Happy birthday to the édu flâneuse: Reflections on a year of blogging

I don’t think there is any truth. There are only points of view. ~ Allen Ginsberg

happy 1st birthday

happy 1st birthday to me

Over the weekend the édu flâneuse blog had its first birthday, and so I’ve been reflecting about what a year’s worth of blogging has meant for me.

As a blogger, I am small fry. But with 15,000 views in over 100 countries in a year, this blog is being read. That’s many more views in many more places than I am sure my PhD thesis will receive! When I see my analytics I wonder how those people in Libya or Uzbekistan or Iceland have stumbled across my words. What drew them in? In what surroundings and on what device did they read? What did they take away?

The blog’s top 5 most-viewed posts have been:

  1. Teacher Growth: Helping teachers open their gates from the inside. A post about the beliefs underpinning my school’s teacher-growth-focused coaching model.
  2. Can and should teachers be (viewed as) researchers? The first post where I dared to say something which might be considered controversial.
  3. Work-family fulfilment: The elusive sweet spot. In which I attempted to explain my approach to making the family-work-study-self ecosystem work for me.
  4. No grades? No marks? No worries. An explanation of a term of Year 10 English with no marks and no grades, and its surprising outcomes.
  5. 2015: The Year of Writing Boldly, Abundantly & Dangerously. Where I set myself the challenge of being deliberately writerly in 2015, in my blog, my thesis and elsewhere.

Blogging has allowed me the opportunity to reflect, to work through my thinking, to share snippets of those things about which I am passionate, and most importantly to connect with others. It is an antidote to isolation (for me this is so important in my PhD, where I am largely without a face-to-face community of peers). Sometimes it just feels good to throw some thoughts out into the ether in the hope that they might resonate with someone else who comes across them, a kind of blogging message-in-a-bottle tossed out to sea.

Matt Esterman has written about the separate-together-ness of our offline and online identities. This blog allows me to explore parts of myself online which would be mind-yawningly dull to many in my offline life. It has allowed me to find a tribe of like-minded (lovable) weirdoes who want to engage with me around passions, interests and experiences.

Blogging has allowed me to make real connections, with real people, some of whom I chat to on Voxer, and some who I’ve since met with in real actual life. It has expanded the depth of my participation in the online world in a way which isn’t possible in even a long line of 140-character tweets. While Twitter forces us to haiku-ise our ideas (therapy for my verbosity), blogging allows longer-but-still-focused explorations of thought. And it is a free form of writing which provides reflection on, and escape from, the constraints of academic and thesis writing. I find that the more rigid my thesis schedule and the more rigorous my PhD work, the more lyrical and creative my blog posts become.

My favourite posts have been those which opened up online and offline discussion, in which I responded to someone else’s thinking or writing, or from which I was responded to. These posts, connected as they are to other people and other posts in the intricate spider-web network of the blogosphere, add layers to blogversation or lenses to well-worn issues.

Today, Naomi Barnes published a post in direct reply to one of mine, about the knowledge-building nature of blogging in a kind of collaborative parallel dialogue. She writes:

We stop being experts and start being co-learners. We have part of the knowledge. Not all of it and not necessarily true. We break the teacher-student archetype and become networked learners. Use the Web, the network, the connections, to create new knowledge. Crowd sourced, collaborative knowledge. Wikipedia on steroids. ~ Naomi Barnes

Naomi’s post challenges us to consider what the blogosphere and online knowledge might look like if we spoke more collectively, rather than as a cacophony of voices speaking in our disparate shadows or on our disconnected milk crates. She is daring us to harness blogging, the web, social media and technology for what they could do, for what they have the potential to be.

Thank you to my édu flâneuse readership so far, for indulging my pursuit of flânerial being and blogging, and especially to those who take the time to comment, retweet, respond and connect. This blogging thing is a vehicle for personal learning and global communitification. I’m in for another year.

