Why "Shut up and write"? (Tseen Khoo)

Chicken Kitchen Timer
(Photo by m01229 | www.flickr.com/photos/39908901@N06)
I have done a PhD, so one of my transferable skills is my ability to reach excellent levels of procrastination.

The combination of being a master procrastinator and social media zealot means that I am often my own worst enemy when it comes to getting things finished up.

I have no problem with starting up planning for any number of projects, ideas for bits of writing, and compiling reams of to-do lists.

The problem appears when it comes to the doing of the writing.

So, what saves me from myself? ‘Shut up and write' (SUAW), of course!

Most of the writers I know who have tried out a few SUAWs are sold on the process, with some even attributing their success in submitting PhDs and book manuscripts to having discovered it.

I really notice when I haven't been regularly attending SUAW sessions. My productivity plummets and I start looking around at the piles of 'to-do' writing in fear.

Here are the Top 5 reasons why SUAW works for me:

1. It breeds productive habits.

It may take a session or two to get into the groove with this set-up. A few people can’t shake off the distraction of the background noise, others attend only one gig and decide it’s not for them. For those who come along to the sessions regularly, the pomodoro focus spills over into their other writing and work time.

Quite a few regulars tweet their pomodoros and have virtual sessions (see @SUWTues for virtual Tuesday SUAWs; the idea was started by an Australian research fellow, Siobhan O'Dwyer).

Getting started on editing or writing tasks that I’ve been putting off smooths the way for crossing more things off the to-do lists. It ushers me into a more productive frame of mind, and I inevitably feel better about what’s left to do (and there’s always more that’s left to do...).

2. I meet new peeps.

The weekly get-togethers are fluid and dynamic things – there is no set group.

There are certainly some stalwarts who will probably be there, but there’s no obligation for anyone to turn up week after week. Along the way, new folk are introduced and invited, random people decide to bite the bullet and give it a try, or academics’ teaching schedules change and it means they're in or out for the semester.

It’s nice having a surprise set of people every time. It’s also great to meet up with other pomodoro converts who don’t necessarily come along to the bigger SUAWs (preferring to start their own discipline-specific groups, or go solo in their offices), and bond about how effective it can be.

3. I keep in touch with ‘old’ peeps.

One of the best things about the sessions that I used to attend in the city every Friday is that they kept me in touch with a range of colleagues. We all worked on the same campus, but times between lunches or meetings can sometimes be quite lengthy. People move on from organisations, or change roles, and promises to keep up can often fail.

A weekly gig made meeting up with these colleagues more likely, and we’ve progressed and hatched all manner of plans at SUAW sessions.

4. I can't neglect research projects too much. 

As well as the satisfaction of crossing things off my lists, attending SUAWs means keeping projects on my radar. I don't get a chance to neglect them for too long, so I don't build up the pathological aversion to them that I have in the past.

It's very easy to start avoiding research projects when it all starts to feel too hard. With regular SUAW infusions, I rarely get to this point.

5. It’s a great way to start a day!

I loved knowing that going in to 'work' on a SUAW day meant beginning my day in a cafe with amenable and productive friends. A guaranteed couple of hours’ engagement with savvy people who are interested in getting on with things is a reward in itself.

Often, it sets the tone for the rest of the day!

I’ve met excellent people in the various SUAW sessions I've attended over the years. To me, it should  all be productive and fun. That’s a combination that can’t be beaten.


  • La Trobe has SUAW groups meeting every week across four locations! Check which one suits you best: Shut up and write sessions.
  • For #LTUacwrimo, we're running a special SUAW promotion session in collaboration with the Bundoora Co-op Bookshop! The Bookshop has very kindly donated a $100 voucher prize for one of the special SUAW attendees - all you have to do is turn up!

    >> WHEN? TUESDAY 18 November, 10am-12pm.
    >> WHERE? Bundoora Co-op Bookshop (in the Agora precinct)
    >> WHAT do I need to bring? It'll be a normal SUAW session - just in a bookshop! Bring your own laptop, and introduce a friend or two to this great community writing process.

    Franklin Street Shut up and Writers from the Thursday 13 Nov session will also go into this special sesssion draw!

    For SUAW Bendigo and SUAW Albury-Wodonga, there is also a $100 voucher for a lucky attendee at each of those sessions in the week of 17 November!


Kelly Farrell said…
Great post, Tseen. There really is something magic about SUAW that you don't really 'get' until you try it, isn't there?

The thing that I really love about SUAW is not just getting things knocked off the list, but dining out on the fact in the days that follow. Productivity breeds productivity, I guess. And getting away from my regular space, not to mention a kettle - I have VERY URGENT cups of tea to make, you know? - helps a lot too.
Tseen Khoo said…
SUAW connoisseurs can become a bit cultish about it, it must be said. But if the worst they're doing is spreading productivity and fun, I say bring it on. :D

It's the very urgent mini-chocolate bars that I find problematic. They're very big attention-seekers.