Writing Ugly
Published in: On The Politics of Ugliness, Edited by Sara Rodrigues & Ela Przybylo (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018).

Hélène Cixous has described the act of writing as becoming “a thing with pricked-up ears.” She describes doing this work at night: “night becomes a verb. I night.” By turning ugliness into a verb, as Cixous does with nighttime, this chapter considers what it might mean “to ugly” when writing. It explores the experience of inhabiting unsettling, resistant, anxious, uncomfortable—in other words “ugly”—spaces whilst writing. It makes a case for the value of encounters with the ugly in one’s writing practice and how abiding with, or deliberately turning towards such states is not only a sound method of working but provides an important counter narrative to the social drive to rid ourselves of the unpleasant. It asks: What is “ugly” writing? What does it mean “to ugly” in the context of writing? And in what ways might considering ugliness as part of one’s writing practice enable a renewed thinking about what it is to write? Drawing on philosophy, psychoanalysis, and literature it makes a case for the veracity of ugliness—not only politically but as a methodology or practice.