Virtual Shut Up and Write: Zooming in with the cheer squad (Jeanette Fyffe and SUAW participants)

The Arthur Voaden Secondary School, St. Thomas- Cheer Squad, 1965. Elgin County Archives.
When I (Jeanette Fyffe) became the manager of RED in 2013, the very first program I set up was our weekly Shut Up and Write (SUAW) group. 

Our first meeting was in the Borchardt Library on Thursday morning 9:30-12:00. Since then, through the actions of our brilliant La Trobe researcher community, we have opened SUAW chapters on every campus and weekly on Twitter. 

Now, as we respond to COVID-19, we have evolved the provision again to allow us to offer a fully online SUAW program. Led by a team of generous researchers across the university, we have 20 hours of SUAW sessions available every week. 

The shift to online SUAW has been pretty smooth: we still have the collegial productivity; we still have the gentle accountability; and we still have the shared connection to our values as researchers - to nudge the boundaries of knowledge ever forward. What we have added is an expanded community. We can now write with colleagues we hardly ever see without even having to take off our slippers. As one participant said last week “Shut Up and Write is like a silent cheer squad”. 

What does a “silent cheer squad” feel like? In this post, some regular attendees at our virtual SUAW sessions offer their reflections on shutting up and writing during the pandemic. 


Allira Hanczakowski - PhD candidate, Italian Studies

I used to think that I mainly went to SUAW for the coffee and chats, but now that we have to provide our own hot beverage, I realise that there’s a lot more to it! It has been a constant in my weekly routine since I started my PhD, so maintaining one part of normality amidst the chaos has been wonderful. The familiar, friendly faces on the screen each week foster a feeling of connectivity and community, albeit now a virtual one. It’s always about turning up, and sitting down at the desk, and knowing that others are doing the same. For me, that’s the hardest part of the WFH (work from home) situation. While I don’t have children or other responsibilities requiring my immediate attention, my family and partner are far away, so sitting by myself can get really lonely. And sitting down is hard (because baking, doing washing, and going for an extra run is far more fun). So, for me, virtual SUAW provides that space to just sit down, and be alone but not lonely- it truly is a magical space! I always look forward to SUAW, not only because I get to see other peoples’ cute pets and virtual backgrounds, but because I know it’s going to be great, uninterrupted writing time.

Thank YOU and thank you to the RED team for the continued enthusiasm and support. You are all appreciated and valued more than you’ll ever know!

 Dave Cann - PhD candidate, Crop Agronomy

The COVID-19 pandemic has taught me a lot about myself – one such thing being that I am terrible at working from home. But every Thursday morning, I make myself a coffee, I log onto Zoom, I see similarly friendly but worn-out faces and I commit to shutting up and writing. For those few golden hours a week, I am a beacon of productivity. I don’t procrastinate. I am undistractable. I am a working from home superhero. Now, I just need some way for that SUAW spark to light the creative kindle that lies currently soggy underneath a mountain of Fleabag episodes and YouTube baking tutorials, so I can sustain a week-long fire of writing...

 Dr Lauren Lawson - Postdoctoral Fellow, Autism Research Centre

For me, SUAW is the kick up the bum that I need to do the thing I have been avoiding all week. I find it so motivating to be around others working hard to achieve their goals. While this atmosphere is not quite the same in an online format – I find myself more easily distracted because there is less accountability – I still love being able to block out that time in my calendar from meetings and make some (even if it's tiny) headway on something I’ve been avoiding.

Corina Modderman - Lecturer, La Trobe Rural Health School and PhD candidate Social Work 

Why I love SUAW online:
  1. Because it is so flexible, you can come and go when you want
  2. If you feel you don’t have time and are juggling too many things, doing two pomodoros in the morning and another three in the evening means that's almost 2.5 hours of dedicated writing time you've managed. It ADDS up. 
  3. Then, when you leave SUAW, you still may do another half hour by yourself as you are on the go and cannot stop.
  4. It is lovely to get to know people. I don’t crave a lot of talking/communication time. I like to be there and get going, but with time you see people and you know they are on the same journey. 
  5. The evening sessions are so great for me with remote education during the day. 
  6. It keeps me going knowing there are other people out there as well, writing away. 
  7. You can come as yourself, with hairbands and hoodies as it is not a ‘formal’ Zoom. 😉

Virtual SUAW sessions are available every weekday at a range of times please consult our webpage for details.

To receive the Zoom details and to be added to our weekly SUAW reminder email please contact the RED team,