This summer saw the first-ever five-day Writing Bootcamp for PhD Researchers at Loughborough University. The event was organised and headed up by four doctoral researchers – the team behind the award-winning Loughborough Writing Gym: Kristina Gavran, Katie Woodhouse and Emma Bates from the School of Social Sciences and Humanities, and Vani Naik from the Business School.
Based on their own experiences of how tough, and often solitary, the writing process can be, the Bootcamp team set out to create a supportive, motivating space for fellow PGRs to focus on writing. This student-led-initiative offered an intensive, free writing retreat for PhD students trying to reach their writing goals – funded by the Doctoral College and School of Arts English and Drama. Tickets for this event were in such demand, that they sold out in the first day of them being advertised!
Each day was divided into six 45-minute writing sessions, with time set aside for goals setting and goal review. Participants were encouraged to discuss these goals with those around them, and share ‘tips and tricks’ for academic writing.
The event itself, the first of its kind at Loughborough University, was highly successful and received wide-spread glowing reviews from its participants. Many found that the social environment of Writing Bootcamp increased their productivity, whilst an additional benefit of was that many felt more part of a research community at Loughborough as a result of attending the Bootcamp. As one respondent wrote, it was a ‘fantastic opportunity to be co-located with researchers from other departments. Normally, we interact with each other in the two-hour workshops from the Doctoral College, but we were a team for a whole week and it was a pleasure to meet new people’. Elsewhere, others noted that ‘it felt like a big community and we were all helping each other’.
Participants said that one of the most useful outcomes of the week – other than increase productivity – was learning the importance of appropriate goal setting. Many found that the Bootcamp helped them ‘to think about the goals all the time’, all whilst alternating between structured ‘chatty coffee breaks and the quiet time during writing’.
Following the success of the Summer Loughborough Writing Bootcamp, the organisers are now in discussion about organising a Winter Writing Bootcamp later this year.
In the meantime, the organisers wanted to offer these words of support and encouragement to doctoral researchers approaching the often daunting task of writing:
‘It was a pleasure to get to know more people from our wonderful PGR community and we are incredibly grateful for the support of the Doctoral College to enable us to run the Bootcamp. Due to the wealth of wonderful feedback that we received from our members, we are hoping to continue running more Writing Bootcamps in the future. In the meantime, we offer these words of comfort!
- Remember, writing is like exercise – you have to train your brain! – Now, perhaps you have heard this saying before, but during the week of the Bootcamp, we really put it to the test. At the end of our first day, a lot of us found it challenging to write in concentrated periods over the whole day, but by the end of the week, we seemed to be able to maintain our focus for longer periods and to manage our tasks according to how we were feeling. So stick at it!
- Get to know yourself – Whilst it is possible to train yourself into writing in a certain way and at a certain time, it is also important to be in tune with your own working style. Asking yourself questions such as ‘When do you work best?’ and ‘What motivates you to work?’ can help you work more efficiently. If you know you tend to struggle in the afternoon, plan something in to help you wake up your brain, or choose a task that requires less concentration.
- Manage your goals – this is an extremely important one, and something that we talked about a lot during the Bootcamp. Learning to set manageable, achievable goals is key to getting the balance between motivating yourself and being able to achieve a sense of accomplishment. It is a lot easier said than done, however, and setting goals can actually take a lot of practice! Don’t be too hard on yourself if you need to adapt them as time goes on.
- Socialising is really important! – Doing a PhD can be a pretty solitary process sometimes and having a support network around you is really important. It also makes the process much more enjoyable, and being able to share your experiences of your research and writing with others and sharing tips can be invaluable. This is something we do at the Writing Gym every Monday, so do join us!
We hope to see you soon at the Writing Gym, or the Winter Bootcamp!
Vani Naik, Kristina Gavran, Katie Woodhouse and Emma Bates.
There are Regular Writing Gym sessions every Monday from 10am-12pm (excluding Bank Holidays). Bring along your laptop, a goal in mind and be ready to get your week off to a positive and productive start!
We have 2 x 45-minute writing sessions and a 15-minute break in-between where we chat and drink tea/coffee (supplied for free!). We are based in the Graduate House Training Room over summer, but we will find a new regular spot when the start of the new term commences.