I’m in the process of writing my first (academic) essay in years, to submit to a journal. It’s nervewracking to say the least. The writing comes smoothly enough; the years outside the tower have been spent steeped in fiction and meta and mummy blogging so that aspect comes easier than the other.
The structure, the argot, the practiced sentences. My university (thankfully) offers a few starter courses within the PhD program and I’ve been running hill and dale to get to them (including one memorable 5 hour stint on public transport to get Bunbun to the coast, then driving four the next day to bring her home, all for my induction) and they have proven invaluable. The performative aspects, the internal references, are slowly slowly coming back to me. Slowly enough that I’m doubting my decision to write this article.
Yet, ditching out now (when I ditched out on a few last year, because I ‘wasn’t enrolled yet’) seems ultimately self-defeating. To not act, when I have the chance, all for fear? Why am I even here if that’s the case, if that’s going to be my choice? So I keep slogging, keep pushing. Move the words around, pull out themes from the morass, rewrite, delete, rewrite again, find another theme, a better one, and do it all again. Eagerly read Pat Thompson’s series on academic writing and rewrite yet again.
And be incredibly grateful for these past ten years spent deep in a culture that is devoted to beta-reading, to editing, to rewriting and re-reading and pulling out the themes. Fandom, particularly fanfic, has a deep-seated inability to let things lie; not when a simple comment can point out an error and you can correct it, easily (I mean, there are obvious outliers, but that’s the general sequence). As much as the practical aspects of the PhD are beginning to make me wince at how much time I spend organising* how I’m going to get to a two hour confirmation seminar, a three hour tutorial, and hour long lunch on three separate days and none of them are kindy days, this part? The reading, the writing, the researching? I feel like I’ve been in training the past ten years.
*Bluemilk, as always, is rather on point, from her posts about inequity and accessing education (I am still battling that upbringing that meant I didn’t even know what a PhD was until I graduated my undergrad, and still, even now, fights against being characterised as ‘doing nothing’ and ‘welfare cheat’) (note: I don’t actually even get welfare beyond what I would be getting as a stay-at-home-parent, apart from the government paying for my PhD) to her excruciating points on relationships and the work therein, particularly for feminist women. In other words, you need to read her shit.