Writing and Reflection – EdD year 6 and counting


When I first started writing this blog over ten years ago, my initial intent was to use the space to help me practice writing frequently and purposefully. It was an opportunity to target my writing on topics I thought were interesting – initially with a pseudo-intellectual angle but later it developed its own personality. At its high point I think I was posting more than an article a week, and on a good day my blog gained over 300 views. In blogging terms, that’s quite small but to me it mattered, and I feel that’s what is important. The writing had purpose, direction, and ownership, as good writing arguably should have. This writing encouraged me to write beyond these pages, and even drove me to consider greater things.

Over the past few years, the blog has not won as much attention from me. There could be a range of excuses for this but they are really only relevant to me. I’m a bit cautious of doing the whole ‘I’m sorry I haven’t posted in [checks blog] two years’, because I’m not actually sorry. Also, if you check artist Cory Arkangel’s project Sorry I haven’t posted you can get an idea of the pit of cliché one could find themselves in.

One thing I think about with this blog and blogs in general is do people even read them anymore – when I first started writing there was youtube and bit of twitter, and maybe podcasts were starting to take off. Now the range of media options seems endless and even choosing the right platform to put writing on seems to be a dilemma in its own right. Coming back to this blog, I want to talk about the reason I’m posting today and this is using it to try to build confidence as a writer through reflection on my academic writing as part of my ongoing Doctor of Education.

The academic writing process – dissertation level

For the past number of years, I’ve been doing my EdD with University of Glasgow. The first number of years presented their own challenges, but since 2018 or 2019 it has really been relentless as a challenge. While the process itself is difficult, the individual in question (me) has battled endlessly with the need to focus and to meet the targets set as part of the course. While there are practical issues which have been important, many aspects of the modules I worked on required quite abstract thinking and theorising, and my brain really struggled to do. For the life of me, I cannot comprehend this. In the end I needed quite a lot of scaffolding and support from my tutors, and I was very fortunate that they were both patient and objective.

In between forays into rewrites and resubmissions was a constant wait for the next step or stage. You write, you submit, you wait. You wait a little longer, and then you get a response (be it a grade or feedback or similar), and then you either write again or wait some more. Sometimes when writing from a position where my work was deemed to lack the high standards expected from the programme, it felt like I was writing blindly. This lack of vision is always present, but when my initial journey was unsuccessful (shall we say) I was more conscious of the perils ahead and wrote more cautiously with fear that it might be wrong. Of course, academic writing requires that kind of caution in writing as you need to be conscious that every angle explored is addressed and supported appropriately. It is arduous but the rigour is necessary as there are many ideas and as much research on these topics floating around and backing up what you’re thinking lends to the authority of your own ideas. It also encourages your individuality as a writer and thinker.

Depending on your successes at this, it can influence your confidence and how you think about your ability. It goes far beyond thinking of something and then putting them down in a word document. In its own way, getting beyond this learning curve is like crossing the horizon – you can never really be sure you’ve done it until you meet some point where you absent-mindedly realise ‘oh, I’ve done it’. And then ask ‘now what do I do?’, and that’s often a bit daunting.

Writing at the moment is not an easy thing because it has consumed me – both when I’m writing and I can’t choose the right way to start a sentence or something. And when I’m not at my computer, even in the supermarket or bringing kids to school.

It’s a confidence thing, as the more delays I’ve faced and the more downtime and uncertainty I’ve tried to navigate, has drawn me further from my project and left me confused. Indeed, I even think that the longer I’ve sat away from the practice of writing for this dissertation the harder it has been to return to the way in which I should be thinking. When I can’t write – and there have been many reasons over the past 18 months – returning guiltily to the neglected word document of my draft is not easy. An apology to what I should be doing does not suffice as it is one of those things the only person who deserves an apology is me.

Reflecting on this process

I’ve tried to write here as a process of reflection. A lot of things have gone on in my life, especially with Covid obviously, but also with my study, job(s), professional and personal growth, and with my family. Things change all the time, and while the progress has been slow in my study if I look back where I was some time back it could be valued as good progress. I try to tell people who struggle with language that they should not worry – we are all on the same journey, it’s just that others are at different points, but we will all get where we need to be eventually. I could apply this to my own situation, but I also have a deadline to meet.

Reflection works for me here as so much water has passed under the bridge, and the time has come for me to assess where I stand. I feel distant from the project I’m working on, but this shouldn’t be the case because it is my project with my ideas, research, and input. I need to try to understand what I am doing. It is also only really me who knows what I want it to look like and crafting it to this desired shape when parts won’t stick together or even fall off entirely needs a lot of rethinking, re-evaluating, revisualising. I hope for me that this blog will help me to get through part of this process.

Thanks for reading.

