I’ve have taken the baton on from my friend Sue Spencer (http://the-grumponthehill.blogspot.co.uk) who I met at a Lit & Phil writing workshop run by Sheree Mack (http://adriftinthewilderness.blogspot.co.uk) and who I immediately clicked with. We’ve not stopped chatting and sharing experiences since then, whenever we find the time for a cuppa in our hectic schedules.
Sue is multitalented: a writer/poet, creative writing workshop facilitator, nurse, nurse educator and much more. I hope we can work more closely on projects in the future. I am particularly inspired by her work with a local hospice as poet-in-residence and look forward to Sue’s upcoming writing workshop on a medicine and health theme at the Lit & Phil.
What am I working on?
Currently I’ve got four main collaborative projects happening:
With a bursary form a-n (artist’s network) I’m travelling the country with artist Rachael Allen on a project called ‘Lessons in Anatomy: dissecting medicine and health through visual and literary arts collaboration.’ We are visiting anatomy and pathology museums, collections and dissection rooms in London, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Leeds and discussing our different creative approaches to this subject. Much poetry and prose will flow from this I hope but so far it’s just fascinating talking to Rachael and seeing how she works as a fine artist and art researcher. Rachael is currently also artist in residence at Newcastle Uni Dissection Room amongst many other things.
That leads me to another project with teaching fellow, anatomist and medical educator Dr Iain Keenan who is researching the use of artistic and creative teaching methods to teach anatomy to medical students. Rachael is working with Iain on the arm of his research project looking at drawing in the DR and I’m going to be collaborating with Iain on designing a project that uses creative writing and/or performance to enhance learning of anatomy.
This leads on to the third big thing which is a Performing Research project run by theatre company cap-a-pie and Newcastle Uni using performance and theatre to enhance public engagement with research and education across the university. I’m learning so much here about physical theatre and performance as an educational tool and having a lot of fun in the process. The 12 weeks of Thursday night meetings will culminate in a scratch performance at Northern Stage in March that will hopefully establish a platform for this work to continue. I’m learning about script writing, directing, production and performance and so much more in these sessions. It has hugely increased my confidence in teaching and articulating thoughts and feelings in creative ways (not necessarily writing.) http://www.performingresearch.org/blog/
Finally I am working on a short story as a collaboration with artist Anne Proctor (printmaker and fine artist) who has also been working in the Newcastle Uni DR and who loaned me her father’s pilot records, log books and letters from his time as an RAF pilot in WW2 flying Hurricanes and Spitfires in Italy at the end of the war. This piece will combine non-fiction and anatomy with dream like qualities and hopefully will stand alongside prints made by Anne that have been inspired by her time in the DR. (see Anne’s blog earlier)
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I am very interested in the distinction (or lack of distinction) between fiction and non-fiction. Creative non-fiction might be the best way to describe my writing but I’m not sure if that’s the right name for what I do.
The fact that I’m a working GP and GP tutor at the medical school informs my writing hugely and I imagine it might be this that might make it different from other writing in this area. I am also writing poetry and prose and script and mixing everything up together and seeing what happens. Essentially I’m still trying to find my ‘voice’ and trying to enjoy that process as much as possible. If I didn’t do something creative with my time I would find it much harder to handle the stresses and pressures of my job.
Why do I write what I do?
It is very interesting to me that I’ve ended up writing about medicine and health and exploring creative non-fiction. In the past I swore I’d never write about these things. For me creative output was very much my escape from medicine, why would I want to write about that?
It was a creative non-fiction writing course run by William Fiennes that opened my eyes to the possibilities of this genre and it also showed me that people were interested in what I had to say about my training and working as doctor. Health care professionals need a way to express themselves and for me writing is it.
I guess I found a way of writing about self that I’d previously not thought was possible within the constraints of my professional role. It’s something I’m still very much negotiating as a subject matter.
How does my writing process work?
Collaboration is key to me. I definitely need to speak to people, work with people, share ideas with people. Committing to deadlines and collaborating also means I focus more, without this I just start a hundred things and never finish anything.
I’m on my second year of a creative writing PG Cert at Newcastle Uni and looking forward to seeing what I end up doing for my final dissertation (it’s wide open at the moment.) The deadlines and the opportunity to have excellent teaching form the likes of writers like Anne Coburn and William Fiennes and to meet other writers like me (and different to me) has been invaluable.
I have made some great friends on this course and regularly meet with a group of MA students from the course to share work. The feedback from my peers is invaluable and they really helped me recently in shaping and editing five poems I entered into the Hippocrates Poetry Prize.
The main challenge I have is time and discipline. I work part-time but with teaching medical students and marking this year I’m struggling to find the time to write or update my blog. This exercise has been really useful to focus my mind on what I’m doing.
I have a Spring School creative writing week in April coming up as part of my PGCert that is something I’m very much looking forward to in terms of focused writing time.
I’m hoping to hand this baton to a writer who I met on my blog and through the platform SciTalk (connecting writers and scientists). Her name is Pippa Roberts and although she’s not replied yet I’m certain she’d be up for this. This is her blog: http://stargleam.wordpress.com.
Pippa writes poetry, stories, plays – and has a children’s novel coming out soon – all based around science subjects. She also does journalism and as a journalist she particularly enjoys doing interviews with people in the arts and/or science world.
PS The picture is of a writing hut at Totleigh Barton (Arvon writing centre in Devon) that I took when I was on a ‘starting to write’ course a few years ago. Brilliant and inspiring week.