So work on the Critical Thesis for school is plodding along. Today I got my first dump of articles I requested from the library and began to sort through to figure out what’s useful. I’m in this odd state where I’ve got some ideas about what to say but not really how to put it. At the same time I’ve got all this information that I’m thinking would work well if I could find a way to force them into the text.
This is where I’m trying to force slivers of truth into my thesis. Suze thinks I’m doing this backward, or wrong, but I’m not really sure what I’m doing. I mean, I know what I want to say, but not how to say it, and as I’m finding a chunk here and a nugget there I’m finding it doesn’t really fit like the jigsaw puzzle I imagined.
In talking with my classmates its become clear that we are either doing the impossible or need to reinvision the end product. The average for most of us to come up with a first, rough draft is three weeks.
Three weeks. For a critical thesis.
With most of us still waiting for books or articles and other secondary sources, or reading books frantically instead of giving them the close reading they deserve, this idea of a draft of anything coherent is simply impossible. Fortunately none of us believe its impossible and we’re setting out to prove it.
Some are writing sections of their drafts with notes to themselves to drop in documentation when they find it (if they find it!), while others are still gathering the raw data. I tried dictating some and transcribing it, and that seemed to work to get some rough ideas down, but I’m still worried I won’t have the time to do it all this way — a bit to leisurely — and I’m going to have to work a lot faster.
Just to really show how disorganized I am, I’ve also got a journal going that has a list of running questions. Anything that I think can be asked or challenged, I phrase as a question with the idea of going back and making sure I cover every base. What do I mean when I say a picture book? How does a picture book biography differ from other picture books? From other children’s biographies? And so on. It’s a little like an assignment I had when I was credentialing to be a teacher. We were charged to write an entire essay on our subject area — in my case, teaching art history — using only questions. Each question had to lead to the next, or suggest the answer to a previous question, and it had to make sense in the end. It was a lesson in the Socratic method, getting us to think about how we would organize and phrase our thoughts to lead students to draw the conclusions we wanted them to. It was a great exercise, but it was only four pages, and it didn’t require footnotes and MLA style.
What am I trying to say in this thesis of mine?
Why is it important?
Is it possible I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, or can barely understand within the aloted time?
If I was worried about page count that went out the window when I began makin notes on the individual titles and found them coming in at around two or three pages per book. Given that I’ll probably expand some of these ideas, at eight books, I’m not going to have any problems meeting my minimum 20 pages (though my advisor keeps saying things like 30 pages, which scares me because I think she might be right).
So I’m up late worrying about things because I can’t sleep and I can’t focus. I’m looking at the weather and praying there’s no snow days this week because, much as I love the girls, I need these full days I have withou distraction to knock this thing out. I need to have an outline and some structured ideas by the end of this week. I need to write solidly all next week. I need to edit and slot and jigger and slam and wobble this thing into some sort of shape.
Because all of a sudden I can hear my middle grade novel calling me. Loudly. It’s saying Hey! I think we’ve got a new angle! Present tense! And that sounds more intriguing to me than anything else right now. Of course, the whole time I was playing with the boys in my middle grade novel there were ideas about the thesis trying to catch my eye.