Writing Support Group

My first blog briefly described some of the reasons why, for me, it is important for nurses and other professionals, especially those in mental health, to write about practice. This blog will describe the development of a group to support writing for publication.

There are many barriers to successful and productive writing for publication.  Paul Silvia’s book, How to Write a Lot (2007) has guidance that really worked for me. He recommends the setting of goals and creating schedules for regular writing, if possible on a daily basis. Whilst this frequency is not possible for many people, it is still good advice and I have found it to work.  Another method described by Silvia to support productive writing is a weekly writing group.  This focuses on enabling individuals to set writing goals and for the group to help them to achieve these, often requiring group members to ask an individual about how they are scheduling their writing.  An important component of a witting group, identified by Silvia, is lots of coffee.

With this in mind I started meeting, last summer, with a colleague to discuss writing ideas, goals and scheduling.  I then began to invite other work colleagues who were interested in writing, or who I pestered into being interested in writing. We meet monthly as, although it is a group of colleagues, we all work in different parts of two rural counties.  Each of us will give brief update on how our writing is going and any new ideas we have had.

We keep short notes of each attendee’s goals for the next month and these help each person focus on what they need to do and how they might manage it. The notes are then emailed to all those who have attended.  I have personally found this to be one of the most useful elements of the group.  There is something very motivating to state a goal and tell other people about it, it makes it real and there is a commitment to taking action.

Another very important outcome has been the sharing of knowledge and ideas.  Often, talking about an idea with interested colleagues can help formulate a clearer way forward and they can make useful suggestions about what might be included or where to find information.  We have also brought in spare back copies of journals and given these to others to broaden awareness of where work could be submitted to. It has also become a great forum for the sharing of amazing practice and great ideas and connections are made between colleagues from different services, disciplines and geographical locations.  A closed Facebook group and the use of Twitter have helped to keep links with individuals between meetings.

The experience of being in a small group with like minded individuals has a significant impact.  Members start to believe that writing really could be achievable and that they have something
valuable to say. An excitement and motivation can quickly grow. Over the last 15 months the group has developed and members are now starting to get letters and opinion pieces published and articles accepted for publication following peer review processes.  A planned writing day was organised for this autumn, which was very useful and built an enthusiasm in those that attended.

Rickard et al (2009) found that a writing course followed by a support group increased the number of individuals’ papers accepted for publication in peer-reviewed publications and increased participants’ confidence in and satisfaction with the process. They also identified that, “writing for publication is a skill that can be learned”; a useful observation as so many health professionals don’t believe that they can write.

Many of the attendees at our writing day wanted ongoing contact with, and support from, like-minded colleagues and consequently more become interested in joining the writing group meetings. The original group meets at 7.30am, (also known as ‘silly o’clock’) in a centrally located coffee shop where there is good parking. However, this early start is just too much for some people, especially those with family and other responsibilities and a second group is just about to be formed which will meet at the more relaxed time of 4pm.

As I write this, I am looking forward to a meeting tomorrow morning, with some great company and lashings of coffee. The conversations about #writingexcitement have already started this evening on Twitter.

Rickard, C., McGrail, M., Jones,R. et al (2009) Supporting academic publication: Evaluation of a writing course combined with writers’ support group. Nurse Education Today. 29, 516-521.

Silvia, P. (2007) How to Write a Lot. Washington : American Psychological Association

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