On anxiety, “procraftination”, and academia

Content warning: some of this blog post discusses anxiety, depression, still birth.

This is possibly the most personal – but hopefully helpful – post that I have done (and think I will do) on this site.  Over the last few years, I have changed and the Wild Writes project will change too. Here we go.   Continue reading

The research rollercoaster – final year of phd

Second year turned out to be a mixture of doubt and epiphany, success and strife. There were many moments of joy; I won a couple of prizes, I’ve run workshops, I’ve developed a bond with the borough of Rochdale, and I feel like I know the shape of my thesis even though I’m struggling at times to find the words.  At the same time there have been moments of family illness, random events, relationship tension, that seasonal sadness that bites in November and will not unclasp its jaws until March.

Those elusive words, sliding along the tracks, their sounds captured in the clouds.

Those elusive words, sliding along the tracks, their sounds captured in the clouds.

And this summer too has been a bit of a rollercoaster. Not a smooth rollercoaster, more like a Blackpool rollercoaster; sometimes fun, sometimes whiplash inducing painful.  It’s been hard to summon up the “WOO!” at times. And often I feel like I’m falling or failing, the lap bar barely keeping me secure.

Negotiating the metal tangle: materials that endure, some have been there before and will remain long after.

Negotiating the metal tangle: materials that endure, some have been there before and will remain long after, all will be ephemeral.

The research rollercoaster is an intriguing ride – possibly white knuckle – but ultimately the aim is to not only improve my own skills (I love learning, a little unsure as to whether I’m any good at it but I love it) but also to add to an argument, to try, in my own small way, to make a positive difference. It seems that there is a common assertion, or assumption, that a PhD is an isolated experience. It’s really not. Yes you are becoming a specialist in your own niche of a niche, but you do so in collaboration. If it were not for the encouragement of Dr David Cooper and the rest of my fantastic supervisory team (Doctors: Rachel Dickinson, Julie Armstrong, Kirsty Bunting and Jane Turner) I think I may have given up, accepted defeat. And I owe it to a borough – messy, weird, wonderful, challenging, complex – and the people within it who have been so generous with their time. And I owe it to my friends, all those loved ones. The shoulders of many, many giants giving me that boost and view (and what a view). Yes, a PhD represents your hard work, your figuring out, but no: you are not alone.

OK final year, I’m ready for you. Bring it.

*Clanking up the lift hill, arms in the air, ready for the drop*

Clanking up the lift hill, arms in the air, ready for the drop.

Read & Feed: research meets real life

Over August I’ve been involved in Smallbridge Library’s Read & Feed project. As it pertains to Rochdale there’s more about this on the Writing Rochdale blog. It’s not strictly PhD related – although I will be reflecting upon all work I’ve been doing over the last two and a bit years in the borough – I thought I’d mention it here too! It’s been an absolute privilege to share my practice and learn from the young people of Smallbridge.

First blog: reading, writing, social justice and sandwiches.owlSecond blog: Don’t call me Miss.

Dragon graphic novel

The final blog will up be after the celebration event on the 2nd Sept so keep an eye out!

Poetry process and progress

Even when winter sadness nips, even when parents are ill, everyday I remind myself how lucky I am to be doing what I’m doing. To be working with who I work with  – genuinely fantastic, intelligent, fun, and intriguing people  – and to be encouraged to write! 

Today here’s a short blog post about process – my current “pencil only” notebook* is, as a friend put it, the “under the bonnet” bit of writing. (* I have different notebooks for different writing purposes!)  Thanks to the University’s Poetry in Practice sessions, and a theme challenge from Dr Sam Illingworth, I’ve written a  new poem – possibly not completely finished – in the form of a Ghazal (let’s call it a “sort of Ghazal“).  I thought I’d share my writing process for it in order to demonstrate how a piece progresses.  Have a peek under the bonnet!

 First pass - spot the cheesy rhyming scheme, scribbling out, the terrible handwriting.


First pass – spot the cheesy rhyming scheme, scribbling out, the terrible handwriting.

 

Second attempt - hmm, still scribbles and changes being made but it's beginning to take shape.

Second attempt – Hmmm. Still scribbles and changes being made – but it’s beginning to take shape.

 

Third go - perhaps this is nearly it!  The closest to the final thing...

Third go – perhaps this is nearly it! The closest to the final thing…

 

So, what’s your process?!

 

A liberated battery hen. Image from https://www.flickr.com/photos/72284410@N08/8567581815  (Creative Commons share license)

A liberated battery hen. Image from http://tiny.cc/freehen (Creative Commons share license)

Ghazal for the Battery Girls

No gilded life, still she tries to fly. Turn gold;

the sun is setting. Spark in her eye – turn gold.

 

Dusk is settling, her sisters: a feathered mass.

Hens compose a discordant cry.  Turn gold.

 

The liberators – silent shadows in black plumage –

snip razorwire in half-light, no one will die. Turn gold

 

when freedom is complete.  Battery barn empty of promises.

Re-homed as sunrise paints the sky, return gold.

Wild writing at the 2014 NAWE conference

I’m off to the annual National Association of Writers in Education (NAWE) conference tomorrow. On Sunday, I’ll be co-running a workshop with Mac Dunlop.

For those who can’t make the session, or the conference, I thought I’d share the workbook I’ve created for it :
wild writes workshop handout (.pdf version).

Feel free to download and use/adapt the materials for your own creative writing or for running workshops! If you could acknowledge where you got it from that’d be appreciated.

If you want to know more about creative evaluation, or have any questions about session planning, please drop me an email – jennie[at]wildwrites.org.uk