This eighteen month interdisciplinary critical/creative project will bring together people living with persistent pain, representatives from pain charities, creative writers, academics, and medical practitioners. We aim to better represent chronic pain experience by disrupting existing expectations of illness memoir, and to challenge current tendencies in medical humanities scholarship of narrative and wellbeing. Unlike traditional long-form illness narratives, our network will produce and explore what we are calling ‘flash’ illness writing: fragmentary, episode-focused, short-format work, both word and image. We will be holding a symposium and a ‘Creative Summit’, producing a website of creative work, a podcast in tandem with a pain charity, and academic publications.
Chronic pain affects nearly 28 million people in the UK alone and globally affects about 20% of the adult population. People living with chronic pain repeatedly report being marginalised and stigmatised by healthcare practitioners, their personal networks, and the wider public. This invisibility is partly because chronic pain can be hard to turn into story, thanks to its jagged unpredictability, and its resistance to clear causality and cure. Rather than offering ‘life story’ narratives or a narrative arc seeking to make sense of long term experience, our project focuses on representing fragments of chronic pain experience.
Our network will counter the invisibility of chronic pain experience by generating a freely-available online database of ‘flash’ short-form creative writing to vividly convey how persistent pain can impact the lives of those enduring it, and by doing this achieve two ends: support pain sufferers by validating diverse experience, and enhance awareness of the condition among healthcare practitioners, carers, and the wider public. As such, we hope the resource will be of use to people living with chronic pain, pain charities, carers, medical educators, people working to raise awareness of chronic pain in healthcare policy, and members of the public.