Writing together

In a recent academic writing chat on Twitter (#acwri) people talked about writing collaboratively. It took me a while to understand what people understood when they said collaborative writing.

It seemed like for many, it was writing a manuscript with others, e.g., having multiple authors. I work in the field of behavioural medicine and we almost always write multi-author papers. Most projects I do involve many collaborators and therefore many papers involve on average 5-6 people.

People on the tweet chat talked about the mechanics of writing papers with others, how to manage roles etc. Halfway through the chat, it dawned on me! When I talked about writing collaboratively, I actually meant writing together in the same physical place! Literally sitting together in front of a computer and writing our thoughts together. Of course, only one of us types!

I have now tried this method with two colleagues to write proposals and also manuscripts. And it works! I find it so much easier to just put thoughts, our thoughts, on the screen, without editing. Because that’s one of the rules we adapted. We just put our thoughts down.

I also realised that during this process we come up with a lot of ideas and discussion because we just share our ideas freely and without criticising. For someone who can at times find writing difficult – because I can be very self-critical- I find this process of writing with another person and not using my inner critic all the time immensely liberating.

Another advantage of writing together is that at the end of writing session you come up with a plan of action. So who is going to write what section in detail? Who is going to look at that paper we want to read in more detail and cite? The division of labour is a requisite at the end of the writing session and it occurs fairly naturally.

As I said I have tried it with two of my colleagues. I like them very much and I like the way they think and work. So I am not suggesting that this would work with everyone. But for me it takes away the isolation that as academic writers we might have. Through this process I wrote a paper with a colleague that is published and another one that we submitted. And several proposals I might add!

So if you’re like me and at times find isolation that writing alone can bring quite difficult then I would suggest trying to sit with a colleague and write together. And see what happens!

Follow me on twitter @gozde786 and let me know if you try writing together.

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