Doctoral writing: the incentive of space

By Susan Carter

I’ve just met with a Pacific Island doctoral candidate, let’s call her Vai after the beautiful Pasifika movie that you should try to see. Vai moved me almost to tears by recounting that she does her doctoral writing in the cemetery next to her grandmother’s grave. Her grandmother brought her and her siblings up and died fairly recently; the doctoral project will be dedicated to her care and support, all of which have led to Vai’s success. Sadly, Vai’s grandmother won’t be there to celebrate doctoral graduation, but she is sharing the journey. She plays an important role by providing a symbolic place of support for writing.

Vai finds the cemetery a calm leafy space, away from the city noise. More to the point, she feels emotionally and symbolically supported with her beloved grandmother beside her. She takes a small table and chair intended for picnic use and her charged-up laptop, and in this safe sacred place, she settles into her doctoral writing.

I’ve written before on the idea that maybe space can provide an incentive to write, describing nine different people’s attempt to try somewhere conducive to writing. Cally has chosen the topic of spaces where theses are written too, talking about her own…

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