explaining my research project

The prospect of explaining my research project excites me just as much now as when I began.

There are two parts to this project.

This first is an exploration of the writing process and the practice of writing.

The second addresses the notion of the popularisation of research.

In the first, I am examining the steps involved in overcoming creative writer’s block resulting from trauma.  The results will have a wider application than being limited to the field of literacy: they will be applicable to those who have experienced the loss of any creative expression, be it artistic or musical, physical or conceptual.  It is this part of the project that will result in a ‘how to’ book, a model for practice, a self-guide book, or the like.

In the second, the dissertation or thesis part of my project, I propose a fictocritical approach to the discussion by writing in a creative, non-fiction genre instead of the traditional genre reserved for academic texts.  This is to make the reading of the text accessible to a wider audience instead of limiting it to a restricted audience of field-specific academics.

I believe that research results should be disseminated in a way that invites commentary from people from all aspects of society, not only those in a position of power.  I also believe that by inviting everyone in society to be involved in, and contribute their thoughts on research and outcomes, the desire for increased literacy will follow.  That is, I believe that when people feel empowered through being included in the future direction of change, they would be willing to enhance their own abilities and promote those of their children, in order to further participate and be further empowered.

 

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creative writer’s block

In The Writing Project, I define extreme, serious, or complete creative writer’s block as ‘the complete loss of the ability to write for creative purposes’ (1).

Writer’s block, known as the blank page, the white page, the midnight disease and now, the blank screen, is sometimes seen as but a momentary inability to find inspiration, as demonstrated in Fitzgerald’s Afternoon of an Author (1936), or as being unable to see from a fresh perspective, as in Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974).

As a more serious condition, Wordsworth found the temporary inability to write, described as ‘poetic impediment’ (2), tiring and upsetting, and wrote about it in The Prelude.  In fiction, Djian, 37°2 le matin, (1985), Maudit Manege (1986), Echine (1995), has his key characters, who are writers, suffer not only mentally but also physically from writer’s block.

In popular forums and writing pedagogy, writer’s block if often trivialised.  It is described as ‘a distinctly uncomfortable inability to write’ (3), procrastination (4), getting stuck (5), and a battle to express oneself (6).  It has also been dismissed as a non-condition, considered as ‘not-writing’ and a sign that a piece should not be written (7).

The writer’s block explored in The Writing Project is not a trivial matter.  It refers to my personal experience of long-term, extreme creative writer’s block.  This was the complete loss of the desire to write creatively, to be involved in the imaginative thought process required to write creatively, or to be involved in any kind of creative writing act.  This writer’s block resulted from ongoing, long-term, and extensive trauma.  The closest term found to describe this type of writer’s block comes from psychology: ‘post-traumatic stress disorder block’ (8).

Ruddy (9) who also suffered from creative writer’s block, describes his experience as ‘mysterious and frightening’ as losing ‘the ability to speak.’

I share this view.

Like Ruddy, who was able to continue to produce non-creative texts for work purposes, I also was able to engage in other types of writing, such as for academic, teaching, legal and formal correspondence purposes.

This mirrors the creative block experienced by Samuel Coleridge who, while continuing to produce functional written works in later years, felt disabled by his inability to write poetry (10).

Of interest are the questions with which Ruddy began his research into overcoming creative writer’s block:

‘Who was that person who used to write with such joy? Was he even a part of me anymore, or had I allowed him to die off…?’ (11).

Like Ruddy, I yearned to find my lost creative self.  Unlike Ruddy, I am yet to achieve my goal.

 

