Shut up and write… and care

Creativity is key to economic development, to personal fulfilment, and so on. This is pointed at repeatedly these days, as entrepreneurial values are stimulated in a post-crisis economy. But, when can we get the time to be creative when the daily demands of our jobs makes it difficult for us to stop and think? The managerial model in universities has made it more and more difficult.

Since last June 2018, I have been meeting with a group of members of the itdUPM —where I physically attend to work these days— to write while being together. Lost projects, current projects with deadlines, unfinished projects. We have been introducing little by little also reading/reflecting/planning time.

Time to read and write and then to reflect has become a luxury. With the idea of opening a spot a week for these very essential activities, I decided to invite whoever was interested at the itdUPM on Wednesdays for shut up and write sessions. I had already been doing those remotely for a year with my colleagues Yenny and Natalia in Bogotá, but physical co-presence and connection became important.

At first, it was Cecilia, Candela, Mariángeles and me. Then Ander started to come, and then Sara and María José. The group is variable (I cannot myself come each time), but I can say that we have consolidated a group that meets currently on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the “ático” (attic) of one of the universitie’s department. Following Cecilia’s idea, we created a closed Facebook group for eventual feedback on short excerpts of our projects. 

 

Idea and collage: Cecilia López.

We are generating a sense of belonging, and a time and space for things that are impossible in the everyday work rush. We are opening up a time and a space to think and to create stuff in written form. And that’s revolutionary! OK, a slow revolution. Or the path towards some kind of change, at least.

Besides the satisfaction that generates advancing projects —individual and collective—, I am very proud of how this very dedicated bunch of people are developing written, planning, and reflective skills. We are even slowly becoming a Bullet Journal (https://bulletjournal.com/) community of nerds.

But the most important thing is, I think, that it’s because of our being together that it has been possible to develop a discipline to pursue things that really matter to us but that are not important or visible tasks in universities. We all feel like we have done something really important when the session is finished.

 

Look at this amazing people. Please note how the attic itself can change from one session to another: find the differences!

Other members of the itdUPM react when we bump into each other, saying: “I want to come next time!” and it normally takes some weeks before they finally find the time. When they come, this quality time for our minds and spirits stop being a luxury and becomes a priority. Even though this is not a new practice, I hope it extends more and more.

Isolation makes part of our work conditions, especially in an academic setting. This being together makes part of a wider reflection on the generation of some kind of awareness of a collective work and life condition. It also places the emphasis on an ethics of care.

A feminist ethics of care -at least in an academic context, and I will here share an excerpt of a very sharp blogpost by my colleague Ester Conesa-:

“(…) helps make visible the power relations behind the masculinised ideal of autonomy and competitiveness. An ethics of care perspective supports ideas of interdependency and vulnerability. As an analytical approach, it offers the possibility to display and study the genderedness of care across its multiple layers: personal, collective, familial, at the workplace, at decision-making level, within institutions, etc. The ethics of care allows us to also focus on the temporal dimension in the academic environment and on the politicisation of distress when care is absent, invisible, devalued, or displaced to the peripheries of these multiple layers. (…) The Great Lakes Feminist Geography Collective, also advocate for the feminist ethics of care as a way to disrupt the neoliberal university.”

Even though this seems to be “just” a gathering of mostly women who want to shut up and write, we are indeed generating political action. The most evident one is Candela de la Sota’s project on raising a gender and feminist awareness at the itdUPM.

As Narelle Lemon and Susanne Garvis (2014: 2) say (thanks, Edgar, for pointing to a great blogpost on the subject):

‘‘“Our stories assist in the telling and retelling of important events. Reflecting on these events allow the ‘processing’, ‘figuring out’ and ‘inquiring’, leading to behavioural actions to change situations.”

The phone rings and Mariángeles says: “This silence was too good to be true”, she picks up the phone and there is no one on the other side. She hangs up and… shuts up and writes, and we all care.

 

Lemon, N., & Garvis, S. (Eds.). (2014). Being “In and Out”: Providing Voice to Early Career Women in Academia. Animal Genetics (Vol. 39). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

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