By Regan Postma-Montaño
This past June I joined eight other faculty (including Marla Lunderberg and Kendra Parker from the English Department) for my first ever Faculty Writing Camp. Much like the time spent at Northern Michigan summer camps during my youth, this camp offered me the blessings of community and growth, along with good snacks and walks in nature, and yes, a few tears.
Each day the other campers and I met in the teaching lab on the second floor of VanWylen Library. Mornings began with a “Writing Camp GPS” goal sheet and a tip from Barb Mezeske, our wise and encouraging coach. Mid-day we took a break for a lunch in the Cup and Chaucer Café and for free time, which for me meant walks around campus or downtown. Afternoons we continued writing and ended our session with a reflection on our progress and where to start the next day. In total, we wrote 30 hours in one week. I was thrilled with the tangible successes of the camp: a performance review accepted for publication and a scholarly article submitted for review. I also am thankful for the ways I grew as a writer during the camp. I share three personal takeaways:
1. To write well, I need movement between time alone and time in community. My good ideas and precise wordsmithing come in solitude while my momentum (especially when tired or stuck) comes in community. Barb and my fellow campers provided much to this end. I also found myself encouraged by library staff and student workers who often asked about my project. I hope to cultivate this balance of solitude and community in the upcoming semester as I continue writing.
2. To write well, I need to let go more quickly. I have the tendency to hold onto my writing, wanting my work to be perfect and thinking it is never “good enough.” Barb encouraged me to submit my work quickly — that same day or the very next week. I found this quicker pace freeing.
3. To write well, I need to write from my reality and the reality of the world today. I initially thought I could simply cut down my 50-page dissertation chapter to a 20-page article. As I began the process, I realized the world had changed. To accurately arrive at the article’s intended outcome I needed to rewrite from my current location. Although this proved to be more work, I feel proud of the relevance of my writing.
Much like the camps of my youth, the respite from daily life, the lengthy open periods of time, and the intense focus on a particular task led directly to my growth. Along the way, I learned that my work, which is professional in nature, emerges more quickly and beautifully when I pay attention to the personal meaning it provides.
Thank you Barb, Kendra, Marla, Berta, and everyone else who made my first Faculty Writing Camp a great adventure. I look forward to next year!