Revising writing: Lessons from the PhD thesis

The more you leave out, the more you highlight what you leave in. ~ Henry Green

Musée d’Orsay clock - the neverending tick tick of the PhD

Musée d’Orsay clock – the neverending tick tick of the PhD

The PhD is a long journey which seemingly goes on infinitely. Just as the doctoral researcher reaches one summit or one horizon, another appears. It’s easy to feel like there is little time to stop at each point, take a breath, enjoy the view, and look at how far we’ve come. Usually the researcher straightens her shoulders beneath her rucksack and begins trudging up the next slope. (Or is it skipping up the slope? Storming the incline? I don’t want my language to be too negative. I love my PhD but its hard work is part of its transformativity.)

This weekend I hit a point in my PhD which I decided warranted celebration. 2 years and 9 months after enrolling, I sent my revised full thesis draft to my principal supervisor.

There are still revisions to go and work to do (of course) but making my way through the full text to the point where I felt it hung together as a whole, felt like a summit worth stopping at. Sitting on a rock, taking a peanut butter sandwich out of my pack and reflecting on the path I’ve traversed so far. (Ok, peanut butter sandwiches are not my culinary celebratory choice; I went out with friends for lychee martinis.)

Gullfoss waterfall ~ take time to pause, reflect & see how far you've come

Gullfoss waterfall after a blizzard ~ take time to pause, reflect & see how far you’ve come

So, how did the revisions go?

To give some context, my qualitative PhD has 10 chapters which roughly cover: 1) Introduction; 2) Literature Review; 3) Research Question; 4) Methodology; 5) Method; 6) Data/Story/Findings #1; 7) Data/Story/Findings #2; 8) Data/Story/Findings #3; 9) Discussion; and 10) Conclusion. The review of literature covers my three studied phenomena, plus a contextual issue. The narrative data chapters are split into three chapters, one story for each group of participants.

When I finished the first full unrevised draft, I sent my supervisors Chapters 9 and 10. After the consequent supervision meeting, I revised these. That way, I had the end in mind when I went back to the Introduction. I could see the beginning and end as matching book ends to be viewed together.

Revision from the start of the text began on my PhD writing (well, revision) retreat, which got me into a revision routine and mindset.

My revision system was: take a hard copy chapter and make annotated revisions -> go back to the Word document and make revisions, highlighting any sections of text that still felt rough, or that I hadn’t yet ‘solved’ -> go to next chapter. I worked through from chapters 1 to 10 like this. Then I revisited my highlighted sections. Then I went over the Introduction again, which needed the most work. I always tell my students that the introduction is your reader’s first impression, and your conclusion is what you leave your reader with. Spend time on them.

Other revision bits and pieces included checking references, checking for APA comma use, and the most desperate of phdcrastination techniques: changing the font! (I chose Garamond for its classic serif 16th century gorgeousness).

I found that the first half of the thesis needed more work than the second half. Luckily, as I got towards the end and felt like I was lumbering through wet cement, the text was better, the meaning was clearer, the writing was more assured.

One thing that helped me at the end of this full draft revision was the support of the Twitter community. Curled up on the couch with my Surface on my lap, I tweeted out an academic SOS and had a number of people reply. Not only that, but they followed up in the next days to see how I was travelling. I was so grateful to these doctoral candidates and scholars who took the time to make me feel as though I wasn’t isolated in my struggle deep in the shadows of the PhD cave. Solidarity. Inspiration. Advice. Thank you #phdchat community and others who responded to my despondence when I was fighting to my deadline!

So, what might be my advice for the full draft revision stage of the PhD?

1. Don’t underestimate the time it takes to revise your text. The first three chapters, about 40 pages, took me my entire writing retreat weekend. There are many layers of revision. Revision for continuity of argument, consistency of language use, for paragraph sequence and structure, for accuracy of language, consistency of referencing and compliance to style. The earlier your writing, the more work it is likely to need.

