Writing can be an extremely slow process – especially when trying to write for a large project that requires a high level of research and formality. Currently I am working on my PhD thesis and I am struggling. Breaking the thesis down to bite sized chunks is really important but doing that and keeping the chunk within the framework of the big picture often brings out the worst acts of procrastination. I seem to spend so much time thinking about what I want to write and planning when I am going to write that I forget, become distracted or run out of time to actually take up the task of writing.
Earlier this semester, having decided to end avoiding the inevitable, I reached out to the university’s research department and signed up to a couple of seminars. As an external student, I felt that surrounding myself with other academically minded people would help to inspire me with purpose to take up writing – and it did, in a small way until I realised that the washing needed to be done, the boys picked up from school and I had to have coffee with my girlfriend.
I then followed up with some of the advice that was offered during the seminar: the Pomodoro Technique and reading about writing a thesis starting out at The Thesis Whisperer‘s blog. I bought myself an egg-timer to start implementing some discipline. I confess I have not gotten too far, but I will, once I get started on my writing again! Today, however, was my day to start writing a blog. Another step along the procrastination journey? Maybe, but it also means that I am writing.
This week gone, I started to say no to coffee – both in the literal sense and in the cultural sense. I have started to say to myself, ‘no you are not texting your friends to tell them you are in town, nor are you popping in to the coffee shop to do some reading while you deep down hope a friend or two might interrupt you’. I have a perfect home that is conducive to reading, writing and contemplation. My discipline is starting with the concept of getting up every morning at 6.30am so that I am ready to start writing by 9.00am. I still have days when I have to take my sons to school and spend the day in town, but I am beginning to avoid the coffee shops and am choosing to maximise an opportunity to read and write in a space a friend has offered for me to use.
Writing a thesis is a discipline and it requires the student to make that personal, academic journey with the utmost persistence and determination. It can also be a lonely journey where I can pretend I am working, but then the only person I am truly deceiving is myself. The honest truth is that I have spent hours avoiding writing because it means a commitment to my ideas; it means I might actually achieve my dream; it means turning my back on seeing myself as a failure and valuing the journey of achievement. Yes, the PhD is more than an academic journey. It is a spiritual and emotional journey that is taking me to a space where I must believe in my worth in order to achieve. Knowing something and believing something can be two very different things, but having faith in my capacity to achieve requires inordinate strength, courage and persistence.
Around the 20 March 2014, I have to have completed a revision of a paper that has been accepted for publication later this year and I have to complete a near final draft of my methods chapter, so that when I go to Canberra, my supervisor and I can work together on the next step towards putting my thesis together. Just thinking about it, raises my anxiety levels. Can I really do that? It’s too much, I can’t! Then I tell myself, ‘I’ll just check Facebook…’.
Until next week…Happy reading!