Session 9: Intimate Connections

We were a much depleted group today, seasonal illness the prime cause for this.  However, as ever, we wrote and we talked and we wrote again…We’d asked all participants to bring along some writing  with which they are currently engaged (or not as engaged as they might like to be) in order to share and provide collegial and supportive feedback.

We started the session by  undertaking ‘free writing’ about what we’re working on and the ways in which we can become ‘stuck’ and ‘less stuck’.  We followed this by each reflecting on this experience with just one other person.  This proved to be highly productive and demanded far more time than we had  allowed for within our plan.  One of the lessons of facilitating the group for Tamsin, Emily and me has been to learn to ‘let go of the master plan’ and to allow the group to facilitate us, just as much as vice versa.  I strongly suspect that I am much less adept at this than I ought to be as a champion of embracing the writerly research space as one of contingent unknowing.  If you read this and know me and agree, please do not feel that you need to comment!

However, by far the most poignant and supportive aspect of the session today for me, was the time we spent focusing on the writing we’d each brought along to share for peer scrutiny.  We swapped scripts and read.  Emily provided us all with a peer-feedback-worksheet which we subsequently used to frame our written comments and reflective feedback.  This felt a very precious and intimate undertaking, all the more so for the sense of responsibility we each felt for not denting trusting relationships we have been building together over the past few months.  I was wrapped within the text with which I was presented and somewhat overawed by what I might possibly have to say by way of written response.  The passage I read was evocative, urgent and personal at its very best.  It demanded engagement.  It also reminded me that if I am ever tempted to be somewhat glib or dismissive in comments that I make by way of peer review for journal articles, I must abide by an ethic of imagining the author of it sitting there right beside me.  Although the writing I shared with my partner was of a qualitatively different character, we both discovered in our mutual feedback to one another, that the slices of writing that resonated most effectively, were those where we could ‘hear’ the voice of the writer most clearly.  I’ve just glanced at the script I shared and on it I can see scribbled by my peer reviewer, ‘here, I can now hear you again’.

We didn’t have time to reconvene as a wider group.  We’d strongly like to suggest that for the Peer-led session next week on December 7th (the last peer-led session of this year) that you engage with this process of peer-review of something with which you are currently engaged with just one other person.  We would recommend the sharing of just a couple of pages of text.  You could also utilize Emily’s peer-feedback-worksheet.  You may wish to then spent 5 minutes or so free writing to reflect on what you might now do differently as a result of the feedback you’ve been given.

Please do ALL feel that you can come to our final Writing Into Meaning facilitated session on Wednesday December 14th even if you haven’t been for a few weeks.  There will be opportunities to reflect more widely on publication beyond the thesis text.  We will also be evaluating the Writing Into Meaning group and enjoying lunch courtesy of CIRCY.   We’d love to end the term as we started with a ‘full house’.





3 thoughts on “Session 9: Intimate Connections

  1. emilydanvers says:

    I felt so privileged to have someone read my writing and to know how they ‘hear’ my meaning (meaning that feels so ‘loud’ to me). Rachel gave me some really wonderful feedback on my usual foibles of writing too many long words in too many long sentences! But the most beneficial part for me was to read and learn from her writing about how to convey meaning sharply and with a pace I really want to be able to emulate! In our discussion we talked about our own ‘voice’. I encouraged Rachel to put herself in the text much more. She felt her sentences read in a ‘clipped’ way because she didn’t know quite where to place herself. In contrast, I felt that I overwrote in my text but for the same reasons of not quite having the confidence to say what I want to say clearly. The concern we shared of a lack of confidence in our ideas manifested itself completely different in a sparseness or messiness of the text.

    From this I do think that the most important question in the feedback worksheet is the one that asks ‘what can I learn from the text that I can use in my own writing’. This process forces you to imagine your writing differently and fundamentally shifts you as the writer away from a comfortable space into a stuck/unknown territory which has boundless generative potential. It reminds me of a quote from my favourite writing book:

    “Writing is learned by imitation. I learned to write mainly by reading writers who were doing the kind of writing I wanted to do and by trying to figure out how they did it…Students often feel guilty about modeling their writing on someone else’s writing. They think it’s unethical—which is commendable. Or they’re afraid they’ll lose their own identity. The point, however, is that we eventually move beyond our models; we take what we need and then we shed those skins and become who we are supposed to become. ”

    ― William Zinsser, Writing to Learn: How to Write–And Think–Clearly about Any Subject at All

    Liked by 1 person

  2. rinamy74 says:

    I find that commenting and giving feedback on someone else’s piece of writing to be much miore difficult than I imagined. Makes me realize that there is another person behind those written words – always. I questioned my expertise in the written piece I am passing judgement. Funnily I am simultaneously judging my writing along side Neehal’s narrative. I also found myself using feedback my supervisor had used on me with her piece. Not easy at all. Like you Emily I also lack the confidence.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. rinamy74 says:

    “For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts…Start by getting something – anything – down on paper …The first draft is the down draft – you just get it down. The second draft is the up draft – you fix it up. You try to say what you have to say more accurately. And the third draft is the dental draft, where you check every tooth, to see if it’s loose or cramped or decayed, or even God help us, healthy.” (Author Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird: Some Instructions in Writing and Life)

    Liked by 1 person

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