Thesis Re-Visited

[It’s] a popular notion, that it is exclusively suffering that produces good work, or insightful work.  I don’t think that’s the case. I think in a certain sense, it’s  a trigger, or a lever. But I think good work is produced in spite of suffering, and as a response, as a victory over suffering.

Leonard Cohen

I had the idea to read through my thesis, and post excerpts on my blog; I may still do that.  As always, I hesitate; I think that some of this work is of high quality, but I wonder how it will be received. I talked about my thesis and agonized over it for so long, that I’m not sure anything I could have created would have been worth the fuss I made about it. Then again, the only arbriter that really matters at the end of the day – my supervisor – gave me an A- on it. So I’m not really sure what I’m worried about in that regard. I suppose putting one’s work out there will always feel like an act of incredible vulnerability.

Reading my thesis in preparation for posting it reminds me of how far removed I am from the academic world; I admit that this reminder is somewhat disheartening. I’d have to read and study for months before I would become as well-versed in the theoretical language and literature as I was when I wrote the thesis. Furthermore, I don’t see myself having the opportunity to write something like that and become immersed in the acts of learning and creation anytime soon; I may not have an opportunity like that ever again.  I suppose my hesitation to post my thesis is borne from that sentiment as well, which isn’t exactly regret; I’ve just become aware that there’s a gap between where I am, and where I want to be, and I’d rather not think about it.  At the present time though, I’m a still a little too weary from the struggle to get through school to knit that yarn into motivation to go back.

Although there are ideas and passages in this piece that I wish I could have developed further, in some ways, that doesn’t really matter; what matters most to me about this work is that I finished it at all. I wrote it during a tumultuous time in my life, during which I was suffering from clinical depression and anxiety disorders. Hence, the Leonard Cohen quote above: this work is important to me for its merits as a piece of undergraduate-level scholarship, and because I see the completion of this project as a “victory over suffering.” I may always struggle with my mind, but this serves as a reminder that I can still (with a hell of a lot of effort, time, and support) complete the work I set out to do.

That’s what I’ll remember this piece for; this piece, with all of its glorious imperfection. Maybe one day I’ll regard the time of my life during which I wrote it as being “gloriously imperfect” as well.

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After thinking and writing about it, I’ve decided to post excerpts from my thesis after all. These can be found on the following pages:

Dance Macabre: Women’s Experiences in Burlesque Excerpt 1 (Introductory Chapter)

Dance Macabre: Women’s Experiences in Burlesque  Excerpt 2 (Research Methods Chapter)

Great Work Provocations: The Inner Critic

Every weekday, I receive a note in my inbox from Box of Crayons, an organization that develops productivity tools for businesses and individuals.  Their daily notes, called the “Great Work Provocations” consist of a phrase or two that is designed to get you thinking about your goals and work habits. Today’s “Provocation” was particularly relevant to my work situation, and it looked like this:

“We all have our own ‘inner critic’, whispering things like, “don’t try it” and “who do you think you are?” and “you’re going to be found out” and generally beating you up. Awareness that this is not the truth just a voice in your head is half the battle. What’s your critic saying today? What’s the alternative perspective?”

My critic is surprisingly quiet today, but it seems to have become louder now that I’ve sit down with the intention to actually do something.  It provokes physical anxiety and tension: fidgeting, the desire to get up and do something else, held breath, and a furrowed brow.  Today it likes to tell me that I’m wasting my time, and that I’ll never accomplish what I want to; I’ll never be a writer, and I’m certainly not a creative person.

What is the alternative perspective? I could say that I am a creative person; I’ve had quite a few ideas already today, which is why I was motivated to sit down and write in the first place. They weren’t specifically related to my paper per se, but I did think of ways to organize the information I was reading yesterday, and I could draw connections between concepts presented in multiple texts. I even thought of ways to relate my “academic” reading to a more enjoyable text on BDSM.  This text, The New Topping Book by Dossie Easton and Janet W. Hardy, has been particularly thought-provoking, since it’s one of the few books I’ve seen that frames BSDM play in a quasi-feminist ethos, while admitting (and delighting in) explorations of one’s “dark side” in a coherent manner.  The dominant discourse on kink/BDSM seems to be characterized by gender essentialism and post-feminism, so this was a refreshing take on the subject.

Now the voice inside my head is chastizing me for taking a little while to get my thoughts on that book out there, and is once again criticizing me for procrastinating and wasting my time. To which I say, “How am I wasting my time? I’m starting to think about the topics I want to explore in my more “serious” writing, in a low-risk format. That seems like a great idea to me.”

In the meantime, my body beckons for sustenance, so I’m going to call a “time out” on this internal battle to deal with that.