It’s no exaggeration to say that I would be extremely unlikely to be sitting here, waiting for my EdD viva, if it hadn’t been for the Writing Buddy Scheme! So, whilst I am not normally into marketing, I feel that this secret is important to share – hopefully to encourage and inspire others to take advantage of this freebie offered by the university!
As a part-time doctoral student (juggling a full-time job, 3 children and various other things) life was busy, and I was struggling to stay on track and meet my deadlines. However, I had managed to attend a writing retreat with Dr Cathy Coombs and hear about the writing buddy scheme. I signed up not really knowing what it was or how it was going to work but realising that I needed to change something if I was ever going to finish. So, I was a bit taken back when I got an email from a student at Salford who introduced herself as my buddy! We started rather tentatively, once a week writing for an hour, then increasing the length and regularity as it fitted with our schedules and, over the months that followed, I got to know Maria well as we switched on to write together. As I did, I realised that we had been well buddied up – both mums with older children, jobs in education and family responsibilities and this commonality was as important as the academics.
When meeting, we followed a simple routine of sharing what we aimed to do, staying online while we wrote and then sharing at the end of the meeting how it had gone and what we would do next. The advantages to me were many but include that we were going through the same shared experience – so although Maria is doing Sound Architecture and me Education and we’re at different universities – we were both in the same system and going through the same process. We understood the difficulties and frustrations and were able to listen to each other and offer not only a sympathetic and empathetic ear but useful suggestions and even an article or two! When not actually online, the scheme helped as I had articulated my plans and felt accountable – if I had told Maria my plans for the week – whether reading or writing – I was much more likely to do it!
Maria and I continued our writing buddy relationship as we moved around the world – me back from Ethiopia and her returning to Brazil. We managed a face-to-face meeting at Salford University where she gave my son and I a tour of the department and the equipment she had used for her experiments. Having stopped writing when I submitted, part of the studying experience that I am most missing is the time with Maria online. It’s even helped me to start writing a journal article – as this is what I have used the time for when we have met online since then. Maria’s impact on me has been great, I was delighted to be able to mention her in my thesis acknowledgements and in the future, I hope to be able to visit her in Brazil!
So, I encourage you to give the scheme a go – you might not need saving but you will find a colleague facing similar challenges as you, who understands the joys and demands of the doctoral process, and you might even get some writing done!