Kristine Morris, Doctoral Student
In Summer 2020 I was stuck. The momentum I had on my dissertation proposal was obliterated by COVID-19. I had not touched my manuscript in months. I did not know how to pick up and begin again. One year ago today, I attended my first TAWS retreat. In that coworking space, I learned how to lay imposter syndrome and perfectionism down so the work could emerge. Since joining TAWS, I completed and defended my dissertation proposal and now am on track to a final defense in Fall 2021. This felt utterly impossible 12 months ago but here I am. If you need a safe, accountable, scheduled time and place to write, or if you just need to feel validated in the dissertation struggle, TAWS is for you.
KT, MA Student
I greatly appreciate the themes and mantras in The Academic Writing Space and the friendly camaraderie that is very motivating. I remember the nuggets of wisdom such as: 1) To notice and realize that when what I expected is not working out, to accept that. 2) I don’t need to be perfect. 3) Honor myself. It’s practice, not a performance. and 4) how being truly productive requires that I organize and take care of my physical work environment.
Michael Schwartz, Doctoral Student
Thank you for creating this community, this space. I’m sure I speak for many in saying that it has dramatically improved my relationship with my dissertation, even with my writing more generally. I have to say, that the community makes some of the uncertainty a lot more bearable. Their collegiality, positivity, wisdom, and openness mean more to me than they probably know. Please feel free to use anything I’ve ever said about TAWS! Spray paint it on a freeway overpass! Get it embroidered on your bath towels! Shout it from the rooftops!
Anonymous, PhD Student
The Academic Writers’ Space is a space where you learn a great deal about changing your work habits. But other experts or resources provide that too. The difference with TAWS is that in addition to realising what you need to change, it is a space where you get to practice, to train, and to actually change those habits, bit by bit, over time. And it’s a community that accompanies you along the way while you change your habits. There are people who will remind you every day of the week if you want, that you have to talk to yourself differently, that you should break the work down into bite sized tasks, and face them one at a time,etc. And that is so much more powerful than just realising, “oh right, I need to change this or that.” For me this has been such a shift, because I supposed I’ve known for a long time what I needed to change, sometimes even made progress on some aspect or another, but I’ve never quite experienced an opportunity to practice change on such a regular basis, in such an amazing human space.
Joan Hollis, PT, DSc
The Academic Writers’ Space is an on-line educational resource which gave me invaluable support to complete my dissertation. I had been bogged down by what I learned to be common writers’ blocks….procrastination, obsession with perfection, electronic distractions, to name a few. TAWS gave me a community of supportive fellow writers, very wise and kind mentors, and 7-days of multiple writing retreat times to complete this isolating work. Thank you TAWS for the help completing my dissertation and degree. What a wonderful resource for academic writers from all over the world. Your gift of affirmation and wisdom sustained me.
Anna, Doctoral Student
I wanted to give some positive feedback that just came to me today. I struggled with joining TAWS – I knew it was valuable, but I was so worried about spending the money and then not going to enough retreats. So I just bit the bullet and tried it last month and figured trying it for a month was worth it. TAWS has definitely helped me with my academic work and my mental health when approaching my dissertation. I’ve also had two happy side-effects: 1) My mental health has improved and 2) I’ve beomce more effective me at my job. Depending on the day, I’ve been able to dedicate 1-3 retreats to work and 1-3 retreats to my dissertation. The intentional framing around when I work on what has made me more present and efficient in my roles as a camp professional and a scholar. Just wanted to share. I know you created TAWS because of the pandemic. I think TAWS is timeless and will forever have a place in the academic community, pandemic or not.
Dawn Lazerte, PhD Candidate, Ontario, Canada
Stumbling onto TAWS – The Academic Writing Space, has been one of the best things I’ve done to boost my PhD writing process. I’m a full-time elementary school administrator, Mom of three (daughter with special needs) and a full-time flex PhD student and I got stalled on my thesis for a year as life just got in the way! I found it challenging to reserve the silo of time needed to keep my PhD on the front burner and TAWS gave me the tools and mindset direction that I so desperately needed to progress. The “Sunday Reset” is extraordinarily helpful for setting up my week for success with navigating parenthood, career, thesis, not to mention the elusive personal time. I have written copious nuggets of wisdom from the facilitators in my PhD journal since I started with TAWS and I select certain mantras from this collection each week to motivate, inspire and direct me in my work. For students debating the cost, I share this reflection: How much do you spend on a few coffees or a lunch out each week? The cost per week is less than that. You are worth the investment. I’m Canadian so this costs me more but totally worth it. I’m investing in me. I’m investing in an online coach and community that I believe will help get me through this tough academic journey. Hope to see you at TAWS!
