Last Thursday I did not have chapter six of my thesis. This afternoon I have about 9,000 words of it written. I say this not to seek your admiration but to try and give you a sense of what writing this thesis means to me now…with about six months before my self-imposed deadline. (After February 28 2014, I will have to pay fees to NUIM again should I not submit my thesis for examination.)
Chapter six is the last substantive chapter of this thesis. It had been haunting my horizon since earlier this summer when it became clear to me that this horizon is now visible. Arguably, it the most important chapter of my thesis. That’s not to say that what I say is important or that it has to be written with more clarity and purpose than anything to this point. It merely means that to submit this thesis for examination, I have to demonstrate in chapter six that I can combine my empirical work (chapters 3-5) with the ideas that I collected in reviewing the literature in chapter one. Because at this point, it is only important that I finish this thesis and hand it to someone for assessment. I remember hearing a few years back that “so and so is at the stage of his phd where he is sick of it”. I now fully appreciate what was meant by this, puzzling, statement. I don’t hate the subject matter, it still retains an interest for me, but i am beginning to dislike writing ‘a thesis’ about it.
A few months back I ordered and distributed small badges declaring that “the thesis is fine”. Most took that for what it was: it is fine, ask me about something other than my thesis. I know now that this was a denial strategy on my part; a cynically executed plan to avoid thinking about this period of writing. I find myself now, knee deep in chapter six, writing through the ideas of other people who have published books and articles before me. I take their ideas, mash them together with mine (usually vague hints arising from what is now quaintly called fieldwork), kablam! That’s a thesis. I gave Kevin some advice on twitter recently about starting his thesis: keep writing until it is finished.
My advice is given in earnest. There have been days over the last two weeks where I felt like I just need to write another one hundred words, just another fifty more. OK Another hundred words. Then it gets to 6pm and there’s things like food and brushing my teeth to be done. Writing this thesis is now an infection: I am driven like so many Hollywood zombies, ploughing on regardless of obstacles outside of my body. Only a swiftly-delivered hatchet to the cranium will stop this zombie (or someone knocks on the front door) but the infection keeps returning in other bodies. 700 words on Kong’s sense of public and private space? Sure, there you go. 350 word diversion on why Casanova got the spatialisation of his deprivatisation thesis wrong? cool. I have to keep writing until it is finished. It may have taken three years to get to this point but it is worth it. I am already thinking about the next things to write.