Looking Back at Writing in a New Area- An informal autoethnographic account
This is a blog post. So kindly treat it like that only: as an introduction or a writing-about-a-writing post.
This post is about the paper, my forthcoming publication in the CJMT (you will soon find out in the next few lines what this is)- Making Song, Making Sanity- Recovery from Bipolar disorder. So this blogpost is an account of how this paper got written or you might read it as how a research paper gets written and how it gets published, for someone who works in a non-university based setting.
Before you read further, I want to bring you to my background- I am someone who has not been to an active university system after age 20 (am now 41+), when i was confined to my home due to long illness. In the last two decades, all study and inquiry that has been happening in my life is within the four walls of my home- the homes have changed naturally and the family arrangements have changed; but for the last few years I largely live with four dogs, and I have a husband since December 2010, who lives in another part of India, who I meet several times a year. Like I said earlier, homes and dynamics keep changing- so what seems like the story today will be the past tomorrow. And coming from an illness of 18 years, if I could live to see the end of it, I am sure I will live to see the end of a lot that I want to be rid of.
Chronologically this is how my paper got written.
I was busy with a research since August 2012, and a lot of things keep coming into my mailbox, which also includes one news digest from the field of music therapy, among many other such mails that come in. You may be amused to read this, but I am not subscribed to anything in music(!!) except for research updates in music pedagogy. I do read about musicians or the numerous possibilities in music- but reading is around- health psychology, mental illness, anthropology, sociology, linguistics, philosophy and I constantly indulge in joining the dots- like i say holding the rubik’s cube in my hand.
What is my Rubik Cube Way?
When I look at every problem, I know that I may not get the entire picture, so though i listen respectfully and with due attention, I wait for other options to emerge. Naturally you do not hold the Cube about every little thing, but major issues in life- especially in unearthing things like ‘what are the roots of mental illness?’ or What should be the ways ahead for music to be taught? What role can art play in creating peace, or what should artists do in modern society, what is their role and historical contribution going to be in the march of civilization? I do not go and discuss these issues with anyone, because there is no need to. These are not research questions for me, but philosophical issues.
What can be the philosophical issue about how music ought to be taught?
First of all, that depends upon whether you even know why music ought to be taught. If you reply in the affirmative then you ought to read further, else leave it.
Second, in teaching of music there are many formats- so what should be that format? Should it be classical music, school music, film music, folk music or what? These are all issues that I have spent years and years of thinking, reading, searching and finding answers for. Some of my response would come via Hamsadhwani Enterprise and rest would come via my writing, over time.
Third, who ought this music teaching be directed at? And if it is, then should everyone be taught the same way? Should a five year old be taught like a 15 year old and who should be taught like a 40 year old? What should be the difference, if at all…anyways there are many such things that i have been at. But this space is about Kabir and my writing.
21st Feb 2013
I saw a call for papers . Here it is-
CALL FOR PAPERS
The Canadian Journal of Music Therapy is welcoming submissions for its next edition, volume 20, release in 2014. We are seeking articles on music therapy from a wide variety of perspectives and styles, from first time authors to seasoned veterans. Examples of possible articles include a case study, an interview, an historical perspective, a philosophy, the merging of an approach or theory within your work, as well as intersections between the sciences, the arts, and music therapy. We offer a manuscript development program to assist authors through the writing process.
The deadline is July 1, 2013 though we welcome articles year round.
The Submission guidelines are available in English at
and in French at
This was the first time I had encountered a CFP in music therapy and my heart suddenly was in a flutter- should I? Shouldn’t I? After many butterflies in the stomach I wrote to the email address given.
My letter- Date- 22nd February 2013
Hello from India
I am responding to your call for papers. I work in mental health myself, being a musician. The area I work in is qualitative research and I want to document my own story of recovery from bipolar illness. Most of my work is of an academic nature and it is my endeavour to systematically chronicle the path of my recovery using music-homeopathy as the axis i have used to recover from this potentially (fairly debilitating) illness.
I do not work with any populations in music therapy as such, at least for now (though it is very much a part of the plans for the future)
I send this mail to make an inquiry about whether you would be interested in a submission from me from an autoethnographic perspective about some aspect of how i have used music (particularly the lyrical components as my own expressions) and on the one hand recovered, and on the other also created a new identity for myself instead of that of being ‘mentally ill’ alone? Needless to say I would look at the therapeutic role of music in my own journey from illness to wellness, and recasting of identities by narrative reconstruction.
