'Write-ins' provide community and support - remotely

Screenshot from a write in virtual meeting.

Participants in a recent write-in pose for a screenshot.

When COVID-19 caused the University Writing Center to move online, the priority was to set up synchronous and asynchronous remote consultations for students. Once that was in place - a plan was established in about a week - the writing center staff set their sites on bringing back an initiative that was new in the spring 2020 semester.

The Write-in Studios provide a way for graduate students from across campus to regularly get together to share their writing goals and dedicate some time to writing. During the three hour sessions, participants talk about their writing goals and the challenges they are facing, before breaking off to focus on their writing for 40 to 50 minutes. They then come back together to chat about progress and take a break before going back to their work. This process is repeated until the session is over.

“At the beginning of sessions, everyone identifies concrete, measurable goals, and we share them, both in written form and then verbally with each other,” said Paige Eggebrecht, co-director of the writing center and main organizer of the write-ins. “There's a lot of studies that show that both telling another person and writing a goal down is an effective strategy for following through on it.”

The sessions also provide a sense of community and a network of support.

"The challenge for us was to continue that community, particularly at a time when people really needed it," Eggebrecht said.

Eggebrecht wasn’t sure how well the write-ins would translate to a remote format, but organizers and participants immediately found benefits to holding them online. With the logistical challenge of booking a room no longer an issue, the sessions could be held every week, and at the same time each week.

Diana Filar is a PhD candidate in English working on her thesis on contemporary U.S. immigrant fiction. She attended the in-person write-ins and has continued with the weekly remote sessions.

"It provides a sort of social accountability. Knowing that I have it in my calendar and these other people have it in their calendar, and we're all going to show up at the same time,” Filar said. “During COVID, having that has been a real godsend."

Daniel Ruggles, a graduate student in politics, lives in Boston and couldn’t always make it to campus for the in-person sessions. He’s found the remote sessions to be a good way to begin the week.

"I like it because every Monday morning I start with it," he said. "It helps me assess my productivity and my goals in a more systematic way that I think I would be able to do on my own."

Along with continuing the graduate write-in studios, the writing center hosted a write-in workshop open to the entire university community. During her undergraduate writing seminar, Qiyu Hu '23 relied on the writing center for consultations throughout the spring semester and attended one of the community write-ins. 

“If it was in-person, I probably wouldn't have gone because it targets graduate students,” she said. “But because now that it's remote, I feel more open to participate.”

The center plans to host more community write-ins in the fall, along with numerous other workshops, individual consultations and virtual drop-in sessions. Learn more about the writing center.

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