Phew. We did it. This week concludes the first ever Savage Minds Writing Group. Launched in January with seventy people expressing interest in joining in, our writing group was designed to provide community, inspiration, and a schedule or some sort of accountability in the writing process.
Writing is such a solo activity at times, yet one that requires the support and involvement of others. Imagination is key to this, imagining the people one is writing about, imagining readers, as are face-to-face conversations with friends and mentors as you write. I hoped an online writing group of anthropologists in many different places around the world might complement these relationships, and provide a sense of community of others engaged in similar processes, similar difficulties, similar joys in the writing.
For ten weeks, we had weekly check-ins on our writing progress. Starting out strong, the numbers of individuals “checking in” publicly dwindled over time, but the number of readers remained high. I heard from many people who were following along without officially checking in, instead benefiting from the knowledge that others out there were writing too. This was one of the main goals of the writing group–to create community.
Community can help with commitment, with regularity, and with the sort of conscious attention to writing as an ongoing practice, rather than the sort of start-and-stop endeavor it sometimes is given other academic demands. Alongside the group, I created the Writers’ Workshop essay series, inviting anthropologists from across the subdisciplines to reflect on various aspects of the writing process. My hope was that these essays would provide not only inspiration, but also body and substance to our collective writing, providing help for thinking of the logistics, the craft, the details of writing. They did this and more, providing a ground for reflection each week, and for moving forward in new and productive directions. My gratitude and admiration to each of our contributors:
Sienna Craig: On Unreliable Narrators
Zoë Crossland: Writing Archaeology
Kristen Ghodsee: My Ten Steps for Writing a Book
Kirin Narayan: Ethnographic Writing with Kirin Narayan: An Interview
Matt Sponheimer: From Different Throats Intone One Language?
Gina Athena Ulysse: Writing Anthropology and Such or “Once More, With Feeling”
Bianca C. Williams: Guard Your Heart and Your Purpose: Faithfully Writing Anthropology
and my piece: Anthropologists: Ready, Set, Write!
Will there be another Savage Minds Writing Group? Some folks have asked me this. My answer is perhaps. Were we to do the writing group again, what suggestions do you have for it? What new ideas might we try, and what aspects were most beneficial to you? Personally, I enjoyed both the weekly check-ins and the sharing of writing progress (or lack of it), as well as the Writers’ Workshop series. Both helped me clear space and time for writing in ways that were productive, and in which the communal aspect was important. I am grateful for that and yet there is definitely room to grow. What thoughts do you have?
My thanks to all of you who participated, who shared your writing ups and downs, your essays, and who brought the group to life. In the words of Kirin Narayan, may you continue to be alive in the writing!