If you wonder whether joining an online writing community is for you, we are here to help you understand what you can expect from such a community. If you cannot find a suitable writing group and want to create your own community that exactly fits your needs, we’ll give you the recipe to set up a tailor-made online writing community here.
COVID19 has influenced how academics write. Suddenly, established writing patterns had to change. For some researchers, weekly journal clubs or coffee clubs held by postgraduates or researchers at their department, established to provide shared writing space and time, were no longer run regularly. Other researchers who were used to writing at their department suddenly felt isolated from their colleagues and peers, missing out on the collegial exchange and the inspiration for their writing.
A great way out of this dilemma is to create or join an online writing community that could make up for the missing interaction. These communities existed before COVID19, but since then they have had an immense boost in numbers and have become very popular. Now, with technology readily facilitating the communities, they can provide more purposes than the original in-person communities ever did.
We consider online writing communities a great tool to help you in your writing. Like working with a writing buddy can be a great way of getting your paper written, joining an online writing community can equally boost your writing productivity.
Here, we’d like to give you some insights into the benefits of joining an online writing community so you can better judge whether you would benefit from being a part of the many communities already out there. They have all sorts of names such as writing camp, boot camp, writing retreat, writing group, writing club, journal club, coffee club, writing support programme, writing challenges, writing space, and probably more. If you google any of these expressions, you will find many communities you might want to join.
Keep in mind that every community you find is a little bit different, and for us, it seemed hard to find THE ONE community we would love to join ourselves. Too diverse are their purposes, their composition, and the way they are run. Therefore, in this post, we’ll give you the opportunity to create your own online writing community that fits exactly your needs and those of your friends. We also prepared a worksheet “Create your online writing community” that you can use to create your own community.
The benefits of an online writing community
The main idea of such a community is to break the isolation of lonely writers sitting somewhere isolated late into the evening, after all the hard work of the day has been done still drafting their papers. Of course, if you’re the one who enjoys such a situation and prefers to do it all on your own, go ahead! We’re not going to advise differently.
For others, an online writing community typically brings joy and progress. How does this work? If you appreciate interacting with colleagues and academic friends, then such a community is the place to go. You will quickly realise you’re not alone in your writing. There are other people sharing the burden with you, and you can ask them for help. Being together in the community will ramp up a bit of the pressure on you to produce something. It’s not about sitting around the table, having a nice chat and something to drink–it’s about making progress with your paper. And since everybody joining such a group should have this same intention, you will be held accountable for your writing progress.
But the community will also be there when you need support and encouragement. In any paper-writing situation, you will face challenges, and then there are group members that can help you overcome them. And don’t forget: the community can also be a good opportunity to learn from each other and get feedback. Depending on how the community is put together and what members belong to it, it can also be a great place for networking and establishing long-lasting connections.
But the ultimate benefit of an online writing community is to help you get your paper written!
Types of online writing communities
Homar (2021a, 2021b) suggested three types of online writing communities that differ in purpose and in the way they’re organised:
Productivity communities focus on producing the papers that their members want to create. To facilitate this aim, they meet regularly and often. The time they meet is primarily spent on creating the paper. The writing happens collectively during the online meeting—everyone on their own paper.
Accountability communities focus on facilitating all community members’ progress with their papers. They meet less often, probably once or twice a month. The meetings serve for reporting progress that is made since the last meeting and goal-setting before the next meeting. The writing is done from one meeting to another.
Feedback communities focus on providing input on manuscript drafts and problems that the community members experience. The group is a resource pool, and you’ll get comments from the group members on what you have written since the last meeting. Meetings are also held less often.
We suggest educational communities as a fourth group focussing on group members with little writing experience. This group has the intention of systematically informing its members about the challenges of the writing process, and offering helpful advice and guidance to master them. Meetings are held regularly to allow everyone to learn step-by-step. We have built such a community into our digital programme Paper Writing Academy.
Of course, your online writing community can also be a mixture of some or all of the four group types above–this is up to the group members to define.
How to create your own online writing community
To establish a well-functioning community where you and the other members get the most out of it, you need to clearly set, know, and follow the rules for your group. It’s not enough to agree to meet up with a few people and work on papers from time to time. If the expectations are not defined and the purpose of the group is not expressed, you risk your community falling apart and group members losing interest.
Think about what you want to get out of such a community. What important functions do you want the community to provide? What kind of output do you want? How often would you like to meet? Who is organising the whole community? Once you have an idea, approach friends and colleagues who would consider joining the community, and discuss your expectations and purpose with them. You will have to adapt to their needs, but it will make your community stronger if its purpose is shared and the group is built on the shoulders of many.
Defining the purpose and the rules for your community
If you’re the one taking the initiative for an online writing community, you’re (at least preliminary) the community manager. Watch out! When you start such a group, you can easily end up remaining the community manager while everybody else is happy to let you do the hard work on your own.
To get things organised well right from the start, you need to decide on a bunch of elements, rules, and details that determine the purpose and organisation of your community. The elements that you need to decide upon are the purpose, the means of communication, how you’ll meet, how often you’ll meet, how many group members you want to attract, what characteristics these group members should have, on which platform you would like to run your community, and many other small but relevant details.
To help you hash these out, we’ve provided a free worksheet with all the questions you need to answer and all the decisions you need to make: The Create Your Online Writing Community worksheet, which you can download for free.
When you want to escape the loneliness of an academic author and seek company as well as helpful support on your paper creation, joining an online writing community is a great step to take. Browse the available communities and if you find one you like, join it. Or, design your own community—the way you like it—and build it yourself. Such a self-made community is a great asset, and may be the beginning of a wonderful collaboration with many of your friends and colleagues over the years to come! We wish you the best of success with it!
- Worksheet: Create your online writing community
- Blog post #109: Four reasons why a writing buddy can help you!
- Homar, K. 2021a. The Many Virtues of a Virtual Writing Group. Inside Higher Ed, Nov 8, 2021.
- Homar, K. 2021b. Expand Your Pack: Start or Join an Online Writing Group! NC State University, The Graduate School, May 19, 2021.
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