Yesterday I finished Mary O’Hagan’s memoir Madness Made Me. It was a interesting and gripping read about O’Hagan‘s life including her experiences of madness and the mental health system. I especially enjoyed the second part about her activism with other psychiatric survivors and in the mad movement. There is a lot more to say, but today I want to share just one impression from Madness Made Me that reminded me of an important principle of this website.
Unfinished projects have value
The unwritten book, the never-executed research proposal, the never-sent letter to an abandoned activist coalition … There are many such unfinished projects in O’Hagan’s memoir. She writes about them without regrets, acknowledging instead how she got to them and how she abandoned them or moved on from them. She still describes them with care and detail and conveys them as something that is valuable. In one case I thought: This sounds like something that someone else working in Mad Studies has taken up since.
This is a spirit that I also cultivate on this website. I write about unfinished projects knowing full well that they may change shape before I finish them, or that I may never finish them. It is so antithetical to the spirit of graduate school and academic life more generally, where the „research proposal“ derives its value only by means of foreshadowing the future research project for which it is to generate funding and institutional endorsement. Or am I exaggerating the difference? In any case, I appreciated reading that O’Hagan set out to write a self-help book for people with mood swings, when other things took priority in her life and she never finished that book. It encouraged me to keep writing about, and pursuing, my own projects and not feeling like I am accrueing some sort of moral debt until I actually finish.