The Wonder Of #CRMethodsChat

I have been running a creative research methods Twitter chat most months since May 2019. It lasts for an hour, usually on a Tuesday, and the time varies from 8am to 7pm BST/GMT to try to accommodate people in as many time zones as possible. The chat is often very lively, with a mix of regular chatters and new people. I have also heard from a number of people who appreciate the chat but prefer to lurk rather than to join in. A regular chatter recently described it to me as ‘a very special community of people’, and I would agree: a friendly, creative, supportive bunch, all ready to share ideas and learn more about creative research methods.

In recent months I have hosted all the chats from my own office, but before the pandemic I often hosted chats from hotel rooms in various countries and once even from a train in Ireland (Iarnród Éireann have great wi-fi). After each chat I curate the tweets, and any relevant links, into a Wakelet for those who couldn’t attend at the time. Chats to date, with links for any you would like to follow up, are:

14 May 2019 Inaugural Twitter chat about creative research methods

11 June 2019 Creative methods of data analysis

9 July 2019 Creative methods of dissemination

10 September 2019 Visual research methods

8 October 2019 Embodied research methods

12 November 2019 Using social media creatively in research

14 January 2020 The future of research methods over the next 10 years

11 February 2020 Performative research methods

30 June 2020 Participatory textile making as a creative research method with co-hosts @StitchingTgthr and Amy Twigger-Holroyd

21 July 2020 Teaching creative research methods online

15 September 2020 Using online methods in research and teaching

20 October 2020 Remixing research methods with co-host Nikki Pugh

17 November 2020 Research ethics in a pandemic with co-host Christina Silver

8 December 2020 Creative and collaborative research with co-hosts Narelle Lemon and Janet Salmons

28 January 2021 Creative writing for social research with co-host Richard Phillips

24 February 2021 Creative methods of analysing data with co-host Julia Puebla Fortier

27 April 2021 Creative research methods across disciplines with co-host Dawn Mannay

1 June 2021 Creative methods of gathering data with co-host Louisa Lawrie

15 July 2021 Embodied inquiry with co-hosts Nicole Brown and Jennifer Leigh

5 October 2021 Making participants comfortable when using creative research methods with co-host Suzanne Culshaw

You will notice that for the last year I have always run the chat with a co-host or two. This is because the chat has become increasingly popular and is now really too busy for one person alone to manage. There is a lot to do: responding to tweets; keeping an eye out for tweets intended for the chat where the tweeter forgot to include the hashtag, and retweeting them with the hashtag to bring them into the chat; finding links to share – sometimes even with two or three of us it is absolutely non-stop. So far the quietest chat was the one on performative research methods in February 2020, with just 43 items in the Wakelet (“items” = tweets and links – in Wakelet you can’t click on a link in a tweet, so I track down the link and include it separately). The busiest one to date was embodied inquiry in July 2021 with 288 items. That chat ran at an average of four tweets a minute, or one every 15 seconds. Two other chats had over 250 items each, two more had 200–249 items, six had 150–199, four had 100–149, and the other five had under 100 items (all of those five were in the first year).

People have various reasons for co-hosting. Some have a book or other output to promote which is relevant to creative research methods. Some want to find out more about a topic, or form a special interest group. The main reason I am writing this post is because I would like more co-hosts for the chat. If you’re Twitter-literate and you just fancy helping me out from time to time, that would be fine by me! But whatever your reason, I will be happy to hear from you.

Co-hosting is easy: we agree the date/time for the chat and the questions to be used; in the run-up to the chat I will send out some promo tweets and tag you so you can retweet them if you like; then attend the chat itself and help people to feel welcome and interact. If you want more detailed information before you decide, there are a couple of blog posts on the topic: one from me on the Research Whisperer blog including reflections on the first #CRMethodsChat, and one from Pat Thomson, full of characteristic wisdom, about the #VirtualNotViral chat she runs with Anuja Cabraal. There may well be others, too; if you know of any please comment on this post with a link.

I am aiming to set up chats in advance, so if you have a book coming out any time in the next year or so, or you’re doing – or supervising – doctoral studies and you want to know about some aspect of creative research methods, or you have a project on the horizon that might benefit from increased knowledge of creative methods, please do get in touch via Twitter or my contact form.