There are a lot of sides to my musical recovery and this paper (which i hope would not exceed 8000 words) would just be the first of those writings I engage in. I am sharing a recent publication that i wrote for…maybe you would see where I come from. The online version is Oct 2011, but the date of the final publication is Apr-Jun 2012. My profile, meanwhile, from Linkedin shares my musical and other engagements with you.
Looking forward to your response
11th March 2013
Thank you for your inquiry, and interest in the Canadian Journal of Music Therapy.
The potential submission as you describe is intriguing and would be appropriate for the journal.
I would encourage you to submit it and once received, it will go through a blind double peer review.
Best wishes with your work!
Dr J (MTA)
Canadian Journal of Music Therapy
12th March 2013
I will try to submit a manuscript within July 1. Can you suggest me a desirable word count please?
Regards from India
12th March 2013
As per submission guidelines at:
http://www.musictherapy.ca/ ( i have deliberately deleted this)
there is no specific length required and no page limits imposed. A manuscript should be written clearly and
concisely. Submissions typically range from 5,000-8500 words.
Many weeks passed, many ideas scribbled and tossed aside. It is not easy to write about a life of two decades in 8500 words, for what to cover and what to leave out. There are three musical genres clearly standing out. How to say which one is more important?
This is the first time I seek response.
Person- Prof. Ajit K Dalal, Professor and former head, Dept of Psychology, Allahabad University.
Date: 9th June 2013
You cannot estimate my sense of relief in finishing this piece- its more like getting over with the agony of my own surgery, which i am performing!
Please see and give you comments, hopefully i do not have to do much re-writing this time. Looking forward to meeting you the following week.
with best wishes always
12th July, Ajit-ji writes back-
I am sending you herewith music therapy paper. I thought of sending it with few comments in morning. But then the editor/teacher in me took over. I went through the paper again and made many more corrections which took time. I am sending it herewith. It is your prerogative to accept or reject these suggestions.
With good wishes,
And look at me, so pestering..on 13th having incorporated his suggestions I go off here
One last look at this please…i beg of you. I have spent the better part of today doing this. I am so tired, i cannot even breathe now!
forgive me for being so persistent. I shall be expressing my thanks to you as part of my acknoweldgements- but this version is for blind peer review so even my blog link is not visible here, nor my name.
my deepest gratitude
14th Jun 2013– TO my dear friend, who is a writer-filmmaker- Sharat Kumar-ji, someone who has always enjoyed conversations with me over food, ideas and our respective writing.
Am ready for the eye-for-an-eye match. Feel free to send me something upwards of 8000 words, because my piece is 8500 approx!!!
looking forward to a quick reading and response
And from the same day I found this, to Prof. Girishwar Misra,
Dear Prof Misra
I have been silently trying to work away, i do not know to what effect, but i really pray to god it would be something useful. So one of the thigns i have finally managed to write is my first piece of music therapy research.
Prof Dalal has been very kind with his time and engagement and dissected my work so much that i am quite convinced i cannot do more than this. He told me to make a few others read it too, so that it would be checked for flow, just in case he is missing out on something (knowing him and his red markings, it seems a difficult proposition though) But i am extremely grateful for such an erudite and scholarly academic critiquing my work,.
Can you please read it, just to check that it is making sense to theoretically (though this is an interdisciplinary writing between music-music therapy and psychology) I know you would understand the psychology bits very clearly, and also the music therapy things better than music. But i do hope that you will see it for its appeal.
I have written this for a music therapy journal, and the submission is due in a fortnight now. I will wait for your comments and feedback if any ( and i pray they are not many!!) as i am so tired of this autoethnographic writing, it really rips you open- what an experience! This has to go for double blind peer review once i send it.
warm regards always
14th June 2013
Same day, he responds
Good to hear from you. I shall go through the paper and give inputs.
With affection and best wishes,
15th June 2013 , Prof. Dalal writes
Sorry for not been able to send you the paper this evening, as I promised. I suddenly realized this afternoon that I had an urgent and important assignment to watch India play against Pakistan. Sorry.