Dublin is in Black and White


I have been busy, for want of a better word, over the past few months trying to give my Instagram account a bit of content and identity. I suppose it’s more for the likes and followers than for any greater good to society, so don’t expect me to reveal something worldly there.

Some time back when I was still in Korea I thought it would be a neat gimmick to just post photos in black and white, or monochrome. It was a thing, and I’ve kept at it. Of late I’ve been focusing a lot on Dublin’s streets, and have been trying to get some shots which could be recognised as street photography, but with my phone and not my Nikon. It is not as easy as you’d think, because regardless of the quality of the image your phone takes it will never replace the speed and accuracy of a SLR.

But it is doable. All you need to do is:

  1. Be patient – find the shot, frame and wait a moment or two until you have the right level of human activity. Don’t stand around being creepy holding your phone up waiting for people to arrive or react to something. If the shot you want doesn’t come, move on and try and find another elsewhere.
  2. Be different – look for a way that you can make your shots stand out from others. Tilt your lens, shoot from the ground up, find a perspective which most people are unfamiliar with, or just find your own way of standing apart from other instagrammers – which is harder than it sounds.
  3. Be curious – I walk around just taking random shots with my phone around the city, and every so often a shot comes good. You can’t win them all, and there’s a chance you’ll take some pretty awful shots but as you take more shots and take more chances you will be surprised at what comes out.
  4. Crop Cleverly – When you take your shot use your regular phone camera and don’t shoot inside the Instagram app, as this automatically takes you to the edit and post menu. Shoot away with your normal camera, then when it comes to editing you can use the 1:1 frame to both crop your image in the desired area, and also to move around, zoom in, and even rotate the frame until you are happy with the shot you’re about to post. This might seem like a no-brainer but I personally feel this step is vital to the image and could be overlooked (or maybe most people just take it as a given).
  5. Ignore advice – whatever anyone tells you about doing street photography, just ignore them and do your thing. You shouldn’t really be listening to advice anyway, you should be walking around taking photographs, or at the very least looking at other people’s photos.

Of course these tips are purely my own opinion, and what do I know – I’ve only got 298 followers on Instagram.

Anyway, here are some of my favourites from the past few months, all tagged with the very cool #dublinisinblackandwhite hashtag.

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Find your own moment #vscocam #dublinisblackandwhite

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Procession #vscocam #dublinisblackandwhite #inthecity

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Typical

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The specials

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Take a good taste there now

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If you do find it within your heart, you can follow me here. Or not.

Dandelion Land


The green that creeps from beneath is a steady process. Warming the eyes along with the flawless blue of the sky with its cotton wool clouds. Blue and green, that is spring for me. It is without saying a relief to welcome the colourisation of the country after the death of everything in winter.

I can’t say that I would like spring as much as I did if I didn’t dislike winter. When I was in Korea it was the dry and arid air, the biting cold winds, and the white bright sunlight pitching rays constantly. Winter in Korea is a time when snow storms were a relief from the constant squinting.

For my first winter in Ireland I expected the long days of wind and rain, a grey and lifeless landscape, and the damp that seems to find everywhere. But it was the darkness which caught me off guard. The sun setting at four o’clock in the afternoon swallowed the evening in absolute night, and leaving myself, Herself, and +1 staring at each other at home, expecting something to happen.

Much like Korea, Ireland’s winter swallows up all the visible life. But for the crows hovering overhead, perfectly silhouetted in any weather but more so in the overcast of December and January, little signs of life persist. Waiting for the world to awaken after winter follows a similar pattern in Ireland and Korea. Snowdrops show first, white exaggerated in the damp mud of flowerbeds. Then the shoots of daffodils break through the earth.

In Korea at this time of year you can’t take a step left or right without seeing a cherry blossom tree blooming. Even in the most sun deprived thoroughfare hectic with traffic, a much desiccated looking tree will be blooming as resplendently as its excessively pruned bows will allow. I’ve always thought it to be a bit over the top.

Yet a few weeks ago I was driving into Dublin’s city centre and at Cabra Cross, just by the McDonalds and Tesco the traffic stopped. This is one of Dublin’s less dynamic traffic spots, and it certainly is not an attractive part of the city – but let’s not be too harsh as there are worse place to be stuck in traffic. I looked out the window, and much like those very deprived looking cherry blossoms, at the base of a tree were some frail and gutter mud splattered daffodils, attempting to be as resplendent as their situation allowed.

 

Now the daffodils are slowly dying off, but the trees have gradually been warming our eyes as first the hedges and now the trees start to green with spring. It’s not long after this that the dandelions come out, yellowing in a peppered splay across any grassy patch. A sure sign the warm weather has returned is dandelion seeds tumbling carelessly in the breeze of a sun splashed afternoon.

