I design and run events on various topics at the intersection of academic life, academic writing, and welfare and mental health. Here are a few outlines to give you a sense of what I offer.
How to work (and live) well
Working habits tend to accrete in haphazard ways, many of which serve neither us or our work very well. This session invites you to turn a critical eye on your own routines and introduces you to ways of optimising them. Optional elements include:
- reflecting on the multiple roles your life involves and how these give rise to goals that matter to you
- imagining your ideal working day, and devising strategies for bringing the reality closer to it
- reviewing a pre-completed daily activity tracking template for personalised insights into what your reality currently is
- joining the dots between daily and weekly levels of tasks and projects, your goals and roles for your current degree or position and beyond
- exploring the distinction between urgency and importance and what that means for how you spend your time
- investigating how long basic tasks (everyday and academic) actually take, and strategies for getting better at predicting and planning
- inquiring into feelings of academic failure and how to overcome them
- practising simple physical stretches to remind you that your brain is part of your body
- detailed planning and email follow-up to help the learning crystallise into real change.
Is your web presence working for you?
This workshop deals with the global strategy and practical details of enhancing your online presence. Topics that can be covered include:
- an overview of the major forms of online content (websites, webpages, profiles, blogs, podcasts — plus a little on social media)
- case studies of real academic and alt/post-ac websites, including insights from their creators on site design and the roles the site plays in their professional/personal life
- the challenges and opportunities involves in balancing an academic with a non-academic online profile, or creating a hybrid
- what happens when you Google yourself, and how to change it
- the importance of generating valuable content, and the practicalities of monetising it
- the necessity of patience when it comes to building up an online audience
- the benefits of keeping things simple on the tech side
- the potential for crafting and maintaining a tailored web presence to help clarify for yourself what you’re doing and why.
The emphasis is on professional pathways that open out from academia to alt-ac, portfolio, and other careers involving freelance elements, but the material may also be useful for other academic and post-academic routes.
Overcoming a sense of academic failure
This is the most context-dependent of the options I offer. It can be framed as large half-day event involving small-group work connecting established academics with students and early-career researchers, as an intimate workshop for a close-knit cohort, or anything in between.
Topics that may be addressed include:
- why failure matters (in academia)
- the differences between ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ failure
- the feeling of failure, and what to do with it
- putting failure in perspective
- impostor syndrome, anxiety, and perfectionism
- failure, you, and other people
- shared and individual actions to make a difference
- how you’ll know when you’ve succeeded in making a difference!
Activities may also include supportive simulations in which participants can share their own experiences, and case studies of common elicitors of feelings of failure to help uncover shared themes in responses to setbacks.
The session draws on a podcast series and workbook I created after the first academic failure event I ran (find out more here), including honest testimony from academics at all career stages.
Writing bootcamps and other writing events
On any scale from a 3-hour writing breakfast to a week-long bootcamp, I have extensive experience in creating protected conditions for real writing and thinking to happen and for working habits to be lastingly enhanced. The events centre on timed writing sessions top-and-tailed with planning and review, interspersed with breathing exercises, physical stretches, and brief outdoor breaks. The idea is not to encourage participants to get as much writing done as possible; the point is to help instil working habits that are truly effective, efficient, and goal-directed. This requires an intensive departure from normal routines, for which absence of phones, strictly controlled connectivity of other kinds, and strictly enforced punctuality are crucial. An unfamiliar venue (to heighten the defamiliarisation) and full catering (to free people from other decision-making) are also helpful.
Beyond the core writing sessions, optional elements include:
- reflective, exploratory, and practical writing- and planning-related activities
- more extensive tuition on mindfulness, body awareness, posture, and stretching
- admin sessions in which time is carved out for all the little things that otherwise don’t get done or interfere with longer-term writing projects
- computer hygiene sessions to guide participants in cleaning up their virtual work environment
- work-sharing sessions for participants to present their work in progress, in a range of formats depending on purpose (from how to give a good presentation to overcoming obstacles in thinking or writing)
- career-focused sessions to encourage clear and imaginative thought and planning about next steps
- structured follow-up to support learning and goal-setting for lasting habit change.
As bootcamp drill sergeant, I use the writing sessions to get writing done alongside the participants, but at the same time I remain attentive to the dynamics in the room, and make periodic checks of people’s screen activity. This combination allows me to model the value of the approach and create a feeling of solidarity while ensuring participants are guided in strict – and therefore liberating – adherence to the rules of bootcamp.
These events are often not easy for participants to adjust to, and I make clear that I am always available to step outside for a chat if following the rules is proving difficult or their relevance is seeming unclear. I can provide a fuller outline of the philosophy underpinning these events on request.
Unsolicited feedback from bootcamp participants
I benefited enormously from this experience. I feel like I’m slowly starting to regain my confidence in my own ability to work, and this camp and my writing partner meetings have had a lot to do with that. Thanks for putting together such a thoughtful program. I’m not terrified of my writing goals this term, for once!
The boot camp had many benefits small and larger. Many thanks for the reminder about setting a principle to follow this term. The structuring and goal setting provided both a window into my overestimation of what was achievable and the opportunity for reflection to adjust and learn. Good stuff!
Now that I’ve discovered the writing groups, I feel much better about writing in general – bootcamp changed my perspective on writing quite a lot! Thanks for running it!
And comments from a first-time participant in a writing breakfast
I attended one of Emily’s Writing Breakfasts with a view to breaking a deadlock in my writing process––in this instance, the difficulty of moving from short-form, quick-reward pieces (articles, chapters) to a long-form, deferred-reward piece (a monograph). While I expected to gain value from the experience––and I did––the value very much exceeded these expectations. Re-learning what it means to write in a space that is expressly designed for it made clear to me that I had not alone been (unwittingly) sabotaging my writing, but also wasting the time that I had set aside for it by using it unproductively. A second unexpected insight came from learning that writing can be a communal process. Accustomed to pursuing writing as a solitary activity, writing in a structured way with others made evident to me how much more productive it is possible to be when participating in a collective enterprise. I have secured a writing partner from the workshop, and hope to work with them in the future to our mutual benefit. Finally, I must record that Emily’s physical exercise routines brought about a very welcome intrusion of blue skies and green grass into the stark black and white of the empty page!
My standard fee is £300 for a half-day session (including all preparation and materials, but excluding venue and catering, and adjustable pro rata), but prices are negotiable. Costs may be lower for bootcamps, depending on how many of the sessions I’m able to use for my own writing!
Please get in touch with me via the contact form if you’re interested in running a workshop along the lines of any of these four formats, or would like to talk through an idea for a different kind of event, in a university setting or otherwise. I’d love to hear from you.