I will finish my work by tomorrow forenoon and send it to you.
Look at the professor, he is apologizing to me!!!- who he owes nothing to, whatsoever, and who has no connection with him as a student, colleague or anything. I should be ashamed for pestering him. Instead he is saying sorry 😦
15th June 2013
I think it is important for you to watch the game…and take a break from the monotony of reading the paper again in a short span of time.
Don’t apologize and embarrass me. Take your time, it is not nice of me to push it this way. plesae forgive my pestering
gnite for now
|16th June 2013
Ajit K Dalal
I am sending herewith the paper with some additional corretctions. As I told you I could not stop from doing it.
The paper makes a much better reading now, so there are only few suggested changes. I have not touched upon the changes I made last time. There is no need to touch upon them again. You may go through what work I have this time, which we may discuss on telephone whenever you have time.
It is alright to pester sometimes. This is how we all work at times.
That was truly very kind of him to say that. I had no reason to expect such kindness from anyone. From no teacher of mine, whose feet I touched, in addition to paying them, in the hope that they would teach me something to sing, correct my mistakes or give me a feedback whether I was good or bad, did I get this kindness. SO when I got it from someone who does not owe it to me, i do not have even proper expressions to express gratitude. I am so inadequate really.
And now without waiting for a response from Prof Misra, this is my letter to him
16th June 2013
Dear Prof Misra
I am sending you the version that has undergone prof dalal’s investigation and dissection two times over. Kindly read this and see if you would like to suggest anything further, in case you have not read the earlier version- i pray to god you have not.
I hope you will like this piece better too. Hope to send this now and move on with the book further, which every paper submission has stalled this summer.
thank you and warm regards
SAME DAY (16th June ) his response
I have gone through the piece. Well done! Great. I really enjoyed the writing which makes one to empathize.
I have made some corrections. You may like to consider.
The conclusion should include some recapitulation and theorizing . The reader would like to have guidance about the functions, processes of musical intervention. How did it help . For instance , redirecting attention, furnishing purpose , giving space for creative self expression, going beyond the mundane, recapturing the threads of life. You may reconstruct tentative stages, moments/moves and of course struggles.
(The comments are to be taken constructively and as given by EDITOR!)
Go ahead ! I once again appreciate your efforts.
And I re-write the manuscript and do not show its conclusion to anyone now. Prof Dalal and Prof Misra are okay with what I have written, and I send it off…comfortably within the last day of submission. Now the waiting starts with bated breath…weeks become months. (Meanwhile the Faiz Cd is getting recorded, and the other writing is unfolding- i have invitation to come to Brazil, and a little later to London)
Date of Submission- 17th June 2013
8th July 2013
Thank you submitting your manuscript to the Canadian Journal of Music Therapy. I have received it.
I will be back in touch once it has been reviewed. This will probably be later in August.
FYI: The manuscript is sent out for two blind peer reviews.
Once I hear back from both reviewers, I synthesize their comments and then share them with you.
This process typically takes anywhere from 4-6 weeks.
As a validation of what i wrote here are a few responses, that I get, from someone who is equally dear and valuable- Prof.Ramakant Agnihotri – former head and retired professor, department of Linguistics, Delhi University
27th August 2013
Fantastic. This is really a great piece of intensive careful reflection and research. It MUST be widely read…Attached in track change with minor suggestions…
But it was already submitted long back…
Ramakant-ji suggests that I can try reminding them of my writing and see where it stands. I do
31st August 2013
I hope you are doing well and in the interim of our last communication have had the opportunity to review my writing. I was pointed out some lacunae by another reviewer at my end. Would you like me to send you an updated version, or have you and your reviewers also seen them for yourself?
The additional thing is, that this paper of mine is being considered as an important piece of reflective research by three senior academics, who are professors, authors and people who are considered authorities in the fields that they represent- psychology and linguistics.
I hope my writing and reflections are sounding plausible and serious to others in music therapy too, for they have long-term repercussions in academic research via the Indian music system- and mental health. More so in India, where the field itself is in a nascent stage right now.
Waiting to hear from you, soon hopefully
4th September 2013
Apologies for the delay in my response. I was taking some holidays and am just back to the office now.
re) the updated version of you writing — yes, please send that to me
re) review process — yes, the paper is under blind peer review by appropriate scholars
re) timeline — I am still waiting on the reviews. I should have comments for you by the end of September.