We call these piss-in-the-beds because if you pick one you will wet the bed, or so we were told as children. But I wonder would the dandelion be as common if it weren’t for children blowing their seeds at every opportunity.

I wake up early most mornings to the new sound of spring, as thousands of different noises come through to my room. Birds singing, mostly, but the leaves rustling in an April gust comes frequently enough. There’s also the silence of morning, something I can’t remember from Korea. Where no noise from the street permeates the walls, and looking out the window all I can do is really imagine the sound.

More so than before I appreciate my new domain in Ireland. The garden, green, and all the other colours it presents, and the breeze and the birds, it’s a long way from my old position watching for glimpses of life on the twentieth floor in Suwon. They are two different places, and nowhere can either be compared. Ask me if I prefer one, I’d probably prefer to not answer that but I would say that I’m happy where I am for now. All I need now is for someone to cut the grass for me…

Much About 2014


The end of the year is all about looking back on what happened, what was said, who did this, and other stuff. As a blogger I like to look back at what I wrote, but also what was read. It certainly hasn’t been my most productive year, with a few long gaps in between writing, and while of course it has been a memorable year, it has equally been a notable year.

A few bloggins milestones for me to brag about:

  • I had the single highest monthly visits to this blog in April with 3065 hits.
  • The same can be said for the average daily visits, with 102 being the average for April also.
  • There were 63 posts in 2014
  • As of 3.30pm on December 31, 2014 there have 28,231 visits this year – I know some blogs get that in a day, but this is my blog and this figure is an improvement of 4,000 visits on last year.

Here are some of the moments which mattered for me in 2014.

  • We moved back to Ireland in July.
  • We left Korea after four and half fantastic years.
  • I got paid for writing a poem (still haven’t cashed the cheque).
  • We spent two and bit great, warm months in Thailand, and learned a valuable lesson in the importance of travel insurance.
  • Myself and Herself found out we’d be having another baby in the middle of next year.
  • I got an commendation from the Irish Association of Korea and from the Embassy of Ireland in Korea for my services promoting Irish culture in Korea.
  • I signed on the dole a few months after coming back to Ireland.
  • I lost my camera somewhere just before Christmas.
  • I got accepted into an EdD course in the University of Glasgow.
  • I read a couple of poems at an official PEN Korea event
  • and other stuff…

Here are a few photographs which mattered to me in 2014

Christmas is brewing Dublin

Early morning prayer

I'm not scared

East Sea Rising

Port Corners

April Highrise

Spring, Korea

Decisions

Teaching

This is Chiang Mai

Lost in the Night Bazaar

Sunday Market, Chiang Mai

Moving country left me without my (good) computer for over four months so I was without a satisfactory way of editing and uploading shots from July through to almost late November, so there’s a bit of a gap in the timeline. I did get a new phone however, and that seems to be doing a really nice job of taking and sharing photos online.

And of course before I forget, this is a blog, and it is one on which I write on. So without getting bogged down in too much fanfare here are the five most read posts written and shared in 2014:

  1. I Just Want to Scream 
  2. Nimmanhaemin
  3. Saint Patrick’s Day in Seoul, 2014
  4. 10 Things About Korea
  5. People Have Their Own Problems To Worry About. You Don’t Need to Hear About Mine

So that’s it. The end of 2014, and next up we have 2015. I hope to keep battling away here at the keys for the forseeable future. Thanks for your comments, contributions, and readership. Oh, and happy new year to you and all those special to you!

 

 

 

 

Advice I’d Give to Me


The likes of everyone is an expert at handing out wonderful advice they don’t abide by themselves. I’d be in that category. I am even adept at advising myself on things I should and shouldn’t do, and to my detriment I continue to fail to acknowledge and follow such sterling quality advice.

Another human ailment I suffer from is an over abudance of regrets on times and actions long gone by. I’m particularly prone to it now, as I have lamented somewhat in the past few posts. Even when we are at our best it’s mistakes and poor judgement from some action fifteen years before that we look to when we’re looking for something to find fault with ourselves.

So what’s better than both of these on their own? Well it’s the two combined of course.

On my twitter feed the other day and image emerged from Vanity Fair.

And it got me thinking. Because, first and foremost, I’m not that old. Secondly, I don’t really believe that advice would have changed much of how I acted. I don’t think I ever went about looking for advice, at least not from people who would have been in a good position to offer it. I think that I must have been always bullheaded in my own determination to become what I wanted to be. I can’t say whether any of my so-called determination ever came to fruition, because as independent as I like to think of myself, I’m also pretty feckless and absent minded.

