Yesterday I returned my attention to writing my dissertation. Part II: Critical analysis of Part I, the creative component. I had hoped to begin sooner, but realized that it would not be possible after teaching fall, spring, and summer semesters. All of me needed time to breathe, pay attention; time to become mindful again of why I am doing this work in the first place (because it is very easy to forget and become discouraged), and to understand what I had learned from myself and my students that would change how I approached this last phase of the work.
I also began training as a doula, so I also had to think about what I was learning from the children/ancestors waiting to be born. As we know, children and the elderly work in and on their own time. So, doula training and tending to mothers and families has taught me to be patient, wait, re-assess, ask the “right” question, pay attention to what really needs to be done, and to know for whom I am present and why.
So, instead of buckling down to write the first weeks of August, I spent three weeks talking to other Yoruba practitioners-scholars, artists, and friends to help me burrow through the unmanaged ideas in my head and notes in my journal, attending to a mom-to-be, and watching programs about physics, the universe, time, and space. All while attempting to not be obsessed with my research.
Although I am behind on my own schedule, I am unconcerned. It would have done me no good to begin writing when I was unclear about what I wanted to say or how to integrate all that had happened between the year I wrote the first component and now.
I remind myself that writing the dissertation is not like writing the book for publication. It is very much like being pregnant, just a longer gestation period. As a creative writer, I know it could take one year to “perfect” a few poems, longer for a prose manuscript. So, writing the dissertation is like writing several intensely beautiful final drafts. I am, in fact, still developing my theories and practices. I draw conclusions with the information I have at the moment. However, if I am mindful of what and how I write, it will also be the beginning of the book, more developed, better written, than what might be expected. I will have an amazing “child” who will grow to be an adult one day.
I expect a lot of myself. Hence, writing and preparing to write teaches me to let go of those expectations every now and then. Like this blog. I had hoped to do it monthly; however, I’ve decided that quarterly or bi-monthly is better, or simply whenever I feel inspired or something is relevant to share. I also wanted to focus on texts I was reading. I can still do that; however, I remind myself what I tell my students: we enter history and make meaning of events through our personal experiences.
So, I have to pay attention to the real life and real people around me to write. The people in my life are not theories or statistics – although on any given day they have probably already gotten to the praxis of any subject sooner than I can.
Seeing what and who is around me is the way I remain mindful of my research question: what worldview (or worldviews) help Black people make meaning of the past, present and future? Wade Nobles writes that one’s worldview “… determines the nature of reality, i.e. how a culture understands the nature of reality” (in Conyers, p32).
Put another way: How can what I do – am doing – challenge what we have come to accept as “reality”? How can our responses help us develop tools to change that reality so we may all live fully at peace with ourselves and each other?
Conyers, James. 2011. African American Consciousness: Past and Present. Piscataway, NJ: Transaction Publishers.