience expectations in our writing. Writing in our work is often quite narrowly drawn. Good writing is always for a specific purpose.
However, there are always spaces in the boundaries to play.
Why you should enrol.
Well/Written is the space in which to do that. To make your writing work – for you and for your audiences.
I know academic writing and the requirements of writing within. However, I’m no longer in the game. I am therefore out of the competitiveness and judgement that often makes us afraid to share drafts, to discuss ideas, to stray from the well-trodden path.
I love writing retreats. Yet, I have kids, I have a chronic illness. I’m self-employed. Residential retreats work, but they are not accessible for all, or not all of the time. They also assume you arrive ready to hit the ground running – all the prep work done in advance. At every retreat I’ve been at, that has been the cause of most stress. We often just can’t find the time.
5 Reasons why this course is for you!
- The course is online.
- It is spread over 4 weeks. Each Monday you receive the weekly webinar and worksheet. Week 1 begins with planning and play. It asks you to look at your research differently. To think about your argument, try different formats and write for different audiences. In Week 2, we work through structure and planning. Week 3 moves onto argumentation and starting to get that trash draft down. Week 4 is all about celebrating what is good. Reflecting on what we love in our writing. After the end of the course, you can submit 2000 words for email feedback (not editing).
- The course builds community. We have a Thursday 8pm hangout and a Facebook group.
- Some of us need accountability. We often don’t want to ‘burden’ colleagues with this. So, a large part of this course is dedicated to practicing accountability over the month. I’ll cheer you on Monday-Friday with a daily prompt. This is non-judgemental accountability. Making you look forward to that little bit of writing everyday even when you are in between meetings or teaching, or childcare, and trying to eat. Bitesized, hands held, heads high.
- No bullshit. No REF chat. The outputs will come.
We are just focussing on making your writing the best writing you have ever done. Simple!