I find it difficult to comprehend that six months ago I departed my home once again to embark on a new adventure. In August I began my year-long Master’s program at Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John’s, Newfoundland, and so very much has unfolded in this little life of mine since this journey began. Finding my footing amongst the rigors of academic study once again has been a difficult task, which is a poor explanation for the lack of attention this blog has received despite my explorations of this new, wholly unique place.
The first semester consumed all of my energy and I found it difficult to focus on anything other than my research and my academic writing. When the holiday break arrived at long last, I still struggled to bring myself to attend to this space. Frankly: my relationship with writing has been tempestuous in the last eight years or so. Since beginning higher education, writing has become synonymous with anxiety and stress; I fear the flaws that others may find in my writing and think me lesser for it. I consistently struggle with simply articulating my often nebulous ideas and editing them later, a habit that tends to wreak havoc on my mental state. Simply put, I am a perfectionist that procrastinates when perfection cannot be achieved at the first attempt. While I had hoped to reflect on my first few months in Newfoundland over the holiday break, whenever I sat down to write I found myself paralyzed, especially after this semester of re-learning how to be a university student again. I felt tired; tired of putting my thoughts in a public space, tired of feeling vulnerable to criticism. However, the only true and vicious critic fixated on my work is myself.
As this first year of the new decade progresses, I am committed to improving my relationship with writing and rediscovering the joy and magic that comes with crafting worlds out of words. Though I journal sporadically, the most significant way to improve upon my perspective will be attending to this public space more often, publishing my work on my own platform and having the courage to recognize that being vulnerable is okay.
However, this will also mean a substantial change that will unfold here at West of Moon for the next twelve weeks. As part of a course I am taking on Public Intellectuals this term, my colleagues and I have been challenged by the professor to keep an academically-oriented blog that grapples with the notion of publicity in intellectual spheres. Specifically, with this assignment, I am interested in the most appropriate way to reconcile intellectually rigorous work with accessibility. The following questions will underline the upcoming series of ten academic blog posts:
- How do I — with my background in literature and a firm footing in academia —
write in a manner that is not only intellectually stimulating and appropriate for academic discourse but also engaging for and appealing to a broader public?
- Is it possible to curate this space in a way that marries my academic work with my personal writing style and creative fascinations?
- Will this work encourage discussion amongst my readers and invite them to think critically while still enjoying this blog and my thoughts?
It is my hope that for the coming months, though, this blog will not be entirely consumed by academic work. Instead, I do intend to intersperse some reflections about my initial encounters with Newfoundland as well as my upcoming adventures throughout this work. Though this task felt daunting at first, I am coming to realize how this evolution in the style and content of West of Moon, at least for now, will provide a critical signpost in the curation of myself and my creativity through distinct challenges. It is my hope that those who have enjoyed my thoughts for the past few years will continue to come to this space and ponder what I have said, as well as offer their support for this new direction as part of my growth as a student of literature and a student of life. I am also quite willing and eager to read feedback as this series progresses, so I encourage anyone to contribute their voices to my musings in the hopes of facilitating further discussion.
I will close with the opening lines of Phoebe Florence Miller’s In Caribou Land that resonated deeply with me, as entranced as I am by the northerly winds and frost-rimmed moons of winter. Miller was a celebrated poet local to Newfoundland and is the subject of study for the upcoming week in my Public Intellectuals course. May we all let the frost king bewitch us, even for just a moment.
In Caribou Land by Phoebe Florence Miller
In Caribou Land the north winds blow
With whistle of storm and swirl of snow,
And the frost king works his will a while
On seas that bluster and lakes that smile.
Miller, Phoebe Florence. “In Caribou Land.” Mistress of the Blue Castle: The Writing Life of Phoebe Florence Miller by Vicki Sara Hallett, ISER Books, 2018, 145.