What Can You Accomplish in a Week?

Tomorrow is the start of the first Dissertation Writing Retreat at the University of Louisville Writing Center. This is the first retreat like this we’ve held (and, yes, I absolutely refuse to call it a bootcamp). We’re excited about it and I think we’ve got an intriguing combination of time for writing, mini workshops, eating and relaxing, and individual consultations organized for the ten participants. I’m delighted that it’s going to happen (thanks Barrie, Adam, and Laura) and that we have a range of participants from disciplines as diverse as Engineering,Humanities, Social Work, and the Medical School.

But there is one question that continues dig at me a bit – as it may for the participants who will be coming to the Writing Center tomorrow: What can we really accomplish in a week?

If I think about a good week of writing – make that a great week of writing – I might hammer out a dozen pages or so, and that’s only if I’m really organized and know what I want to do with whatever the project might be. More likely, even on a good week, I get a couple of good days of producing a lot of words, and then I have days in between of making notes, staring at the screen, going back and moving things around, looking again at my notes and the books I’m using, and so on. I certainly don’t think I’m atypical when it comes to academic writers. So, again, given the scope of a dissertation of a few hundred pages, what can we really accomplish in a week?

My thinking at this point – and my hope – is that we might give the participants a jump-start to their writing, some energy to go forward, make even some extra confidence. (That’s why it’s not a bootcamp; we’re about support, not trauma.) More than that, I’m hoping that the combination of writing time and daily consultations might help the writers reframe their writing habits and approaches so that they can work more effectively to finish their dissertations. So it’s not about the pages; it’s about the processes. And I hope they’ll keep coming to the Writing Center (and will tell their friends). To see what happens you can also visit the Writing Center blog during the week.

I’m thinking it will be a great week of writing and talking about writing. Tune in later and I’ll let you know.

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