Shut Up and Write: The Pros and Cons of Going it Alone

I have been using the “Shut Up and Write” method as part of my PhD writing regime for over a year. The first few sessions were conducted with at least one other participant and I found it very productive as a method. Having someone present to discuss writing, share hints and tips, as well as the tap tap tap of someone else’s keyboard like a  kind of typing timer are great motivators. Also, replacing hesitant book thumbing and note-taking with straightforward, distraction-free writing cuts out the to and fro between the computer and other materials ensuring that your writing output is higher.

I recently took part in a “Write Day” organised by WISPS whereby members were asked to organise “shut up and write” sessions at their universities and tweet with feedback and progress. This was my most rewarding session yet with 1000+ words written in 1 hour. Others in the group  found it equally effective.

I find “shut up and write” so useful that I have conducted sessions alone when writing companions are unavailable. There are pros and cons to this. I outline some of those below:


  • Firstly, imposing a set timetable of writing sessions and breaks still motivates me to focus and write. Knowing that I only have a set amount of time to complete writing tasks increases my concentration.
  • Even though I am going it alone, I can still create aims and goals to be met each session.
  • Alone or in a group, “shut up and write” helps me to structure my writing day, especially when other factors like meetings or classes are sure to cut my writing time short.


  • The sense of community is absent and this makes the sessions feel longer and more laborious.
  • I actually miss the rattle of busy keyboards around me and, oddly enough, this makes me more easily distracted.
  • Not having someone to declare my goals to makes me less likely to complete each one to the best of my ability. This also reduces the sense of satisfaction that I usually feel at the end of a group session.
  • When writing in a group I know that I can bounce ideas off the person/people during the break/s. When alone, I tend to waste more of my writing time mulling things over – even little things like vocabulary or where to put a comma.
  • I generally tend to produce a lower word count when I’m on my own.
Clearly, the cons are outweighing the pros here. The obvious conclusion is that group writing methods like “shut up and write” tend to motivate me to produce more and meet my goals. In fact, I am participating in Academic Writing Month at the moment. Some of my colleagues are also taking part and there is a rich, supportive and constant discussion taking place on Twitter under #AcWriMo. Since I began #AcWriMo on the 1st of November I have certainly produced more work than usual without sacrificing quality. I believe that the collaborative nature of such projects and methods is conducive to this.

I would be delighted to hear from other people who have attempted “shut up and write sessions” alone. Please leave a comment if you share any of these experiences, or if you have others to add. Finally, here’s a PhD comic I think we can all identify with at one point or another:

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This entry was posted by americasstudies on Thursday, November 8th, 2012 at 4:29 pm and is filed under academia . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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  3. […] out 1,000+ words a day, and ploughing through books and articles I needed to read. I organised Shut Up and Write sessions in my university. These were great, not only for the amount of writing and editing I did […]

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