What does writing a dissertation do?

Just a few thoughts here, as they come tumbling out of my overwhelmed brain…what does a dissertation do? A badly formed question- but I suppose what I mean is what does writing a dissertation achieve? What do you learn from the process? Last year I wrote 15000 words of prose, which I wrangled over for months but in the end felt more confident with knowing what I was doing, being able to reflect on the process of writing, and the aim at the end.

This year I am dancing my way through writing a collection of poetry, which has been growing slowly since last September, and it feels not intangible exactly but arcane definitely. I hope that doesn’t make me sound pretentious, I just haven’t quite got to the bottom of what I’m doing yet.  I know that I know what it is but I am not able to articulate it correctly, yet. It is partly intuitive and playful, partly analytical to the point of dissection.

I am playing my cards close to my chest, both in my work and my possible explanation of it- I am facing a paradox- which pleases me. I feel like that means the work is going somewhere interesting…enough… At this point I do tend to take the line of Leonora Carrington- watch the video and hear her response to questions about the meaning of her work.

However part of the point of writing this dissertation, and the attached critical essay, is for me to do exactly what La Carrington avoided doing, and didn’t have to do, and why should she…. I have to expound on my work, the reasons I wrote it, the choices I made/ am making, the influences, my own research, where it falls (if it does) in the canon…in other words the academic bit. And I want to know too- because that clarity allows for a greater control in my own writing process and therefore, I hope, in the end better poetry. Also, with a teaching qualification now under my belt, my own experience of completing this dissertation and what I learn from it will feed into the advice I may give students in the future.

I find writing poetry significantly different from writing prose. Each poem is a construction, crafted in a few or over many stages, which may change given the context of the work surrounding and accompanying it. As the collection grows the poems take on new meanings, or lose them completely, and lose their place in the work as a whole. Prose does the same thing- the parts must keep their place, be consistant, keep the intention and integrity of the whole piece. I feel even more with poetry though, that the consituents of the collection must stand on their own, each line, each word even, must stand up to scrutiny…no pressure then…

2 thoughts on “What does writing a dissertation do?

  1. One of the big issues I’ve got with the critical essay is that my ‘learning’ has been 100% technique. I’ve *come out* as a trashy airport-esque SF thriller writer and I’m happy with that, but it’s not remotely academic! 🙂 I’m using the 4,500 words to write ‘How to write a damn good SF thriller’, explaining the *rules* for good writing 🙂

    1. Brilliant! That sounds great 🙂 but yes, not academic- but if you got what you wanted then that is marvellous. I can do the academic bit but my work is veering off into other territories…we’ll see 😉

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