Sunday, 16 March 2008

Not on writing, but on confidence.

With there being very little time between the job, dissertation research, and keeping up with life in general, my reading of normal books (as opposed to, say, research or work books) has been reduced to a minimum that wasn’t even this bad when I was still at university studying English literature. (To say nothing of writing.)

I made an effort this last week, after I sent in my unofficial dissertation proposal, to finish some books I have lying around half-read. I started Lauren Bacall’s By Myself and Then Some because it was for sale at the book fair, and I thought it would be fun to read considering the Bogie-factor. I loved it, I think. Not absolutely and all-overpoweringly, but I’d recommend it.

I was particularly struck by this, somewhere on the final pages:

I guess a true sense of self-confidence is not in the cards for me. At least in certain special situations. It’s a different kind of nervousness – not like opening night in the theatre. I think it’s reverting subconsciously to my first dreams of becoming an actress – of being so star-struck. After watching for so many years Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson, Vivien Leigh, Gielgud, Guinness and more – to find myself meeting them – being accepted by them as one of them, no less – was quite unbelievable to me. And upon working with any of them – at the beginning I became eight years old.
(page 461 in my Headline paperback)

I think I get where she’s coming from. I tend to get nervous around people I admire, as if somehow I could let it slip I’m actually not the person who they think I am, or I can’t do what they believe I can. It’s absolute nonsense, most of the time anyway, but the brain conspires against you like that sometimes.

I had that with writing only in the beginning. I didn’t admit to anyone I wrote except close friends and family, as if somehow that could jinx it. That went away, and it’s one of the few things I can be grateful to fanfiction for. It gave me enough confidence in my writing to admit to actually doing it. It’s like that anonymous quote: “Each time we face our fear, we gain strength, courage, and confidence in the doing.”

Which hopefully means I’ll stop being an idiot about dissertation meetings at some point.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

A goal, a goal!

As if I really need more goals.

One of the things I loved about public blogging was the fact that you got into contact with other people who (accidentally or not) stumbled unto your journal entry and found something they liked. Human nature and its love for recognising something familiar, probably.

One of the things I loved talking about was writing. Looking back on that, it was more talking about how I felt about writing rather than writing itself. I tell my students now that they have to write and think about how to approach the introduction, the body, and the conclusion of any text they write, but meanwhile I never quite did that myself. I just wrote, and the fact that I somehow got away with it possibly says something about my natural writing capabilities.
Different for literature essays than for business letters, of course.

What it doesn't say, of course, but what is implied, is that I could have done so much better had I actually listened to my teachers and thought about structure. I talked about hindsight in my previous entry, I believe. It explains why I always did so well comparing poetry though: I never much liked it and reverted to the structure and close-reading of the text, which forces structure by its very nature.

The realisation, I think, is that I was approaching essay writing the same way I approach fiction writing. And since I'm one of those people who work a lot of mystery into their fiction, that means I didn't think about thesis statements, because that would give away my topic right at the beginning.

So maybe I want to talk about writing again. The fiction writing in my life currently just consists of snippets. I want to get back to my 75% finished novel, but I'm afraid that if I do that, I'll get lost and let go of writing a dissertation all-together until I get published. Dreamer.
I'm getting the hang of structure. It's killing me, but I'm getting there. I've analysed introductions, stolen the structure and made it into a research proposal that only covers about half of my idea for a dissertation properly. (Must really get self to stop having tunnelvision.) I think I can have a reasonable amount of pride over the fact that I tamed structure though. One step at a time.

I refuse structure for this though.
There shall be no attempt at structure in this blog.