LisaMarie Turk, Nursing Policy Doctoral Student
The Writing Retreats through the Academic Writers’ Space provide a sanctuary, wherein one can transcend internal and external barriers to progress. Dr. Alison Miller has alchemized her vast experience in productivity and coaching and channeled her obvious commitment to humanity into a service that uniquely empowers both connection and personal accountability. The Academic Writers’ Space team is committed to excellence and compassion, and their lessons in the arts and sciences of productivity, academic research, and self-development ignite creativity, focus, and actualization of potential. I wish to share this gift with all, particularly with those who are feeling stuck, hopeless, or alone in their academic or writing pursuits; there is a path to overcome. I encourage them to invest in themselves and their dreams through this powerful experience and community.
It’s difficult to put into words how helpful the writing retreat program is, the best I can do is to say I couldn’t have finished my dissertation without it. Dissertation writing is a solitary practice in the best of times, and 2020 has magnified that tremendously. The sense of community and support that the retreats provide is crucial, but the nature of this program is that it’s even more than that—it also combines important psychological tools of reflection, reframing, and other skills that are critical to finishing a project of this size. I recommend it to everyone.
Shagufta, Doctoral Student
I am so glad to have found this shared space for academic writers. It has absolutely changed my relationship with my thesis and how I manage my time writing. I must say the hardest part of being a Ph.D. student has been the isolation where I found myself alone and lacked any peer support on a daily basis. This group has indeed provided the support to beat that isolation and make progress on my writing.
There are so many benefits of being a member of The Academic Writers’ Space. I find that participating provides external structure to the internal process. As an academic, intellectual person, it is more natural for me to imagine building a wall then actually picking up the bricks and placing them … so the writing retreats help bridge the gap towards actions. I actually feel a sense of enjoyment seeing familiar faces and knowing that other scholars are working on important work, too. I greatly appreciate how the facilitators treat academics as whole people, not as brains split off from our bodies. I highly recommend membership in the Writers’ Space to anyone who wants social support, moral support, and a feeling like “we are all in this together.”
Diana Gildea, Ph.D. Student
I told my husband I was going to join The Academic Writers’ Space to help me finish the dissertation. He had two questions. First, he asked “don’t you have an advisor to help with that?” The Writers’ Space is not that; it is a virtual writing group of academics who agree to sit down and work together, even though we are separated by distance, discipline, and more. The advice isn’t about how to do the work, it’s more about how to change our relationship to it: to bring more joy, inner peace, and a stronger sense of satisfaction from the process as well as the product. His second question was, “how much?” The Academic Writers’ Space is only $99 a month. It’s about the same cost as a 1-hour therapy session. Only for this, I can join as many retreat sessions as I want with no limits! Retreat sessions are offered most of the day and most days of the week. It’s a lot of bang for my buck! Best of all, after a couple months, I told him that I could feel and see a difference. I don’t dread writing, and when I join the sessions, I write more. The people are warm, friendly, welcoming, and supportive. The leaders focus not just on problem solving, but on helping us have a different perspective and a more whole and joyful relationship with our writing. It’s amazing!
Tsolmon, Doctoral Student
In the beginning of the stay-at-home period due to the COVID pandemic, coworking in The Academic Writers’ Space writing retreats really helped me to stay on track. As I progress little by little, the retreats help me better concentrate on what I am doing in a 2-hour time frame. These hours are very important to me! Instead of procrastinating, I show up to cowork with others and end up happy with what I accomplish each day.
