The cats woke me this morning. Two pairs of paws thrust inwards under the door pulling it sharply against its frame. Two pairs of hind paws kicking relentlessly on its outerside. The effect was like a drumroll. Even the dog who is now deaf and sleeps at my feet picked it up and for effect, barked loudly in my ear. I awakened from dreams of spotted hyenas racing across the savanna, thankfully they were hyenas and not metamorphoses of myself having just devoured my husband in tandem with my lover. For those who have not read the Joyce Carol Oates story, “Spotted Hyenas: A Romance” take my advice, don’t read it before sleeping. Two months into the new job and I am beginning to get the hang of it, starting to know people and winning some real rather than polite smiles. The speed of work is cranking up and I am wondering how to keep some time for myself to to write, by which I mean free creative writing and not emails, reports, administrative documents lecture notes or research articles. I write every day of my life in the form of lists and bullet points but it is not creative. My plan is to write for a few minutes a day on whatever comes to mind and just let it flow. But the cats are demanding their breakfast, I have lectures to write and I tell myself that it is in those routine processes of everyday life that I can make a difference, I just need to remember that I am human, and keep the hyenas from the door. It’s tough in the food chain, wake up and make breakfast, it’s time to start the day.
“The writer has something to say – the academic is an apologist”
I identified closely with many of the sentiments and observations in Chris Walsh’s recent article in the Times Higher Education (THE) promoting his work on cowardice. Academic work is constantly scrutinised for relevance, rigour, quality and contribution to knowledge. There are conventions in publishing that encourage particular writing styles and of course all previous relevant knowledge must be cited. The publish or perish culture also forces us down a route of safe and sure publication, and the prevailing emphasis on objectivity renders the academic voice near silent. This week, for the first time in a long time, I dug out and re-read some of my earliest papers. Two things struck me. The first was how rough they seemed in writing style, and how much they would benefit from further editing, even although the editors at the time thought them good enough to publish. The second was the confidence with which I expressed myself in those early papers, which puts my more recent (yet more skilfully written) work to shame. In those early papers I had a voice, I was a writer with something to say and it came over strong and clear despite other shortcomings. My most recent academic work is more refined, more accurate in its positioning in the body of literature, and follows the publishing conventions in our field, but it has no voice, or at least not one that I recognise as my own. Has the academic world gone too far in silencing the subjective, sometimes quirky, but well-informed voices of the academic community? Have we, as Walsh suggests, become apologists for our own craft? Or is it just me?
I am so fed up with the advertisements that you place at the side of my FB page so I followed the link to find out how you select them. It’s based on what I like and post. If that is true my posts must be too boring to give the search engines any buzz words to guide their algorithms – let me see if I can influence the ads. Listen FB, I love rock music, art, fun places like Copenhagen, places I have not been like St Petersburg, Hong Kong, Colorado. I’d like to visit Greenland and sail round the Antarctic. I love the sounds and smells of markets in Africa, I want to be a writer. Community, creativity, interesting ordinary people interest me, not celebs. I love world music, poetry literature, language and culture. Please post ads for charities, disaster appeals and if it’s about food make it about alleviating hunger and not belly fat (oops – must never mention that again). If it has to be food I like wine and clean fresh food and recipes from around the world. My taste in film is eclectic – please don’t insult me by guessing one narrow genre. OK, that’s it for the day – back to preparing lectures on – guess what – international business ethics – put that in your pipe and smoke it FB, I am waiting to see what you come up with in your sponsored links – selected just for me. 🙂