What am I doing here?

(The title refers to that first post, that I imagine everyone does when starting out with their blog – a statement of purpose, a challenge to oneself, a promise to an audience of no-one, someone, anyone?? It is not an existential question – at least, I don’t think it is. It might be my blogger self questioning why I’m dragging it kicking and screaming into the glow of the LCD screen. Too late – you’re here now. Do something.)

I don’t actually know who you are, or why you are here. (And now I wonder whether I’m writing that to blogger Tim, to real world Tim, or to you, reader… who speaks in a blog?)

Actually, it’s a bit more puzzling than that.

I don’t really know why I am here either. Well, I do have some things I would like to achieve, and I’m hoping this might be a way of getting there.

Thing #1:

Back in the early part of the last decade (trying to make it sound like a really long time ago, you see… mists parting as we move through the clouds that have obscured our vision, and as the camera pans in, we see a sepia-toned Tim sitting at a desk, beige computer in front of him… it must have been a long time ago, if the computer was still beige…) I did a PhD. I loved it. It was hard work but good work (I was going to say honest work, but then I feel like I should have been living in a log cabin, chopping down trees to carve into spoons to sell at a market – that’s what I think of when I think of honest work) – long hours and days of reading, thinking, writing, thinking, struggling to make sense. Along the way, I found my voice. Or, a voice. Writing started to come easily to me – and I felt like I was in control of the keys. I could play around with ideas, dance around meaning, make suggestions that didn’t need conclusions. I wrote things that looked like and felt like poems (now blogger Tim sounds like a tosser, I know – but stick with him…), and somehow I managed to pull this together into a thesis. I think it was the first time in my life I’d done something that was truly mine… that I had worked for without knowing if I could achieve.

And then I finished. And had no idea how to keep that voice (thatnewbrittledelicatefragilething) once I had to write to word limits. And to literature reviews. And theoretical frameworks. And conclusions. And to peer reviewers who wrote that I needed to make conclusions, generalise, point out the limitations of a sample size of six (or one), have a more authoritative voice, write more, write less, write better, write academically.

So what did I do? I shut up. I tried to replace my voice with another one – one that I thought was the right one for this context. But it was like putting on an accent – I don’t think it ever really fitted me… I ended up sounding like the policeman in ‘Allo ‘Allo (seriously, watch it. And then don’t. ever. watch. it. again.). So now I find myself with a voice that doesn’t sound like mine. It doesn’t sit well with me. And it’s not even proving very successful for me.

So I need to find a new voice. Maybe it’s my old one? But our voices change throughout our lives – can we ever go back to sounding how we did ten years ago? I don’t know… I don’t think so.

But that’s Thing #1. Write until I remember how to write. No editing. No reading back over it before I post. Get it out, and get it out there. So you – if you are still here, that is – will have to put up with my struggling to figure out not what I want to say, but how I want to say. And then maybe we can get to the what. Sorry about that.
Thing #2:

I take photos. You may have seen some of them. But it’s hard to keep taking photos when I’m the only one who sees them. It would be like a writer writing a novel and then only reading it to him/herself at night before bed… sure, you could enjoy it, but at some point you’d have to think that there’s no need to write it all down. If I’m not sharing what I see and how I see with anyone, why bother recording it in a photo? Why not just see it and be done with it? I’ve used a range of photo sharing sites, like Deviantart, Shadowness, Google+, and so on… but I really struggle… I struggle because I need to take the time to build up a community there and I am too slack to do that. I struggle because I can just upload something whenever I like… which means inevitably that I will upload something tomorrow… and tomorrow never comes (is that the second or the fiftieth cliche so far? Who’s counting for me?).

So I will make a promise to you, vast empty internet… together, here, we’ll work together, to keep me taking photos. Because I will upload a photo here every day for a year. That’s Thing #2. Those of you who have also frequented some of the sites I’ve flitted through to share works will know of a thing called a 365 project, where a photographer (or artist in another medium I suppose… all are welcome!) takes and shares a photo every day. I’m going to start with the ‘light’ version – I will share, but maybe not take, a photo every day. Let’s see if I can manage that for a month, and then perhaps I can start to step up my obligations to actually getting the camera out every day. Post #2 then, will be my first such image.

