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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Writing with walls in mind

In order to have an impact on a reader, a writer needs to become ‘one of us’ to the reader rather than ‘one of the others’. As a minimum, the reader needs to experience the writer as credible and trustworthy. But to open the walls within the reader, he/she needs to create an image of the author as an authentic human being, solely through his or her engagement with the text. The reader wants to be included and not talked down to.

All too often the norms of publishing and the thought worlds in which we live limit how we write. For example is OK write about socio-analysis without referencing Bion? In academia we are encouraged to write in the third (distant) person. We must reference every idea rather than celebrate our excitement of having thought of something ourselves. And if we don’t follow the norms we may experience external walls in the form of refusal letters.

If you say that you are writing an academic paper most people will immediately assume that it will be dense, complex and hard to read. Writing academic material can all too easily mean demonstrating one’s cleverness with complex sentences, technical terms and dense conceptual material. But in following this norm we make hard work for readers. After all, writing is meant to be read. So why not make an effort to use language and construction that is intended to be accessible, readable and engaging for readers who live outside our psychoanalytic conceptual walls?

This will be a collaborative, engaging and experiential workshop that assists participants to write material that is accessible and readable and that engages readers. As a part of the process we will work with some of the tensions involved in meeting the expectations of academia and the psychoanalytic world whilst writing for non-specialist readers.

The workshop will also explore some of the psychodynamics of writing, including the ‘reader in the mind’, the ‘publisher in the mind’ and other ways in which writing mobilises phantasies and emotions in writers.

Some presentations will be given on principles of accessibility and readability, as well as some of the expectations that authors may encounter from academic publishers. Examples of published material of varying levels of readability will be presented. Participants will be invited write and to edit their own writing and to contribute ideas so that other participants can improve the readability of their material.

See the PDW 8 Schedule (PDF) and pre-meeting notes.

Thomas Martin Ringer writes:
I’ve spent a lot of my life writing, almost entirely non-fiction, and reasonably often I receive feedback that my writing is engaging and readable. I have a personal interest in writing for non-analytic readers without diluting the power of the material. Although I am not a particularly well know author, I have a sound history of writing, resulting in over 40 papers, chapters and events that have been presented in a number of different countries. Some of this experience includes being reviewer and editor, mostly of analytic journals and collections. Having attended a number of writing workshops at ISPSO symposia and other events, I am excited about the way that writers at all stages of development can co-create a space of nurture, ferment and experimentation that can be of great help to participants. It is a privilege to be facilitating such an event with my colleagues. It is also important for me to acknowledge the transfusions of wisdom about writing that I have received from many ISPSO colleagues, in particular Robert French and David Armstrong. Their humility, professionalism and talent as writers continues to inspire me.