JULY 7, 2004 (WEDNESDAY)
Musings on Thesis, Part One
There are a number of realizations I’ve come across tonight:
1. It helps to have friends in Comparative Literature.
2. It helps to borrow a lot of books.
3. I’ve finally realized that our CW 199 instructor is useless. VERY useless.
4. I’m not the only one clueless about the whole thing.
5. There are people who are more clueless than me.
Okay. So I’ve finally figured out what I want to do with my thesis. As in seriously, truly figured out what I want to do and what I can do and what is possible and impossible with regards to the constraints of the craft and the theories and readings available to me. And honestly, I couldn’t have done this without the tag team of Peloy and Dell. They were definitely more helpful than my current thesis adviser (who shall remain nameless because of the fear of Internet search engines).
There are several problems regarding the whole CW thesis set-up that makes this a headache instead of something to be enjoyed. Of course, I am working under the assumption that you’re in Creative Writing because you want to write, and you’ve lasted this long in the program because you really, really want to write, and not just because the world handed you an orange instead of the apple you really wanted.
First and foremost, it’s the general organization of things. We are expected to write a critical introduction to a creative collection (fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or scriptwriting) that has yet to exist. We are expected to write a critical essay on something that is still in our imaginations, that has yet to exist. We are being asked to assume that we are our own critics. And not only is that confusing, but those designing this sort of curriculum must’ve been operating on some sort of weird logic – how does one critique something that exists only as a figment of our imagination?
Secondly, the same people – the Grown-Ups, if you will – keep on forgetting that we are undergraduates. And that we’ve never done this before. Most of my classmates have absolutely no idea what to do, but everyone keeps assuming that we know what to do. I am finding more help in my friends, in my high school English training (thank you God I was paying attention in junior and senior year on how to make term papers), and in my intuition. Honestly, if the world wanted to nominate someone for the lousiest CW 199 adviser in history, ours would be in the running. Treat us as idiots, goddammit. We want to know exactly what you want, and what you want us to submit. Give us form and structure to rail against, to bang our fists against until they bleed. Don’t give us empty air.
Thirdly, they want us to be like CL students this sem, and then CW students next sem. What are we, schizoid? We were trained to be creative writers, hello! I mean, I understand and appreciate the critical side of literature as well, but it definitely wasn’t because of the CL classes I was required by my department to take. I got most of my CL “training” from reading books people lent me, and listening to my friends ramble while we walk around our favorite stomping grounds in the evening. And I’m sure that most of my classmates had even less training regarding critical reading; after all, contrary to other people’s perceptions, our courses (whether CL or CW) isn’t a piece of cake. Stop assuming that it is. We’re fucked up already as it is. Don’t add to it.
So I’m hoping that my brilliant idea of creating a thesis study group will help us help ourselves, since obviously the Grown-Ups have better things to do with their time than helps us graduate. I hope it pushes through. I would have wanted to demand for our money’s worth in our teachers, but then I suddenly remembered that we’re a government-subsidized institution, and therefore asking for our money’s worth would be like asking for clean elections. And I know how important it is for us to graduate and get out of here. And I also know how nice it would be if we passed really intelligent, coherent theses that can be used by later batches of CW students. And besides, we’re good students. A bit lost, perhaps, and most of us need a life outside of school and home and a piddling social circle, but still.
Today, you said, “Thank you for letting me go.”
I am waiting for you to do the same to me. But perhaps a part of me does not wish for it to happen. Because to do so would be to allow me to drift away, away from your life. I will be that red balloon from your childhood, floating away on an upward draft and disappearing into the blue expanse of a summer sky. Even if you do not say anything, I know that you still want to keep on holding my hand.
And I think I don’t want you to let me go.