Batchelor writing retreat

18-21 July 2019

Cathy Bow, Jen Macdonald, Emma Schuberg, Leonie Norrington, Michaela Spencer, Andreas Warneke, Simon West

Seven members of the TopEndSTS group traveled to Batchelor to participate in a writing retreat from 18-21 July, 2019. With the generous support of the Northern Institute, we booked a delightful AirBnB house with lots of space to write and engage. The location was ideal, being not too far from Darwin, which allowed for flexibility in attendance. The house had multiple work spaces, leafy outlooks and the sounds of birds. We shared meals to continue to develop our collegial spirit and keep costs down.

The goal of the retreat was to write – and write we did. It was not a facilitated retreat so we used the ‘Shut up and Write‘ technique, which is periods of silent focus followed by a short break (aka pomodoro sessions). Each person set their own goals for the weekend, which were documented ahead of time. Scattered around one of the balconies or living areas, each person then worked on their tasks in silence, until the bell sounded and we emerged for cups of tea and chats about progress.

Over the weekend we completed 12 pomodoro sessions of 45 or 60 minutes each, for a total length of 10 hours. Most people found the longer sessions very productive, going beyond the usual 25 minutes plus 5 minute break of a standard pomodoro. Combined with being away from the regular office or campus environment, this allowed for deep work and thinking.

Personal goals for the weekend were largely achieved: Cathy wrote nearly 8000 words across 4 papers, Simon completed a blogpost; Emma worked on drafts of a conference abstract and worked her methods chapter into shape to share with supervisors; Jen wrote a proposal for an article and read an important paper in her field; Leonie worked on a draft about post-colonialism and wrote up field notes from a recent field trip; Andreas (a visiting intern from Germany) wrote a draft of a story from his field trip to Kakadu; and Michaela significantly revised her paper for the upcoming TopEndSTS special edition of the Learning Communities Journal.

We used Saturday afternoon for much needed group work and informal workshops. We started collaboratively writing a blog post reporting on our experiences at this year’s Australian STS Graduate Symposium in Melbourne. This led to a planning session for our own hosting of the same event in Darwin next year. Following this, we ran informal workshops on the use of Twitter and how to create interesting graphics using Canva software.

In between, a few of us managed a swim at Florence Falls, enjoyed dinner at the pub (accompanied by some of Batchelor’s best karaoke performers), ate lots of cake and bikkies, and shared thoughts about various aspects of writing, research, STS and other issues. We all appreciated being out of the office in a congenial atmosphere with our colleagues to encourage each other in our work.

Many thanks to Ruth Wallace and the Northern Institute for supporting this very productive work. 

L-R Michaela, Emma, Cathy, Jen, Leonie (missing Simon and Andreas)