As graduate students, we spend much of our energy on one activity – writing. The quantity and quality of our writing is, in many fields, the benchmark by which we are evaluated by colleagues. The greater the volume of the writing we produce, and the more citations it receives, the more distinguished grows our reputation.
We’ll leave aside the perturbing questions that this reality should raise, and state the obvious: writing is the centerpiece of a graduate student’s career, whether it’s our dissertation, a class presentation, a journal article, or a conference talk.
Many of us find ourselves alone as we wade into this morass of words and ideas, relying on a combination of calendar and willpower to forge ahead. In these trackless swamps, however, procrastination is ever at hand and our thoughts and expressions tend to curl inwards until we find ourselves in an echo chamber of our own making.
Our mistake is to think that writing is a solo expedition, a way to express ourselves, but it’s more than that. Writing is a relationship. It’s about articulating the truth so that it can become somebody else’s too – and the words that we think best express our thoughts may not be as successful as we suppose. There’s only one way to tell, and that’s to get feedback. Equally helpful is having a companion in our toil to encourage us and, at times, prod us into making progress.
Each of these aspects of composition – communication, feedback, and accountability – happen in the context of community, a world far larger and richer than any dissertation or article. The academy may evaluate you on the basis of words produced, but the real font of meaningful living lies deeper – in friendship, the very heart of human flourishing.
Grad Life’s Writing Accountability Groups program is about building just such a community of writers. The premise is simple: you and your colleagues form a writing group for the purposes of keeping each other accountable in your work and providing one another feedback, and Grad Life gives you money – up to $10 per person per month – so that you can enjoy snacks and coffee or tea together. The community is yours. We just help with the cash.
For the full details, additional guidance, and to register your own group, check out the Writing Accountability Groups webpage on the Grad Life website.