Last week the annual ECP Writing Retreat was held at the picturesque Mont Fleur conference estate in Stellenbosch. A few ECP lecturers who participated in this year’s event share their experiences and highlight the benefits of this dedicated time away to think and do ‘writing’
The 2017 ECP Writing Retreat at Mont Fleur arranged by Fundani, CPUT provided the ideal opportunity for participants to engage in intensive learning activities related to academic writing and publishing. Optional presentations included the development of a Title, an Abstract and Introduction for publication in journal articles. ECP lecturers were afforded the opportunity to devote specific time to their research projects. Individual and collaborative sessions served as valuable developmental engagement for our Foundation Year recurriculation project in the Department Public Administration and Governance (PAG) to be implemented in 2018. Mentor support and input were welcomed and led to further clarification of concepts, in turn leading to progress in our various projects. This type of staff development should form part of all academics’ professional growth. New lecturers, in particular, should be encouraged to attend in order to demystify the perceived fears that surround writing retreats. We are grateful for this opportunity.
Felicity Harris, Mechanical Engineering
As a first time attendee of the Writing Retreat and a novice writer, I did not know what to expect or even if I had done enough in my writing to warrant being there. But the retreat was most certainly the best place to be if you are in my position. It helped to demystify the whole idea of writing for publication and broke it down to the basics that would help to get anyone started and motivated to write.
Amanda Morris, Graphic Design
Often when I think of writing it brings to mind the process of putting pen to paper or in our contemporary contexts, putting fingers to keyboard and creating a record of thoughts, ideas and processes. I assume that the thinking which informs my writing will flow naturally and that the process of thinking and writing will happen concurrently. I have found this recently to not be true…
While at Mont Fleur attempting to delineate clearly what I was trying to write about, and then research, I discovered writing is more than just “putting it down on paper”. Every paragraph I write is a manifestation of a process that is so much richer than what is visible on paper. Before I “write”…I read, I interrogate what I have read, I make deductions or formulate arguments and then I put this down on paper. Sometimes reading three articles lead to writing one good sentence/point and sometimes reading a single statement leads to the formation of an entire argument. There is a process of reading, thinking, and then only “writing” that I have discovered at Mont Fleur. It has helped me see the value of reading and truly reflecting on what I have read, in the writing process. This has been helpful for me because traditionally I measured my progress on how much writing I have done but I now realise that reading and reflecting is key in “good” writing practice. We should not be too focused on the “output” but rather put emphasis on the “input”. Value what has gone into preparing a piece…whether it be a paragraph on a page or chapter in a book…
Nowhi Xintolo, Nursing
Making a decision to participate as a novice in academic writing was ambivalent; when I viewed the list of other participants I was a bit intimidated however I experienced a different environment altogether. The geographical lay out of the venue itself (Mountain its slopes and its vegetation) was a calming factor that allowed deep thoughts and free flowing ideas that one can put down on paper. The guidance that one got from facilitators made it a comfortable field to play along and learn how to structure academic writing. The Moves and the steps directed my thoughts and ideas fruitfully to the development of an abstract and a topic.
The open fires discussions of sharing experiences from established authors were encouraging and made one see the journey of self – development and long life learning with a different eye than one dominated with fear of doctors and professors that have a list of publications longer than an arm.
It was a great learning experience to sum up the to me the title of the book “the value in the valley” became a leaving experience (Iyanla Vanzant) author; Motivational speaker and Priestess)