Early drafts are part of the process, not a product for me to take to supervision

I still do not know what my thesis is about. I have yet to be successful in setting up the conversations that may assist me with plotting a course.

‘Politics seems to be in all your writing, but it cannot be just in the background.’ I was told. All my writing has been about ideas of politics in a loose sense because I PUT IT THERE. This was not a coincidence which magically spring from my field work. Sure, its presence in the situations I have reflected on allowed me to write about it, but a multitude of other ideas are co-present. Such a comment may mean my ideas need to be better sign posted, defined and/or explored. However, as they stand, they have been assessed as not a suitable skeleton around which to develop an argument.

Perhaps I could come up with a little tag, something like ‘the politics of inclusion’? BUT I need to stop fishing. I need to find something, work through it, write it up, and then seek feedback. However, every idea I seem to latch onto is too broad or too narrow. Ideas can be refined through testing them out and writing. As I test them out, they will be still be emerging (at least that is what I tell myself).

So I end up in the same place I have been many times before. More polished drafts are needed in order for my ideas, and the work that flows from those ideas, to be evaluated, critiqued and then (hopefully) improved. These conversations that do not offer me the ‘sense of being orientated’ I want may be exactly what I need. I claim to develop the skills to better think through things, but I reject those suggestions which challenge my taken for granted way of working.

Sure I do not know what my conclusions are yet, but that is because I have not worked them out. I cannot complain about that, I just need to keep writing and working. This writing and working may not be the same as writing my thesis; it is part of the process of analysis. It is not my supervisor who needs to be okay with this; I need to be okay with this and stop expecting feedback on my thinking process. My PhD is not a high school maths exam and so nobody is correcting my work, looking to give me consequential marks for correct steps in calculation. I do not feel alone in my thinking process; I have some wonderful and supportive peers.

Feedback cannot spontaneously materialise. ‘Feedback’ is called that because it is given in response to something (although I’m not sure how far I want to go with this idea). The drafts that might give rise to such feedback do not spontaneously materialise either.

While I am not one who needs positive endings, this post does offer one. Maybe I do not really know where I am going with my thesis, but I know I have come some distance as a student. Description, something I found impossible just a few years ago, has now become the strongest part of my writing. I still have a long way to go, but I have learnt a lot. Perhaps in a few years I will be ending a rant about something else with the reminder that I once found drafting very difficult?

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