“Collaborative workshops and writers’ peer groups hadn’t been invented when I was young. They’re a wonderful invention. They put the writer into a community of people all working at the same art, the kind of group musicians and painters and dancers have always had.” ― Ursula K. Le Guin, Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew
One of the most common questions we get at the Writing Center is whether students are welcome to set up in our space, without an appointment, to “just write.”
The “just” part strikes me every time.
I know that people are asking for practical purposes; sometimes a writer isn’t quite ready for feedback from a writing consultant, and so they’re clarifying whether a tutoring appointment is required.
And yet, I feel the underlying significance of the request—when someone says they just want to write, they’re often grappling with a fundamental challenge in their life as a student. Writing is difficult, time-consuming, and stressful. Writing isn’t just a thing but often the thing. And what writers are looking for is a community where everyone understands that.
This fall, in partnership with the Graduate School, we’ve sought to bring graduate student writers together in a new community called Grad Wildcats Write. Open to any graduate student on campus, this writing group is meant to provide a designated time, space, and community of supportive fellow writers.
Once a month, the writing group meets over coffee and works on a current writing project; attendees have brought all sorts of things, including dissertation proposals, draft articles, personal statements, and literature reviews. For two hours, everyone writes.
“The most useful piece of equipment for a writer [is] a bucket of glue. First you spread some on your chair, and then you sit down.” ―Joan Bolker, Writing your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day
The room is usually quiet, but the space feels vibrant and buzzing (and not just from the much-needed caffeine boost). Writers have already tackled one of the toughest parts of writing: making time to write and sticking to it. By treating writing like any other firm commitment in their schedule, the task feels more regular and less daunting. As a result, ideas are making it on to the pages.
What’s most heartening, though, are the conversations that occur when participants take a little break. When someone exhales loudly after producing a few pages of an article introduction, another writer nods knowingly and offers their encouragement. One writer talks through the challenges of producing an abstract with the person sitting next to them. And when someone asks for feedback on their paragraph organization, another writer pulls up a chair and reads aloud with them.
These small moments are creating a powerful community of students who support one another in the seemingly insurmountable feat of getting words on the page. Inside this community, writing becomes a little more doable.
“The isolated imagination is easily corrupted by theory, but the writer inside his community seldom has such a problem.” ― Flannery O’Connor, Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose
If you are a graduate student on campus searching for a writing community, we invite you to join us! Our next Grad Wildcats Write meetup is Friday, December 2, from 10am-12pm, in the Writing Center, ECS 122D.
If you are a graduate student looking for even more structured feedback and writing support, we invite you to enroll next spring in ENGL 604 “Advanced Writing for Campus-Wide Graduate Students.” More information is available from the K-State Today announcement and from our Spring 2023 course descriptions.
― Theresa Merrick, Instructor / Writing Center Assistant Director for Outreach