Make the retreat experience your own (Tseen Khoo)

Image created by Tseen Khoo using Adobe Firefly

Coming up in the final week of November is the famous three-day RED Writing Retreat, the finale for Academic Writing Month each year! 

This event always has an excellent turn-out and great feedback, with participants who are coming for the fifth or sixth time (or more!) as well as first-timers. There are professors and other senior academics, first year PhD researchers, and colleagues from other institutions. Everyone works together to boost their quality writing opportunities and meet their own publication goals. And often talk about their favourite pastry shops - you know who you are. 

As with recent years, our retreat in 2023 will be held online. This ensures that all our researchers can be a part of it, no matter where they are located. 

But having the structure and facilitation of the retreat provided online doesn't mean that you only have to experience it online. 

Whether you want to do 100% of the retreat with others in the same physical room as you, or have in-person social breaks, or use post-retreat outings each day as a reward system for yourself and your friends, there are options. 

The key thing to keep in mind is that RED will be hosting the retreat and facilitating online only - but how you choose to experience the retreat as a whole can be adapted to what suits you best! 

Here are a few ways to mix up the three days so it can be an online AND in person experience: 

1. Meet at a pre-booked RED Writing Retreat room 

If there is enough demand, there will be rooms made available at a range of locations. You can meet up with fellow retreat-ers in person and be together in the same room. Everyone will need to bring their own laptops and headphones/ear-buds to ensure they're able to be in the Zoom room online. This is more or less what you'd do for an in-person SUAW session. 

2. Book a retreat location of your choice 

Sometimes, doing the retreat as an actual, physical retreat to another location is a desirable possibility. You - and your friends and colleagues! - can: 

  • Book an AirBnB option (or similar) for the duration of the retreat, or
  • Organise to have it at your place if you have room for a few friends and a good space for everyone to write/focus, or 
  • Have a 'staycation' at a local hotel so you can be in a different context to 'home' but not necessarily too far away. The nimble folks among you could combine ideas - take advantage of a possible pre-booked retreat room on campus while staying nearby to access it easily each day. 

Several RED Writing Retreat veterans have done versions of these suggestions previously and found them to be effective ways to block out the time to focus on their writing and goals for the three days. 

3. Do the writing stints online but meet up with colleagues and friends each day for lunch and/or breaks. 

If you have colleagues and friends in the neighbourhood, you could spend blocks of the morning and afternoon in the facilitated online retreat while making time to meet up with folks at lunch time or breaks (if they’re close by enough!). It’d be good to stay in the zone with fellow retreaters but it’d also be fine to step away from the screen and have a fresh approach when you re-start. 

4. Decompress with others after a hard day's writing at a local venue on one (or all!) of the evenings.

Similar to the third point in this list, it can be a good circuit-breaker and fun to meet up with colleagues after a retreat day - whether it’s each day, or at the end of the whole thing. This could be one of the goal rewards you set yourself! 

And you can obviously do all of the above in some form or other if you'd like. The key here is that there are ways to plan for companionable and stimulating social aspects that suit how you work best, what your time and financial budgets are like, and where you’re located. However you decide to experience the writing retreat, we look forward to seeing you there! 

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Dr Tseen Khoo is a Senior Lecturer in research education and development with the RED team at La Trobe University. Melbourne. She researches in the field of critical university studies and has published on early career researcher experiences, digital academic identities, and racial diversity issues. 

Tseen created and manages The Research Whisperer with Jonathan O'Donnell. She's around the internet as @tseenster and you can also find her on LinkedIn