What’s the point?

 

Don’t worry! The long gap since the last post isn’t because I’ve fallen into the depths of research despair. Quite the opposite, in fact. It’s been a busy month for Blue Devilism but the best kind of busy.

A big chunk of the time has been spent on background reading, particularly people who have already written about Burns and his health. There’s lots out there, which is great as it helps build a really full picture of how our current views on Burns have been shaped, what’s been done well in the past and how this project can improve on that work. But it also presents the challenge of identifying the most relevant material and focusing time and energy on really pulling it apart without getting too distracted by other avenues. Not to say I might not wander down a tangent or two occasionally…

However, by far the highlight of the first few weeks has been speaking about the project with other people. I’ve done quite a few training workshops and attended seminars which has let me meet researchers working in a wide range of other fields. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of hearing what people are doing and looking for opportunities to build new links with other researchers.

Perhaps more exciting for me though has been speaking to non-researchers. We’ve probably all seen a story on the TV or in the newspaper about some research project which makes you think, “What a waste of money!” or “I could’ve told you that, it’s just common sense.” So whenever someone asks about my project, I wait to hear, “But why?”

And I’m still waiting!  I’ve been amazed by how positive people are when I talk about the work. They’re excited about the possibility of new insights into an already-intriguing life. They’re fascinated by the possibility that some of Burns’s brilliance (and notoriety) might be influenced by mental disorder, and they’re interested in the better understanding we’ll gain of Burns’s inspirations and creative processes.

Even more encouraging is the appreciation for the wider value of the project. They see the potential for a very positive impact on the wider understanding of mental health issues and the stigma which can been attached to that.

They see the point.

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