Loyola University Maryland

Faculty Development and Diversity

Finding the Time -- Faculty Writing Retreats

The semester is a busy time and we struggle to fit our own writing into our daily routines. One answer is to use those nooks and crannies of the academic year—fall break, study day, early January, spring break, Commencement week—for writing stages that need dedicated time. Join your colleagues for intensive daylong writing sessions with breaks for food, community, and perhaps a bit of healthy griping. Come with an achievable goal and good attitude. Open to all Loyola and Notre Dame faculty.
The Finding the Time initiative seeks to provide faculty with the external structure, space, and encouragement that makes writing possible.

Sponsored by the Office of Academic Affairs and the Loyola/Notre Dame Library. All retreats are at the Loyola/Notre Dame Library, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., unless otherwise announced.

The faculty writing retreats are already showing results. Check out the Results from the Faculty Writing Retreats to get a sense of the books, articles, grants, and community that have been nurtured by the retreats over its first two years. 

2018 - 2019 -- Open to all Loyola and Notre Dame faculty!

Faculty Convener: Sally Gallena, Associate Professor of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences
Host: David Carey

Let us know if you'd like to host

What the day will look like:

  • 9 - 9:30 a.m.: Group meets for light breakfast and goal sharing.
    Make sure your goals are achievable.
  • 9:30 a.m. - 12 p.m.: Individuals work in their dedicated space: carrel or study room.
    Coffee and snacks provided—let us know your favorites!
  • 12 - 1 p.m.: Group reconvenes for lunch, goal check-in, and fellowship.
    No self-denigration allowed! Griping about writing permitted.
  • 1 - 3:30 p.m.: Return to individual work space.
    Coffee and snacks available.
  • 3:30 - 4 p.m.: Tea time! Group reconvenes to report progress over tea.
    Celebrate successes, even small ones. Especially the small ones!

Thoughts from Faculty Participants

"I loved the Writing Retreat! I came away from our day together feeling a strong sense of support for my work. I especially enjoyed our conversations in the morning, at lunch, and at the end of the day. It was inspiring to hear what my colleagues' are working on and to share tips and ideas about our writing processes. I had never had an opportunity to talk about how I approach writing with my colleagues, and it helped to demystify the whole thing. I'm really looking forward to attending future retreats!"

"I loved developing a sense of community with other faculty immersed (at some point) in writing; I also appreciated the sense that the time was Loyola-sanctioned. That helped me to appreciate how important it is to dedicate real time to our scholarship and on a practical level, I was able to clear my schedule without any sense of guilt for missing other Loyola demands on my time."

"Most valuable about the retreat was the collegial conversation and sharing of each others projects, approaches, concerns. Although we have very different works in progress it is so interesting to gain understanding about others' processes."

"What I found most valuable was having a clear structure for our writing time that was balanced by social experience. We began by connecting with each other and then had two more opportunities to connect (lunch and tea). This really helped me focus during the blocks of writing time."

"I think the retreat provided the camaraderie and collegiality that is important to motivate us in what can be a lonely and, at times, dispiriting process."

"Most valuable: accountability and sense of shared work w/colleagues; and being on campus but away from my office."

"Most liked- the physical and mental space to write in a supportive environment without distractions. Also, the informal dialogue about other's writing processes which allowed me to assess and alter portions of my own process. Side note- I didn't think about it at the time, but the presence of food eliminated the time and thought used for planning and obtaining meals."

"I found the group very supportive and it was a nice way to set goals, feel supported, and interact with colleagues in different departments and programs."

"The Writing Retreat was awesome! I found the connection with others and the feedback to be quite useful. Having a goal for the day and being held accountable to check-in and talk about my progress was motivating! It was also great to have supportive feedback from my colleagues. I hope this continues for years to come."

On Developing a Writing Routine...and the Conditions to Support It

Tips from Brian Norman, Professor of English. (Also available in a one-page handout version.)

1. Weekly Schedule

Research/writing is often the thing that gets cut in a busy schedule because its ends are more long-term and therefore seem less urgent in lived time. The aim is to see writing as a daily (or at least weekly) task. This also demystifies the process as a routine habit, not a waiting game of romantic inspiration or deadline-driven desperation. On a weekly calendar, fill in:

  • First, your fixed commitments. Make this short. Be honest about what’s not moveable.
  • Next, schedule at least five hours of writing time. (I recommend closer to ten.) Avoid one binge session.
  • Next, any periodic research needs. (e.g., library run, lab set-up, deep reading)
  • Then, schedule everything else. Note: Teaching will fill up whatever time you give it. But you will figure out how to do it within any time constraints. You have control.

2. Session Routine/Conditions

Where will you write? Do you need coffee, tea, or peanut m&m’s? Music? Certain books from the library? Take care of this before your session begins, akin to making a shopping list before heading to the store. Writing time is for writing, not preparing to write.

3. Session Goals

What will be your goal at a given session? I recommend an achievable goal and consider self-rewards for exceeding them. Will it be measured in time, word count, or product? I recommend word count, regardless of quality. Just write! Fun fact: If you write 300 words a day, that will yield 109,500 words in a year. Surely some of that will be useable!

4. Support/Accountability Structure

How will you create the conditions to affirm your scheduled research time, or make you accountable for it? Suggestions: peer writing group, digital calendar with alerts, apps that allow you to log finished tasks (e.g., Chains), research buddy with weekly check-ins, etc.

5. Longer-Term Goals/External Deadlines

Now that you’ve set in place the conditions for a writing routine, get out your annual calendar. What are the writing projects you hope to accomplish? Can you create external deadlines for different stages, such as a peer writing group session, a faculty writing retreat, a research brownbag, an abstract submission, or conference presentation. Also, have at least two venues in mind for any given piece so that if the first meets rejection, you have a plan for the next step. Also, work on another project while something is out for peer review.

Some Writing Resources

  • Wendy Belcher, Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success
  • Robert Boice, Professors as Writers: A Self-Help Guide to Productive Writing
  • William Germano, From Dissertation to Book
  • William Germano, Getting it Published: A Guide to Scholars and Anyone Else Serious about Serious Books
  • Paul Silva, How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing
  • Eviatar Zerubavel, The Clockwork Muse: A Practical Guide to Writing Theses, Dissertations, & Books