losing the forest in the trees

I have moments in my dissertation writing when I feel like I’m a horrible writer and I need to just to quit.   I go down an emotional rabbit hole.  Writing has never been my strong point.  I’ve had moments in my academic career when professors have read my work and told me they had no idea what I was saying.  Of course, I knew exactly what I was saying.  I never really learned whether it was a problem of my choice of words, writing style, or that my flow of thought was just plain incoherent.   Maybe it is a mix of these things.  But, internally, the problem I feel is that I get lost amidst the trees.   It’s not that I don’t understand what I’m saying or thinking.  It’s that I see so many questions and connections at once, I get lost in perspective.  And, as I get lost in the possibilities of one sentence or paragraph, I make the mistake of wanting to put too much in a sentence.   That can make it difficult to cipher what I’m saying.

One fault of mine is that I’ve never been good at outlining.   I’ve never found a way to outline that works for me.  I think best in pictures and mind-mapping.  (Mind-mapping is when you create diagrams of ideas and their connections.)  But, linerality for me is hard.  And writing moves from left to write in a linear way of reading.  Structuring my thoughts in such a way that I know what I want to say in a linear presentation is difficult for me.  But, I have no problem digging in and discussing.  Texts and ideas are like bodies of water for me.  I just dive in.  The dissertation process, however, requires me to do what I don’t feel good at doing: outlining a set of ideas in an argument that I can deconstruct by simply taking another angle on my own line of thinking.   This is horribly frustrating for me because beneath all the critical thinking I am fearful of being discovered as an impostor, an idiot, simple-minded, or someone found impersonating someone worthy of a PhD.

It is difficult for me to really make sense out of the fact that I have almost 300 pages of writing and, yet, sometimes when I’m revising it I don’t really know what I am saying.  in fact, I do know what I am saying.  I just stopped and got lost, losing the forest in the trees.  I get lost in revisions.  I so easily get lost in a sentence or paragraph and don’t see the bigger connection.  I have the unrealistic, even ridiculous, expectation when I’m editing or revising that every sentence and paragraph must be decisively constructed in such a way that it analyzes the concept I am highlighting completely, as if much of my writing isn’t also supposed to be descriptive.  Since I am dealing with dialectical philosophy and theology, it is easy to get lost in analytics and forget that I am constructing a view from a certain way of thinking.

In the end, I just hope I have the sense to keep going.  I’m not that bad of a writer.   In fact, many tell my I’m an elegant writer.   I guess I am as long I have a point to make.