(Oh god! there is no end to my agony..of prateeksha!!)
7th September 2013
Thank you for your response too. I am sharing the updated version of the article, as there was some problem with one or two of the citations, nothing more than that. I have rectified those.
Hope to hear from you at the earliest
thanks and regards
21st September 2013
I am pleased to let you know that your manuscript has been recommended for acceptance with revisions.
Both reviewers found the paper to be interesting, unique and creative. Concerns were expressed about aspects of the scholarship, specifically the question of working with subjectivity, citing more literature, being more concise, and attending to APA format, the writing style followed by the Canadian Journal of Music Therapy. Specifically,
* Reviewer 1 noted that you refer to selective recall and self-serving bias but do not discuss what or how you worked with this. He would like a statement about this to be included.
* Reviewer 2 noted that more literature could be cited to support your statements and an edit with attention to conciseness and reducing number of words.
Excerpts of their comments are copied below:
Reviewer 1: I am happy to have had a chance to read this interesting manuscript. The theme and presentation are unique, it is a unique case of self-help through music. I do think it is necessary for the author to explain what efforts were made to remove possible sources of bias.
Reviewer 2: The author must be commended on her courageous and creative contribution toward understanding her process of recovery. I would like to see more clarity and conciseness (the manuscript is too lengthy, wordy and repetitive) and addition of more research literature to support her statements and opinions.
To this end, I would appreciate another draft be submitted using track changes to indicate the following:
(i am not putting down her recommendations here, because they do not concern this article. I am only sharing that part of the communication which i think is necessary to share how a journal article gets written, or my journal article got written, not necessarily all the communication that happens around it)
Thanks again for the above mail, which I have now read all over again, just to attempt to include whatever your suggestions are, as also the reviewers.
The only bottleneck I face wrt your recommendations is that I have no access to any journals- including the Francis and Taylor ones you have suggested. Your own article from Voices is a link, so accessible to me.
I have found other sources myself as well. I hope to send it much before the time I requested, but I asked for it nevertheless just to be sure that i do not run short of it.
In case you can mail me copies of those papers from Francis and Taylor journals, I will be very grateful. I really hope that this piece will come through as many people will gain from this in the Indian context and it lends itself to opening many doors of inquiry in music therapy in India.
Warmth and thanks
I’ve attached the editorial and article. And the link below should be accessible to you.
20th October 2013
I am grateful to you for all your support and kindness in helping me and for your assistance so that I could bring in more resources and present my scholarship more befittingly.
I have finally done another version, by cutting out somewhat, incorporating newer ideas and even changing the final conclusion in terms of bringing this into the context of emancipatory qualitative research. I have brought in partially as per your recommendation, and partially as a result of my own study, eight new references, and in this document since I wanted to put all in an alphabetical order I just made that format, by removing the track-change options. So all the new references are marked in yellow- you can just remove the colour yourself.
I am sending the new, shorter version with the track change option. Hope this is fine now.
If you would let me know that, i would like to put in a final line of thanks to the reviewers and you in my acknowledgements.
thanks and regards
21st October 2013
Thank you Prateeksha. I have received the revised manuscript.
It will take me a few weeks to review the changes.
I will be back in touch with you by Nov 15th.
NO Reponse and my anxiety continues…– another reminder- gets this response
15th November 2013
It is not a bother to hear from you at all. Your revised manuscript was received and it
will take me another few weeks to review it. The intention is to accept and publish your
article. It is just a case of finalizing revisions.
You should hear from me no later than Dec 2.
5th December 2013
Congratulations! I am pleased to accept your manuscript for publication in the Canadian Journal of Music Therapy.
I have attached a draft that has incorporates some minor editing/revisions. Please read the attached paper and let me know if there are any further changes or questions you have before I forward the paper to our copy editor for final revisions.
Thank you again for choosing to contribute to the journal.
I look forward to hearing back from you so I can forward the paper to the copy editor to edit for a final version.
At last…!! still more changes, correcting the citations 😦
Tell me finally, in case you have reached the end of this document,…have I not earned signing this copyrights document?!
At the time of submission, length- 8,540 words