It is often remarked that writing a PhD is a lonely and harrowing journey, and that COVID has exacerbated many of the difficulties. However, a group of HDR students have been gathering on Tuesday and Thursday’s each week to Turn Up and Write together via zoom.
Inspired by the Research Whisperer, Turn Uppers, as we have named ourselves, log in, chat, write, chat, write, chat. We chat about all sorts of things; from shared writing challenges and difficulties, to political and ecclesial politics and dilemmas. We have celebrated completed chapters, encouraging feedback, and being able to get to the hairdresser again. We have commiserated over COVID numbers, writing blocks and delays, and getting lost down the metaphorical rabbit holes.
This might sound like all we did was socialize, but once the camera was turned off and our microphones muted, there were books read, paragraphs written, and sections edited. Knowing we would be coming back and reporting to others provided incentive to keep working, and there were times when Liz joined us and encouraged us to set explicit targets to achieve across the session.
Speaking of Liz, she has often joined us and shared nuggets of wisdom or funny anecdotes. She has also answered our questions about the PhD journey, and offered timely advice about writing, drafting, and publishing. She also organized some extended writing sessions through the Thesis Bootcamps which, while missing the delicious lunches that were provided during previous in-person bootcamps, provided space to complete larger writing tasks.
Perhaps the best thing about the Turn Up and Write sessions has been the ability to get to know our fellow HDR students and hear about the fascinating work that each of us is doing. We get to see people’s eyes light up as they talk about the riveting research they are doing and think about the wisdom that is revealed within their work. We have shared stories about the PhD journey with all its highs and lows. We have also been known to point each other to resources and writing that we might not have found otherwise. Best of all, we have become friends – across denominations, colleges, state lines – and all from the comfort of our own homes.
While the idea of doing a physical Turn Up and Write meeting in the future is compelling, continuing to meet via Zoom means that these sessions are open to all students – not just those who are based in and around Melbourne.
Turn Up and Write is on Tues at 10am and Thurs at 10.30am. It can be accessed via the HDR Ark page under Writing. If you are not a HDR student, but would like to join us contact Liz Boase, Dean of the School of Graduate Research.
Michelle Eastwood is a member of the School of Graduate Research at the University of Divinity where she is studying towards a Doctor of Philosophy.