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From solo to global: AcWriMo

Writing is usually a solitary activity. Staring at our monitors or notebooks, we wonder: is this brilliant or nuts? Is this straightforward and clear, or so simplistic that the reader will yawn? Have we written something that will entice the reader to follow our train of thought, or will they jump off with the next distraction? The way novelist Helen Garner described her work as a writer resonates with me:

the absolute inability, while you are working, to judge whether or not what you are doing has any value at all– thus the blind faith and grim stubbornness required in order to keep going; the episodes of elation, the occasional sense of hitting your stride, or of being in tune with the force that creates–the feeling that now you’ve got it, now you can’t put a foot wrong… then the arrival next morning at your desk, the dropping away of the floor from under your feet as you see the thinness of what yesterday seemed so rich and right; the picking up of the pen, the dogged keeping going… (Garner, 2008, pp. 273-274)

Being in community with other writers who understand the highs and self-doubts can help us, as Garner suggests, to doggedly keep going and work through our doubts. Student writers have the external impetus associated with assignments and requirements, the rest of us have to find our own motivations in order to carry on.

When I first heard about Academic Writing Month, I was excited about the potential for mutual encouragement and exchange. Once I started writing for SAGE MethodSpace, I thought it was an excellent place to celebrate Academic Writing Month. In 2017, we focused on stages of the writing process and this year we are exploring ways to look more strategically at writing and other forms of expression as part of an overarching publication strategy. While busily writing and curating posts, I couldn’t help but wonder what writers are doing this month. Are they really moving forward, are they finding what they need from their online communities?

Twitter is one place to look for signs of life. Today I found 1,900 Tweets with the #Acwrimo and another 700 tweets with #Acwrimo2018. Using N-Capture, I downloaded them all so that I could take a closer look in Nvivo. Posts fell into two broad categories: resource sharing or experience sharing. I captured the resources and you can find them at the end of this post.

Those sharing resources included coaches and consultants who work with doctoral students on writing the thesis or dissertation, as well as college and university writing centers, and publishers of writing guides. Some organizations take the tact we are using on MethodSpace and offer series of posts and discussions on academic writing topics. I also saw individuals sharing articles or tips with posts along the lines of, “this helped me, maybe it will be useful to you.”

Those sharing experiences seem to be primarily graduate students or new researchers with projects already underway. They share progress, thoughts about their work, or frustrations they are trying to overcome. Some simply report out the number of words written. Others use the #AcWriMo thread to describe the work in progress. I observe writers looking for camaraderie and finding it at least some extent in the responses from people they might know, as well as total strangers

What else can AcWriMo do or be? The map generated by the AcWriMo tweets shows that participation is lacking or missing altogether in some parts of the world. How can we foster more exchange and support the lonely writers out there? How can we welcome them to TAA to find support and community year-round?

#AcWriMo Resources Shared on Twitter:

Garner, H. (2008). On turning 50 True stories. Melbourne: Text Publishing.

Janet SalmonsJanet Salmons is an independent scholar and writer through Vision2Lead. She is the Methods Guru for SAGE Publications blog community, Methodspace, and the author of six textbooks. Current books are the forthcoming Learning to Collaborate, Collaborating to Learn from Stylus, and Doing Qualitative Research Online (2016) from SAGE.