The first day of writing was hard, slow, and not very enjoyable. But I soon regained my momentum, although the ideas and words did not come as quickly or readily as I had hoped. And the task of turning Draft 1 into Draft 2 was more difficult than I expected. As was the case with Chapter 2, I had far too much material, written for a different purpose, and flushing out the narrative proved challenging. I have to say that I was also rather disappointed in myself for not being clear about the story I wished to tell only nine months out from submission. But this was a function of the sheer volume of writing and research, and photography that I had done over the past two years.
I started with a narrative plan, redrafted the Introduction to the chapter, and then began work on sections. Splitting my work into bite-sized chunks helped me to focus and not become overwhelmed by the scale of the task. First, the search for an understanding of Harman’s essence (the tension between the Real Object and its Real Qualities) and how this might be interpreted and revealed in my practice. Then “vicarious causation”, a term used by Graham Harman refers to how, in his view, objects “touch without touching” and do not form any direct relations with one another. While I remained true to Harman’s world of objects, the relationship, or not, between them led me to search for a solution or alternative understanding. A little-used term, again coined by Harman, “allure” was to provide me with the means to continue with Object-Oriented Photography. Alongside this, it became clear that rather than seeking to “essentialise” Being, through my practice my photographic work is about “possibilising” an awareness of Being in another.
By now, I was into my stride, and the words began to flow but I remained hampered by a large volume of words I did not wish to remove, not necessarily because I thought they were central to or good enough for the narrative, but because at this stage, I was scared to lose the few nuggets that might be buried within them! I think this is often referred to as “killing your darlings” and I needed to clear out some of the debris that was holding me back. While often interesting, and related to my research, these sections were not playing their part in supporting the narrative or were simply repeating that which had already been said. To calm my nerves, I keep a number of versions of each draft chapter (plus copies too) and also have a “snippets” file where I put the text that I feel might be useful in another part of the thesis or more likely, for post PhD research or writing.
This act of “decluttering” my chapter proved to be a turning point and enabled me to see the wood for the trees. The word count for the chapter also dropped from about 20,000 to within my target of 15,000 words. I alternated my work schedule between the heavy lifting of rewriting and developing the narrative with more mundane and enjoyable tasks such as inserting my images and revising visual heuristics. I had turned a corner, and my chapter was now manageable, and the narrative was beginning to emerge. As I reflected on this challenging week or so, I realised that this journey of moving from Draft 1 to Draft 2 of Chapter 3 had followed exactly the same path as with Chapter 2 – from that overwhelming feeling of being under the suffocating weight of too many words and ideas to something infinitely shorter and more focused.
I think I have another couple of days of focusing and writing a few as-yet unwritten linking pieces to join the narrative together and then produce four images of waves to illustrate entanglement within nature. – a task that might be altogether more difficult given the excessive amount of rain that has been falling relentlessly on Skye from the turn of the year.