I'll admit it--I've been looking forward to the Feminist Scholars Digital Workshop all year. Some of my excitement has to do with regret. I didn't sign up last year, even though I learned about it in plenty of time. I'm not sure why. I mean, Feminist + Scholars + Digital + Workshop—it was as if all my favorite words were throwing a party. But we all have deadlines and shynesses and all sorts of excuses that make it easy to put off until tomorrow (or, in this case, next year) what we should be doing today.
I won't make the same mistake again. Why? The benefit of getting feedback from other scholars seems obvious, and obviously appealing, particularly for scholars like me who are currently engaged in large (read: dissertation sized) projects. But that’s not the only reason I'm excited to participate:
- Workshopping the writing of others teaches you things about your own work. Years of working as a tutor, teacher, and a graduate colleague have taught me that reading the work-in-progress of others does more than just provide me an opportunity to give feedback to the original writer. Nothing teaches me about my own writing as much as workshopping the writing of others. The things that are hard to see in my own work—sentence issues, organizational confusion, messy ideas—are easier to see in the work of others, and thus, by helping another writer improve their own work, I always learn lessons to apply to my own.
- Deadlines are helpful. Early June is, for me, the space between my spring semester and summer teaching. It is, in other words, the time for serious productivity—or, potentially, the time for serious procrastination. In the hopes of avoiding post-summer regret, it's important to build in structures to keep remain accountable as scholars. FSDW provides a built-in draft deadline followed by an injection of post-workshop revision energy.
- Modeling collaboration and work-sharing is good for our profession. As a scholar of rhetoric and a teacher of writing, I believe strongly in making the writing process more visible. We are often too closed about sharing our work-in-progress; as a result, published writing can feel like it just drops out of the pens of scholars who are better writers/thinkers/scholars than we are. Writing workshops can help remind us that it's not inborn genius but rather hard work that makes writing projects succeed.
- Feminism is community. I became a HASTAC scholar because a community that could provide a platform for FSDW was a community I wanted to be a part of. Academia is lonely; we spend many hours sitting alone with our thoughts and our keyboards, working to create. But academia is also fundamentally social—we are writing for an audience, reading the work of others, listening to the talks of fellow scholars, forming conference panels with one another, and generally building conversations together. FSDW provides another way to meet and engage with scholars who may be future co-panelists and colleagues, to see what is happening throughout the field. The rhetoric of the job market can sometimes make it feel like we're all competing against one another, like cultivating the work of others only works against us. But I don't want to be a part of a profession in which that is true. The community of FSDW is what the participants make it. Great work begets great work; working together to build on one another's thoughts and to create a more lively scholarly conversation only can benefit our fields and our scholarly selves.
- Writing workshops are a form of self-care. For me, this is perhaps the most important reason and thus merits repeating. Writing workshops are a form of self-care. Writing workshops involve reaching out to others to obtain sustenance for our writing. They help sustain us as writers by allowing us to engage in community building. But that very self-care aspect can make it easy to make excuses about why we don't participate. We bury writing workshops under a pile of books we’d like to read, things we need to do, and people we’d like to be. Many of us are time or locationally bound in one way or another, for financial, familial, disability-related, work-related, or other reasons; we may not be able to make it to an in-person writing workshop. So an a synchronous workshop like FSDW can help cut through the excuses that prevent us from engaging in this kind of care.
Convinced? Here’s the fine print:
The Feminist Scholars Digital Writing Group provides scholars with an opportunity to share their work in small, collaborative online groups. The weeklong workshop, held this year from June 8-14, provides writers with a space to work together to polish projects, learn from one another as readers and writers, and build a strong community of feminist scholars. Participants will also be invited to attend a virtual workshop by Amanda Strauss, Research Librarian at the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women of America entitled “Mindful Research: A Workshop for Feminist Scholars,” which will be held on Sunday, June 7th, 2015 at 1:00 p.m. EST. The workshop is open across ranks to graduate students and faculty alike. Read more about the workshop and sign up by May 1st. See you in June!