When I tell people I wrote my doctoral thesis by hand – 70,000-words, ignoring the vast chunks of discarded text I try not to think about – they invariably laugh. Ridiculous as it may sound, it was the fastest way for me to get the thing done.
I’m not a bad typist; I touch type faster than I write. I just think better with a pen in my hand than in front of a screen. When I’m stuck designing, I know to leave the computer and get my hand moving on paper. There’s something about the nonlinear way I sketch on a page – scribbling off on tangents, linking ideas with a quick arrow or circle – that allows me to think in an instinctive way. When I applied this approach to my writing process, I worked more efficiently and more happily than trying to write at the computer. This exhibition is an excavation of all the handwritten ephemera that was still lurking in my office 18 months after submitting my doctoral thesis. I presented it in a gallery space as a celebration, or a kind of wake, for the process of thinking through writing: a visual representation of the rough process it takes to get complex ideas out of your head and onto the page.
Exhibit A: Maps and Plans
83 handwritten mind maps, folded into birds
March 2006 – October 2009.
These maps were created on an almost weekly basis as a way of keeping track of the process as I stumbled around. I’d make a map to take into meetings with my supervisor and would take notes and draw on it as we spoke.
11 hand-generated data analysis maps of hybrid novels, presented as a diamond-book.
March – May 2006.
Exhibit B: Post-it note posters
328 post-it notes and makeshift post-its (sandwich bags and other random ephemera) scanned and digitally printed as A0 size posters (841 x 1189 mm).
March 2006 – November 2009.
Exhibit C: Word clouds
The subtitle of my thesis – ‘a critique of the graphic devices in hybrid novels from a visual communication design perspective’ – cut from my draft notebooks and pasted on A2 tracing paper.
It took me a painfully long time to come up with the title, despite writing it this many times.
Exhibit D: Sample drafts
Five drafts of Chapter 3.1, hung as folded chains.
Even once the draft got out of a notebook and onto the computer, I needed to edit by hand, preferably in a café or somewhere else noisy and anonymous with no internet connection (thankfully I didn’t have an iPhone then.)
Exhibit E: Writing tools
All the writing and drawing tools in my studio.
I drew each tool with the tool itself.
Exhibit F: Thesis
The final thesis, with post-it notes marking pages where my handwriting is used as a graphic device within the written text.