Rachel Tan - “My Writing Group”

Rachel Tan

Rachel is a PhD candidate at the Higher Education Development Centre, University of Otago. She likes to meet people and is a big fan of nature and photography.

A writing group: The ‘health’ enhancement for my PhD stamina

Early this year, my colleague, Tracy Rogers, initiated a writing group in our department, Higher Education Development Centre (HEDC). The group is attended by most of the HEDC postgraduate students. I am delighted to be part of this group. We initially tried fortnightly and monthly meetups, before we came to the agreement that weekly meetups each Monday morning works best. Essentially, we believed that a Monday morning writing session could be a positive motivator for the rest of our week.

The overall benefit that I get from the group is developing the mental stamina for writing. The group gives numerous benefits that turn into energy which carries me through my research. In this post, I would like to highlight three vital advantages of a writing group: collegiality, developing focus and enhancing a habit to write that helps me to endure my PhD journey.

1) Collegiality for motivation

The writing group delivers a sense of collegiality because we share our research achievements and hurdles with each other. For example, we would congratulate friends on accomplishing a draft, being accepted into a conference or acknowledge the difficulties of analysing data. Having colleagues sharing their ups and downs helps me feel less not alone in this journey. But most importantly, we keep each other motivated. The writing group is also a space for members to practice their presentation skills or share their writing in order to gain constructive feedback from their peers.


2) Developing a focus to avoid distraction

The group provides an area and time to zone out from other distractions and focus my thoughts solely on my research. Although the group is known as a writing group, everyone is at different stages of their research. Some could be reading, analysing or structuring their thoughts but each work would eventually contribute towards writing their thesis. Seeing my colleagues working diligently pushes me to concentrate on my project. You may even feel slightly guilty if you start looking at your Facebook page whilst everyone else is working hardJ.

3) Enhancing writing as a habit

The writing group is one facilitator that instilled the habit of writing in me. The regular meetups turned into a routine that helped develop the habit. I have slowly developed the habit of writing every morning. Although the quality of work might not be desirable, I like the fact that I have a less resistance towards sitting down and writing compared to when I started my research. I have also started to appreciate the dual process of writing: writing to think and thinking to write.


Finally, I would like to thank ‘Captain Tracy’ for volunteering her time. While members of the group drift in and out, Tracy’s persistence with sending updates and organising venues and times has kept the group alive. Because of her kind effort, I get to enjoy a collegial atmosphere amongst our PhD candidates in the HEDC community. Many thanks, Captain Tracy!