Censors Working Overtime

“Censor the body, and you censor breath and speech at the same time. Write yourself. Your body must be heard”. (Cixous, 1975)
This quote from Hélène Cixous (The Laugh of the Medusa) has, without a doubt, been my guiding light throughout the last three years of my PhD journey, and if I really take a moment to think deeply about it, in my life-journey in general. As a voice practitioner, writer, academic, feminist, these words perfectly sum up what I try to achieve every day. To tell my truth. To live and work as my truest self. And I know that the surest way to get there is through the body. To quote my colleague Noah Drew  “If the body isn’t free, the breath can’t be free and if the breath can’t be free the voice can’t be free.” Voice, in this context, includes not just my physical voice but my voice as it appears on the page. Perhaps one of the most daunting aspects of being a Doctoral Researcher is truly owning “your body must be heard”, each day I have to sit down with the attitude; “I have something new, innovative and important to say!” I struggle with it constantly. It is of course why Impostor Syndrome is so prevalent in academia. Who am I to declare “My body must be heard?!” Who in their right mind cares about what my body has to say? To completely mangle perfectly good XTC lyrics; “Censors working overtime Trying to tell the difference ‘tween the goods and grime turds and treasure and there’s one, two, three, four, five…” That just about sums up my final slog towards submission…these final weeks, as I try to sort out my theories, my ideas… am I really contributing to the scholarship on this? Do I really know the difference between the “good and the grime” the “turds and the treasure”
I suppose I can only write myself. Turds and all. There is no one else.

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“I, too, overflow; … my body knows unheard-of songs.”~ Hélène Cixous

 

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Take Aways from my freakin’ writing retreat–Day 3

  1. Realizing that I won’t get everything I wanted to get done, done… but also realizing that I STILL got more done than I would have if I hadn’t been here…
  2.  Also, “Why haven’t I done this before????” (oh, yeah, many children, 2 jobs…)
  3. Note to self; always bring more coffee than you think you will need — rationing coffee makes me anxious.
  4. Making a large pot of homemade soup and bringing only the soup, a loaf of wholegrain bread, a jar of peanut butter and a bit of fruit to my 4-day retreat so I won’t have to “fuss” with cooking, seemed like a really good, sensible and wholesome idea, but on day 3, I could care less about sensible and henceforth just ate a bag of microwave popcorn I found kicking around in the cupboard, (OK, so I ate TWO bags of microwave popcorn….)
  5. It is impossible to NOT have at least a few flashes of Kathy Bates in Misery showing up, while alone in a cottage, typing away furiously in a snowstorm.

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Notes from my mother-lovin’ PhD-thesis writing retreat- Day 2

writing day 2

  1. Day one was super-successful (finished 2 chapters that I had been trying to crack since August)—I had high hopes for day 2 but have been feeling a bit stuck (although I must say, I still got more work done today than I would have at home— and the day is not done yet).
  1. The only living being I saw today was a chipmunk. I stared up at him in the tree above me, he then moved and all the snow on the branch he was perched on fell on my face. I also saw a snowplough down the road, although I did not see the being who was driving it… I can only assume there was an actual being driving it.
  1. Dance breaks are essential when on a writing retreat. There is the added bonus that teenaged children are not around, so no one will roll their eyes at you and walk out of the room.
  1. I took a shower in the middle of the afternoon with no other reason but to feel refreshed and get my second wind as I go into an evening of writing— what kind of hedonistic lifestyle am I living here???

Burn This *&$#@-Thesis Down Writing Retreat –Day 1

writing day 1.jpg

4 days and a 40,000 word PhD thesis to write… Totally do-able right??

Of course, I am not starting from scratch- I’ve got about 30,000 words in a very messy, chaotic mess of a draft… I’m hoping being here (looks pretty ideal, right?) Will just push me over the “get this sucker done” huge wall that seems to be standing in my way.

Wish me luck.

Rejection Perfection

Loving this article by the writer Kim Liao about having a rejection goal for the year. She shot for 100 rejections, and while she fell short of that goal (she got 43) she did get 5 acceptances- which, as she points out, would have felt like a daunting number to aim for. A little reverse psychology perhaps? But in both the academic and artistic communities I am a part of this seems like some great advice. How do you get better at your craft but by doing, doing, doing?! And how will anyone ever be able to see your work unless you are putting it out there?

In both the academic and artistic communities I am a part of, this seems like some really great advice. How do you get better at your craft but by doing, doing, doing?! And how will anyone ever be able to see your work unless you are putting it out there?! All. the time.

