Saturday, August 18, 2018

Turning Inside Out again?

For the second time a course on 18th century Quakers which I had hoped to run for Woodbrooke has been cancelled because of a lack of bookings. This has led me to consider what to do next. I am not going to abandon the 18th century but perhaps the time has come to approach it in a different way. I shall continue to try to 'introduce you to my friends' through this blog and I will look into the possibility of creating an online course for Woodbrooke for 2020.

At the same time I will put some more effort into research and writing and try to make progress on my biography of Catherine Payton Phillips. I have ideas for some journal articles which I will focus on. I know from long experience that, as the historian Barbara Tuchman put it, 'Research is endlessly seductive. Writing is hard work'. I think that now is the time to do some of that work.

Also, for a while now I have been feeling nudged towards a new direction - or rather to a new approach to an old path. It is twenty-five years since I set out as a Joseph Rowntree Quaker Fellow to give workshops on spiritual autobiography up and down the country. I talked about this in earlier posts on this blog - first of all ten years ago and then later when I was wrestling with some difficult questions.

Having published my book Turning Inside Out; an exploration of spiritual autobiography in 1996 and given up the workshops after ten years, I thought that spiritual autobiography, although still an interest, had faded into the background of my life, except in its connection to my historical research and writing.

Recently though I have been contacted by a few Friends in different parts of the country who had read my book and wanted to use it as a basis for workshops in their meetings to allow people to share their spiritual journeys. Encouraged by this I got out my notes and at long last transcribed the two background talks I gave as part of the workshops from longhand to the computer. Of course they need updating but I may now look at ways of publishing them as I originally intended to do.

I am also putting together a new Woodbrooke course with Rhiannon Grant on 'Spiritual Blogging' which is due to run in May 2019. It will be a new experience to work with someone else on different approaches to spiritual autobiography and I am looking forward to it.

I am also aware that I need to do more work on my own spiritual autobiography. I have a title - and used it for this blog - but so far I have only written fragments in different places. I was inspired by some of the writers I met at the QUIP conference earlier this year, especially Iris Graville and her memoir Hiking Naked, both to read more and to go back to writing about my spiritual journey. I need to turn inside again before I can take the next step, turn inside out and share what I have found with a wider audience.

So it seems to me that what I am being led to do is not so much a change of direction as a closer integration of the two strands of my endeavour - spiritual autobiography and 18th century Quakers. I need to allow what appear to be stumbling blocks to become stepping stones.

1 comment:

Kristin Lord said...

Both the spiritual autobiography and the spiritual blogging workshops are likely to be very well subscribed. As we say on this side of the Pond, go for it!