This blog, the monthly #CRMethodsChat on Twitter, and the videos on my YouTube channel, are funded by my beloved Patrons. Patrons receive exclusive content and various rewards, depending on their level of support, such as access to my special private Patreon-only blog posts, bi-monthly Q&A sessions on Zoom, free e-book downloads and signed copies of my books. Patrons can also suggest topics for my blogs and videos. If you want to support me by becoming a Patron click here. Whilst ongoing support would be fantastic you can make a one-time donation instead, through the PayPal button on this blog, if that works better for you. If you are not able to support me financially, please consider reviewing any of my books you have read – even a single-line review on Amazon or Goodreads is a huge help – or sharing a link to my work on social media. Thank you!

Knowing When To Stop

stopSometimes it’s hard to know when to stop. That could be when you’re still having fun and you don’t want to stop even though it’s after midnight and you’ve got to be in work at 9. In my early 20s I could get away with that. In my mid-50s? No chance. The dark sides of not knowing when to stop are dependency and addiction. Then there are the mental ‘ought’s and ‘should’s. I ought to finish reading this book, that I’m not enjoying at all, because the author took so much trouble in its writing. I should keep working on this collaborative piece even though my collaborator hasn’t answered my emails in months.

There’s an art to knowing when to stop. My mother, who is prone to outbreaks of wisdom, explained to me the point of stopping while you’re still having fun. Because what’s the alternative? Keep going till you’re not having fun any more? If you do that, you’re unlikely to want to do whatever-it-was again. Whereas if you stop while you’re still having fun, you keep the magic.

The ‘ought’s and ‘should’s can bog off. There are so many books (and journal articles, and – ahem – blog posts, and so on) that if you’re not enjoying one, why take the time to read it to the end? You won’t have time in your whole life to read all the books (journal articles, blog posts etc) that you do enjoy. So blow it out. Read the last page/paragraph if you need to satisfy your curiosity, then toss it and find something that suits you better.

And as for collaborations that have gone belly-up… that can be hard, when you’ve put in a lot of work and you’re not far from the finish line. But recognising when you need to quit is an important survival skill because it protects you from throwing good time after bad.

There’s another way this can work, too, which is not so much knowing when to stop as recognising that you have stopped. This has happened to me with my New Year’s resolution (I know! July! Not bad, eh?). My resolution was to review a book a week; i.e. an academic book, and to publicise this and encourage others to join in. I said from the start that it didn’t actually have to be a book a week, and I followed my own guidance; I reviewed 14 books between 1 January and 7 June, 12 on Wordery/Amazon and two for the LSE blogs. I haven’t reviewed an academic book in the last couple of months, though I’ve read quite a few. I will continue to review academic and other books but I’m not going to plug it as a ‘thing’ any more.

This is partly because hardly anyone joined in. A few people said it was a great idea, and one or two did write reviews, but it was evidently an idea whose time has not come, or has passed, or will never exist. Conversely, the monthly creative methods chat that I started in June has taken off rather well. And of course the point of all these things is not only to be the thing in itself, but also to raise my profile. Sounds cynical, in a way – yet I’m running a business and I have books and skills to sell. That doesn’t mean I’m trying to sell them to everyone all the time; that would clearly be unrealistic. I aim to create initiatives which will be of value to people in themselves, because I think that’s the best way to do marketing. Not to shout GIVE ME WORK AND BUY MY BOOKS AND BE MY PATRON but to generate resources and opportunities for people, which may lead to some of those people choosing to put some work or money my way. Or not – there’s no obligation and I like it that way. But the return on investment for these initiatives is low. For example, there have been over 5,000 downloads of Starting Your PhD: What You Need To Know and around 25 reviews worldwide, or one review for every 200 downloads. So evidently it’s sensible to invest time in the initiatives that increase my visibility rather than those that don’t, no matter how close they may be to my heart.

So bye bye, review a book a week. It was nice knowing you. And hello, #CRMethodsChat. You’re ace, and you happen on the second Tuesday of every month. Long may that continue.

This blog is funded by my beloved patrons. It takes me around one working day per month to post here each week. At the time of writing I’m receiving funding of $34 per month. If you think a day of my time is worth more than $34 – you can help! Ongoing support would be fantastic but you can also make a one-time donation through the PayPal button on this blog if that works better for you. Support from Patrons and donors also enables me to keep this blog ad-free. If you are not able to support me financially, please consider reviewing any of my books you have read – even a single-line review on Amazon or Goodreads is a huge help – or sharing a link to my work on social media. Thank you!