The first Writing into Meaning group of this term started with a really positive meeting of some familiar faces from last year and lots of new ones, all of us squashed around a round table with the Autumn rain for company.
We began with 10 minutes of free-writing about where we are with our writing. As I started the timer and started to write, it initially felt a bit clumsy. I was out of practice, out of shape – commanding myself to be ‘poetic’ and then producing words so painfully, utterly bland. Well, at least to begin with. And then something flowed and I started writing about where I wanted to be in my next research project. A semblance of an abstract for a conference started to emerge and I remembered why this group has so much value to me. 10 minutes of writing and 10 minutes of calm and I actually wrote something (feeling guilty I don’t do this more often). And as I looked around to guide the task for the group I saw some closely drawn in to their writing, not wanting to stop and others starting to look around. The teacher’s silent gulp – are they REALLY enjoying this?
The next step was to try to develop our freewriting thoughts into a four-line poem. This I found much more daunting to approach than writing prose. It must be several decades since school, since I last attempted a poem. So I thought I would jump write in and share what I wrote, and in doing so welcome others to share (I’m sure much more eloquent) offerings.
Space to write again. It’s such a gift.
But it has to be made time for. Even a paragraph.
Just a skeleton to keep it alive. To map the journey.
Inviting the personal out of the shadows where it has lurked. And into my academic space.
We followed these tasks with some discussion about writing as a process, as a methodology and as a doing/feeling. We spoke of our personal and academic writing selves. Of striving to find our own authentic voice, to transgress fears of ‘boring’, ‘safe’ academic writing styles. But this was also met with anxieties around being sufficiently academic. The heavy-weighing burden on our shoulders that the doctoral thesis should meet that daunting demand of representing ‘an original contribution to knowledge.’ Imagining the Nobel Prize Committee calling to say this thesis is just the breakthrough they’ve been searching for. Finally making our parents proud of us. We discussed whether, against this standard, our own inner voice might measure up. And whether it was okay to quote Instagram poets, even if their words seem just perfect for the purpose? We reflected on the potential of these anxieties to block us from moving on, from writing anything at all.
While we shared some of our worries, we also shared our joys and our own tools to get our writing done. To binge-write frantically when we are hungry for it or to force ourselves to snack-write little and often to keep our energy levels up, though we may not always want to and may sometimes have to force ourselves. We heard about approaches to writing including the 25 minute ‘Tomato timer’; ‘3 pages’; and the ‘3 minute thesis.’ We even pondered the idea of a Great Thesis Bake-off – how would we represent our thesis as a cooking project?
We concluded with a discussion of what we all want from the group and this included a having a supportive space, a motivator to write, a space to think about doing writing differently and the chance to think about writing as a methodology for analysis. We hope to do these things and more, together.
For the peer-led session next week, we have suggested the following reading to help you think about the question – ‘what of me do I bring to my writing’:
Richardson, l. (2001). Getting personal: writing-stories. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 14 (1) pp. 33-38.
Happy writing – please feel free to share your thoughts and writing below –
Tamsin and Emily