Anonymous Ph.D. Candidate, Montreal, Canada
Oh, let me tell how truly excellent the writing retreats are! The facilitators are always gracious and hospitable and open the sessions with insightful and inspirational words to help get everyone on track and reach new depths. We all then declare our goals and work away for 45 minutes before reconvening to check-in, update our colleagues, reset our goals, and begin again. The commitment is very flexible; indeed, I am not able to be a regular participant because of childcare responsibilities, so sometimes I just pop in and out to receive a boost for the work I have planned for another point in the day. Even still, the atmosphere is super collegial and motivating. Through the thoughtful guidance and supportive community offered by these retreats, I have found new focus and discipline. My advice: join the fun and get some work done!
Susannah T, Doctoral Student
As a member of The Academic Writers’ Space, I am happy to report that I’m getting more work done because (a) I want the other people in my group to be proud of me, (b) I feel like I have permission to turn my phone off, kick my partner out of my corner of the living room, and focus on my own work, (c) I get shaken out of unproductive strategies every 45 minutes; the check-ins are productive interruptions that give me space to have perspective on either technical or emotional difficulties, and (d) I get validation and support and new strategies when I encounter a problem. Other benefits are that I’m learning to predict how much work I can get done in 45 minutes and recovering faster from frustrating, unproductive, or distracted work sessions. I like that I can join and there’s no pressure to actively talk or participate. It’s warm and friendly and encouraging.
Gina S, Candidate, Doctor of Arts & Letters, Global Studies
I am incredibly grateful for the writing retreats because they offer a sense of community. I feel grounded and nurtured in this online space, not only by the facilitators but my peers who are working on various academic projects. Since attending, I am more productive and my sense of purpose has been renewed. Overall, the writing retreats help me practice my “why” of pursuing a dissertation, remind me of my academic vision, and provide a nurturing space to excel and succeed in my research and writing.
OKL, Doctoral Student
Participating in writing retreats of The Academic Writers’ Space was the best choice I made to complete my dissertation. Seven weeks later, I submitted my Literature Review to my Committee. How? Did my level of intelligence and writing acumen exponentially increase? Well, yes and no. Yes, it did, by the IQ and skill were there; they just needed a guide and an environment to grow and flourish. Do you need motivation, new ideas or methods to help you concentrate, a community to commiserate and chat about challenges, or a place to get away and work for 45 minutes or a few hours? Go to The Academic Writers’ Space if you need to finish your dissertation or want to be a more productive academic writer.
Cristina Francois, Doctoral Student
Dissertation writing is hard for me. By the last half of writing my dissertation, my full-time job consumed most of my time, I was no longer working on campus, teaching, or in the lab, and I never talked with my advisor. Every time I sat down to write, most of my mental energy went to convincing myself that the work was worth doing instead of actually doing the work. I heard about The Academic Writers’ Space coworking writing sessions and figured that it might, at least, make me sit down a couple times a week and check in with my dissertation. Initially, my only goal was to show up, sit down at my computer, and open any dissertation file; that’s it. Before I knew it, a couple words were being added each day and I had obtainable goals. My coworking community quickly became my support community, my consistency, and my reason to show up. My day was planned around attending writing sessions, and the familiar faces I saw every day became my family. Through supporting all these other people, I started to support myself. It is so comforting to hear people struggle with the same little things that I struggle with and celebrating the same little victories that might sound ridiculous to anyone else. This community made it okay to forgive myself, to be kind to myself, and to just do instead of perpetually being anxious about what I had not managed to do yet. The writing sessions and smaller break-out groups were a game changer. My advisor has commented on how impressed he is with the increase of my pace. My husband has mentioned a change in my attitude, and I’ve noticed a shift in my energy. I cannot say enough about how helpful coworking and the writing retreats have been for me. All I can do is encourage any other graduate student to give it a shot.
Michael Turabian, Montreal, Canada
My experience attending The Academic Writers’ Space has been overwhelmingly positive. It has provided me with the necessary “sacred space” to work on my dissertation without feeling a sense of judgement. Beyond catering to my individual goals and needs, the retreats have instilled a true sense of community and humanity to the research and academic process. Working alongside a community of writers has also forged some great connections, as we all seek to empower each other to work towards our individual goals. Ultimately, the coaches really encouraged us to think more empathetically about our relationship to our work and our place within academia.