2. Be open to really changing your text. This revision stage isn’t as much for moving punctuation around as it is for thinking about the essence and elegance of argument. What is necessary? What is superlative? What belongs or doesn’t belong? How is the argument hanging together? Is it consistent from beginning to end? Am I dropping the flags for the reader to follow?

3. Don’t be afraid to chop chop chop. I cut 8000 words from my bloated thesis in this first round of revision. It was great to be at a stage where I didn’t feel sentimentally attached to my words, where I was able to consider their purpose and let them go if they weren’t strengthening the narrative. As the quote at the beginning of this post says, what we leave out serves to highlight what we leave in. I knew my argument would benefit from being strengthened through streamlining (and my readers would rejoice – less words!).

As I edited, I was thinking of this post by Pat Thomson in which she writes “Pat is in the lounge room reading a thesis. She is finding it hard going and wants to go back to bed.” This put me in the frame of mind to think about my reader. I don’t want reading my thesis to be hard going or painful or ‘when will she just get to the point?’ I want the reader to be propelled through the text, with enough detail and a sense of excitement of what is to come.

I’m excited to hear my supervisor’s feedback in a few weeks. My supervisors have seen the chapters bit by bit over time, but not the whole text together. And I’ve left a couple of flourishes as a surprise.

The draft is at a stage that has me feeling pleased and proud that my study has resulted in a thesis document which makes an exciting contribution to my area in a way that is systematic, creative, full of powerful authentic stories, and maybe slightly subversive in the realm of traditional academic writing.

While there is more work to go, it felt right to pause and celebrate a PhD moment.

Tweet, blog or dissertate? On being a writer.

Good evening, ladies and gentleman. My name is Orson Welles. I am an actor. I am a writer. I am a producer. I am a director. I am a magician. I appear onstage and on the radio. Why are there so many of me and so few of you? ~ Orson Welles

book, by @debsnet

Our splintered, kaleidoscopic identities are wonderfully expressed by Orson Welles in the above quotation. Mine include writer, reader, researcher, teacher, leader, learner, mother, partner.

Do you feel like a writer? Does blogging make you a writer? Does micro-blogging? Does being a researcher automatically make you a writer? Professor Pat Thomson has written about ‘being writerly’ and practices which help you to see yourself as a writer. I tried to channel my writerly self in my 2015 – the year of writing dangerously post. I suppose this post is more about Pat’s idea of ‘being writerly‘ rather than ‘being a writer’. If you feel and behave like a writer does that make you one?

From micro to macro, this post focuses on how I use and interact with writing, including writing for purpose and audience. I wonder, are there different keystrokes (or pencil scribblings) that work for different folks? While I’m sure some people prefer tweeting or blogging, or article writing, or putting together a visual or numerical representations of their understanding (interpretative dance, anyone?), I think each platform and tool depends on our purpose for writing and audience to whom and for whom we are writing; each has its usefulness.

Below, I reflect on the platforms and tools I engage with, and what I get out of each.

Tweeting as a writing practice

I find that Tweeting, especially in a Twitter chat, is a kind of speed writing and speed thinking. Graham Wegner recently reflected that a busy Twitter chat can feel like a stampede of groupthinking sheep. Yet it is the torrential speed of Twitter chat tweets that sometimes helps me to clarify my ideas. Being pressured to aphoristically express an idea or viewpoint in a 140-character nutshell often forces me to distil and crystallise my thinking down into its essence, without agonising over it. I have previously called micro-blogging ‘therapy for the verbose’ as it is the antidote to my tendency to say things using too many words. Even my PhD thesis is over its word limit and will need trimming, streamlining and distilling. I have found Tweeting is a writing medium that helps me to most succinctly channel my thinking and keep tangents at bay.

