This summer I joined an online writing group. It was an "accountability group" (the sole purpose is to publically make goals and hold yourself accountable to them) and it kept me on task. The group was fairly large (around 20 or so participants) with members at various stages in academia (doctoral students, post-docs, early and mid-career faculty).
The group was hosted by the lovely amstr. Each week, in the comments section of a blog post, we would state our goal for the previous week, describe what we had accomplished, analyze what was and was not working for us, and then post a goal for the next week. amstr also posted weekly writing-related topics that we could choose to discuss. While the main purpose was accountability, peer support was also provided through comments.
I was not only able to post goals for every week (except when I was traveling) but I accomplished most of the goals that I set. I had a harder time keeping up with the comments. The first week I subscribed to them and my inbox was quickly flooded. I found I was spending more time reading through everyone's goals and accomplishments as well as the supportive comments than I was writing. It seemed counterproductive. After that I would periodically check-in but reminding myself to do that consistently proved difficulty. I'm not the best person to provide that type of support. For me, the act of having a public space to post my accomplishments (or lack thereof) and knowing that others were facing the same challenges was just enough motivation to keep me producing. Having people telling me I was doing a good job was nice, but not really necessary.
When the group ended, Dame Eleanor Hull agreed to host the next round that will take us through the fall semester. However interest in the group has grown and there are currently 47 of us. I barely have time to skim the comments (there are about 170 each week) but I continue to post my goals and accomplishments. It is, of course, much harder to meet my goals when school is in session so I am trying to scale them back and make them more reasonable. I am trying to remember that the most important part is to just keep writing something.
A few weeks ago another blogger, Molly at first the egg, put out a call to see if anyone was interested in forming a different type of online writing group. This would be a small group that agreed to read and comment on short pieces of writing. I was excited to hear about the opportunity and, although I responded a week after the group had already started, they were gracious enough to allow me to join. It is an amazing group of writers covering very different topics in very different genres. We have fiction, poetry, memoir, essays, journal articles, as well as both academic and advice books. There are ten members in the group and each week we share about 3 pages of writing. Not everyone shares every week and comments can range considerably in depth and focus but all have been incredibly helpful.
So I find myself a third of the way through the semester, slowly but happily writing, with tons of support.