Finding community in writing

Umas Jin is a final year English PhD researcher, who is about to submit his thesis. His research looks at the intellectual resonances between Virginia Woolf and neuropsychologists of her time and those who came after her. It also touches upon how narrative can play an important part to better understand the mind-body relation as holistic and dynamic.

I would like to share my writing experience with the writing workshop Shut up and Write. In the pre-Covid lockdown era, I normally worked in the office with other colleagues as they gave me a sense of “togetherness”. Although we were doing our own research, we were working, basically, together in the same location and time. English is not my first language so I would have the opportunity to ask my colleagues in the office about grammar and language. At that time, I was aware of the writing group but I rarely attended. Looking back, I think I took it for granted. However, things changed when the lockdown began last year. I could not go back to the office and many of my colleagues moved back with their families, friends, and partners. I was thankful to my best mate Chris who accompanied me throughout the difficult times.

During the lockdown, the Shut up and Write group moved online. First, I doubted whether it would work for me as I prefer working with people and seeing them face-to-face. Nonetheless, it went pretty well! Because it is online, I’ve got to know people around the UK and even the Globe. People are very nice and welcoming to each other. I like how we split time into 25 minutes for work and 5 minutes for break, so we would not indulge too much in our own work but balance our time in a day. I decided to help hosting the online workshop which was a good experience. As we gradually walked out of the lockdown in April this year, I was able to do two in-person writing sessions in St Luke’s Campus. I was indeed keen on doing the workshop with peers and seeing faces. We chatted, ate cookies, and worked on our research.

In the PhD journey, we may feel isolated and lonely as we are doing different research, topics, and fields on our own. However, the purpose of Shut up and Write, I believe, is to help us understand that we are not alone and are supported by one another. In addition, the group also introduces us to people from various disciplines, ethnicities, and cultures, which I think can be inspirational for our own research and lives. Whether the group is online or in person, we are able to interact with others who are actually walking along with us in our journey.

With plans to restart the writing group in person next year, I would make the most of it and try my best to support peers. Community is what researchers need the most!