References

  1. Winch, S 1990, ‘Ecrivains et ecriture chez Phillip Djian’, BA(Hons) thesis, University of New England, Armidale, NSW.
  2. Frosch, TR 1982, ‘Wordsworth’s “Beggars” and a brief instance of “Writer’s Block”’, Studies in Romanticism, vol. 21, no. 4, pp. 619–636. Viewed 01 March 2016, <http://doi.org.ezproxy.usc.edu.au:2048/10.2307/25600397&gt;. p.620.
  3. Huston, P 1998, ‘Resolving writer’s block’, Canadian Family Physician, vol.97, no. 44, January, pp. 92-97, viewed 19 March, 2016,  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2277565/pdf/canfamphys00047-0094.pdf&gt;. p.92.
  4. Seidlinger, M 2013, ‘Fighting the blank page: how famous writers stopped procrastinating’, June 4, Melville House, viewed 27 March 2016, <http://www.mhpbooks.com/fighting-the-blank-page-how-famous-writers-stopped-procrastinating/&gt;.
  5. Monash University, 2003, Deal with writer’s block, Learning support for higher degree research students, viewed 27 March 2016, <http://www.monash.edu.au/lls/hdr/build/3.1.6.html&gt;.
  6. Davis, C 2005. ‘Dealing with Writer’s Block’, Agenda: Empowering Women for Gender Equity, no. 64, Beyond Beijing, pp. 131-132, viewed 28 March 2016, <http://www.jstor.org.ezp01.library.qut.edu.au/stable/4066583&gt;.
  7. Croggon, A 2014, On Writer’s Block.  Overland, no. 217, Summer, pp.8-9, viewed 18 September 2015, <http://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=877846358056522;res=IELAPA&gt;. p.8.
  8. Kantor as cited in Ruddy, PC 2015, ‘Active imagination and the evocative image as a pathway through writer’s block’, Master’s Thesis, Pacifica Graduate Institute, Carpinteria, California, viewed <http://gateway.library.qut.edu.au/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1706284180?accountid=13380>. p.14.
  9. Ruddy, PC 2015, ‘Active imagination and the evocative image as a pathway through writer’s block’, Master’s Thesis, Pacifica Graduate Institute, Carpinteria, California, viewed <http://gateway.library.qut.edu.au/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1706284180?accountid=13380>. p.5.
  10. A Critic at Large, 2004, ‘Blocked – Why do writers stop writing?, The New Yorker, June 14, Viewed 22 September 2016, <http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2004/06/14/blocked&gt;.
  11. Ruddy, PC 2015, ‘Active imagination and the evocative image as a pathway through writer’s block’, Master’s Thesis, Pacifica Graduate Institute, Carpinteria, California, viewed <http://gateway.library.qut.edu.au/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1706284180?accountid=13380>. p.5.

women write about violence against women

 

When I sat down recently and wrote a piece about the cultural causes of domestic abuse and other violence against women, I wondered if I was alone in wanting to continue to make this important connection see the light of day.  It certainly seems that way if I limit my reading to mainstream texts.

And then, while researching, I found reference to a book, ‘Fury – Women write about sex, power and violence’.  In this book, the editor, Samantha Trenoweth makes the same points as I had, and this made me realise that I am not alone, that my points are not new and they are being considered by other intellectuals.

What I find so appealing about the collection of stories in this book is that I can relate to some of them with such familiarity that I feel as if they are my stories.  Such is the talent of the writers, and such is the universality of the issues portrayed, that I feel even less alone in what I myself have experienced.  And this is a truly uplifting feeling.

In The Writing Project, I am creating a collection of pieces based around the theme of domestic abuse.  In Fury, the stories are collected from 16 writers.  I hope that my collection will live up to the high standards set by the writers in Fury.

I was able to access Fury from the library at the university where I teach.  I wonder how accessible it is to the general public?  A search of Brisbane Council’s libraries revealed four copies.  Not many for a city with over a million residents.  I would like to see this book available in recorded form and translated to other languages.

The underlying cause of violence and abuse against women is embedded in culture.  It is revealed in our language, our practices and our customs.  These cultural beliefs are passed down from one generation to the next, and continue to result in high levels of violence and intimate partner murder.  In order to make real changes, changes to beliefs must occur.  And this cannot happen until it is accepted at all levels of society, has become a commonly understood fact: abuse and violence is a result of the gendered nature of our culture.

I want to see this knowledge informing legislation, policy, and education curriculum and practice.  In brief, I want to see that it is used to inform the changes that will lead to real improvements in our culture and society.

Until then, I will rage and write and speak and get back up every time I am knocked down by those who claim that gender discrimination is no longer an issue in our society.  I will patiently quote statistics to convince my educated friends who tell me that sexism does not exist in their children’s generation.  And I will take on every woman who thoughtlessly repeats jokes that belittle, sexualise and demean women.  In short, I will join the Furies.

Fury – Women write about sex, power and violence, 2015, edited by Samantha Trenoweth. Melbourne: Hardie Grant Books.