Writing in community: The GenSeM committee first online writing retreat

08 August 2020

GenSeM is organising an online writing retreat day on Thursday 20 August to support PhD researchers and Early Career Researchers particularly, although scholars at any level are welcome to attend. In this blog post, our GenSeM PhD/ECR representatives Marianela and Nicola explains why writing retreats can be so valuable to academics. Details of the upcoming event can be found at the bottom of the post.


Research has shown that structured writing retreats are essential to develop our writing skills while paying attention to the wider context within the writing process takes place. This awareness of the writing process is essential for academics but can be difficult to cultivate regular writing habits, particularly in the current climate.


Our goal for this online event is to provide a dedicated time for writing but also begin to nurture a community of researchers working in the field of gender, sexuality and/or migration.


We invite others working in the field to participate in the first GenSeM writing retreat so that we can:

  • Help create imaginative spaces where writing collectively can become a pleasurable experience as well as a productive one;
  • Provide a dedicated time to motivate each other to write and through that motivation, develop our identities as writers;
  • Provide the opportunity to be part of a community of writers who share a common purpose and can work together to overcome common challenges;
  • Help each other to address anxieties around writing and authorship.


Although these goals are ambitious, the GenSeM committee is keen to start small and build up from there. Feedback following our first writing event will help shape future events to come.


There is empirical evidence that structured writing retreats can help us manage our work-life balance better because they increase our productivity, reduce stress and anxiety levels. Writing retreats can also provide a creative, caring and motivational space for us to take our writing responsibilities seriously and find space for them in our careers.


This is essential for academics who have to balance caring responsibilities on top of their careers but is also key for academics who see their professional writing pushed into their own time, because the responsibilities of full-time positions (marking, student support, course preparation, etc.) take all the available time.


Together we can learn new strategies and work together to set up structures that will make room for us to develop our writing skills and productivity.


Here are some tips that we will be applying to our one-day online writing retreat. We hope you will be able to also implement these habits in your own time and amongst your existing networks:


  • Structure your writing sessions, with planned breaks and writing blocks;
  • Write with somebody: this is important to share goals, create a minimal sense of accountability and to feel accompanied;
  • Prepare. Read about the writing process, not only about what you need to write about. Here are some good reads: Grant & Knowles, 2000; Murray & Newton, 2009; Grant, 2006; Moore, 2003 among many others.


Join us for our online writing retreat on Thursday 20 August 2020 and help us promote the idea that academia can involve communities of academics working together to overcome similar challenges and celebrate successes.


On August 20 we will start at 09.30 (GMT) with introductions from the facilitators and participants and a brief reminder of the guidelines for the day. There will be 3 writing blocks and some breaks in between with opportunities to share progress with other participants. The retreat will last until 17.00 (GMT) and will be held on Zoom. You will receive more information about the structure before the date.


To sign up, or for more information, please email us your name and institution at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. before the 18 August 2020.




Grant, B., & Knowles, S., 2000. Flights of imagination: Academic writers be(com)ing writers, International Journal for Academic Development, 5(1), 6–19. https://doi-org.ezproxy.sussex.ac.uk/10.1080/136014400410060

Grant, B., 2006. Writing in the company of other women: Exceeding the boundaries, Studies in Higher Education, 31(4), 483–495. https://doi-org.ezproxy.sussex.ac.uk/10.1080/03075070600800624

Moore, S., 2003. Writers’ retreats for academics: Exploring and increasing the motivation to write. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 27(3), 333–342. https://doi-org.ezproxy.sussex.ac.uk/10.1080/0309877032000098734

Murray, R., & Newton, M., 2009. Writing retreat as structured intervention: margin or mainstream?, Higher Education Research & Development, 28:5, 541-553. https://doi-org.ezproxy.sussex.ac.uk/10.1080/07294360903154126

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