14 November, 2016

The Imperatives & Trajectory of Writing

A Muse by Scientist and Philosopher 

Jim Schofield

Having been a full-time writer, initially, of directed academic papers, and, thereafter, individual essays, for a developing period of almost nine years now, I am, in retrospect, interested in the unplanned trajectory that I have been directed upon by that experience.

Initially, my topics were extremely varied, not only coming from my later career in Further and Higher Education - as a Lecturer and Researcher in Computing, but also from many, much earlier phases, when I was involved in teaching Physics, Mathematics, Biology, Music and even Revolutionary Politics.

Though, I occasionally also wrote upon Art, it was as a practicing Sculptor that I put in the hours there, and though I did write extensively for a time, on Music, it was as a rather incompetent performer, and perhaps a somewhat better analyst, that I spent my time in that area.

Writing was an intellectual activity, and initially, was limited by my own current inadequate knowledge, though I always found that I had something to say upon the latest News, and upon articles in Scientific Magazines, the results initially were invariably just critical one-offs.

But, being aware of those inadequacies, I resolved to attempt to overcome them, and read a great deal to that end. And, crucially, as a life-long teacher, what gains I made for myself, I wrote up as if I was teaching a class - so my style was never very literary - with the none of the usual abundance of quotes, references and examples of relevant experience.

I saw writing as teaching, and delivered accordingly, as if I was there in front of a class (though I had to imagine for myself any puzzled expressions and probable consequent questions).

I invariably got an inordinate number of criticisms from "professionals", who felt it necessary to dismiss my "style", punctuation and incorrect language, as betraying clear unprofessional inadequacies. But, as a highly successful teacher for over 40 years, I felt that I knew better.

I was never attempting to earn a place in Academia, but merely to teach what I had learned.

Now, as a qualified computer expert, I had managed to land my perfect job - helping Higher Education researchers (across the whole range of disciplines), by both devising and delivering computer programs to help them with their work.

I wrote tailor-made and usually completely original software aids for research in disciplines as widely different as Engineering, Taxonomy, Control of complex testing and analysis machines, Nursing Care Plans, Mathematical Chaos, and I finally won a British Interactive Video Award, for The Dance Disc - a multimedia aid for the teaching of Dance Performance (all of these were, of course, only achieved along with top experts in the discipline-field involved).

The language I used, when talking with my co-workers, was exactly how I wrote, and, it always seemed to work very well.

What I am keen to communicate here, is how my writing changed over the years.

From the outset of the current, writing-only phase, I worked 7 days-a-week, 12 months-a-year for a minimum of 4 hours a day ( and often a lot more), and quickly reached the level of output of a "Paper-a-Day". I began to fill 80 page display books with printed versions of my work, which rapidly grew to over 150 volumes, at which point, I switched to much more capacious A4-size polythene boxes.

A current estimate of my writing is around 6 million words, and after only a couple of years into this phase, I (with the help of my son, Michael Schofield) had set up three dedicated websites, where my work was published.

The most important site was SHAPE Journal, which, by October 2016, had published 91 Issues, each containing around 6-10 original papers. It didn't take long for us to, in addition, publish what we called Specials, which were originally conceived as SHAPE Issues dedicated to a single theme.

Now, from the very beginning of this endeavour, I had been losing my sight: so changes to my writing facilities were regularly necessary.

Initially, I wrote on paper with a pen, but soon had to switch to a more readable fibre-tip marker, and enlarge my manuscripts. The second stage was always to type from the MSS into my computer, but, then, the text on screen became too small to see, so a bigger screen became a regular update. And latterly, I couldn't even read my own manuscripts, so I switched to direct-typing-in, using a truly mammoth screen.

Another development in method was also derived from teaching, for I frequently changed course within a lesson, as a response to evident problems and questions - and, following an unresolved question, I even made sure I had cracked it by the next lesson.

So, when writing, I had to be my own sternest critic, particularly during a reading of what I had just produced, so necessary additions were then carried out, and inserted within the prior text. Many times, it was incomplete premises, assumptions, or prior ideas that were mistaken or even missing, so resolving these, produced Prefaces and Introductions, and topics often stretched into series of related papers. 

Perhaps the most important development was the Necessary-Interruption-Technique - where I realised the need for a necessary area of work. So, I immediately suspended the current writing, and diverted to researching the as yet unresolved question that was required, before I could complete the prior paper. But, most directly-available information was rarely an Explanation, so I regularly had to sit down and think it through for myself.

Brief notes helped guide my later writing, but clearly the Thinking Sessions were becoming more and more vital. The gathering of mere Knowledge was clearly insufficient!

In the present World Knowledge has, indeed, become the main objective, but that is surely NOT the main purpose of Education: that is now, and always has been, the Understanding of phenomena.

In addition to "How?", we have also know "Why?"

Instead of the mere dissemination of prior Knowledge, the emphasis changed markedly to explaining why things behaved as they did, and my writing became Original Theoretical Research.

As a qualified physicist, I tackled the infamous Double Slit Experiments, in Sub Atomic Physics, and managed to arrive at a comprehensive Explanatory Theory, at variance with the now consensus Copenhagen Interpretation.

In research into the work of the philosopher GWF Hegel, and his famous student Karl Marx, I finally arrived at an original Theory of Emergences.

And, elsewhere, also managed enhancements to Darwin's Theory of Natural Selection, as well as significant improvements in Stanley Miller's famous Primeval Atmosphere Emulation Experiment, which had naturally generated the absolutely vital amino acids in less than a week.

Having had a very wide experience over a long career, I was able to not only write, but also make original contributions across a range of disciplines, and despite my increasing blindness (I have advanced Macular Degeneration), I have accelerated my rate of production considerably.

In the coming Summer (2017) we will celebrate with the 100th Issue of the SHAPE Journal online, which will be a Special - composed entirely of the Illustrations, Montages, Diagrams, Graphic Art and even YouTube videos - all selected or created by my son and colleague, Michael Schofield, who is currently studying for his Ph.D. in Photography at Leeds University, England.

It will be quite an issue!

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