We often speak of different forms of writing as if they are different animals altogether, and our expectations of what these forms are capable of and how they are appreciated, as well as how they are produced, are very different. We can see these divisions everywhere – in the variation in product design between which different forms are shared (newsprint, book, blog, pamphlet, magazine, television), in the way these forms are organised in libraries or online and in the way they are taught at schools and universities. The separation between ‘creative writing’ and ‘academic writing’ feels entrenched at university level, and yet as a creative writer myself, I am increasingly drawn to explore the lyric essay, the poetic memoir … types of writing that defy formal distinctions and allow the writer to employ the best of what each form has to offer – being able to play with language, word placement on the page, thesis and argument, memory, description and imagination. Daphne’s own elegantly-composed and carefully considered language posits vital questions to those writing, and perhaps struggling to write, academic papers – why does it feel painful? Why can’t it be beautiful? Would it be easier to think through academic writing (the creation of it, the understanding of it) if we approached it like poetry; something difficult but breathtakingly meaningful, a rich art that does not use language like a conveyor belt to deliver ideas but like cocoons opening to release butterflies into sunlight. We are often unaware of the prejudices we have been taught regarding ‘serious, difficult academic writing’ and ‘emotive, aesthetically-obsessed creative writing’, and it may be these very prejudices that are causing us to hit blocks when we attempt to generate important contributions to academia.
Academics are under increasing pressures, squeezed between mounting priorities and demands on their time, and this book comes like a caressing hand on a tense shoulder to offer another way in to reading and writing research: taking joy in the music of creation, sculpting our most precious thoughts, and sharing what we’ve learned in a way that carries each reader with us, deep into our own learning.
J. L. Williams
University of Edinburgh