That said, I also like the potentially tangential nature of Twitter chats. Rather than having a fear of missing what’s been said as the tweets roar by, I tend to engage with what I can, and with what peaks my interest. This often means that I spend much of a Twitter chat off to the side in a peripheral discussion, but I tend to prefer this kind of more extended conversation to the one-liner answers to a series of questions. That’s why I like the format of broader chats like #sunchat which work with one question for the hour and allow the conversation to take organic shape depending on the participants. Without the interruptions of regular questions, conversations can be deeper.

Blogging as a writing practice

As I discussed here, blogging has been personally transformative and about global collaboration. I am relatively new to blogging, having started this blog less than a year ago. In that I time I have published 55 posts on my blog, which has been viewed more than 10,000 times in more than 80 countries. Wow! I know that these numbers don’t compare with the superstar bloggers out there, but I am surprised and delighted to have a readership, and more than that, people to whom I’ve connected as a result of my writing, their reading, and our subsequent online, face to face, and voice to voice, conversations.

More than that, blogging has allowed me to take my thinking further than micro-blogging will allow, but more freely and conversationally than academic writing. For instance, I find Twitter a difficult platform to discuss issues of ethics, equity and social justice. Sometimes the subject seems too big for the platform. Some of my blog posts have emerged out of conversations on Twitter in which I have felt too restricted by space to say what I want to say; in these instances a blog can provide the complexity of thought, especially around tricky or contentious issues, which can be lost in the pithy-one-liner nature of tweeting.

PhDing and other academic writing

My PhD is a different writing beast all together, a 300 page monstrosity of a work which I am currently whittling, sculpting and (re)building into a cohesive document. The PhD can feel like a gigantic quilt which threatens to suffocate its maker; it is beautiful, creative, borrowing fabrics and threads from elsewhere while creating something new. The threads of reading and writing overlay and weave together in complex ways which have to come together in a holistic totality, while also working at the level of the small square, each vignette perfectly stitched, formed and embellished.

I recently popped my 110,000 word thesis draft into wordle.net, a website which takes text and distils it down to a visual representation of its most frequently used words. It looked like this:

my thesis wordle

my thesis wordle

I did this to see if my key themes emerged, but was subsequently more interested by words I did not expect to see there: “rather”, “just”, “really” and “something”. This led to an edit of my thesis looking for these words. I discovered that most of them were to be found in my participants’ language, but I did find that many of the “something”s belonged to me, and proceeded to weed them out of the document, replacing them with more precise or concise language. So, even turning words into a visual turned me back into my writing with a new understanding.

Academic writing such as abstracts, journals, conference papers and even the Three Minute Thesis, are others forms again. They require more laser-like focus than the big PhD book, and a clarity of structure and point. While trying to write smaller, more focused texts from the PhD can be a challenge, it is a good exercise in refining and clarifying thinking, while finding different ways to communicate important ideas.

Each of these writing platforms encourages different thinking and writing practices. Writing for different purposes and audiences allows us to layer, appliqué and augment our wordsmithery and our ways of communicating to others and to ourselves.

Every secret to a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his works. ~ Virginia Woolf

Writing, by @debsnet

Front load your work. Be an expert. Own your contribution.

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go. ~ Dr Seuss

by @debsnet

sometimes the words slowly bleed onto the page

As a mid-career professional I often feel comfortable in my work in teaching and school leadership. I might come up against challenges, but I do so with a sense that I know what I’m doing and have a sense of how to make my way through them. ‘This is what I know how to do,’ I think to myself. And forward I go without a second thought.

There are times, however, when I cannot forge forward confidently. Becoming a parent, for instance, threw me into a new situation and a new role in which I had to start from scratch. I was a newbie who had to find my way into my parent-identity and a way of parenting which worked for me. The PhD is another something which throws people into a new deep end. I have written about my realisation that my discomfort zone is my place of growth, but that doesn’t make the experience of discomfort any more … comfortable!

I type this post from the throes of my current nemesis: the PhD Discussion chapter. I wrote last month about my feelings of paralysis before beginning this chapter, and how I eventually got started. And yet here I still am, four or so iterations later and still wrangling, dancing with, building and un-building my discussion.