Mary, Doctoral Student
I’m also so glad I found The Academic Writers’ Space! It’s been a saving grace in helping me. It has been so nice to have an uncomplicated, caring, and increasingly familiar space to return to each day. It has given me the opportunity to finally commit to my work and to allow me to write as my authentic self, which means braiding my academic and creative writing together.
Cristin, Organizational Leadership Doctoral Leadership
After accomplishing course work and comps while working full time for the past 4 years, I couldn’t understand why I was having a difficult time with the dissertation. I felt frustrated with the process, abandoned by my institution, and lost. What I learned is that I just needed support from likeminded people: a community that shared in my struggles and ambitions. Through The Academic Writers’ Space, I have gained friendships, confidence, best practices, and serenity. I have a community that cheers me on and holds me accountable. It created structure for my writing while providing a safe place to express my difficulties as well. I feel more confident, and most importantly, I am supported by a wonderful community.
S. Islam, Doctoral Student
Joining the Academic Writers’ Space has been transformative for my productivity. As a graduate student in the dissertation phase who is working from home, structuring my day has been a challenge. The psychological effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and isolation further exacerbate this problem. The Academic Writers’ Space successfully solves this predicament for me. Being able the join the writing retreats gives appointments to build into my day with a community of like-minded encouraging students who hold me accountable to my deadlines. The facilitators lead our sessions as experienced guides and troubleshoot any major problems we might be having at the moment, whether the problems are about how to focus and concentrate, managing overwhelm and motivation, learning how to effectively break down tasks, or even how to best organize our work spaces at home. Joining the Space has by far been the best decision I’ve made this year.
S.M., Doctoral Student
I have really been enjoying these writing retreats and they are helping me tremendously. I think I was vastly underestimating how much grad school was impacting my mental health. The community at The Academic Writers’ Space has made me finally feel supported, something I have never felt in my PhD program. This support has allowed me to be productive in a way that is benefitting my work and my mental health. Some huge wisdom that the coaches have imparted to me are ways to eliminate the inner critic and the imposter syndrome.
Cristina Watson, Doctoral Student
I am so glad to have the opportunity to thank you for creating The Academic Writers’ Space and welcoming me into the community! I spent most of June watching Netflix, taking “avoidance naps” (inner enabler), and generally feeling overwhelmed and incapacitated by my lack of progress (inner critic). I knew I needed something to help me start to move through this process, but I didn’t know how to create it for myself. If you had asked me at that first session where I could be in 2 weeks, I would NEVER have been able to imagine this much progress. I would’ve been grouchy about the idea that four pages represented any kind of victory, and resentful of the weeks’ worth of retreats that I spent just getting fluent with the literature instead of churning out pages. But today I feel so good that I tried to take a “reward nap” (as opposed to an “avoidance nap”) and I was shocked at how much longer it took me to fall asleep. Yes, most of the 45-minute work segments have felt long and difficult, and I’m a little reluctant to wrap my head around the idea that I’ll be doing long and difficult 45-minute work segments for a long time (I’m still really, really far from finishing). But I’m also really excited that I can see these changes in myself and in my work! I’m so grateful for the messages of self-compassion, for the space to take things one step at a time, and for the community you’ve created.
Megan Morin, Ph.D. Student
I finished my first chapter after writing with The Academic Writers’ Space for 6 weeks. After struggling to find direction for a year, I was able to refocus myself to get things done. I am working full-time with a 6-month baby girl, so it can be extremely challenging for me to find the time to write. The Academic Writers’ Space helped me to discover ways that I work best and what motivates me. Every session feels like dissertation therapy and writing. I look forward to my writing time and went from participating once a week to 3 or 4 times a week. It reminds me of going to a workout class; it just becomes part of your schedule and something that makes you feel great and productive! I can’t say enough of The Academic Writers’ Space. I no longer have the guilt of spending my time on other things and I am enjoying the dissertation process. I have participated in other groups, and this one by far is the best.
I had been struggling to write my dissertation proposal for almost 6 months before I joined The Academic Writers’ Space. The support from other members and all the facilitators is fantastic. Times for writing retreats are convenient, and it is a judgment-free zone. The Space gave me the opportunity to meet others who are also working toward the same goals as me; we support each other, give each other tips to help, and learn from each other. The Writers’ Space has created a comfortable and safe writing community where I feel like I WANT to show up and work. This is a whole package.
