Choosing modules for the final year of undergraduate study can prove to be very difficult. With a range of exciting routes of study, it is hard to be selective and narrow choices down. As a rather traditional English student, I prefer to have set texts each week, exploring all things Renaissance and Eighteenth Century. So why was I drawn to Dr Helen Rogers’ module, ‘Writing Lives: A Collaborative Research Project on Working- Class Autobiography’?
As the title of the module suggests, this project aims to bring recognition to ordinary, working-class memoirs. Students find an autobiography, from the Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies (Brunel University Library), to explore throughout the semester. Each week students must write a blog post on certain themes and aspects that feature in their chosen memoir. These may include such aspects as education, home and family life, labour, politics and recreation. We were also required to promote our work and the website (www.writinglives.org) through social media.
Blogging, Twitter, Facebook were all alien terms that greatly frightened and disturbed me. Having no previous experience or associations with these terms, however, I thought it was time to step away from 1614 (for the time being) and enter into 2014. So I decided to opt for the Writing Lives module and be adventurous for once!
Abondoning essays and entering the world of blogging did, at first, become a big shock to the nervous system. I had to completely adapt my writing style to make my work accessible and enjoyable to a wider audience; I had to get to grips with WordPress; and I had to create (much to my dislike) a Twitter account.
Of course, getting my writing style suitable for publication became the first major worry. It took at least five drafts and the deletion of around three pages of work to have a reasonable post. Then came the problem of dealing with WordPress. With so many complicated technical terms (well to me anyway) I was unsure how to insert images and tags, categorise my posts and reorder work.
Perhaps the hardest process throughout this odyssey, however, was pressing ‘Publish’. After time (and a lot of patience) it becomes almost second nature dealing with the technological sides to creating a blog posts. But what is still worrying even today is hitting that (life-changing) word, ‘Publish’. It becomes daunting to think that one’s work can be made available to the world within seconds. Questions instantly start formulating: Is my grammar correct? What about spelling? Did I reference that article properly? Does the post even make sense?
However, once I became fairly acquainted with these issues, I loved every minute of this research project. Blogging has allowed me to shape my own academic writing. Through researching, writing and proof-reading blogs, I have become a more succinct writer. Also as blogging is a more informal style to essays, I have been able to adapt another writing style.
A further aspect to the Writing Lives project has been to promote the website by using social media. There have been many talks and articles on the role social media plays on the academic world. Most of these articles have been negative towards social media. However, through using Twitter as a way of publicizing both the Writing Lives website and our own contribution to the project, we have been able to extend our readership to a wider audience. This is a way of promoting Writing Lives to other academics, historians and people who are generally interested in the role of autobiography and local history.
Overall, it has been enormously rewarding to publish my work on the Writing Lives website; sharing my interests and research with an extremely wide audience of online readers. I have developed much more confidence dealing with blogging and social media and I will be transferring these skills onto my own postgraduate research.