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This writing technique can make both you and your study group much more effective

Difficulties in concentrating on your assigned writing? Test out the «Shut up and write» method.

Illustration: Colourbox

The Academic Writing Centre has developed Shut up and write at the Humanities and Social Sciences Library. This is an effective tool for getting started and completing assignments or articles. Here you will learn the basic principles behind this technique.

This is Shut up and write (SUAW)

To get started with SUAW, arrange a meeting with another student or group of students. An SUAW takes place as follows:

  • You sit separately and write on the assignment or project for 45 minutes, then you have a 15 minute break together.
  • Start with a new 45-minute writing session, followed by a 15-minute break.
  • Several sessions can be carried out, but per our experience it is more effective to do 2-3 hours at a time, no more than once a week.

If you are sitting at home, you may want to consider the length of your writing sessions. Evaluate and test yourself to see if it is more effective with, for example, 30 minutes writing and 10 minutes break. The most important thing is that you all agree on the format.

Digital cheerleaders for each other

The advantage of SUAW is that you motivate each other to complete your writing. It becomes a social nudge in the right direction. In such a setting most of us will feel obligated to at least try to write.

The breaks, on the other hand, serve as a reward, where you can encourage each other and help to maintain motivation.

Skip perfectionism and social media

During a SUAW session, do not focus on writing perfectly. The purpose is to stay in a writing mode as much as possible. It is much easier to go over your text afterwards, edit and delete than to write the difficult first draft.

Social media and news are banned while in the middle of a session. Here, the social mechanisms help keep us in check and away from surfing our mobile. If you go to Facebook, for example, you also know that you are breaking the agreement you have entered into with the others in the group.

When you sit at home on your own laptop it is easier to cheat. Therefore, it is important to motivate each other during breaks, so that everyone feels that they are contributing to each other's writing session by not going online.

Cultivate your writing flow

As you sit there and stare at your document and feel the intense desire to check your email instead of writing, try to get started again by writing something - whatever, even if it is «now I am here writing my assignment, instead of checking email», which you can delete later.

A writing flow may get you on track with a thought that can actually be used in your assignment anyway. For this type of writing session, it is wise to have a plan for what to write about, and preferably write something that does not involve much simultaneous detailed work that stops the flow.

Do not interrupt your writing by looking up the correct reference, but rather write in parentheses that this reference is needed, so you can do it later. Thus, the writing session also generates several specific and practical tasks that you can put on your to-do list whenever you need a practical task.

Take your social break together live or on Zoom/the digital collaboration tool you're using.

Additional resources

Published Apr. 3, 2020 12:29 PM - Last modified July 22, 2020 9:41 AM