Rejection goals.

rejected red square  stamp

Re-jiggity-jig…

This past summer was supposed to be my “push to the finish line” and “bring ‘er home” summer. I was originally supposed to submit my thesis (this past) Friday, September 29. But things got a little complicated. and I asked for (and was granted) an extension. Sometimes I need to be hit over the head with a sign or two to really understand that just because I had planned something to go a certain way and I WANTED something to go a certain way- it might not necessarily work out like that.  My summer went something like this;

My summer went something like this;

May- Finish teaching gigs and gear up to get this PhD puppy DONE.

Last week of May, out of the blue, and within the space of a week,  the ol’ man (that would be my husband) discovers something is not feeling quite right, goes to the doctor, is rushed through a myriad of tests, is diagnosed with testicular cancer, has surgery to remove the cancer and returns to work 3 days later (even though the doctor had recommended 3 weeks off)

One week later, I get a call that my elderly father is very ill, has been admitted to hospital, has a “do not resuscitate” order on his chart and that I should get there pronto. I hastily book a flight and traverse the country to be with him. He improves but I spend a good part of 2 weeks in the hospital advocating for him.

During the first week I am there, I receive a call from my brother’s social worker (he is schizophrenic and has long been under the care of a mental health team while living independently in a specially designated building for those with mental health challenges). My brother, I am told, has early-onset dementia. He cannot live independently and will be moved into a group home.

My Mother has advanced dementia and has lived in a full-time care facility for four years. My grandmother had it, as did her sister, my great aunt.

During the second week, I am “home” to care for my Dad, I get a call from another hospital saying my oldest (61-year-old) brother is there. I had had lunch with him earlier in the week, he seemed fine I couldn’t imagine what could be wrong.

I arrived at the hospital and was escorted into ICU to find out he had overdosed on heroin. He was (I thought) a recovering addict. He had been (I thought) clean for 12-15 years.

He stayed in the hospital 2 weeks with sepsis (a blood infection from the intravenous drug use). My Dad got stronger, I got him settled back home, arranged home care, sold his car…my other brother was placed in a group home. I visited my Mum one last time before I flew back to my other “home”. Mum has no idea who I am, but she seemed happy for the company, I didn’t tell her about Dad and my brothers. she cant comprehend anything like that anyway– I’m glad I didn’t have to tell her all that.

Back home, with my ol’ man and the kids (he reminded me, or rather ribbed me about the fact that he had cancer as I was off looking after my father, mother and brothers…)

We spent a lovely 4 days on a lake because that is all we could afford financially and time-wise. The day after we got home. I was grocery shopping and planning out the rest of my “summer”…Kids were occupied with camp and activities and I was clear to write the bejeebers out of my thesis. The grocery cart was full when I realized I needed frozen mango for my ultra-healthy brain boosting green smoothies– I left the cart with the ol’ man and turned to go back to the freezer section when BAM! I go flying, I feel (although it was so intense I swear I heard it too) a POP! in my left leg- and the next thing I remember I was lying, screaming in a pool of cold water from a leaky freezer. An ambulance was called- I was carted off, put on morphine and told I had torn a hamstring.

That is when I realised that sometimes a little re-jigging is for the best. That is when I had to accept that the universe was essentially begging me to just STOP. Wait a gall-darn minute– Re-jig– you are NOT submitting September 29, 2017.

March 29, 2018 it is then.

Home again, home again jiggity-jig…

 

 

flexible

 

 

 

And the winner is…

Here’s a little in the spirit of “sometimes it IS worth it” or it gets better…” or “keep going even if you think your research is rubbish”.
My very first published article won the Voice and Speech Review Forum Article of the Year Award.
I was absolutely floored that I had won. Countless times over the past few years I had considered scrapping all the work I had done because I thought it was garbage.
The first time I presented my research on this topic, was in the Fall of 2015 at a conference in Brussels and the guest moderator completely panned my research in front of a packed room. He was going through the preceding presentations giving favourable comments on everyone’s research, except, when he got to me he said: “And I don’t even know what that was about…method acting or something??” I was, of course, crushed, and decided to toss it right then and there.
But I couldn’t do it, I had put too much time into it, (and frankly didn’t have anything else!) so I continued. The following summer I presented a paper on my subsequent research, (on the same topic) at another conference to a very small audience and was approached by an editor from the VSR to develop the paper into an article, which I did. It took 14 months and 7 drafts from my initial submission to the published article. and being a newbie to the world of working with an editor had to wrestle with myself, and my tendency to take the edits personally. She was terrific and kind, but firm. I learned so much. I really felt like I had accomplished “something”, and I guess I had.

Hoping this may help anyone who may be in that “my research is rubbish” place. Keep going! It’s worth it.

Now if I could only get this PhD thesis finished…

 

2016 Forum Award Certificate-1