It turns out that I actually grossly underestimate myself, because according to my thesis supervisor my thesis is going really well.
This assessment comes after meeting with him today to discuss the revised chapter breakdown I sent to him – we also inevitably discussed a lot more than that, and he reckons I’ve got a really solid, original angle to approach this topic from and that I’ll probably be ready to start writing the actual thesis thing by October.
Interestingly, I agree with him.
I was expecting to sort of nod and laugh and agree and then walk away in a cold sweat of terror at being expected to start writing a thesis in three weeks, but the truth is that I actually think his assessment is accurate to my ability to perform. I can do it.
And I think it’s because part of my not taking study as seriously as I probably should is that I think it’s going to be harder than it actually is.
I mean who knows; in three weeks time I may discover that I’m just as inadequate as I think I am and that I have no business being anywhere within ten miles of a university, let alone Masters level study, but I don’t think that’s true. I think I’m actually prepared for this.
What I also think is that this thesis is going so well that I need to find a way to apply whatever’s working in this process to my other writing process: my novel-writing process.
This thesis goes against everything I do when I write creatively. I have a fucking chapter breakdown. I don’t even have a rough plan – that I like – that I’m using for Tallulah. I have plenty of notes, but they’re the note equivalent of a motorway pileup; I don’t know where it started, certain notes only make sense if you take them in the context of older notes that I have completely forgotten I ever wrote and therefore am not assuming are in play, and all I know is that it is a pileup and I’m stuck in the middle of it.
No wonder I don’t want to write it.
The other thing is that trying to apply “whatever it is that’s working” in my thesis to my novels is a really big, broad, vague statement. And I mean honestly, what’s working with my thesis is that I have a supervisor who I am accountable to for my work, or lack thereof. I can’t really translate that into my writing process.
Or can I?
Is the answer obvious enough yet?
It’s yes. Yes I can.
I need a proper wall-planner. That’s the first step. That’s going to be my “supervisor” for whatever novel-writing project to embark upon.
I also need a plan. A plan can change, but in order for that change to be meaningful I need to practice what I used to preach back in the early days of this blog: be able to both commit entirely to a plan and reserve the right to completely change my mind at any time. Because that is what’s working with this thesis. However the other thing that’s working is having somebody to bounce ideas off. I can’t really do that by myself, no matter how committed-yet-changeable I am, regardless of how wall-planner-y my wall planner is.
What I can do, though, is read a lot of stuff that seems similar to what I’m writing, and just read a lot about writing in general.
I can learn craft.
I hate the idea of learning craft.
But I also love it, and I think at the very least it’s a kind of sounding-board. I love narrative structure and conventions and all the rest of it, so it actually makes a lot of sense. And I’ll disagree with tons of it anyway so I probably won’t become a mindless sheep just by finding out what Robert McKee has to say about the Hero’s Journey. I probably won’t have my entire identity replaced by a line-toeing brain slug just by learning craft.
And, of course, I can invest in something like Nanowrimo, or a writing community, if I want people to bounce ideas off and talk shop with.
The answer to my issue, the way to apply what’s working with my thesis-writing to my novel-writing, is to take it seriously. To invest, rather than theorise and assume. To treat it as something I’m living through rather than something I could or could not “do”, as if it’s in some “doing things” space that I can choose to visit or not visit. The answer is to treat it as the material that I am constructed from.
This year I came to the life-changing conclusion that I’m not a Writer. I still maintain that.
But I can still act like one.
And the thing is, I can take what’s working about my thesis and apply it to anything I want to do, from finally starting my YouTube channel to my exercise and diet to drawing or playing guitar or singing every day. I just need to approach it as something I’m living, rather than something I’m just interacting with. Because you don’t get the motivation to do things, sometimes, until after you start doing them.
So, in short, my plan is this:
- Get a better wall-planner and find a place to actually put it so that I can actually use it to keep me on track
- Read books in my field (genre is probably not going to work out); read books on craft (such as finishing Joseph Campbell)
- Make a chapter breakdown (which actually did work for my first revision of Tallulah go figure)
- Seek out other writers
- After recovering from my anxiety-induced coma, talk shop with said other writers
I sense I’m still waffling on those last two, but the first three seem doable.
Who ever said an Arts degree wouldn’t give you any life skills?
Let’s see this through.