Ever since I can remember I’ve had a certain natural inclination to write literature. However, having spent most of my life in educational institutions, I seem to have acquired some academic skills too. Now in the third year of my four-year PhD, I still get asked whether I really think it possible to be both a writer and an academic.
The truth is, these two types of writing are as different as the states in which they are created. There are questions of aims and audiences to be considered. Why should anyone care how I came up with the ideas for my PhD thesis or one of my academic articles? Expressing my theses clearly and supporting them with good arguments will suffice. On the other hand, the very idea of the creative process or how something came into existence, can be in the very heart of a work of fiction.
Similarly, it would be pointless to try to come up with a general model of either of these writing processes – people write everywhere, at all times of the day and with varying degrees of concentration and interest. I write my fiction in early mornings, late evenings or while I’m procrastinating. Most often I write in cafes or on trains and buses. I write more when I’m in love then when I am not, even on topics that have nothing to do with love. I keep a diary which I call ‘An Attempt at a Diary’, but fear it might become my life after all in a few years’ time, when I will have forgotten the bits and pieces that made a certain day what it was when I described it so selectively. Oh, and I fictionalise everything that happens to me.
In May of last year I finished the first draft of my novel. Since then, I have only managed to revise a chapter and a half. Only seventeen and a half more to go! Apart from that, in the same year, I wrote and published several shorter pieces of fiction and non-fiction, as well as some translations. This March I finished my second poetry collection in Bosnian. (Hark! All ye publishers!)
Nevertheless, the peculiarities of my life as a writer have little to do with my academic life. I teach Mondays. Like other students, I have courses to take and deadlines to meet, final papers both to grade and to write. On top of it all, in the background there looms that personal daemon, the thesis itself. It has been on my mind for years now, first as something I wanted to do, then as something I sat down and formulated in words in the form of that dusty PhD proposal, and finally as my actual life at this moment. Our texts live inside us; writing is a very corporal experience. (Though the phrase ‘corporal punishment’ comes to mind directly after this one.)
My greatest preoccupation at the moment is the pressure of quality. There are days when I am quite paralysed in my writing process because I know I am expected to produce something outstanding this time. It’s both a private and an institutional concern. For one thing, I am fastidious and certainly would not want to have my name on something which I would regret having written in ten years’ time. But, there is also the question of originality of a PhD project, and though I do not have doubts that my research is worthwhile both for me and for the academic fields I belong to, the pressure is there and it’s there to stay. Sometimes we’re friends, my pressure and I, sometimes our relationship gets a bit nippy. But we have ourselves to go to on the good days, and our friends to run to on the bad ones.
Velid Beganović (born 1987 in Bosnia and Herzegovina) is a an author (V. B. Borjen) and currently a doctoral student under Dr Michael Matthew Kaylor in the programme Literatures in English at the Department of English and American Studies, Faculty of Arts, Masaryk University in Brno, the Czech Republic.
He holds a BA degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Tuzla (Bosnia and Herzegovina), and an MA degree in Gender Studies from the Central European University in Budapest.