Saturday, Dec. 08, 2018 - 5:32 pm.
Nearly all of my attention is devoted to two things at the moment:
1. Writing my thesis.
I'm a little stressed because of my self-imposed deadline, but mostly I'm doing OK. I already know it won't be perfect, I'm just focussing on making it functional. My whatabout-ism has decreased, too, so I'm able to let go of many concerns, i.e. "what about this topic?", "what about this, in case a reviewer asks?". Again, make it functional. It's just a draft anyway. Overall, I'm enjoying writing my thesis and I know where I'm going with it. I feel I'm a very lucky PhD student in that sense.
2. Writing my manuscript.
I got feedback from my friend Virginia at the start of the week. It took me a day to realize that what I was feeling about her revision was a deep sense of humiliation.
I didn't feel that way because of her, but because of the mistakes I made in my writing that I didn't notice. I thought it was decent, I cockily submitted it to a couple of important publishing houses and to an international novel contest, and boy, was I WRONG. Virginia said that there was a novel there, but the structure didn't help. I went over her comments and I felt so embarrassed and humiliated for missing such obvious mistakes, and for her seeing them.
I did get a bit angry at her, too, but that was mostly because my ego was hurt. And also because she misread a few things so she was giving me erroneous feedback, or she used the phrase "politically correct", which to me just means something that makes the user of that phrase uncomfortable. She's not one to use that phrase lightly, though, and I did get what she said regarding being unintentionally preachy about a certain controversial topic. I could not have faced her in the aftermath of her corrections if I had had to, though. She must think I'm so bland and stupid.
I hold Virginia in very high esteem, and I compared myself to another friend of hers who just published a book. Virginia had nothing but praise for her friend's book. I understand they both have a very strong bond over the subject of the book, and I understand I'm an intellectual simpleton, but I really wanted Virginia to like what I wrote. I didn't ask her to tell me if she liked it; I paid for her to rip my manuscript to pieces as necessary, which she did beautifully, but if she'd liked it, she'd have said so. I think we were peers once, and we both looked up to each other. Now it's just me looking up to her.
More than that, in academia in fiction, I've realized (I've known it for a while, really) that what I have to say is so far removed from everybody's reality that no one cares. It takes me a long time to articulate a text. Then it's still not good enough to see the light, or it's too useless or irrelevant. I'm no one. I write a lot and I'm no one. I hear how self-absorbed I sound saying this, but I don't mean being famous, I mean being useful, I mean reaching to people and people going "yeah, this speaks to me", or "I didn't know this", or "I'd never thought about it that way". I don't speak to anybody.
It's not because I don't have good ideas. I think. Now that I'm writing my thesis, I find myself having certain ideas, and then I go searching if other people have said them because me saying it is not enough evidence. And sure enough, other people have said the same thing! That's been mostly satisfying, although sometimes I hate seeing how my ideas are not that groundbreaking or original.
In fiction, I was worried about originality, but as Virginia reminded me, originality has very little to do with a good story. You can only have so many variations of the same theme or the same style (I'm not saying everything's been invented, though). There are other things that matter which set one text apart from the others. I know that. I know a lot about that. Something else that makes me angry is that my fucking PhD is (partly) about how fiction works, and here I am making very stupid and huge-ass mistakes in my own fiction. I actually went overboard with some notions of how to get it right, thus I got it wrong.
Anyway. I'm reworking the manuscript now. On the plus side, it is a chance to get back to places and characters that I love so much, and I get to expand the story and be more vocal about stuff that had remained in my head. I'm having so much fun, and I think the structure of the story is looking much better already. It'll still be a very modest thing, unfortunately. I'm trying to get it into my head once and for all, I am not made for greatness. And also, that's a weird thing to aspire to.
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