Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Not as bad as I thought...

So, the log-jam problem has been slightly rectified. My solution consisted of talking to my supervisor about my concerns and her suggesting that we don’t talk the next day after all, that I give myself another week to work on things and see what develops.

In that week, I started a couple of other stories, worked on the ones I already had and managed to get two of them to the point where I was [not happy exactly but] willing to let her see them. I sent them along with a rather self-effacing email (which I now hope she didn’t read as if I was fishing for compliments). This morning over coffee I had my head in my hands, worrying that I didn’t want to put my wonderfully supportive supervisor into the position where she felt that she had ‘to be nice about it’ when I really feared that the pieces where utter rubbish.

10am. Skype is binging at me and my stomach is a ball of lead pipe tied into knots (how’s that for a ridiculous metaphor?) The first thing Wonderful Supervisor said when the skype call connected was, “I really think you’re being far too hard on yourself!”

She had lots of supportive things to say and looking at the pieces with fresh eyes, I realise maybe they aren’t as rubbish as I originally thought.

Supervisor Extraordinaire also pointed out that my discomfort (if you can call the anguish I have been living in for three weeks ‘discomfort’) likely stems from the fact that I always have in my head. “My thesis is about women and food” so that when I sit down to write, I don’t just sit down to write a story, I sit down to write “a story about women and food”. The very artificial nature of this approach makes me feel awkward about what I produce.

Anyway, apparently it’s not as bad as I thought.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Not reading, writing.

This fortnight I’ve been concentrating on creating my own pieces of writing rather than reading and responding to the writing of others. And I have to admit, it’s not going well.

It’s a little bit like a log-jam of ideas where the logs have made quite an effective dam in the river and none of them are easily freed. I can see bits and pieces of logs/ideas but none are happily floating along anymore. And tomorrow I need to email something I’ve been working on to my supervisor…

I’m a bit concerned.

Not overly concerned because this happened during my honours year also. I got particularly stuck on one or two stories that ended up being rewritten so many times that I now can’t stand the sight of them and they are now completely unrecognizable from the original idea that sparked them. But I am a bit concerned.

This concern probably springs more from a desire not to disappoint my supervisor than an actual distress about my project at this stage—if I was this stuck later into my candidature I imagine I would be really worried but it’s early days yet (at least that’s what I’m telling myself). Maybe I should just go and play in the sandpit with Calvin until the right mood hits me.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Academic Article Mania

This week I got manically excited about an article I read & realised that over the next three years I may truly become a tragically narrow-focused zombie-like individual who can only talk about her PhD project.

It went sort of like this*…

I had spent the day reading and making notes on various articles when I happened upon one called, “’Food is culture, but it’s also power’: the role of food in ethnic and gender identity construction among Goan Canadian Women.” I read with a kind of rapture and joy that I hadn’t found [ever] doing the readings for my Honours thesis last year. (I still don’t know what possessed me to look at post-colonialism!) Then Significant-Other arrived home and wanted to talk about his day at work (or something tedious like that) but all I could do was drag the conversation back to the article I read and the series of epiphanies it invoked. Then while pouring some drinks for happy hour, I detailed to Now-Relatively-Over-It-Significant-Other how this article backs up many of the things I was thinking about in relation to food preparation and women. Then while cooking us some dinner, I regaled Now-Almost-Completely-Over-It-Significant-Other with the ways in which this article also addresses ideas of the importance of women’s roles in foodwork and how this affords them a special status as the keepers of tradition and culture. Then over dinner I explained how all of these concepts were things I was already planning to address in my creative-practice research, does he see how important this is?!

Significant-Other then asked quite pointedly,
                  “So, have you finished writing your cookbook yet?”

He keeps me grounded.

*This is an entirely fictional account based on the factual excitement of finding this article, the lovely Nic is more than supportive (although he does insist on referring to my project as 'writing a cookbook').

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Food, glorious food (books)!

I am quickly coming to the conclusion that a weekly blog might just be out of my bounds of ability at ‘this stage of the game’. Not because I’m not getting anything done and not because I’m actually too busy but simply because I’m not sure the things I am doing are worth reporting on.

I started out with the more ‘dry’ area of creative-practice research & I didn’t think it would be of much interest to others but now I’m getting into the ‘food’ side of things (and if that’s ‘dry’, then I’ve cooked it too long or in too hot an oven, right?)

This week I’m reading Songs for the Butcher’s Daughter by Peter Manseau; re-reading Blackberry Wine by Joanne Harris; and I just finished The Children & Love and Hunger by Charlotte Wood. I know I’ll get shouted down by some but I couldn’t finish Saturday by Ian McEwan… I didn’t even get up to the cooking part, I ditched him when he was still driving to his tennis match (or was it squash?) Anyway, the point of the novel-reading is to look at how other authors have used food within their stories & I’ve got a bit of a list of 'other things to read' happening but I’d love to hear your suggestions.

What novels or short stories have you read where food, food preparation or dining has played a noticeable role? 

(It doesn’t have to be a major role, just something worth noting. The Children, for example, doesn’t have food as a major component but when it is included, it’s significant.) All suggestions gratefully received!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Why am I dining on elephant?

Okay, so much for posting something every week as per my original intentions. That didn’t last long, did it? In my defense, I’ve been plagued by a grotty cold and a series of migraines, in between which I’ve been trying to keep a handle on what I need to be doing rather than bothering to think about a blog entry to write.

When I think about it, I should have expected the migraines—they tend to plague me when I’m doing something upon which I’ve placed a high level of importance. I’ve written previously that my teaching career put me under great pressure at times and that I’d hoped I’d be able to manage my stress levels better when working under my own steam but so far I don’t seem to have been highly successful.

I think the reason for this is that my project, as I look at it now, seems so enormous and I feel like I’m getting nowhere. And Time continues to dribble away whether I feel good about it or not. I know the old adage that the way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. But I’d like to add to that the thoughts of Andy Hunt (whose blog is really about programming but this post is relevant here, and anywhere really) who suggests that this idea may not be sustainable and really we should be asking why we need to eat an elephant in the first place.

So, why am I doing this?
  • I guess the first reason comes down to personal challenge and fulfillment. I never thought I could study for a PhD in the past but my experience of writing an honours thesis seemed to convince me otherwise. I was always a fairly good student but I never thought of myself as particularly ‘clever’, I got good marks by working hard (I’m hoping the same will get me through this).
  • The second reason is that when I am through it, I’ll be able to lecture—the thought of which fills me with dread at the moment the way teaching high school never did but I still think it’s something I’d like to do.
  • Finally, but most importantly, I want to know. I want to know how food preparation and the stories that go with it contribute to a culture; I want to know how collections of short stories might highlight similarities and differences between cultural groups; I want to know how honouring and valuing ‘women’s work’ can make a difference to their place within a society; I just want to know… lots of stuff really.
  • Or maybe it's just this:

Anyway, once you know why & you’re sure you really must eat an elephant, Andy suggests: “…you're going to need  a lot of friends.  Or a lot of Tupperware.” So, here I am again, blogging & reaching out to my friends.

Seconds, anyone?