Thursday, 21 March 2013

I'm not procrastinating, I'm thinking


I think it's a great activity and doesn't deserve all the bad things people say about it. Any successful piece of writing requires some successful procrastination (and yes, you can quote me on that, just make sure you send me the royalties).

Maybe this past week, since I last met with my supervisor and she told me I should start writing my thesis, I've been procrastinating just a little. I looked at submitting a previously rejected journal article to a different journal. I toyed with the idea of writing a 4000 word journal article for a post-grad journal that was due in 10 days. I even wrote a rough outline for it before deciding I couldn't really match my argument to the theme (or research and write it in 10 days).

I watched some episodes of the Twilight Zone for a short story competition with a Twilight Zone inspired theme. I read a chapter of Susan Merrill Squier's book on the liminal and biomedicine, Liminal Lives. I admit, it didn't really have content I could use in my thesis but I really enjoyed the chapter I read on transplant medicine and transformative narratives. I tried once more to read Donna Haraway's Cyborg Manifesto and found it hard work.

But I am tiptoeing around the answer to the 'big question': what is Dirt Circus League about? Not in terms of plot and narrative, but what is the core idea that is at the heart of the story?

To answer that I'm going back to reading James Lovelock's The Revenge of Gaia. I first read it quite early on in my research and writing process (around September/October 2010) and was fascinated by his idea that Planet Earth is one single living, breathing organism. It's more than the idea that everything is connected; and it's more than the concept that every organism on the planet relies on another to sustain life.

Lovelock states:

" occurred to me in 1981 that Gaia was the whole system - organisms and material environment coupled together - and it was this huge Earth system that evolved self-regulation, not life or the biosphere alone."

Balance within this organism is the key. If factors creep into the system that cause it to destabilise, it will try to right itself but if too many of these factors come at once, or start to overwhelm the system, it is unable to correct the balance and chaos rules. Eventually, to save itself, the planet may rid itself of the cause of that chaos: human beings.

I thought for a long time that my manuscript and thesis would be focused on neuroscience. The neuroscience research and reading I did was vital to my work, and it continues to fascinate me. But the core idea that holds Dirt Circus League together is this connection between neuroscience and the future of the planet, and a striving for balance in that connection. It is about using technology and natural resources together - harnessing the incredible power of the human brain - to help restore the Earth to state where humans can continue to live on it, rather than the Earth killing us all off like a cloud of annoying mozzies. This striving for balance is reflected in the personalities, behaviours and actions of the two main characters, Ava and Quarter, who are both dependent on each other (whether they like it or not) for survival and growth.

It's taken a great deal of procrastination to come to this point, and it'll probably take a fair bit more as I attempt to tease out the threads of this idea in my writing reflection, and bring the elements I've researched - neuroscience; posthumanism;carnivale and grotesque; Lovelock's theory - into a coherent thesis that will (hopefully) be PhD-worthy.

But of course it's not really procrastinating, it's thinking.