Oh, let’s have some rules then, to start… Rule 1: A photo must be uploaded every day. If I can’t get online, I can do it at the next available opportunity, but there must be one photo for each day. Rule 2 (and this is the one that scares me a little): None of the photos can have been shared elsewhere. Not on our website, not on Facebook, not on Google+, just… here. So that collection of images that I put out there to represent ‘me’ (so now there are three of me – blogger Tim, meet photo Tim) are off limits. These images are for you – just for you.

So Thing #2 starts today. (eek)

Thing #3:

Wouldn’t it be interesting if the words and the images could somehow work together? If learning to see and how to share that might also help me learn about my voice? Let’s see – Thing #3 is a work in progress… it’s about wondering whether the things that I do for work (like writing), and the things that I do to live a life of personal substance (like photography), might in some way be able to work together. Hmm… What happens if Words/images could end up being words+images?

Thing #4:

Just kidding. There are only three things (or free fings, as one of my lecturers used to say at uni). I’m going to get started now. We’ll start with an image. As you know, they’ll be arriving daily. The writing? Not so sure.

What am I doing here?

12 thoughts on “What am I doing here?

  1. I’m listening 🙂 The neat, wild thing about bleeding into the abyss (hello interwebs!) is that sometimes someone you don’t even know is listening. And they understand! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and goals. Best of luck.

  2. Adrian Cruse says:

    ah Tim. I have listened and learned from your wise voice before and am sure there will be many lessons here for your listeners. I look forward to following the wisdom.

    1. Thanks Adrian… not sure what will come out of this blog just yet – I suspect rather more introspection than material that is of use to anyone else, but we will see!

  3. Great stuff! I recognise your story. I recognise the challenge of HAVING found your voice and then struggling within an academic environment that values Other Things. My PhD was practice-based. The visual (animated) and written voices strengthened and finally met, which was the whole point, for me, of doing it. But the thesis form and experiential forms (of the visual arts …) are curious partners in universities. Perhaps they can meet better outside those walls? I was supervised by an independent academic and he supervised me on-line via an open blog. I found it helped me think, knowing he was listening. It made me accountable. What you’re doing is more playful and open ended than a thesis. There’s no clear question, but there IS a problem: how to integrate the writing and image making. It’s a great question that many people will relate to. And this first blog post is a first response! Great stuff!

    1. Thank you Lisa – so pleased you’ve both found my blog, and found it enjoyable/relatable! I think the question is the problem to some extent – how to integrate writing and image making, and how to become a little more creative and productive in both. Your PhD process sounds great, and you are right – I’m not sure that thesis and other less-traditional/structured modes of communication sit too well together… but it seems to me that they are a little closer than those modes of communication and journal article writing. Maybe I am reading the wrong journals? The pieces that I’ve seen of your work (that Sharon has shown me) are absolutely amazing – I think you’ve managed to reconcile the academic with the creative in insightful and effective ways.

      I’m certainly looking forward to the opportunity to have a bit of a play here – mash some ideas together, see what I can make. Maybe nothing? Maybe something.

      1. So it’s really only now that I recognise my PhD as a story, and that story-teller’s voice as mine. This has led to another, greater story, that combines many voices of the scientists and other artists I collaborate with:

        I bumped into an academic at UTS today. He said just Follow the Golden Rule: Those with gold rule.

        Such is life in the hallowed halls. But there are other voices! Have fun…

  4. I am drawn in by the way both you and Sharon bring your writing back to a ‘real’ level. You both have a way of making the complex comprehensible and show that you can sometimes battle with things too. Your blogs are practical and helpful to the university student, but applicable to the general population too. A team of very skilled writers with volumes of knowledge to share.
    I must say I laughed at Lisa’s comment about ‘a daily pattern’. My initial thought was that is maths, not Tim’s cup of tea at all. Perhaps routine, plan or schedule may fit better.
    Looking forward to what the next 364 days have to offer!

    1. Thanks Karena! I’ll be really pleased if you can find something of worth for you as a student here, but I’m anticipating a more obtuse journey over the next 364 days (really? 364? That is SO MANY DAYS!!) which may have meaning for other people, or just for me. Hopefully other people though. That would make me feel less self-indulgent. Perhaps.

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