I’ve been writing my dissertation since March. It’s quite a process, difficult to describe. Professors and peers who’ve been through the PhD comment to me that this is something no one really understands unless they’ve been through it. I can appreciate that; I feel the same way about several things.
A PhD, like the dissertation, takes a measure of obsessiveness. The amount of concentration and tunnel-vision (the next level of focus) it takes is difficult. It is work, at the level that begins to define a rite of passage. The idea that you are making an original contribution to the field strikes me as a little difficult to believe. But, I’ve come to see how a little shift in perspective makes a big difference. And though ideas get regurgitated, it is these ideas in concert with yours that give your thought meaning and paint the difference.
The writing process, alone, is unique to each person. This has been the most interesting part for me. I’m learning how I write. A dissertation is not a term paper. I’ve written 40 and 60 page term papers. But, nothing is like this process. While it is difficult, I also enjoy it. However, the writing comes in its own time. I’ve explained it this way to many people. Writing my dissertation is nothing like other things I do, like raking. Raking can be hurried through. Elbow grease and a dose of work ethic can speed up the process. You can even do it quick and well. But, writing is not like that for me. Working harder, yes. But, hurrying? No. Focus is less a matter of quantity than intensity. A few interruptions can actually help the process. Otherwise, its easy to get myopic.
Learning the right level and balance of focus has been the challenge for me. I have needed to get away, to write a few days at a time. But, then, I need a break. Once I break and come back, the distance I’ve gained from my work helps the editing process. Sometimes, I don’t even follow my own thoughts.
The reason is that writing is hard for me. It is a discipline. I try to explain it this way: maybe it was the time and period I was raised. But, the writing process is way too slow. It’s linear. Unlike a picture or image that can be studied from a number of different perspectives, with several entry points, writing follows left to right. It is more like a journey. My mind is learning, struggling, to work that way.
My brain doesn’t naturally think that way. Maybe it was television. Maybe it was video games. Maybe it’s because I’m naturally an extrovery who like managing alot of different conversations at the same time. Either way, the discipline of writing is forcing me to do something different. And as I tried to say in this post, there is something spiritual about it.
Until scriptures are definitively transferred to a new format (.mp3 or BlueRay?), their form as a text will shape our spirituality. The fact that scriptures are either scrolls or codex (i.e. book) will shape our thinking about God. God will always be a wonder. Jesus will always live in narrative. The Spirit will continue to come to us in moments of communication, inspiration, and despair. All these are moments of human life. They are also the qualities of a book.
Hieroglyphs, symbols, ink, text…literally, sentenced to life, on a page.