What shutting up and writing can do for you (Emma Hughes)

Photo by Fredrik Rubensson | www.flickr.com/photos/froderik
In November 2014, Emma Hughes (PhD candidate in the Theatre and Drama Program, College of ASSC) participated in La Trobe University’s Academic Writing Month (#LTUacwrimo).

We were interested in hearing about her experiences, and she kindly agreed to an email interview.

About herself and her research work, here are Emma’s own words:

“My thesis is about the representation of mothers within contemporary Australian female authored drama (play-texts) and theatre (live performance). I have a Bachelor of Performing Arts (Honours) from Monash University and a Master of Arts from the Theatre and Drama Program at La Trobe University.”

Emma tweets at @melbtheatregrrl.

Now, onto the interview!

So, Emma, what prompted you to join in with the La Trobe University Academic Writing Month (#LTUacwrimo) in 2014?

I decided to sign up for #LTUacwrimo because I perceived that setting myself a public goal to work towards would help me achieve my aims, and because I like keeping a record of the study-tasks that I attempt and/or complete. Furthermore, I thought that I’d like to give “Shut up and Write” a try and I decided that #LTUacwrimo was a good time to do it.

Was the month’s focus useful for you, and what do you feel it achieved? 

To be honest, I did not do a lot of the task that I set for myself. That said, the writing that I intended to do did get done.

In November, I spent most of my time writing a new chapter about a play that I had been invited to view in rehearsal at the Melbourne Theatre Company, Joanna Murray-Smith’s new work, Pennsylvania Avenue. I was invited to attend the rehearsals long before November, but it wasn’t
until I saw the play for the first time in rehearsal on 29 October that I was sure that it would have a place in my thesis.

I spent most of November writing about Murray-Smith’s new play, and I wrote a lot. It was a new experience for me, beginning my analysis of a play in the rehearsal room. Attending “Shut up and Write” helped me to write a lot, and fast.

I watched Pennsylvania Avenue twice in October, twice in November, and once in December, but I didn’t receive a copy of the script until December. Usually, when I’m writing about a performance, I write with the play-text beside me, but last November I only had my memories of (and notes from) the rehearsal I attended and performances I’d watched. Attending “Shut up and Write” helped me document those memories and begin to connect those memories to relevant theories.

In more concrete terms, did you complete particular pieces of writing during #LTUacwrimo?

During one session of the #LTUacwrimo “Shut up and Write” sessions, I decided to write and submit an abstract for an international conference. I was very excited about Murray-Smith’s new play and I thought that the conceptual framing that I brought to its analysis might be of interest to others (specifically, scholars in maternal studies).

I’m a member of AWGSA (the Australian Women’s and Gender Studies Association), and AWGSA provides its members with details of relevant Calls for Papers. It was through AWGSA that I heard about MIRCI (the Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement) and their forthcoming conference in April in Rome, Italy. Coincidentally, one of the conference convenors was the editor of a text that I’d been reading on maternal theory.

I submitted an abstract for consideration to the MIRCI conference and, shortly after, was informed that my abstract had been accepted. I later submitted an application for funding, and was offered a grant.

Have there been longer term benefits from taking part in #LTUacwrimo?

I have a draft of my PhD thesis. While I had already written much of my thesis draft prior to #LTUacwrimo, I believe that participating in the month’s activities and attending “Shut up and Write” helped me finish my draft in good time.

Furthermore, participating in “Shut up and Write” spurred me to search for similar writing opportunities, and this led me to discover @FriNightWrites and #writeclub on Twitter.