Solitary writing is great. Group writing is therapeutic

8 Mar 2018 - 15:30

By Ritwika Basu

This is a short reflective piece about a recent collaborative writing workshop that actually entailed writing!  The group comprised of researchers from four different sites across India and Africa all doing research for ASSAR. We set out to examine (and write about) implications of local governance of water on adaptation prospects. Water being crucial to the concerned geographies nested in what is agro-climatologically declared as semi-arid. Rumour has it that given the impacts of climate change, semi-arid regions are going to get drier, warmer and water starved- except that it’s no rumour.

In the workshop, we reflected on the hybrid space between decentralisation in the water sector and adaptation. There was a lot of back and forth in ideation and writing about new and old concepts alike. While we unabashedly challenged some myths around decentralisation, we also revisited and reaffirmed some bin y the name of the god of decentralisation!

And together we arrived at the idea of befriending the upgraded and cooler cousin of decentralisation - 'vertical integration', the rest you can find out when the paper is out!

Gina Ziervogel (Lead Author) holding a key message on Vertical Integration

The exercise felt a bit like an attempt to synchronise the limb movements of an octopus, but together we managed. Writing collaboratively (aka group writing) can potentially be an empowering experience. It works on the principles of social psychology; people (un)consciously perform better in social settings that reinforces self-worth and self-validation. It allows one to echo their thoughts to the world and further enables ‘reciprocal reaffirmation’. Further, it harnesses unused potentials that could save parts of our cognitive abilities from redundancy and disuse in the daily humdrum of life. To this end, we locked ourselves up in a room with the sole ambition to write, and write sense.

I am no advocate for group writing because, come on, who’s ever heard of writing being a party!?

But like ‘Orange is the New Black’, group writing is perhaps the new therapy to overcome the ‘killing me softly’ phase of the infamous writer’s block! It does so by nudging each to pen down thoughts after exhaustive rounds of collective reflection. Which means one writes half-digested ideas that makes writing easy as it is supported by a round of collective work!

Translating research findings into compelling messages for a wider reach #RiUGoals

It takes the pressure off you as an individual to write something new and to dazzle the world with words of wisdom. In that you become an instrument that gives collective ideas an expression in writing. Your words are not solely yours as well as not ‘not yours’. It is easier for self-critical individuals (most researchers are) to own up to what they’ve got to say and further embrace the efforts made to that effect.

However, there are some obvious pitfalls to be wary of. To know more about when and how the reality of collaboration becomes less than a positive , read our next piece coming soon.