Dr Anuja Cabraal is an experienced qualitative researcher, and a global trainer of NVivo, the largest qualitative research software program in the world. She has over 15 years of research experience, and has also started training in other qualitative software. She enjoys working with researchers and helping them through the research process, and has a passion for all thing qualitative. She loves writing and blogs about qualitative research methods and researcher life.
This piece is simultaneously cross-posted on Anuja’s personal blog.
When I write, I write for myself. I put myself on the pages. I put myself in the edits.
I write so that I can understand, explain and express. I don’t know if my words will be heard, I don’t know if my words will resonate. I don’t really think about that when I write. What matters to me is that I have heard, that I have gained clarity. I recognise that being clear about my audience is important, the audience does matter.
For me, though, this comes after I have clarity and understanding of my own thoughts and words.
For me, the process of writing is sometimes about intellectual understanding, and sometimes it is simply about expression. I don’t always like sitting down at the table to write. But when I do sit down, and when I do start writing, I can’t seem to stop typing the words. Other times, I ache to get to the computer, and will wake very early in the morning, or stay up for hours into the night, just so I can write.
There may be times where I have thoughts after something I have read, or a person in mind like a student and the advice I have shared with them, or where I reflect on an idea after a conversation with a friend or colleague. I write it down so that I can see the structure myself. I might know the concepts, but to articulate them, see them on the pages, and form that clarity of thinking around that thought – to be sure that I know what I mean. That is writing for me.
Other times, I write in my head. The words flow and it is almost like I can see them on the pages. I tell my mind to hold them there until I get an opportunity to write. I believe that if they are important enough, they will stay. If they go away…well, that’s okay. Other ideas and words will come.
Right now though, I’m struggling.
I’m writing this because I can’t seem to bring myself to edit my already written words, or to form any structure around them. Fear is in the way. Not fear of what the words say, not because I judge my writing, but I fear sharing my writing. Right now, I am blocked because I fear what others will say. This makes it difficult for me to write, for me to put “me” on the pages and then press send. I don’t always fear sharing my words, but right now, I do.
This fear is cautioning me. It is telling me to put up some walls, some barriers. Sometimes, my fear is about insecurity. This isn’t insecurity; this is caution and, as a friend pointed out to me, fear can sometimes be wise and intelligent. It is a warning that we need to heed. This type of blockage is new for me. A different kind of chatter, a different conversation to ones from before, a differently worded fear in my mind.
You see, I don’t mind the world accessing my words. I’ve written blog posts, papers, and other forms of publications. I understand that I will get criticism in my life, even over my writing. I often seek critical feedback. I like it and believe it only makes me and my writing better. But I’ve recently had interactions that have led to self-doubt. So, right now, the writing feels different, like I am seeking out toxicity, like I am putting myself in the mouth of the lion. But then I remind myself that I have a choice. As my friends and colleagues have reminded me, those experiences were not about me, they were about the toxic people. So, I go back and remember that I have a safe support network, that I am my own safe place.
This is what I will do: I will write, like I always do. Free and flowing. I will remind myself that I can add the armour later. If I try to add the shields and armour from the start, I miss the process of reflection and understanding around my thoughts. I miss the joy and freedom of expression, the beauty and love that comes with the process of simply writing for myself. It is private, intimate, and it is about me and the pages in front of me. I won’t let anything else get in the way of that. I can add the shields later, they are important, and I may very well need them. However, I cannot add the shields, I cannot add the armour, if there is nothing there to protect.
Right now, I’m going to take the time to ground and reconnect with myself again, come back to “me”. Remind myself that I am my own safe place. Right now, I write for me. This is for me. Let the world do what it will. Let my words fly off into the wind.
This piece is written with all my wonderful friends and mentors in mind, and everyone who has ever given me advice on writing and blogging. Thank you all for your support. You help in ways you could never imagine.