Only it’s not so bloody big just yet. Talking about the PhD — which has been taking a bit longer than I originally planned. If I don’t count the two years to get the Masters as an entry ticket, I’ve been involved with this doctorate in Creative Writing for the last seven years. Officially it’s only half that period as I had a false start which lost me a couple of years, and then a long stretch on suspension due to very poor health. So I’m still inside the overall average length of PhD programs which is apparently around 4½ years. But it’s starting to feel like a lifelong project. On the one hand I really enjoy the writing (well, the creative stuff anyway), but on the other, I’d just like to have it finished.
I’ve been asked more than once why I’m bothering with study at this level when I don’t have any academic aspirations. Well, it’s ego stuff. I’m a member of that brigade who left school barely fifteen years old with no certificate of any kind. I was bright enough but family circumstances didn’t favour me staying on at school when I could be out earning some money to bring home to the common pot. And yes, I do regret that was the situation though I’m not seeking sympathy. Those years working at all sorts of jobs, some interesting, a lot ‘dead end’, provide me with almost endless source material for writing.
A wonderful thing is that ‘it’s never too late’ as some wit once observed, and so here I am having a late run and a fair bit of fun doing so. I’ve always been scribbling but had never seemed to find enough time to do it properly. After a big scare (rushed into a cardiac unit with suspected major coronary going on — wasn’t, it turned out to be a virus faking things very dramatically) I decided that there were a couple of things on my bucket list I hadn’t yet ticked off. One was to get writing seriously, the other to achieve a doctorate.
The writing is going okay. No big breakthrough but several individual poems and short stories published in Oz and overseas. Plus one book of poetry (available as a book and also as a CD with audio files).
The PhD however is having a longish gestation. I’ve nominated a re-jigged date for submission somewhere around the middle of next year (and the end of 2014 as a desperation appointment!) I usually pull off deadlines with style so let’s hope this will be another stunning success. In the meantime I had better get back to it.
This morning brought a rather traumatic discovery. The word I thought I had coined late last year — telemorphosis — turns out to have been in use for over 100 years and refers to nothing at all related to my intent that it would define my theory about how memory is crucial in the process of adaptation in writing. A big disappointment! And a big nuisance, as I will now have to devise another word/term to try and express what I’m on about in this exploration which is central to my PhD project.
The first thing I immediately did was the elimination of the blog which I began only two days ago (under the name of Telemorphosis) and set up a new blog — this one, titled Memories 2 Go. Fortunately it was possible to export everything from the original site to this new one, so not too much damage.
Once again the fact of the Web has proven itself. It’s highly unlikely I would otherwise have learnt of this duplication of terms. Might have become a big problem when I submit my thesis next year. A good lesson in never taking anything for granted. But really, who knew? Who would have thought? Did you ever hear the word before?
Let me tell you a little about this PhD I’ve been working on for the last 7 years. Actually I made the decision to have a go at getting a doctorate over 9 years ago. First hurdle was to gain entry. Didn’t have an Honours degree so (despite holding a degree in English Lit and a post-grad degree in Education) I needed to get a Masters as a first step. This wasn’t a hardship, quite the contrary. For two years I just wrote heaps of stuff — short stories, poetry, a play, a novella and 35K words of a still unfinished novel. Got several of the stories and poems published and finished up with a M.Litt degree awarded cum laude.
Then I was ready to start on the PhD. Right from the beginning my interest has been in adaptation; how do stories get changed from one form into another? What is the process in the writing which allows that to happen?I had a notion to try and develop a model, for want of a better word, which could be used to guide a writer who decided to adapt a story into some different form from what it was currently. Well, that didn’t work out too well. Seems every adaptation is essentially unique. I was back to square one. After sitting in my chair and cogitating for some months I came up with the opinion that memory has got something to do with what goes on when an adaptation is being undertaken. So that’s what I’m now puzzling out.