Part of my struggle is around scholarly confidence, reflected in the notes from my last PhD supervision meeting which read a bit like this: ‘too much other people’, ‘less others, more you’, ‘put your ideas up front.’

It seems I am clinging to the literature. I still want to prove to my reader that I have read everything I can get my hands on and I know my stuff. That I’m not a masquerader or pretender. And it seems I do this by citing and paraphrasing and putting up front the work of Others.

You know Others. In the mind of the novice researcher they deserve capital letters of knowledge because they are experienced, frequently-published, well-renowned academics, not researchers-in-training or Doctors-in-waiting.

And yet in the Discussion and Conclusion of the PhD I know I must identify myself as an expert. A person worthy of a capital letter (like a ‘Ph’ or a ‘D’). I keep reminding myself that I am an expert in my own research and that I can stand on the front foot when I discuss my findings and what they mean in the world.

So my current notes-to-self for the Discussion chapter are:

– Stop trying to prove my worth through literature.

– More me. Less others.

– Front load my work.

More than just a process of writing, this is a process of becoming. Becoming a researcher. Becoming a researcher who knows she is a researcher, feels like a researcher and makes knowledge claims like a researcher. It’s taking me many molasses-slow drafts to find my expert voice and a way of writing which foregrounds my own research and my own academic voice, while still situating my research within the existing literature. But step by step I am getting closer.

And I’ve been reading Dr Seuss’s Oh the places you’ll go! to my children recently so I am armed with the mantra that with brains in my head and feet in my shoes, I can move mountains. One painstaking word at a time.

You’re off to great places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So… get on your way! ~ Dr Seuss

You're off to great places, by @debsnet

the édu flâneuse atop an Icelandic glacier

 

Writing the PhD discussion chapter: from fear to flight

Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding. Find out what you already know and you will see the way to fly. ~ Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull

flight, by @debsnet

Since beginning my PhD two and a half years ago, I have plugged away at my thesis, chipping at it bit by agonisingly small bit, sometimes having to retrace my steps or throw out whole sections of work. But it has progressed through dogged persistence, slow laborious work and a measure of creative problem solving. I have even found it to be wonderful celebrated ‘me time’ as I explained on the PhD Talk blog.

Yet as my big book pushed towards 100,000 drafted words, I arrived at the discussion chapter and … duhm duhm daaahhhhhhm … suddenly I screeched to a stop, paralysed by fear. After fairly consistent, if often brain-bending, progress, I had come to a standstill. Up until this point, my metaphors of PhD candidature had served to propel me forward through even the biggest challenges and hard-to-hear feedback. My PhD had been an elephant I had to eat one deliberate bite at a time, or a sculpture I needed to craft carefully, or a journey in which I put one footstep in front of the other (another nice metaphor is this one of the PhD as swimming). Yet, despite my supervisors’ assurances that the discussion chapter was just one more eatable bite, one more takeable step, I was immobilised.

Matt Might’s illustrated definition of the PhD, which I had initially found grounding, now seemed terrifying. While it demonstrated that a PhD need only push the boundary of knowledge a teeny tiny bit, it also reminded me that a doctorate is all about having an original contribution to the body of knowledge. An. Original. Contribution. Which. Pushes. Bends. And. Remakes. The. Boundary. Of. Knowledge. And the discussion chapter is where I need to – as Inger Mewburn (the Thesis Whisperer) says – not just state my findings but explain what my findings mean.

So after two and a half years of reading (and reading and reading), interviewing, analysing and writing (and writing and writing and writing), I found myself at a point at which I needed to explain what it all means. And to have the (as Inger puts it) scholarly confidence to assert my research as having an original and worthwhile contribution.

In my paralysis of PhDcrastinating I found Emma Burnett’s blog posts which helpfully explained how she planned to approach her discussion chapter and also what she actually did. These kinds of explications by PhD candidates are useful material for others as they approach different stages of thesis wrangling.

