18 August 2016an austrian colleague is reviewing the draft of my corrections before i send it to the examiner to discover whether it is wildly off-base. in his reply regarding how quickly he planned to respond with edits, this colleague noted that it looked "exciting."
i'm prone to exaggeration for story-telling purposes but it is actually an accurate statement to say that this is the most effusive praise regarding my work in the last three years and eight months.
i'm trying to savor it. trying to allay the anxiety that, if what i have produced this summer is not what the examiners wanted, then i've absolutely no words left to give.
while i thrive on impossibility and operate best in a realm where i'm doing things people have repeatedly told me cannot be done, i also realize the ways in which my own process is abusive. and how it fails to take into account the other part of me that needs to be coddled and repeatedly told i'm a genius.
when i went back to therapy last summer, with all of my "narrative problems," i used the word "blistering."
and the therapist reeled back. a vivid word, she called it. an accurate one, i said.
because there has been, always, in this process, an ebb and flow, a rise and fall, wherein i am told everything i produce is awful, and leaning into that critique, i go against the advice offered and do the awful thing in the extreme, in the hopes that, in the end, someone will come along who can reel me in. someday, someone will see what i'm doing for what it is, see the potential within it for working, and show me how to make it better.
(and yes, i can see the other side of this equation and how this has probably made me the most frustrating person to work with if you're the one giving the advice.)
at some point in my life, i had a professor who was obsessed with how we lived in an age where everyone expects to be "spoon-fed." perhaps it was clyde williams. it sounds like clyde williams. the man responsible for all the scholarships i won as an undergrad and yet who never once gave me an A on a paper. a man who, in some cruel twist of fate, the mississippi state english department seemed to always assign to the class that i was required to take for graduation, ensuring that he and i were stuck together for the full four years.
i remember, when applying for graduate school, very deliberately asking for recommendation letters from him only for the lesser tier schools- the ones i didn't really want- for fear that he'd hold forth with an indictment of my dangling participles and i'd be denied entry.
but it is not that i want to be spoon-fed. in spite of significant insecurities, my out-sized ego regarding my ability to write and debo's constant assurances that i am a goddess genius are adequately sustaining. but it would be nice to have a bit more confidence on the other end.
the last response to the draft was that it was "readable and seems thorough."
oh man, that seems. it's hostile. the expanse between something seeming thorough and actually being thorough is vast and treacherous. they difference between well done, and no actually perhaps you should write 20,000 more words. hey now, go do it again.
i have written so many words. laughably many words. 20,000 words since may, 95% new.
N and i were sitting in the sun at the BL yesterday afternoon and she let out a long low whistle.
AV and i've joked that we're going to write a daily mail exposé when this is all over, on the critical/creative PhD. we won't. because one cannot burn a bridge, but oh my god.
we've made a list of things to tell our students if we ever get a proper teaching job. never do a critical/creative PhD is at the top.
and then, if they've the nerve to continue, bully for them, we'll wish them the best and lavish them with encouragement.
how many of the things we do would we still do if we knew their full difficulty at the outset?
i am reminded that women's shoes fit so poorly that an entire industry has arisen around blister relief.