My fascination with the act of writing, its methods and mechanisms, is no secret. It derives partly from studying the processes of an enigmatic private mind and private writer in Marvell in what is becoming a literary public sphere around him. No loose thread to my thesis is the idea that those seventeenth century years reflect our own to some degree. From little cheap pamphlets speaking to other pamphlets, with conversation and argument going about in print, we find a similar process happening, on a larger and more diverse scale, digitally. Where there is free comment to be had, it will be had; where there is free space to be had, it will be had; where there is the will to voice, voice will be spoken.
I often wonder to what degree Facebook has changed my approach to writing. I sit, as a disciple of Marvell, thinking "what is happening around me is a degree of publicity that the majority are comfortable with, but I am not". It forces me into a dilemma: on the one hand, to repel and distance myself against that which I dislike (even if I react to it differently in some cases to others), and to retain my privacy. It makes me want to avoid the sense of 'I'. On the other hand, there is the risk of losing out and falling behind in the instilled public methods and the public environs that govern socialization. It makes me want to join in, 'dad at the dance' style, and to try and self-fashion something for myself when everything else seems to be slipping away.
Today confirmed a long suspicion, when I reshaped my standard CV for the first time in two years and glanced at the proud statement heading the 'interests' section. The Knightmare group has been my identity, my nucleus, and I have seen it melt into cytoplasm. What life offered through that nucleus was a richness that has largely shined and occasionally sparkled, but perhaps did not expand and ignite as it should have done. These days, I write a thesis, to myself, and for myself. It is an insular, self-absorbing and has been a self-destructive process. Postgraduate study, even the long, cold return journeys to Edinburgh for scandalous tuition fees, I once embraced with pride and dignity. Yet, through time, place, and space, much of this has been stripped away, and this same activity leaves me feeling a waste of space. What is left of my identity; painfully little. This awkward dance in words is a confession that I feel the need for a glimpse of narcissism.
Not here. This little piece of the internet has more identity than me. I enjoy reading all friends' posts here; it reminds me of community, and an insecure self that was encircled enough to enjoy openness. What Facebook has shown me in particular is that documenting and publicizing mundane events is, more often than not, mind-numbingly boring. I want posts here to make a difference: to those who read them, and to me having written them. If I have achieved this across any of the spaces to which I contribute, then I am very glad. The compromise I have wanted to make is not to prostitute my life's mundanity in a public setting, but to construct something slightly different; a 'column' of some sort, which can combine thoughts and ideas with analysis and a more distant personal voice. I hope to write something, in contrast to my thesis, consciously not for me, something that might be read with a fair degree of interest. Perhaps I can make some of my research questions fit that bill. I would be delighted if anyone was interested in following this new space, offering ideas or suggestions for subjects to tackle.
In keeping with the shift in intents and purposes, it has seemed best to jump ship. This was partly inspired by the awesome Lara King, a colleague of mine from Bristol days, whose developing career as a professional writer seems so much more fulfilling than my own right now. I like the format, the look, and the layout provided by Wordpress; it seems right for the task. It's useful having a space which does not prohibit, but which does not encroach on friends' lists. I would be delighted to provide a side-link to anybody's journal or site if they wanted a possible stream of random traffic. The second (and most recent) item is titled 'Crackpot Culture', and was written for the Geneva English Department magazine, Noted. It is particularly important to mention that here since the questionnaire took place on this space, facilitated by kind friends and readers.
It has been six weeks. Returning home as a full-time student has been as difficult as I imagined. It is not that I lack commitment to my research, but that the status, the income, and the locus for making research part of a respectable occupation has been taken away, and the shell of a PhD student that remains feels much more shallow now than it ever did before. Sadly, I am sure that my attitude towards my work would be much stronger if I had never known the difference that Geneva offered. Other academic matters haven't helped. The motivation to complete tasks I continue to receive from Geneva (and will do for some considerable time, due to the delays students are allowed before they are assessed for courses) is much reduced without income. Within three weeks of arriving back, I was grateful to pick up private tuition, which offers a little, but I clearly need work to operate and to feel some sense of dignity, whatever that may be. A temporary vacancy has been announced for a small shop in a local windy outlet centre, and I have my sights on that. It is called 'Past Times', which I thought had a nice association with the topics and themes around which everything else of late has centered. I wish everybody grateful thanks, much love, and all the best in these uncertain times.