Pat Thomson, my go-to blogger on all things academic writing, describes the discussion chapter through the metaphor of taking flight. She explains that the discussion chapter is the place to “be your own expert, to fly where no other researcher has flown before.” No pressure. Her metaphor of discussion-chapter-as-taking-flight reminded me of Richard Bach’s allegorical novella Jonathan Livingstone Seagull in which the non-conformist seagull Jonathan works tirelessly, often on his own and sometimes as an outcast, towards a kind of flight never before achieved by any seagull. His passion-driven, sometimes lonely and relentlessly-perfectionist journey to ultimate flight could certainly be a metaphor for the PhD narrative (although as Pat Thomson reminds us, the PhD is not a lone journey, but collaborative work).

@debsnet & @patter Twitter discussion

In a useful Twitter conversation, Pat explained to me that the discussion chapter is a synthesis and interpretation of findings which takes them to a new theoretical level. Discussion is not a repeat or recap, but a presentation of a new reading of the research which links findings to literatures. As Pat’s blog post explains, this is the place for interpretation and theorisation. Taking it to the next level. As she suggests, it’s the time to earn the ‘Philosophy’ part of the PhD.

*      *      *

Eventually I found a mental space in which I could put some words to the page (just one word in front of the other, I told myself; get it down), and I got started on the … duhm duhm daaahhhhhhm … discussion chapter.

Firstly, I went back to my research questions, which had emerged from the literature review, and used these as a frame for my discussion. Then I went back into my literature chapter and pulled out the threads which related to those research questions, especially those areas in which I had identified gaps or areas for further embellishment or new perspectives. Then I went back to my data (in my case, three chapters of storied interview data from three different groups). While the end of each of my data chapters included some synthesis and interpretation of that data set, the discussion chapter was the time to bring all the threads – all literature and all data – together. My intention was to identify clearly what I had found and how this was related to existing literatures. After writing an initial draft which was more summary than analysis or insight, I left it. It was a start.

Now, after giving myself permission to take a break and finding some mental space and clarity through travel, I have returned to the chapter. As I write I am asking myself: What does my data mean (within the parameters of the research questions)? What established trends are affirmed or challenged by my study? What findings are surprising? What from my research is new in terms of, or absent from, the literatures in my area?

The chapter is still in draft form, but instead of standing still, mute and frozen, I am flapping my wings with a sense of how and where I’m going. Soon enough I’m sure I will take flight.

(For an update on how my approach to the discussion chapter evolved, the follow up is here.)

He was not bone and feather but a perfect idea of freedom and flight, limited by nothing at all. ~ Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull

paper planes by @debsnet

We are all storytellers: immersed in my narrative worlds

Humans are storytelling organisms who, individually and socially, lead storied lives. ~ Jean Clandinin & Michael Connelly 

our constructed stories connect us

our constructed stories connect us

Whether teaching, writing, conversing or considering our own lives and identities, we are all doing one thing: storytelling.

I have recently been quiet in the Twitterverse and blogosphere, partly because more than ever before I am immersed in micro and meta layers of story.

I have been tunnelling into my PhD narrative research in every spare moment, thinking obsessively and writing dangerously. I am sharing, constructing and analysing the stories of myself, teachers and schools leaders in order to reveal insights into professional identity, professional learning and school change. I am penning my first journal article about experimental ways of telling, utilising and analysing stories in research.

When I am not researching or thinking about my narrative research, I am teaching English to high school students. Reading stories, writing stories, analysing stories, watching stories, performing stories.

Or I am with my own children, reading stories, telling stories, making storyable memories, recounting favourite moments, role playing imagined scenes with make believe characters. Or talking to my husband about his work in media and content marketing, which is all about individuals and organisations telling their stories and constructing their storied identities, in order to communicate and connect. Or blogging vignettes from my own lived story. Or planning conference presentations of my research story or the story of my school’s teacher growth model.