And it got me thinking. Because there is plenty of good advice been shared by people in a good position to offer good advice. The fantastic Brain Pickings is an endless source of this advice, and if you’ve never visited that website you really should. You can read all the advice the written word has to offer, but how much do you take to heart? Is a lot of it not just idea juice that will inspire you somehow to focus in a particular way? Our conscious actions are influenced by our past experiences or by the experiences of people we know. What I mean is that if you want to make the most of advice it’s imperative that you seek from someone who you love or respect, or indeed both if you’re lucky enough to have a person that fits both of these categories.

I know that when I write something I’m particularly proud of there first opinion I seek is Herself’s. I can’t say that it’s because she’s an expert on anything that I write, but because it’s her view on life I look to first. I see her as a very balanced and logical thinker and a person with a particularly insightful view on the rest of the world. I look for the opinions of others too, of course, for different reasons and when seeking different results.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s advice to his daughter Frances in a 1933 letter is something worth reading now. The infamous writer, fond of a drink, a psychologically troubled spouse, and for penning some of the finest novels of the twentieth century was, in several respects, aptly positioned to offer advice to his daughter. There’s the love angle covered, and because of the work he produced the respect angle is arguably covered too. Enough of my waffle. Here’s the letter:

DEAR PIE:

I feel very strongly about you doing duty. Would you give me a little more documentation about your reading in French? I am glad you are happy– but I never believe much in happiness. I never believe in misery either. Those are things you see on the stage or the screen or the printed page, they never really happen to you in life.

All I believe in in life is the rewards for virtue (according to your talents) and the punishments for not fulfilling your duties, which are doubly costly. If there is such a volume in the camp library, will you ask Mrs. Tyson to let you look up a sonnet of Shakespeare’s in which the line occurs Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds…

I think of you, and always pleasantly, but I am going to take the White Cat out and beat his bottom hard, six times for every time you are impertinent. Do you react to that?…

Half-wit, I will conclude. Things to worry about:

Worry about courage

Worry about cleanliness

Worry about efficiency

Worry about horsemanship…

Things not to worry about:

Don’t worry about popular opinion

Don’t worry about dolls

Don’t worry about the past

Don’t worry about the future

Don’t worry about growing up

Don’t worry about anybody getting ahead of you

Don’t worry about triumph

Don’t worry about failure unless it comes through your own fault

Don’t worry about mosquitoes

Don’t worry about flies

Don’t worry about insects in general

Don’t worry about parents

Don’t worry about boys

Don’t worry about disappointments

Don’t worry about pleasures

Don’t worry about satisfactions

Things to think about:

What am I really aiming at?

How good am I really in comparison to my contemporaries in regard to:

(a) Scholarship

(b) Do I really understand about people and am I able to get along with them?

(c) Am I trying to make my body a useful intrument or am I neglecting it?

With dearest love,

Courtesy of openculture.com (another website worth checking regularly)

*

I like to think that I am not someone who dwells seriously on regrets. I take some into account, like when I was in UCD I should have volunteered for one of the University newspapers, and perhaps I should not have chickened out of taking English as a degree subject – all that confounded olde English… Sometimes I regret not trying harder, or for not standing up and asking for something. Nowadays I have a silly regret that I didn’t prepare myself more for being more employable (at least on paper). And other crap which will struggle to bear much significance in the future.

When I think about it seriously, there is nothing here that I actually regret. If I could stop regretting one thing it would be to stop regretting things. But If I could go back in time and give myself some advice I would. If I could offer advice I would probably say things like don’t worry, everything works out in the end, and those things you wanted to do don’t matter in the long run, and that yes, life is not fair, and live it up. Similar to the majority of respondents, wherever they came from, on that Vanity Fair tweet, I am a normal, worried person.

But. But. But this got me thinking. Because the way we give advice depends as much on how we receive it, as I discussed above, as it does to how we share it. If we throw advice about carelessly it has no value. If we share it sparingly then each piece of advice is worth something more than simple words that pass from mouth to ear.

I will offer my advice to a younger me, advice that I still need to follow and advice I think I will need to adhere to until I die. It’s pretty simple advice but it’s something that I think would save me as it could have saved me in the past had I known the necessity for it.

I could say question everything.

I could say love yourself.

I could say don’t let negativity spoil you.

I could say there is beauty in everything.

I could say that everything takes time to grow.

But what I will say is this. Always, always, look for advice. Seek it out. Listen to it. Judge it. Question it. Consume it. Love it. Manipulate it and use it as your own. Without it you will be on your own. With it you will have someone else’s world and someone else’s to make the most of. Bring all this advice together and ball it up and hold it tight to you because one day it will be useful even if it seems like a waste of time right now. Advice from loved ones, family, friends, peers, everyone has something to share. The more advice you get, the better suited you are to make the right decisions in life and less alone you will feel when these decisions are part of your future.

I just hope that it’s good advice.

*

The whole way through writing this post all I could think of was this song.