Thursday, February 12, 2009

Dear PhD Supervisor

Here is part of the message I just sent to my supervisor. I copied it here to share with you:

Dear Supervisor,

I’ve been intimidated by this next bit of writing I need to do, and I’m afraid I’m going to writing something that’s not very good and that I’ll embarrass myself and that you’ll think I’m stupid. It might be of tremendous help to me if you could give me “permission” to write something that might not be very good—just so I can get some things on paper—and if you could reassure me that you’ll try not to think I’m stupid. I keep feeling as if I need to read more, to know more, before I write, but that feeling might go on for ever, so I need to just do it. This means I will certainly have holes in my knowledge base.Would that be okay? If I give you something that might be mediocre or even bad? Then I can revise and move forward as necessary.

Sincerely,
Good (Enough) Student

5 comments:

What Now? said...

I can't remember if I've commented here before (I'm a relatively new reader, and I have no idea whose link I followed to end up here, which I'm sure is bad blog etiquette), but I just had to chime in and say that I love this post. I finally learned to be a fairly productive writer when I gave myself permission to just write really, really bad stuff and then revise it. Have you read Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird? Her attitude toward bad rough drafts changed my worldview forever.

baxie said...

I'm more of a re-writer than a writer. I just try to get the idea down, with little consideration for the niceties of composition.

All the rest of it comes later, which seems like the natural thing to me. Academia might be different though...

Dr. No said...

Hi, I'm new around here. If it helps, I lacked the balls to tell my PhD advisor about what I thought was the most horrendous chapter I had ever written. I just slipped it in their mailbox when I knew they wouldn't be around (pathetic, yes). It ended being my strongest chapter and the first thing published. So you know, relax.

ink said...

Good for you! You reminded me of one of my all-time favorite quotes, by William Stafford in _Writing The Australian Crawl_. It never fails to inspire me, so I share with you!

"Sometimes I feel a writer should be like this--that you need your bad poems. You shouldn't inhibit yourself. You need to have your dreams; you need to have your poems. If you begin to keep from dreaming or from trying to write your poems, you could be in trouble. You have to learn to say 'Welcome . . . welcome.' Welcome dreams. Welcome, poems. And then if somebody says 'I don't like that dream,' you can say, 'Well, it's my life. I had to dream it.' And if somebody else says, 'I don't like that poem' you can say, 'Well, it's my life. That poem was in the way, so I wrote it.'" (William Stafford)

ink said...

Following up to say that of course I'm NOT implying that YOUR writing was "bad"! I'm sure yours was lovely.

But my process *always* begins with bad drafts bc I'm mostly just focused on getting the ideas out, which beget more ideas. Then the revision phase takes it wherever it needs to go. I do hold dear the Montaigne idea of The Essay as exploratory. Anyway, hope you get a wonderful response from your advisor!