The Aftermath of Thesis

I don’t think anyone was every able to accurately explain what it’s like doing an Honours Thesis to me before I did it. As I sit in the aftermath, some couple of hundred kilometres from where I had to hand it in, I wonder if it’s possible to do so.

My Thesis, yes the capital is intentional, was meant to be a great reason to explore some of the facets about myself I hadn’t. It was meant to provide revelations to me about the nature of ‘writer’ and how to feel like I could be one. Someday. Some mystical day that still vaguely lingers behind the horizon, or sweeps in on the morning fog that Melbourne still throws up in the transition from Spring to Summer. My Thesis was meant to help me find it in the forest of opinion and half-truths and stumbled sentences. It was meant to be the key to my writing.

It was an entirely different beast.

At first, it seemed to be doing exactly what I wanted. It was giving me time, and a chance to read all the things I had wanted to read by authors I admired. But as I read those texts, I realised that I had not been really reading them before. Stephen King’s On Writing was a different book now that I needed it for my Thesis. It was an adventurer’s journal about the hard road, the road that must be travelled. It dared me to find what lingered in the shadows of the unsaid in other texts. Margret Atwood’s Negotiating with the Dead did the same, though it was more a bard recounting the stories of so many with lyricism that made it almost disarming. Almost.

There is no safe, solid definition of ‘writer’. I know, I looked. It is a shape-shifter, a creature that appears one way to those who have never really felt the pull of its voice, but a completely different beast to those who have. It is a fair, noble, passionate creature in a tower just waiting for rescue to those outside the walls, but those inside have seen the wicked temper and know the only way to appease it is through work. And through knowing whose definition you’re trying to use.

My Thesis seemed manageable when I started, and I did manage to get it in on time. It was bound and signed, and as good as I could make it. But it had fought every step of the way. I had contained it though, I had made it possible to put what I found into words, to provide evidence and reference, but it still taunted me even as I put it in the submission box.

‘One more read through,’ it whispered, ‘you know you need just one more.’

I tried to not to be hasty when I put both hard copies and a disk in, but we needed time apart.

So, here I am, with time to do whatever I want. And I sit, watching as the hours tick over, achieving very little. I am exhausted. Those hard won sentences cost more than I thought. Being warned about the cost and feeling it are two very different things.

Beware the Thesis. It is a beast that will not be truly tamed. It will teach you that things are never finished, just submitted. Beware, for though there is much to be gained in seeking it out, it will ask you for compensation. It is a very, very clever negotiator.

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The dread-beast ‘cat’, who has many valuable life-lessons.

 

What I learned this November

And with that, it was December.
As I write this, I am sitting on the train heading home from handing in my Honours thesis, exhausted and kept conscious by the remaining adrenaline and extensive amounts of caffeine.
This November has been a big learning curve.
Firstly, I discovered that there are times when it’s okay to admit you don’t have the mental resources to pursue two projects at once. Especially if one is intrinsically different to the other.
Secondly, I found that it’s a bad idea to test a hypothesis under said mental resource deficits… The final days of the ‘In the Gods’ Hands’ project will be posted over the next couple of days, but I didn’t get to write any more of the story. And I completely forgot to add to my word count in the NaNoWriMo site, so it’s officially zero words. I’m okay with that though, it gave me some new tricks to try next time I encounter Writer’s Block.
I also learned that sometimes it’s necessary to allow things to get put in the ‘later’ pile. That’s the joy of the alter pile, you can dig things out of it when you have the desire to.
One of the important lessons reinforced by this month is that there is only so much you can do at a time, and that’s perfectly fine. There doesn’t need to be guilt or blame, it just happens, and it happens to everyone whether they choose to admit it or not. Or admit it and deny saying anything of the sort later.
December looks like it’s going to be busy, with family and horses and bunny rabbits, but I’m already starting to think about how to select the next writing project. I feel like now I’ve handed in my thesis, I have proven to myself that I am capable of big projects that require a very different sort of work to churning out a novel in a month.
That I can do both spontaneous and structured projects, and they inform each other, is a result of deliberate attempts at improving my skills.
This November has taught me that it’s good to aim high, and even better to give myself achievable break downs of those goals that acknowledge the fact that I am human.
In doing my thesis, I discovered I have the skills to manage difficult goals and projects. If nothing else, it was worth doing the thesis to prove that to myself.

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