Tuesday, January 24, 2012

On Thesis Writing

Image from backstage at Tsumori Chisato, here

I love writing, in general. Contrary to whomever it was who said that she doesn't love writing, she loves having written (which I loved because of the phrasing, of course), I actually do love the process of writing. I love the unfolding of ideas that seems to occur on its own, I love how new ideas spark as you write, leading you in unexpected directions. I love how, when writing fiction, characters spring from your fingers and swiftly leave off to lead their own lives, while you hurry behind, trying to capture their light and shadows before they fade. I love making an argument and proving it, I love rhetoric, I love thick description. 

So why is writing up this material that I've spent the past two years living, reading about and thinking through so difficult? I can literally sit and talk for hours about blogging, but ask me to set it out in writing and all of a sudden, I'm struggling to articulate myself. I start a paragraph, get about one hundred words in and find that I'm writing something that I had planned to put in another chapter. I sit for  a minute or ten, wondering whether I should keep it for the other chapter or whether I should proceed. I have an argument with myself about where this bit best fits. I make a mind map, a new chapter plan, jot a few  points down about the progression of my argument. I decide to stick it out and keep writing because I can always jigsaw it around somewhere else later. I finish the paragraph, shrug the tension out of my shoulders and start the next one... only to have the same experience begin all over again.

I'll go home at the end of the day, having crawled out maybe a thousand new words, berating myself because I was an undergrad student who could research, knock out and polish a 5000 word essay in a two day turn-around. I'll know in my heart the words I did just write are muddy, contracted, vague and dull. I resolve to get up again the next day and keep on, just keep on until they're better.
Overall, this endeavour is like crawling a marathon when you want to be running forward steadily and smoothly- in other words, pain-staking. Satisfying too, of course, but mostly just in glimmers, and usually only when it's done. The key is not to become discouraged but to keep going, to always keep going. Keep reading, writing, thinking, editing, because it's in that slow, constant work that your thesis accrues and strengthens. 

I'm glad to report that chapter one is coming along nicely- I am quite pleased with my history of style blogging, and am looking forward to extricating Part Three (all about the embodied placehood of digital spaces) from the tangled recesses of my mind. To all you research students- courage! And remember when you feel disheartened that we all feel that way at times, and if that fails to hearten you, there's always cake and British Vogue.

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