Holly, Ph.D. Sociology
I would never be where I am if I had not signed up to attend the writing retreats at The Academic Writers’ Space. I have learned so much about setting goals (big and small), working through writing anxiety, and how to create organization skills to apply to my writing. I would be remiss if I did not mention again the support this group and these coaches give to the members. The Academic Writers’ is an excellent service for anyone looking to find a supportive writing community. I have recommended their services to many folks struggling to reach writing goals and finish writing projects.
Haley, Ph.D. Student in Political Science
The Academic Writers’ Space is so much more than a productive coworking space, although it certainly succeeds as that. The hours that I spend in The Academic Writers’ Space work sessions are above and beyond the most productive, successful working hours of any day. I have gotten more work done in my 2 months of using The Space than at least the full year before it. Thinking of The Academic Writers Space “just” as a guided coworking space misses a lot of what makes it so special. Space sessions are led by coaches who understand that academic writing is a complicated, messy process that can demand a lot emotionally. Coaches understand what it feels like to receive brutal feedback on a draft and are there to help pick up the pieces. The coaching portion of Space sessions often feel like a form of group therapy and will help you feel more relaxed and confident in the dissertation process. The kindness and reassurance from the coaches spreads to everyone on the video call. I have never met a group of people who are as supportive and welcoming as these members. Space members are there to enthusiastically celebrate your smallest wins and commiserate with and troubleshoot your biggest struggles. It is a community of academics who are fighting back against all the toxicity that many of us believed was the mandatory cost of getting a Ph.D. Not only is my work going better than ever before, but I look forward to logging on to work with this group instead of dreading dealing with my dissertation.
Anonymous, Ph.D. Student
The Academic Writers’ Space has been immensely helpful as I make this final push to complete my dissertation analysis and write-up. It not only helps me structure my day to include “dissertation hours,” but it has helped me prioritize my dissertation in my weekly plans amidst other work and personal responsibilities. I used to scoff at the idea that I could “find refuge” in writing or dissertation work; however, the coaches and Writers’ Space members have cocreated a supportive community where pieces of wisdom and support can be shared. This wisdom and support cuts through the fog of emotional and psychological stresses and outside pressures, such as other work responsibilities, national, and global societal concerns. Most importantly, each session helps me recognize and reframe my toxic thinking patterns to solution-oriented and self-compassionate ones. I have tapped back into the drive that motivated me to pursue a Ph.D. in the first place and I am in a healthier state of mind to learn the skills and identify the supports I need to thrive as a researcher. I highly recommend giving the community of The Academic Writers’ Space a try!
Erica K, Ph.D. Student
The Academic Writers’ Space has been two important things for me. First, it has been a place where I have learned invaluable insights, techniques, and methods for doing the work required to finish my dissertation. It’s hard to imagine that in a 10-minute talk (prior to each working-block), I could learn so much about how to effectively move past challenges and blocks in my writing and my research. Yet, the stories, anecdotes and analogies shared in those 10 minutes have stuck with me and have been a great support as I keep working towards my goals. Secondly, The Academic Writers’ Space has, very unexpectedly, been a place where I found a community of encouraging, kind-hearted, and caring individuals who accepted me and welcomed me in a way that felt like I was coming home. These sessions have often reminded me of my favourite yoga or gym class where I meet up with friends on a similar “wellness” journey and get excited to hear what my favourite instructors will say on a particular day. Before joining the Writers’ Space, I didn’t think it was possible to look forward to writing and research, but since joining this group I have found joy and an inner confidence in my work. I thought by joining the Writers’ Space I would find a place that would push me to finally finish my dissertation; instead, what I found was a community of people who have gently guided me to be productive in a way that is authentic and kind to myself.
PhD or Bust
These writing retreats have been a gift for all of us who are trying to figure out how to work on a long-term writing project during a pandemic and a worldwide economic meltdown. Session by session, with a community of scholars from around the world, we each learn our own process, we each make some progress toward our goals, and we each feel thankful for a community of brilliant, hard-working and generous scholars.