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.