Taking Part in #AcWriMo: Reflections and Responses

November is Academic Writing Month (#AcWriMo) and in this post, Liam Knight, a PGR in the Department of English Literature and a Westmere Scholar, reflects on his experience of participating in last year’s event.

Back in 2020, I took part in AcWriMo, a month-long writing event in which people working within academia set themselves goals to accomplish over the month of November (e.g. write X000 words, collect X amount of data sets, read X number of papers, etc.) and then use their local and online academic communities to keep themselves accountable and supported and ensure that they reach those goals (or come as close as is reasonably possible)!

Join the University Graduate School for Shut up and work sessions every Tuesday (09:30-13:00), Thursday (13:00-16:30) and Saturday (10:00-12:30) during November 2021, Academic Writing Month.
Details of this year’s #AcWriMo at UoB, hosted by your Westmere Scholars

I decided to take part in AcWriMo for a number of reasons. First, I was trying to get out of a pandemic-induced slump: for most of 2020, I found writing hard. Whether it was because of Covid-induced anxiety, moving home to support my family, or being unable to access certain resources remotely, I did not make much progress with my thesis. AcWriMo, I hoped, would help me get out of that slump. What I was able to do for most of 2020, though, was read loads about post-truth (a central concept to my thesis)! That’s the second reason why I wanted to take part in AcWriMo – with all of that reading completed, my supervisor and I agreed that it probably would be good for me to use it to write an article-length piece in the hope that that would solidify my conceptual understand of post-truth. My third reason for taking part in AcWriMo was that I had a lot of deadlines due that month, most notably a conference application and that writing submission my supervisor had asked for, which we agreed would be around 7,500 words in length. Knowing that I had so much on my plate, I felt that I needed something to give me a little bit more motivation and accountability, which is what AcWriMo provided me: between updates on social media and the production of an AcWriMo vlog, I had put my efforts ‘out there’ and felt spurred on by other PGRs and academics online who engaged with my progress.

As outlined in my AcWriMo vlog, the month was full of successes and stumbling blocks, which I feel is pretty typical of the PhD experience! I managed to submit my conference application, plan the article out, and condense the notes that I had made earlier in the year. I made a start on the article and then had a crisis of confidence (largely brought about by the very same writing rustiness that I was hoping AcWriMo would help rectify). However, I eventually found my feet and pushed through and rediscovered my academic voice. I also learned the importance of taking breaks, listening to one’s body, and occasionally taking it easy, something I think I would have learned sooner if I was taking part in more of a community-led AcWriMo experience, rather than just plodding along largely on my own.

Taking part in AcWriMo was an invaluable experience. Not only did I get an article-length piece written and a conference application submitted, but I learned just how important it is to work in small, highly-focused bursts of time, rather than just ploughing on until exhaustion hits. That’s exactly why I decided to run a month-long AcWriMo event in 2021 as a Westmere Scholar: over the course of November, we are meeting three times a week to take part in ‘Shut Up And Work’ sessions. These sessions are designed to ensure not only that our wordcounts, to-do lists, and month-long goals are tackled, but they make sure that we are working in manageable chunks of time that allow us to also factor in self-care and rest, all while we are supported by – and are supporting – a lively community of UoB PGRs. Why not come along and see what you can achieve and what connections you can build?

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