i bumped into my Lover in the kitchen, as i went in for a glass of water. he had likewise just gone in there and I found him rattling pans in a grumpy way.
'baby, [the subject of your thesis] is so BORING', complained the Lover. 'next time, please pick something more interesting.' (I had asked him to proofread a chapter and 'make suggestions'.)
i made a sympathetic/ grateful face and i said 'i know. i'm getting bored of it too.'
now: the subject on which i am writing my thesis is not boring. not to everyone's taste, maybe, but my thesis is (or could be) actually quite racy. academics sound excited by it at conferences. non-academics (normal people) get very interested when i start telling the story. you can even make it sound plausible, like it's something the world might actually want to read and be interested in, and like it's something you can tell someone about at a dinner party (and still get invited back). there seems to be only one thing left to conclude, and it ain't a happy conclusion: by writing it all down, by assembling it on a page as best i can, i am making it boring. i am; i am to blame.
i had rewritten this chapter to try and take on board my supervisors' suggestions: you let the quotations do the talking too much; don't hide behind the quotes, let your own voice come through more; analyze, problematize; etc etc etc. basically they were saying: you have written a load of stuff and it tells us... not a whole lot. they were sitting there with me, during the January progress review, staring at my 40 pages of printed writing; writing which had cost me a lot of effort, which arose out of many struggles in the library but also many happy flights of inspiration, which cost me sleepless nights and many frustrations and tears, but which, now completed, correctly footnoted and presented, and with a conclusion to boot, sat there on the table, dead, impenetrable; as soon as my supervisors pointed out all its flaws, i too could see: these 40-odd pages don't say a whole lot. i had a go at rewriting/ cutting-and-pasting this chapter into shape, and the verdict from the lover is in. and unfortunately it isn't a good one.
there's a big difference between the conception of a work, and its execution. most writers would probably agree that by the time you are finally limping your way towards the end, the finished product looks nothing like what it was supposed to. but in my case... surely this is a bit more extreme. to be limping towards the end marker, and people still don't actually understand what i'm banging on about in this thesis...
i feel like i am taking beautiful books, concepts and ideas, and picking them up and attempting to put them in my thesis, but somehow i end up just walling them in, like a builder does, with a shovel and some concrete, so that, in the end, no one can actually see them. i have words, and i know what all my words mean, but then i put them together in such a way that they lose all meaning. my sentence construction is thick and impenetrable. my supervisor writes things like 'heavy ending' next to my paragraphs. ['could it be that she means 'cool'? as in, 'wow, man, that's, like, HEAVY!' - asked the Lover once, cheering me up.) indeed, i have reason to believe that she thinks I am not a native speaker of English. 'well, obviously it's probably a bit more difficult for YOU', she once said consolingly as we were sitting together and attempting to repair a particularly shitty piece of writing. (i did not contradict her, i was not upset. if i have to, i'll use this weapon in my viva. my foreign-sounding name has rarely worked in my favour; well, it might at least start now.) seriously though, it did make me smile: my writing is so bad that i don't even sound 'english'.
the sad thing is, i do have ideas, and beautiful thoughts do come to me, which, when i tell people about them, light up the room and make academics look up with shining faces, and laugh and dance with joy.* but then i go away and try and translate them into words, and I get into a tangle with all the footnotes you have to do ('has anyone else ever written about this before?...' 'i can't use this word, because that word now means something else, because this theorist has used it in his...' 'should I acknowledge X's work on Z?' - and the dreaded one: 'THIS IS TOO DESCRIPTIVE'. i can't tell you how much i have struggled with this: either it's too anecdotal and descriptive and 'fun' and not 'PhD-ey' enough, or it turns into a pile of bollocks. In my attempts to make my thoughts into a PhD, I murder their beautiful essence, and the words, as though tortured, stand empty and blank and staring.
and every time I write something, the life gets squeezed out of me too. because there's only so many times you can watch intelligent people stare blankly at the work you have painstakingly produced, and there's only so many times you can take the words 'what is it that you want to say?' before .... well, before you don't want to, anymore.
thought of the day: i'm a bad writer. i write stuff, it bores me, i work my ass off but not really, i present my offering to a world which does not like it and turns away. i wonder if this is how a bad mother feels.
* (that last sentence clause: ) not really.