Nomadic Writing and The Hotel Fantasy
For many of us in academia, protected time to write is a recurrent challenge and sometimes even a mythical event. This morning I set out an hour earlier than needed to attend the brilliant OTShow in Birmingham. Although I live relatively nearby and could definitely have benefited from an extra hours sleep, this has become a habit of mine. Arriving early or leaving late to squeeze in a protected hour of ‘writing time’. Today it’s a conference abstract that I know I won’t otherwise have the opportunity to write before the submission deadline. Reflecting on these experiences I found that with the increased move away from individual offices in higher education, few if any of my academic colleagues undertake writing in their busy open-plan offices, but that a culture of nomadic coffee shop hunting, and improvised home offices are common.
Avoiding my bustling open-plan office space and with a young family at home, I have created ‘writing space’ almost anywhere and everywhere. In my car, in my local library, in airport lounges, at toddler soft play centres and in just about every coffee shop and quiet spot I can find. Finding those longer periods needed to generate significant pieces of writing is always a greater challenge. I found dedicated writing retreats and organised ‘thesis boot camp’ events incredibly productive, but sometimes expensive and not always at convenient times. Similarly, peer-led ‘shut up and write’ (SUAW) sessions enabled me to focus and virtual SUAW sessions often allowed flexibility to work at odd hours of the night or early mornings. However, I found by far the most productive opportunity for writing came by indulging in what I believe to be every #phdparents hotel fantasy – a weekend away alone in a hotel to write and sleep. I personally prefer a clean but simple room with a decent desk. No fancy hotel spa’s or thriving city-centre locations. It was during these epic writing sessions that I undertook the majority of my PhD thesis writing in my final year. I always took a small suitcase full of research papers, a laptop and other essential writing materials, and a small suitcase of food (to avoid the temptation to leave my room). For anyone else considering a similar hotel escape, my top tip is to always bring your own cafetiere and a bag of decent coffee.