Have you ever thought that the stories you read might be describing aspects of your life? Or that whatever you live is written in every book you get through? Well, ok, it is not a big deal, this usually happens. All book lovers have admitted it and it is indeed one of the pleasures of literature.
Yet, some stories seem completely detached from any life experiences you may have had. Hmmm… at least at a first glance that is. With the power that reader response theories have given to the reader, the merit of symbolismand loads of imagination, let me introduce you to my current literature world, where all picturebooks include thesis-writing implications.
Birthday Battle Bunny (written by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett and illustrated by Matthew Myers)
When Alex gets the corny book “Birthday Bunny” as a birthday present, he grabs his pencil and changes the entire story. He scratches words, replaces lots of them, adds his own drawings in the illustration and in the end he creates his own version of the tale. Readers can notice all his interventions, since they are depicted as a child’s handwriting over the original computerish print. Of course, the final result is based on “Birthday Bunny”, but now it is called “Battle Bunny” and it seems much different. It is also more adventurous and interesting. I bet that when Alex grows up, he will follow either of the following two career paths: a) postgraduate student/academic researcher reading and scribbling and writing and erasing and then writing again; or; b) supervisor reading and scribbling and writing and erasing and then writing again.
supervisors from all over the world Microsoft Word has offered invaluable assistance in editing and grammar correction)
2. Lindbergh – The tale of a Flying Mouse by Torben Kuhlmann
“Many years ago in a country across the sea there lived an inquisitive mouse. This little mouse was so curious he would hide away, sometimes for months to read great books written by humans”. Judging from the opening sentence, this story is certainly related to inquisitive creatures. I know plenty of those that constantly have their heads buried in a book written by humans. Every day I bump into them in the library (not a surprise!) or in the college and I can confirm that there are hundreds to be found in the Faculty of Education. While writing these lines and looking at my desk which is covered by books and notebooks, I strongly suspect that I have become one of them…
Living in a cruel human world where mousetraps, cats and owls lie in ambush, the mouse of “Lindbergh” decided to build his own flying machine and fly away. Bats, his distant relatives, do that with great success, so why shouldn’t he try? Nevertheless, it was not as easy as it sounded. Moreover, bats have wings by nature.
First try –> failure: “He swung through the air for a moment. But then he tumbled and plunged toward the ground at alarming”. He came up with the idea of adding steam to his contraption. Second -improved- try –> also a failure: the machine being too heavy, it crashed into pieces. After new refinements, the little mouse attempted a third try. And he succeeded. He flew to New York, leaving astonished those who saw him swinging in the sky.
Now let me think similar stories of the inquisitive creatures in my own world. Have they ever failed? What obstacles have they come across? From where do they draw inspiration? How many times did they refine their writings? How many times will they keep amending their thoughts? Fingers crossed that they will follow the little mouse’s example and they will not stop trying, even if they finally succeed in creating their own “flying machine” to conquer the -academic/ publishing/ literary- world.
3. April, the red goldfish by Marjolaine Leray
You probably think that April is a red goldfish (!) which lives a boring life in her fish bowl. She feels trapped and her dream is to escape and travel around the world. To me: fish bowl = library, escape = thesis submission, travel the world = travel the world after the submission. This is maybe a brave parallelism, given that libraries seem fantastic places, especially for researchers and even more especially for literature researchers. Nevertheless, let’s be honest: do you really consider your department’s faculty as the most magical place in the world, especially after you have spent 5 hours in there, turning over hundreds of pages without finding what you are searching for? And don’t even let me get started on those days when there is no ounce of inspiration on the horizon.
April the goldfish was “the kind of fish to ponder the deep questions”. Likewise, PhD students are the kind of students to ponder deep research questions. Not only to pose those questions, but also try to find their answers -something even more spectacular than a red goldfish which talks and tries to manipulate a black cat. [To be fair, I do not know what to do with this black cat in my “academic” version of the story. I don’t think that a thesis can be a black cat. A thesis is not that unfriendly and definitely it does not eat people.]
+1. Pablo, the artist by Satoshi Kitamura
Talking about no inspiration on the horizon, Pablo the elephant has artist’s block (I suspect it is similar to writer’s block, and unfortunately I can totally relate with poor Pablo). Whatever he paints doesn’t seem right to him. Then, Leonardo the lion suggests that his elephant friend should go out to find a great landscape to start with. “A good landscape is the next best thing to a self-portrait”, he says. Following the lion’s advice, Pablo visits a picturesque meadow and step by step draws a decent background for his portrait. But then he falls asleep and… there it is! His dreams fully inspired him and he was then able to create the most fascinating painting ever.
a) Do not give up, when you don’t feel in a creative mode.
b) Making a start is always the most difficult step.
c) Engaging with the activity may help you find your inspiration.
d) Keep your ears open for any useful advice.
e) A good landscape for the self-portrait seems like a good theoretical background for the research.
f) Take a rest every once a while. Even workaholics need some power naps.
g) You never know when you will come up with the best idea ever.
h) Indeed dreams can come true.
i) Rush back to your… canvas and start to work!