Smart Women Write From the Heart About The Election

Dear Readers,

The election of the new president of the United States was the inglorious epilogue in the global spread of regressive, dangerous ideology. To the smart women who write, it feels like a very clear confirmation that something beautiful and important in the soul of  not just the  nation, but the world, has died.

Without consciously having orchestrated it, each of us (Tanya, Bryna, and Angela) wrote about living and writing and working with this stark confirmation fresh in our hearts these past few weeks. If you read all three posts together, they look a little bit like the disjointed phases of  grief.

Continue reading “Smart Women Write From the Heart About The Election”

Finding Guidance in Activist Art History

This fall term, in my capacity as an adjunct instructor, I have been teaching an upper-level course of my own design called “Sex, Gender, and Politics: Art in the Age of AIDS, 1980-Present,” that centers on several overlapping units tied to themes of race, gender, sexuality, censorship, and civil liberties as they pertain primarily, though not exclusively, to arts and activism engaged with the AIDS epidemic in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Although I knew this class would be timely when I developed it months ago, I never imagined how meaningful it would become throughout this election season.

In the last two weeks since Trump was elected, especially, it has emerged as something of a lantern in the dark tunnel of the post-election landscape. Over and over, I’ve turned to the class material for inspiration, drawing from the reservoir of artists, activists, and political events that I’ve been studying and teaching to help me find the words (beyond some profanities) to speak to my emotions and evolving ideas.

In this post, I want to talk especially about I how looked for guidance from this class for teaching both of my classes the first days after the election, when emotions were at their most raw. Continue reading “Finding Guidance in Activist Art History”

Journaling and the Morning Pages

In my previous post I wrote about the value of journaling during my dissertation process. In this post, I’ll share a major shift in my practice after completing my PhD thanks to my discovery of Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. Cameron’s book is an indispensable tool for spurring creativity, and includes all kinds of nuggets for helping the “blocked artist” out of her rut.* The tip I’ve been using most since reading her book a year ago is what she calls the “morning pages,” a simple but wondrously useful tool that involves committing to three pages of longhand writing every morning. When you write the morning pages, you shouldn’t worry about it making any sense. They are not necessarily a reflection on the day (as my nightly journaling had been) but stream of consciousness stuff. As Cameron stresses:
There is no wrong way to do the morning pages. These daily morning meanderings are not meant to be art. Or even writing….Nothing is too pretty, too silly, too stupid, or too weird to be included (p. 10).

Journaling and My Dissertation

If you follow me on twitter, you’ve probably seen me talk about how much I love the concept of journaling as a way to nurture my creativity, as well as to process and work through self doubt. Indeed, I journal almost daily, usually in the morning with a coffee – and in these cooler and darker mornings here in Portland – under a blanket on my couch. This is a practice that became part of my regular routine back in 2015 when I was in the last stages of my graduate school.  I began that year with two big New Year’s resolutions: I would keep a regular journal, and I would finish a dissertation that I had been writing for some time and finally receive my PhD. While I suspected the first goal would help to achieve the second one, I didn’t anticipate how important that journaling process would be. In fact, in those last few months before I defended my dissertation that spring, the journal became one of the main tools for success.

Continue reading “Journaling and My Dissertation”

Course Planning with Scrivener

A couple weeks ago on the history blog Junto, Michael D. Hattem wrote about using Scrivener for his dissertation writing process. Like Hattem, I am also a big Scrivener fan. I discovered the program about half way through my own dissertation writing and now use it for almost all my writing related projects. In this post, I want to share one of the main ways I’m been using it recently – to develop course material for two different classes that I begin teaching when my university’s quarter begins at the end of this month. Continue reading “Course Planning with Scrivener”

The Writing Buddy System

In last week’s post about her writing goals for the year, Tanya mentioned that she and I have been connecting with each other regularly under the guise of Writing Buddies. This Writing Buddy system began with an email invitation by her as she was setting her 2016 goals at the end of last year.  Since the New Year, we’ve been checking in with each other regularly about each other’s respective projects, ideas, and creative dreams. In this post, I’ll talk more about this concept, give some tips for anyone interested in starting their own writing buddy system, and reflect a bit on how its helped my writing practice.

Continue reading “The Writing Buddy System”

The Explorer

Hello folks! I’m Bryna Campbell, and I have a PhD in Art History and Archaeology from Washington University in St. Louis, but currently live in the Pacific Northwest, a place I’ll no doubt write about because it’s been a constant source of creative inspiration. Since graduating with my doctorate a year and a half ago, I’ve been on an expedition of sorts to find a meaningful and rewarding post-ac career. In this introduction, I’m embracing the identity of Explorer for that reason, and sharing some of the ways that writing has played a role in my post-PhD adventures.

FullSizeRenderFor me, writing is an infinitely rewarding if challenging practice that helps me to learn a little bit more about myself every time I work on it. I try do it as often as possible, even if that sometimes means just jotting down a few pages in a journal before going off to do something else. I like try out different genres in my writing. Most of all, I try to let myself feel deeply as I write, because when I do I find discover deeper truths about myself.

I haven’t always thought writing in this way. If you had asked how “the writing” was going when I was working on my dissertation, I’d have probably looked at you bug-eyed as I twitched a bit and grunted the words fine under my breath. Only after completely my PhD did I begin the process that led to how I think of writing now.

This paradigm shift began about a year ago when I decided to co-create The Art and Place Blog, a collective space where I work with others to engage my interests in themes of art and community, ecology, regional identity, gender, and politics. I began with the simple goal of working on writing about art for a non-academic audience. I find that I like writing in this way more than traditional academic writing. I enjoy thinking about the intersections between art, community, and the public.  There, I also serve as the founding editor and thus enjoy working with others as they develop their posts.

About six months ago, I began to edge further away from traditional academic writing with a creative online project, Un/Settled, which I co-write with my brother, another budding writer. This collaboration has been even more generative for my post-PhD journey. At Un/Settled we each explore the complexities of having grown up in the rural midwest and having left it – and the attendant feelings of longing, frustration, and loss, that comes with this experience.  I  look forward to sharing the risks and rewards of collaborating with someone I know so intimately, as well as talking about what’s drawn me to write less about art history and more about personal life. One result worth noting: I’ve started on a longer writing project about my maternal grandfather, a nomadic figure of sorts who never seemed to settle down. This project is in its beginning stages now, but I’ll share more about this project as it evolves.

I still do academic stuff too! I teach art history and gender studies classes at a university in Portland, Oregon. In that capacity, I write syllabi, regular lectures, assignments, tests, and the most difficult of genres – constructive and thoughtful comments on students’ work. I also have a short essay coming out in an anthology later this year about an artist named Joe Jones, a politically leftist midwestern rebel rouser from the 1930s who sparked some of the ideas that have taken root in The Art and Place Blog. On top of all this, I am married to a wonderful husband and have a six-year-old kid who surprises me everyday with his wickedly wonderful imagination.

I come to Smart Women Write to talk about the writing practice and to grow and learn…and maybe to nudge myself gently, or sometimes not so gently, to get my work done. Onward. Let’s all get writing!