We are indeed storytelling creatures. While I also try to be present in each moment and to live in wonder, stories embody the ways we construct our experiences, connect with each other and the world. I write my own stories, teach the telling and interpreting of stories, and engage in the theorising of stories. Have I used the word ‘story’ enough times in this post to indicate that it is currently both intoxicating and maddening to me? Story story story.

Obsessed and submerged, back into the subterranean story cave I go …

After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world. ~ Philip Pullman

by @debsnet

2015: The Year of Writing Boldly, Abundantly & Dangerously

 

Writing Dangerously by @debsnet

Get it down. Take chances. It may be bad, but it’s the only way you can do anything really good. ~ William Faulkner

For me, 2014 has been a year of writing thoughtfully, reflectively and introspectively.

As always I have been writing unit plans, assessments and resources for my students. I have been writing 140 character tweets, and participating more and more in education Twitter chats (such as #satchat #sunchat #aussieED #whatisschool and #BFC530). I have started a blog in which I have been experimenting with voice and purpose. I have been writing my PhD, which is currently at almost 80,000 words. As part of my PhD I have written a self-study chapter in which I reflect on myself as learner, educator and leader.

2015 will be my year of writing abundantly, boldly and dangerously.

Writing abundantly

In 2015 I will need to write abundantly. I will need to write words and words of thesis. I will need to pen some papers on my research. I will need to write applications and abstracts for education and research conference presentations. I will write blog posts. I will write tweets.

Each form of writing is a different kind of therapy. I am prone to over-wordiness (I love words!), to verbosity, to an inability to be concise. Thankfully, Twitter is therapy for the verbose. To distil thoughts into 140 character bites is to crystallise thinking down to its essence. I am never more concise than when I tweet. Blogging allows personal exploration of ideas in an informal space. My blog is where I can explore ideas in greater depth than a tweet, but in more informal ways than in academic writing. My thesis is the place where I get to burrow into challenging writing problems and thrash around, working hard until I break through and find a solution. The PhD is writing friend and nemesis, a beast I have to wrestle into its cave, clay I have to mould into its form (or is that stone I have to hack at until it takes shape?).

And the more I write, the more my writerly-self expands and transforms, like a shape shifter, always taking new forms in organic, non-linear ways. I am a hybrid writing being who writes as educator, school leader, researcher and bloggess. 2015 lays the challenge of balancing these overlapping writing selves.

Writing boldly

I will need to be bold in my writing in 2015.

I will need to be boldly honest, self-reflective, self-revealing and authentically-voiced in my blog posts, and in the conversations which bloom from those. I will need to be willing to disagree in Twitter conversations, in order to promote robust discussion instead of an inward-looking echo chamber of the same voices saying the same things.

In my third (and hopefully final) year of my PhD study I will need to be self-assured in discussing the contribution of my work. I will need to be confident in communicating in my own academic voice.

Yet in my boldness I will need to be sensitive to ethical issues such as how to tell others’ stories while protecting their anonymity and the authenticity of their words. Part of the reason I choose to blog and tweet under a pseudonomic identity is to protect my research participants. So boldness needs to be tempered with thoughtfulness.

Writing dangerously

Language is power. Words are tools. As a teacher of English and Literature part of my job is to help students to understand how language works (functionally, socially and globally), and help them to develop the capability to use its power to communicate, share, converse, discuss, disagree and disrupt.

Writing can be dangerous. It can be disruptive. It can be transformational for writer and reader. It can change individuals, groups, organisations and the world.

2015 is the year for all researchers, bloggers, tweeters and writers (or ‘those who write’, but don’t think of themselves as ‘writers’ as Pat Thomson explains in this post) to write fearlessly and compassionately, abundantly and concisely, reflectively and dangerously. I’m going to give it my best shot.

Happy writing!

A writer never has a vacation. For a writer life consists of either writing or thinking about writing. ~ Eugene Ionesco

write fearlessly by @debsnet