Dissertation Deadline

This time last week was a huge landmark in my writing ‘career’ so far. I submitted my 20, 837 (new lucky number) word dissertation after months of work. To say that I was glad to reach the finish line would be an understatement. The deadline of the 31st of August was only three weeks after a complicated house move and the start of the painful task of job hunting. So August 2012 turned out to be one of the most stressful months that I’ve experienced in years.

Way back at the start of summer (if you can call the wash out weather we’ve had ‘summer’); I booked tickets to see one of my all-time favourite writers at the Edinburgh Book Festival. I have admired Mark Haddon’s writing since reading the brilliant ‘Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ and loved ‘A Spot of Bother’ (the difficult second book) just as much even although it didn’t receive the same critical acclaim. His style of black comedy mixed in with social and ethical themes is exactly the type of writing I dream about achieving.

I was really keen to hear Mark but the event was smack bang in the middle of everything else going on around me and I considered just forgetting about the £10 ticket and concentrating on more pressing issues. It was my writing pal, Catherine, who reminded me not to let domesticity take over and the importance of taking a break away from the laptop. I’m so glad that I listened to Catherine’s advice.  The event was as fantastic and really inspired me.

At the time, I was feeling overwhelmed with constant editing and needed to hear his analogy to encourage me.  Mark likened editing to combing a very dirty and matted Afghan hound. He said that the first stage is getting the dog free of the muck and major tangles but it was a repeated process of combing over and over again before the dog’s coat could finally be glossy and silky smooth.

Mark also said that writing can feel like climbing a mountain. The idea sounds great and you set off full of enthusiasm but as the ascent gets steeper, every stride uphill gets tougher and you question whether it’s been a good idea after all. It’s only when you reach the top of the summit that you can turn round to admire the view and realise that all your hard work was worth it in the end. He also said that he once told a creative writing student that if he was having fun, then the writing wasn’t working. All these little snippets of inspiration helped motivate me on the last steps up the mountain that was my dissertation.

Not only did Mark’s appearance at the Book Festival offer me encouragement and  another new book (The Red House) to be added to my Everest proportioned TBR pile (To Be Read, not a nasty disease as Angels feared I’d caught) but hubby and I also had a lovely visit to Café Andaluz on George Street for delicious tapas and amazing desserts (any excuse to stick my face in the feeding trough).

The motto of this blog post is, if in doubt, do it! Don’t miss out on an opportunity, it might be the pick-me-up at a time when you need it most.

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2 thoughts on “Dissertation Deadline

  1. I agree with grabbing the opportunity. It’s what made me give up my full-time job following an Arvon course tutored by the author who mentored Mark Haddon on ‘Curious Incident’ and take to the road in a small van, to travel and write and be mentored by the same author (Kathryn Heyman). I haven’t earned and money yet from the writing, and maybe I never will, but I’ve never regretted the decision to make the most of the moment. Oh, and the editing is now as complete as I can make it, is ready to be posted to agents, and, if lucky, I get as far as an editor telling me to re-edit it all!

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