Writing Life as a Method of Discovery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The death of an aunt, criminal charges against her daughter, and family management of that crisis drove me into research. The charge together with the press coverage of the case brought collective family shame. I wrote first to understand my cousin’s plight and secondly to avoid conflict with my father. Most writers draw on experiences shared with or contested by others. Some transform source characters in order to analyse ideas in cognitive mode but at arm’s length; others write to bear witness. Life writers frequently write perceivably true accounts. This paper will assert writers right to research experiences that belong to others whilst respecting vulnerable subjects. It relies on Anna Denejkina’s proposed model exo-autoethnography – that is writing trauma vicariously suffered through family or personal connections – for the purpose of representing and clarifying complex problems, short-circuiting authorial paralysis, and expanding empathy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)online
Number of pages12
Issue numberSpecial: 50
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2018


  • Trauma
  • Autism
  • Auto-ethnography
  • Creative writing
  • Vulnerable subjects
  • Authorial agency
  • Writing as discovery


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