Eric L. Muller wrote in Developing the Faculty as a Writing Community | AAUP,
I have also come to see how many other pleasures and labors of life are enhanced by companionship and accountability. Lots of people exercise more in groups, read more books with groups, lose more weight in groups. Wouldn’t it stand to reason that many faculty members might write more in groups, too?
That was a question that the Center for Faculty Excellence (CFE) at UNC at Chapel Hill set out to explore in the summer of 2013. The CFE is the university’s pan-campus faculty development center. Together with the Institute for the Arts and Humanities in the College of Arts and Sciences, the CFE piloted the Summer Writing Group program for faculty members across the university. The response was enthusiastic.
He went on to describe what sounds like a fairly successful experiment in faculty development. I note that it did not appear to include any engineering or science faculty, though perhaps there were one or two in the “completely interdisciplinary” groups.
It sounds like an interesting idea, and it probably would have helped me last summer while I was trying to work on my textbook for the bioengineering electronics class. I ended up practicing all sorts of “creative procrastination” instead of writing. I got some stuff done on the book over the summer, but not nearly as much as I had hoped at the beginning of the summer. A writing group may have helped me keep my nose to the grindstone (a metaphor I’ve always found rather gross if taken literally). I don’t know how much I’ll get done before I have to use the book in the Spring, since I’m teaching two classes each quarter, as well as all the work of being undergrad director and program chair for the bioengineering program.
I’ve not been part of writing group since grad school, when I was in a poetry-writing group with a bunch of people twice my age or older. Having a monthly meeting did help me then, and it was important that we read each others’ work and took it seriously (not just providing rah-rah comments). I’m not sure that the UNC approach would help much, unless the other faculty were close enough in their expertise to be willing and able to read and comment on the draft chapters.
Have any of the faculty who read this blog ever participated in anything like the UNC summer writing group? Did it help you keep to a schedule? Was it important to share drafts with each other?