A colleague of mine has set up a writing accountability group for the summer. They’ll check in once a week to see how the past week went and to map out the coming week. The group is not explicitly about reading one another’s work, but about ensuring that such work is accomplished. I thought some of her questions and concerns would be a worthwhile discussion to have with a wider audience and something that others who might plan such groups could benefit from.
- Should these groups be about encouragement, measuring progress, evaluating goal achievement, all of the above, or something else?
- If the group is about encouragement, how can one balance encouragement with enabling? What happens if someone always has an excuse for why they’re not writing? Should they continue to be part of the group?
- If the group is about progress, what are some of the ways that we can measure progress on intellectual work when it’s not always clear-cut (e.g., an argument is developing, even if I haven’t written the introduction, the paper might not be getting longer, but it’s getting more polished) ?
- If the group is about setting and evaluating goals, what type of goals are most effective? Is it better to say, “I’ll finish the data and methods section of Paper A this week,” or to say, “I will actively work on Paper A five days this week,” or something in-between?
- Are there ways for fellow group members to motivate progress and goal achievement? Gold stars worked in grade school, but what works in grad school or on the tenure-track?
- If someone is working on a number of projects, should they work on each of these a little each week, or focus on them one at a time? Is it possible for people to move projects forward in tandem, in ways that are mutually beneficial, or does multitasking come with too much of a cost?
Finally, are there other things that readers would suggest about such groups? Do you have good success stories, things to be wary of? Any feedback is welcome.