Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Some Cloudiness . . .

The last day of this, I promise, and you can see that our sunny days are over, for now, with the good news being that any local groundhog -- or should that be our endangered Vancouver Island marmot -- will not be viewing her shadow today, so supposedly we haven't too much winter left. So I'll ignore the forecast for snowfall next week, shall I?
I've finished a first draft of my article and I'm trying to get up the nerve and the stamina and whatever fortitude I can find to read it through and get ready to revise. This is the first full-length piece of academic writing (for publication, rather than as a conference presentation) that I've started on a new topic since completing my dissertation. All the attendant anxieties about self-worth, all the suspicions of absolutely and utter banality have come flooding back in spades, and I remember the slough of despond I would get mired in during the horrid period of writing that beast.
Notice the two seals' heads in the photo above.
Still, I tried to draw a bit on the experience I wrote about yesterday pertaining to running -- to trust to the foundation I've built over the years. In the case of writing, this meant trusting to process, remembering that as long as I keep reading and researching and thinking-through-writing, adding one tentative paragraph at a time, I will arrive at an argument that makes interesting sense and provides convincing evidence. And I think I might have got there today.
Much revision ahead, of course, but I have several days left for that, although my back is burning if I sit at the keyboard too long -- I suspect my back is my body's way of express my anxiety, but I'm not quite sure how my body might think that helps the situation.
I do feel that the last three years of blogging have loosened my writing voice, but apparently they have not inured me to the fears of exposing myself to a jury of my academic peers. Nor, apparently, have they cured me of my old habit of boring people silly by talking about these fears -- my poor husband went through this nonsense each time I had a paper due at the end of a course. Invariably, the paper would come back well-received, and I would, yet again, be surprised and gratified and relieved. I'm trying to remember that history, trying to trust in process, and, above all, trying to concentrate on the parts of research and writing that I do love, licking a new idea into being, whelp-like, squalling. . .
The books I've been reading as the base of my research have been fascinating, on the cultural history, theory, and phenomenology of skin, two works, especially: Claudia Benthien's Skin: On the Cultural Border Between Self and the World and Steven Connor's The Book of Skin. Probably too academic/arcane to appeal to every reader, but a wealth of interesting detail -- more information than you'd probably want on the portrayal of flaying in classical, medieval, and Renaissance imagery, for example, but fascinating stuff about a museum devoted to early dermatology I might try to suss out next trip to Paris.
Anyway, I thank you for your patience with my sunrises and my writing anxieties. Of the latter, while I'm wary of indulging my occupational woes too often, I'm also aware that I once promised myself to try for some sort of integrated self in this blog. For a variety of complex reasons, though, I tend to self-censor most of my academic life, for fear it will either bore or, I guess, dentify me as eitherbe (mis)interpreted as showing off or identify me as the nerd/bookworm I dreaded being recognized as through high school. So here's my effort to lift the curtain, briefly. . .

And although you're perhaps wearying of these sunrises, did you notice how each day's palette -- even if just in different ratios of the same hues and tones -- is different? I suspect if I dug a little, I'd find a message there about process and product . . . for now, I'll just enjoy . . .


  1. I'm sure that your paper is fantastic. It's natural to have a bit of insecurity when writing that sort of piece. But just think - you have SEALS to look at while you're organizing your thoughts. Outrageous!

  2. I second that, I'm can't imagine how your paper would not be marvelous.

  3. I would expect that any writer has doubts about their written've put a lot of effort and thought into it so it is bound to be great!

    Seals in one image and gulls in another...the ocean views are in a constant state of change...look at the colours too!

  4. I'm positive that your article will be brilliant. And I've yet to meet a writer who didn't have the same fears and worries about their work. I write for a living and yet every time I submit a story for a magazine, or a corporate job for a new client, I'm utterly convinced that they'll tell me it's tripe and send it back ... Hasn't actually happened yet.

  5. Weird I too have just blogged at the lack of references I make to my job, not quite academia though! I wonder if I suffer from self doubt hence my inability to push my work to a wider audience, if I worked higher up the food chain I would like you have to go more public. Well done for getting there though all that and a half marathon!

    I have a very, very vivid memory from hen I was about 6 years old, I used to stand and talk to our neighbours son across a fence in the garden, one conversation cantered around the worst way to die!! We both agreed that to be skinned alive had to be the worst! Even now just the thought of a paper cut makes me shiver....

  6. The spelling in that last comment is shocking I am so sorry, feel free to delete it.

  7. Maybe this is your current task - to incorporate knowledge of your ability further up the chain, further into the foundation of self, closer to consciousness. It's harder for thoughtful people to feel confident, in some ways, since they can always see both sides. But ratcheting up the perception of self-worth can happen without losing the skeptical, considered eye, I think.

    You know, own it:).

  8. K: Thanks for the encouragement. As for the seals, can you believe we're very blasé about them as they're here all the time.
    Jillian: Thanks!
    Hostess: Isn't it just an amazing range of colour?
    Tiffany: So you know exactly what I mean -- but why is it such a constant struggle? why each time?! aaargh!
    Alison: Work is so much part of our identity that it can't always be hived off. Ooooh, and I can imagine how horrifyingly flaying would figure in a six-year old's imagination. If that image got in your head that early, no wonder it still brings such a shudder (actually, it makes me shudder as well!)
    and I don't see spelling errors there; I see typos only.
    LPC: Ah, you get right to the nub, so wise. You remind me of my wise, older neighbour (the kind of older woman everyone wants as a mentor) who brought me a set of "Affirmation" fridge magnets as a not-quite-joke for my 50th birthday and told me it might be time to begin "owning" my good stuff. . . . an ongoing task, obviously.

  9. It sounds like a fascinating topic actually. Review can be daunting and yet, sometimes clarity in academic writing--as your writing here is reliably clear--may prove to be a relief to your future readers!

  10. Dear Mater,
    If you hadn't a fear in the world about your paper, I'm not sure you'd be nearly as delightful a woman to know! I've now been 52 for over a month, and am starting to realize that there are qualities about me that are probably never going to change (if they haven't by now, when would they?!?) Thank goodness that at the same time that we realize these sobering realities, we are also learning to name the things about ourselves that DO make us happy!
    For me, Dear Mater, the photos of the beautiful sunrises you've been sharing with us could go on forever, and I wouldn't complain!

    Thank you for sharing all these parts of your life with us; we are all enriched by your generosity!

  11. Terri: It's actually been great fun, except for the agonizing (!). And I'm feeling much better today, appreciating the opportunity (and ability) to revise for exactly the clarity you speak of.
    Teresa: What a lovely, generous comment (and I'm always so pleased to hear from new commenters). You're absolutely right about the dawning realization that we're probably not going to rid ourselves of certain troubling personality quirks, but the accompanying recognition that there's a lot about ourselves that we're actually quite happy about. It's a hard-won knowledge, worth savouring!

  12. Dear mater, your writings are so inspiring and to the point. And the photographs.. wow! In fact I started to reread your presentation at Winnipeg (long, long time ago!) as well as mine,not bad, as well as some books that wait patiently on the shelf since my move to Portugal in dec 2005. Janneke Lam anticipates in Whose Pain? Childhood, Trauma, Imagination on the 'searing' insight through writing: " motivates thought as well as action... These are the moments when I truly experience myself as a happy intellectual."
    And so be it!

  13. Josephine: So lovely to have you comment here -- that Winnipeg conference does seem long ago, and yet much of it is still fresh in my mind. Is that quotation from the book you let me thumb through last summer? It's very good, isn't it? Not easy, thinking through writing, but rewarding. So be it, indeed!


I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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