I’ve just finished week two of my newly instigated work plan and it’s worth taking some time to reflect on the experience to date. Like many weeks within a PhD it’s been the topsy-turvy, rollercoaster of emotions and sometimes you just want to lie down and not get up again.
On the positive side I am really enjoying my new job. I’ve made a few mistakes, as you do, but when you have the huge monolithic PhD process hanging over your head you learn that saying the wrong thing to a team member is not something you can sweat over for long. Perspective, it’s a beautiful thing. The fact I have two mid-week days away from the house, interacting with others in a creative space, but one that doesn’t relate to my PhD topic, is both exhausting and energising. It made me realise that as much as I loved teaching, the fact I taught subjects so close to my PhD meant I never took any thinking time away from my research and this probably made me less productive. I will admit that I’ve tended to collapse on the one ‘free’ day I now have, falling asleep on the couch out of sheer exhaustion. This has been exacerbated by the fact I seem to have developed insomnia at night – yay me. So while it’s a tad physically challenging it’s also been good for my productivity. With less time to mess around there has been indeed less messing around and my writing days have been very business like.
I’ve achieved what I had hoped in the last two weeks, though I’m struggling to reduce my literature review sections to the word count I wanted. I’ve also begun what feels like the 756th draft of a journal article. My quest for publication is starting to take on Twilight Zone like qualities where I’m trapped in a never-ending cycle of writing and editing the same document in different ways. Maybe Groundhog Day is a better analogy.
Publication struggles brings up the issue of peer comparison. I met up with a friend from UTS, though in a different area, last week who showed surprise at my not yet having undertaken then stage 2 assessment process, but who has recently had a) a journal article under review and b) two book chapters in the works.
What was that about lying on the floor and not getting up?
From a thesis perspective she is yet to start writing. I’m left with the feeling of complete inadequacy mixed with the comfort of knowing I’ve written about 30,000 words of my actual thesis. But nothing I’ve done in three years is technically finished.
Which led to a small meltdown over the fact that maybe I’m not intellectually capable of finishing an academic piece of writing. Work ethic, check. Motivation, sure. But what if I am not actually good enough? Now this is not impostor syndrome, because impostor syndrome implies you’re doing something but you don’t feel worthy of doing it. Technically I haven’t actually DONE anything. At this stage the whole ‘fake it until you make it’ thing feels like a step up.
My ever wise supervisor has a different perspective. And while I didn’t come out and ask “do you think I’m too dumb to complete this PhD?” I did ask that if I was in trouble would she tell me*. She takes the view that there’s lot of writing coagulating (and I like that word) and that it will all come together on mass near the end. Which does sound like what’s happening. I do have four chapters at between 50 – 75% right now. And it does align to my briefly met second supervisor who says “just write the best f-ing thesis possible and THEN worry about publishing.” All good but there’s no validation along the way that helps you believe you can actually do this.
Then today I met with a twitter friend who I’ve been engaging with for what seems like years but never met. We got talking about what’s needed in art schools from a careers perspective and she said that where she works needs a cross-disciplinary subject on career/leadership capabilities. HELLO? This is exactly what I do and want to do post-PhD. I just need to convince the institutions of the relevancy.
The post PhD future seems to be hurtling toward me. I do hope I can keep this job longer than the initial 6-month period, but I know the decision is not in my hands. But that is not going to be enough to live on, financially and intellectually. I was very pleased to receive an invitation to apply to the Australia Council for the Arts preferred provider panel on leadership facilitation, this could be not only great fun but a nice supplement to the income. While my long-held plans involved a book on leadership in the creative industries the horror that is writing the thesis means I may never want to put fingers to keyboard again.
For now I’ll keep chugging along. Write my weekly target, redraft my journal article again and again, go to yoga, cycle to dance class and keep inspecting unaffordable real estate. Life, just live it.
*She said yes.