We all need a bit of discipline (and punish) now and again

I have been reading a bit of Foucault today, so discipline is on my mind. A couple of weeks ago, I attended a one day writing retreat led by Rowena Murray and held at the Society for Research into Higher Education offices. I was just reading this interesting blog post by Claire Aitchison called: ‘Sit down and do your work!’ Disciplining the writer about the benefits of structured writing retreats and thought I would share my writing retreat experiences too.

The one day structured retreat as designed by Murray goes like this:

  1. Arrive 9am
  2. Set short, mid and long term goals (short term – by first break, mid-term – by lunch and long term – by the end of the day). You write these goals down in full sentences as a warm up activity.
  3. One and a half hours writing (in silence in a room with others – like a typing pool)
  4. Write a couple of sentences what your next steps are after the break so you do not lose your flow
  5. Break (half an hour – move away from the computer and walk around, have a drink etc)
  6. One hour writing
  7. Then write in a couple of sentences what your next steps are after lunch so you do not lose your flow
  8. Lunch (one hour – go for a swift walk for 20 mins and then eat for the rest)
  9. One and a half hours writing
  10. Write a couple of sentences what your next steps are after the break so you do not lose your flow
  11. Break (half an hour)
  12. One hour writing
  13. End (write next steps for next writing session so you do not forget where you left off)
  14. Go home and have fun! Your working day is done.

The blog post by Claire Aitchison mentions how this is sort of like school – exam conditions. And she is right. Like an exam, you do have to have done all your preparation before hand, you have to have all your notes completed and so forth. You should not really go on the internet or talk to the person next to you. You are allowed to go to the toilet without putting your hand up though. However, it is not at all scary or hgh pressured like an exam. Murray has a lovely soft Scottish accent and you come away feeling very happy because you have achieved something with your day, she is also there to talk to you if you need help.

Another thought I had about the retreat which reminds me not of school but of working in retail. I think was the fact that tea and lunch breaks were sacred – It reminds me of when I worked in a department store, if you missed some of your tea break because you were helping a customer locate the right size of underpants or trying to figure out where the other shoe has gone (where do they go?), or crying because again someone has defecated in the changing rooms,  your supervisor lets you have either extra time at lunch, or perhaps even go home a bit earlier. Breaks are sacred. You do not miss them, but if you do, you get them back.

I think students and academics do not treat breaks as sacred, but we must all fight against ‘the not having a lunch break’ culture.

So as as her blog post title says ‘Sit down and do your work’, I’d like to add too ‘stop working and have a break’. Or ‘stop watching telly and go to bed’. Sometimes, we all just need a good telling off.

Mary whipping the boy Jesus for being bad

Jesus, stop messing around and get to bed!


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