Sunday, January 06, 2013

Flying too close to the sun; the PhD as an Icarus adventure.

I have flown too close to the sun.
For 8 years I've been working flat out on creating a phd that has anti-climaxed and now inhabit a space where i am no longer flying, but i havent hit the ground yet either.

Along the way, I have spent part of my time exhausting myself trying to predict, and then control, what markers as well as imagined other readers would think about my work.
Will they get it?
What does it mean to have a thesis that's not in the usual genre of a thesis?
Is it too avant garde: too "Yoda', too Turner-Hospital? Too ANTish? The partial story line suggest not knowing where its going...
These are criticisms i have already experienced.
Is there only one way to write a book?
I can cripple myself thinking what I have written might not work.

At some level, I also know such thinking can make the colourful beige, the vibrant a still pond. At its worst it can lead to a non submission.

I wanted to go as far as I could, but with fears of being burnt, I hold back, playing it safe, just stretching the comfort zone, mine own and that of markers.

Writing a PhD is to write to be judged. Overtly. This writing is not an act of art for art's sake. It's scary. There is lots of potential for being failed. And of failing oneself. All very self-referential in a thesis of change, of risk and failure as much as it is about innovation and new ways of being. An Icarus adventure then;
of flying closer to the sun.

Seth Godin reports, "trying to control what other people think is a trap".
But that's the trappings of academia: of writing and not being found wanting.
How then to avoid writing with a voice that is stifled by what others might think? Is it possible, or even desirable, to avoid being both audience and writer? As noted by Seth Godin, to attempt both is exhausting and counterproductive. I cannot be second guessing all the time what unknown others might think.

"This might not work" is a curse but reframing allows for flight. I've been reminded I never wanted a perfunctory thesis; I did not aspire to writing it in someone else's voice; I did not want beige or mediocre. A PhD is then also a chance to fly.

Writing at 4.00 AM in the morning, unable to sleep, and with habits of writing in every spare moment, I listen to Seth Godin write of his Icarus adventures, of his newest book and see so many parallels. In his writing (and he is a celebrated successful author) he talks of listening to himself, and of forgetting what he had written, not recognizing his own 'voice'. Of listening to himself and crying. I am very humbled to have this person being so open and honest about his own risks, he writes:

"Hearing myself, months later, reading something I didn't remember writing or reading, I shed a few tears. Yes, this is work worth doing."
And I am reminded also of Patti Lather's an ache of wings in troubling how to write.

And am reminded that Flying close to the sun is exactly where i want to be.

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