“How to Complete a Project” talk

Yesterday in my honours class we had a guest speaker on the topic of “completing projects.” The talk wandered far from its original topic but it was hugely helpful. I’m going to summarize it here, with how it’s going to change the direction/execution of my honours project.

The first topic was completing projects. The basic gist of it was that whatever works for you is what you should do, and you should do it consistently. This is one area where I’m stumbling right now – things that used to work for me no longer do. I can’t sit for an extended period of time and crank out usable work. I’m easily distracted (I often think of myself as a very bad date – wandering off in the middle of a sentence to check my phone or drift into facebook) and I haven’t ever had to learn how to keep myself focused because I’ve never had a problem staying focused before.

Our guest speaker also talked about finding the ways that we are good at not working and cutting those out. I’ve been experimenting with setting timers and only letting myself check facebook when they go off every couple hours. Part of the problem, I think, is that there is just so much on my to-do list and it all takes time. And keeping up with the sex-positive blogosphere is important to me, but I don’t have time for it anymore. I’m making time for it, but that time is cutting into my productivity in a serious way. I need to be honest about the ways that I’m avoiding work – it’s not just that my comprehension and focus is at less than half of what I’m used to, it’s also that when I get frustrated I just give up and don’t even look at my work for hours. I sink into blogs and articles instead. It’s a vicious cycle.

It is frustrating, especially, to realize how easy I’ve had it so far in my academic career. These issues of focus and being unable to pull my ideas together coherently on the first try… these are new issues. The recurrence of my mental health struggles is definitely not helping.

The next point that the speaker brought up was writing to the genre – recognizing that different papers will have different expectations placed on them. Our 40-page honours thesis has different expectations on it than a 40-page book chapter or journal article. We didn’t really get into the nitty gritty of what, exactly, the genre expectations for an honours thesis are. I gathered that it’s mostly up to our supervisors, and that we are writing to that very specific audience. I have my supervisor’s expectations of structure already clearly laid out for me, which is good. I can start writing into that framework, theoretically.

The speaker also talked about the importance of writing your intro first, even though many projects shift and change partway through. He said that this is because you need to know what you’re trying to accomplish, otherwise your project will sprawl all over the place – you need to set some limits and boundaries, knowing that you might break past them at some point. I’m going to try to take his advice there and write my introduction. I realize that at this point I do not have a clear idea of what I’m trying to do – introducing the comparison to mainstream film and introducing the idea of “feminist pornography responding to anti-porn feminism” has muddied the waters up considerably. I tried to write the beginnings of an introduction today and couldn’t get past the first sentence – I really have no idea what my goal is right now. This bit of advice was really good and relevant, and actionable.

He talked about killing the parts of our thesis that are not working – taking out the “Frankensteinian lumps.” I’m worried that one of those two additions will turn out to be a “lump” that needs to be removed. I think I’ll have a better sense of that once I’ve written the intro.

During his talk I was thinking about the long lit review that my supervisor is asking for. I realized that I haven’t engaged with the primary texts of anti-porn feminism. I haven’t reread any Dworkin or MacKinnon, partly because I dislike their writing so much. But I can’t write an honest and effective lit review if I don’t dig into those texts.

Here are some questions that I need to answer:

– Where are the areas of overlap between anti-porn feminism and feminist film theory? I see potential overlap in discussions of the male gaze, female agency in film, and violence in film (Gender, Genre and Excess seems like an immediate starting point.)

– How can I incorporate community emergent writing without straying too far from my limitation to keep the analysis focused on what’s performed on film? (ie: performer experiences are off-limits, but can I use performer writing about the finished product? I’m not sure.)

– How does it all fit together? Feminist film theory, anti-porn feminism, feminist pornography (!!!!)… What lens am I actually looking through? Am I examining feminist pornography using a feminist film theory lens, or am I examining feminist pornography through anti-porn feminist critiques? Something else? A hybrid? How can it be a hybrid without becoming biased against feminist pornography? Where are the theoretical writings that support feminist pornography or pornography in general? Where does the mainstream porn fit in? For the poster it provided a necessary foil – a highlight on the differences. But in this analysis, it seems like a strange (and lumpy?) intrusion. Yet, without it… how can I talk about the effectiveness of feminist pornography in providing an alternative, if I don’t demonstrate what it’s alternative to?

It seems to me that I am starting to move towards looking at the influence of anti-porn feminist critiques in both feminist and mainstream pornography. However, I do not like that project! I want the primary focus to be on feminist pornography, not on anti-porn feminism or on mainstream pornography. I also think that it’s a stretch, and that if I were going to actually do that specific analysis I would need to look at classic porn, the porn that made the critiques happen in the first place. And that’s way too much. Even what I have right now is probably too much!

This is a thought… A dangerous, impetuous thought…

What if I scrap my current films, all of them. I don’t analyze Fuckstyles or Asa Akira or any of the films I’ve picked so far.

What if I just do Nostalgia, Courtney Trouble’s queer reimagining of iconic porn scenes, and I compare it to the classic porn it’s remaking?

Yikes.

Anyway, I have to do a lot of the same reading at this point either way, so I’m just going to shelve that idea and keep working (as much as I can call what I do these days “working”).

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