Storytelling is the essential human activity. The harder the situation, the more essential it is.
~ Tim O’Brien
Sometimes writing in private isn’t enough.
Writing in private definitely isn’t enough in trying to tell oscillating stories – stories that see, capture, hold for a minute, invent while thinking – that capture life in the middest of learning something. Nor is it enough for a writer who’s trying to imagine an audience for ideas taking shape. The ideas taking shape in this place will often focus on sorting through thinking that happens in learning that the paternity I carry in my heart and head, soul and history does not match the paternity I have learned that I carry genetically. There’s Pops. There is a bio dude. There are impacts everywhere on learning this new life detail, and understanding of impacts across years before learning that new detail. My first writing about this was a Facebook post to let family and friends in on the secret, and the deeper love of my parents that its discovery evoked.
In stitching together these various stories, words aren’t enough, either. Songs needs to play in between paragraphs, sometimes even need to play to define or context as single word. Images need to show up as part of description, as springboard for description – or to set a tone, to bring a particular hue to a story’s register, to stand in for nascent notions.
Words in other public spaces aren’t enough. Most public spaces are actually secret spaces where people addressing DNA surprises can honestly interact as part of “dealing with” new – always complex, sometimes disheartening, always provocative – information and understandings. Yet those spaces often set limitations on discussion topics, moving any working out of ideas linked to queerness, feminisms, race/ethnicity, politics, and sociopolitical constructs to other forums. They aren’t enough for people sorting and reflecting, reading and responding to complex situations – to situations that fit what writer Tim O’Brien calls hard situations.
As someone who both writes and teaches – as well as teaches writing and teaching – I know that shaping ideas for an audience, for interactions, requires time working through shitty first drafts*, as Anne Lamott rightly calls this process, for storytelling to take shape. The posts here, then, are first attempts to externalise ideas, to perchance connect with other thinkers/readers, and to see about writing my way into something next, something more complex and clear, and to risk sharing bits of the oscillating storytelling on the way.
I started this blog as my “digital fieldwork” work/make space while participating in the Teaching Complexity Online Seminar curated by Bonnie Stewart (then a Visiting Fellow, University of Arts, London) and David White (Head of Digital Learning, UAL), with #teachcomUAL reflecting the interactions before, during, after, because of seminar sessions.
The original About page opened with the following 3 paragraphs to provide context for that seminar’s second “digital field work” tasks:
I’m aiming for a blend of Make, curate and share + Contribute to discourse/knowledge by figuring out how to shape a blog space that isn’t academic (the last three I’ve managed were all linked to school – one to our tcg/lrng center, the other two to specific courses), which is a start to having me do something different in virtual space. That something different is still a blog, with motivations that are more personal than professional, and content interests that require me to learn in disciplinary and experiential realms that are new to me.
So, to make things just a little interesting, I’m organizing this blog around DNA “stuff” – drawing soon on colleagues’ genetic counseling research, on a friends genomics-related courses, and on related fiction/non-fiction works.
I have a long-term interest in genomics, and when I’m writing by choice it’s creative non-fiction with local/family history springboards for “bigger” discussions. Also, I’m one of the now many whose DNA profiles have turned up what’s known academically as “non-parental event” and colloquially as “not parent expected.” At this point, most of the secret group discussion spaces on this topic are decidedly unfriendly to feminist, race/ethnicity-informed/nuanced, queer friendly, non-christian perspectives and experiences. I want to figure out how to talk to that space – as well as to make a place where I can talk, and begin imagining, creating that necessary particular space.