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Writing Accountability Group

Your fellow postdocs are forming a writing accountability group that could hold us all together as we navigate our post-doctoral careers. This space would be different from a writing group that provides feedback on writing material; instead, this group would focus on keeping us accountable for our writing progress.

WHAT IT IS: As an accountability group, we would commit to one [or more hours] over the week to the process of writing that serves a concrete outcome (e.g., outcomes: publications, submission of grants, providing feedback to reviewers). Within this context, writing need not involve “writing” as traditionally conceptualized (i.e., writing the “abstract”, “introduction”, or other sections of your paper/grant). It could also involve specific research/statistical analyses that may inform the development of a paper/grant (or help meet other concrete outcomes). The accountability group is particularly helpful when we are working on tasks/projects we find resistive, projects that have not gained traction due to a lack of motivation, or projects that we left unfinished because other projects gained our attention. Summarily, having accountability allows us to engage with projects even in the presence of unpleasant feelings and can help counter unproductivity.

FORMAT: Since the pandemic started, online writing accountability groups have shown great promise (although I do not have concrete research evidence to support this claim; only feedback from colleagues!).

  • The format typically involves coming together on Zoom for a one-hour session per week.
  • Videos are kept on and individuals are encouraged to hide self-view so that the space is more representative of a “real-life meeting space”.
  • During the first 5 minutes of the session, we go around the room clarifying one’s goals for that hour (thus, forcing ourselves to be specific about our goals and maximizing our ability to meet them). Of course, this is not mandatory and depends on our level of comfort as well as group size.
  • We commit to sitting in this virtual space for the next 50 minutes or so, meeting our goals to the best of our ability.
  • For the remaining 5-10 minutes, we reflect on whether we reached our goals and what our next steps might be.
  • We reconvene the next week and repeat the process all over again (i.e., clarify goals-commit to practice-reflect at the end).

The writing accountability group could be thought of as a “human pomodoro”, except that you would be less likely to deceive yourself (“Can’t do it right now”, “X project is more important”), given the presence, shared accountability, and support of others.

If you are interested in participating, please fill out the Google form here, which also asks for your availability over the course of the next year. Kindly submit your response no later than January 21st.

Please feel free to reach out to me as questions arise. My email address is arajesh@wustl.edu (Ash Rajesh).

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