Critical thinking

Natalia’s recent post, as usual, made me think, in this case, about what are we doing when we are blogging. Thinking about my experience of these  first months at it,  I found that a very important, un-planned and unforeseen aspect of writing this blog was to discover another way of doing academic thinking and writing.

Academia’s main tool is critical thinking. For years I would pride myself in finding fault with different ways of thinking, with academic papers, or talks. I am not sure when this happened, but I reached a point, where I found this exercise dry and unhelpful. I then went the other way and had trouble criticising. Or even worse in academic terms – though I suspect this is what many academics do in their practice- I realised I did not like stuff, just because it did not feel right. Then of course I found many rational explanations…but basically this is how it went:

– do I want to throw the book out of the window? Is this because it forces me to think something new, uncomfortable, or because it is bollocks? – this can be a tricky one, though…think Derrida…

However, this is what much of academic work is about: pointing out flaws in others people work. However, in this blog, in our reviews, I concentrate in what I like, what I find useful. Which is obviously part of academic work, as you need to work with something, but not one that is enhanced. It does not mean I do not find things to criticise, but I brush those aside, unless they itch me in a productive way. I have started to accept my body’s reactions to ideas and readings too, as you can see from the language I use. It does not mean either that I get married to these ideas. I use them if they are helpful for what I am trying to do, think and/or write. A more pragmatic way of looking at academic work.

I know there is a host of feminist thinking on what is valuable, rational, important in terms of academic work, and it also links to what Natalia analysed about her experience of academia. But I come to realise- with the help of good talks with friends, counselling, reading – that this is the only way of thinking something original for me. This is the way I work. And this means, I have to work on being afraid of making mistakes, of being vulnerable, of feeling exposed. During my PhD, this was a constant struggle. I had to work at having my own voice, and not being drowned in other people’s theories or ways of writing. My supervisors were especially good in this sense (if you ever read this, thanks!). And during my viva, my examiners commented on how refreshing it was to read some very honest reflections on how methods and how theories worked or not for me (self-inflicted blushing here), which was really nice, and uff, people, what a relief. So it is not that this way of doing this is not appreciated, it is, but it is hard work, and quite scary frankly and tortuous (for me at least!),  and you have, as usual, to find the spaces where this is appreciated. I do not need to tear people up to make myself bigger as others do.

I think that finishing my PhD, and the viva, gave me more confidence. The feeling of thinking it is OK to say what I think and use theory and academic work in particular ways; a feeling I used to have but lost along the way. I hope others don’t need to go through this process to find their voice, and be more confident. In this sense, academic work is like other creative work, I think, in terms of, as a dancer friend said, unless you say/do what’s true for you, it won’t work well, it won’t shine. And this blog hopefully will help do just that. So thanks for listening and leaving your comments, it makes all the difference.

Have you had these struggles too? Have you found your voice?


5 responses to “Critical thinking

  1. Beautiful! Yes, it’s all about the voice – your own, personal voice – especially when working with/through difficult issues and ideas. Mine is still the faintest whisper, but your posts are just the megaphone I need ;-).

    • Thanks Rain, I am still working on it, probably always will… I think sometimes other voices sound more powerful from the outside! But it is a a great compliment, so thanks!

  2. First, congratulations on finishing your PhD! Yay!
    I find this post so interesting. Right now I feel like finding flaws and problem areas is just about all I can do, with not enough creative energy or time to think about those useful parts and see what I can do with them. It’s a great way to think about it though, and as I think about it more, being able to brush aside those problem bits instead of pick at them sounds a lot more interesting.
    As for having found my voice, most definitely not! But I like thinking about it this way instead of as a total lack of confidence. A voice seems findable, with work, whereas confidence feels terribly intimidating (and unlikely).
    Sorry for rambling, lots to think about!

    • Thanks! I have just sent in my corrections, so hopefully it will be truly over soon, and I can dress up as Harry Potter for my diploma 🙂
      I think thinking about it as a voice helped me, because, as in singing, we can all sing, we might have to polish things here and there, but if you fake it, it does not work so well…or maybe for the bee gees…

  3. Pingback: Education crushing creativity in children | maternalselves

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