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The Balance of Academia and Artiness by Kathryn Crowley

Writing.ie | Member Blog

A detail from the front cover of my new chapbook.

Kathryn Crowley

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For writing poetry, pen and paper serve me well. I am not used to being at a computer screen all day; usually more of my time is spent with watercolours than Windows! My return to education necessitates a lot of computer time, and while going to university is a massive privilege, doing everything in cyber space instead of being on campus for lectures and research has played havoc with my health.

Thankfully, it did not take me long to realise that my feeling unwell was down to sitting still for long periods at the monitor. I had no energy for creative writing, dance, or painting. Was academia going to suck the life out of me like a vampire? A few artists had mentioned to me over the years about how formal education acted as a killjoy to their creativity. The alarm bells were ringing, so it was time for me to make some changes.

The body sends messages when all is not well. I began taking regular breaks from the screen, which reduced my headaches and nausea within days. My creativity was restored, however it did not happen overnight. The most important part of the process was that instead of allowing myself to stay ‘in the zone’ whenever my research was flowing, I began limiting it to 40 minute sessions. I even started setting reminders on the phone because some days I ignored my own pledge and would keep on working for an hour or more! Eventually the new habit formed, and now I leave the laptop without delay ever hour to go outside for some fresh air or to take a stretch.

Most days I immerse in some thesis work for two sessions (80 minutes in total), then take a 40-minute creative writing session. Two hour blocks are all I can handle. An end goal is not always the most important thing; I journal too.

Often, I sit outside with a PDF or a book (UL’s library has re-opened; joy!). My MA relates to yoga and the sociology of medicine and health, and a few weeks ago I was reading an author’s account of a skewed report where the researchers had completely ignored the fact that people in poverty are constantly excluded from the basics (clean water, decent housing, secure employment,) of life to support wellness. On top of that, the poor are often blamed and scapegoated when they become sick. I marvelled at how one publication was a misuse of words by the elite, while another writer had addressed the fallacy in a brilliant book. It is crucial it is that we continue to pass on the data reader to reader, I thought. Right on cue, a honeybee appeared.

There is something magical about them brushing off my skin as they fly towards the bright orange flowers growing outside my house. The bee landed on my book and stayed there, which never happened before, so I was delighted. The phone was within reach, so after a few moments I reached over for it to take the bee’s photo; it didn’t move! The picture turned out well and the bee’s image is so symbolic to me that I decided to used it on the cover of my chapbook. I will do all I can to maintain a balance of academia and artiness, more aware than ever that like the most productive of bees, taking time for dancing and rest is also important.

‘The pollen pages’ is available now at www.artyshe.com

(c) Kathryn Crowley

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