Roughing it

One thing I am forcing myself to do lately is to write things almost freestyle without much consideration of sentence structure, grammar or spelling (some people might say that I have always written like that…).  I’m trying to get into the habit of getting it written rather than getting it RIGHT.  I’m the kind of person who will go over and over the same introductory paragraphs till they gleam (or are really boring…) and still not have a middle or an end.  But my i’s will be dotted, my t’s will be crossed…

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I’m about half way through the rough first draft of a paper on New Age Bio Medical Conspiracy theories for a religious studies conference in September.  I KNOW that there are parts that dont make any sense yet, I KNOW that I’ve still got some things in bullet points that need expanding, but today I want to get to the end of that first draft and finesse it all later.  Likewise with the Powerpoint presentation for the paper, I KNOW that I havent got quite the perfect picture for slide 6 yet, or the right font size and layout all the way through. But I need to charge on to the end to get it done, then get it GOOD.

Likewise for this blog post.  Usually I will stop after a paragraph and mooch around the internet to look for an  amusing picture to stick in to show of my wit and intelligence (yes, I am one of those people…).  This time I am just barrelling through with very little editing and I’ll stick some pictures in once I am done. Like this cute kitten:

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Changing my work style is necessary I think.  In part I think this is a more productive way to work, I have 80,000 words to get written for my thesis.  They cant possible be all individually handcrafted little gems, even if I hope the overall argument will be! I do feel a little like I have hit the mid-PhD slump Patrick Longston writes about here, and his tips are very useful.  But freewriting about the problems you are having was one of the techniques I was shown at the Writing Summer School I mentioned before, and I do think its extremely useful to get you into the writing action when you get jammed up by procrastination and anxiety.

So today…. I’m going to finish that rough draft of the conference paper, even if I write it in a very  slapdash way for now. A key phrase from the Summer school: “Give yourself permission to write badly”.  What a relief THAT is….

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PhD Mum

I havent posted for a while as I have had a sick baba at home to take care of, which involved a hospital stay and convincing a toddler to keep a drip in his hand and then in his foot.  And then getting him out of the hospital room cupboard…

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When I tell people I have a toddler at home and I’m doing a PhD they do tend to react like I am some sort of Superwoman…. or Supermum…

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My response is always to say, “let me get the degree first, then we can decide if I’ve been successful!”.  At the moment, and especially after taking a week ‘off’ I feel like I am waaay behind, have so much to catch up on and that I have lost all of the threads I was working on before Henry got poorly. 

Coincidently I read this article in the Daily Mail yesterday (yes, I know, I know…) about childless women upset about the lack of flexibility that they have in their jobs and the extra work they have to take on.  I do think that anyone who cares for another person, older or younger than them, should be given as much help as feasible by their employer.  But then, one of the women talks about having the flexibility to leave early for a nice dinner, or the theatre.  Not quite the same thing. 

I do wonder about how Academia proper works with children.  My faculty is more gender equal than some, and given the presumption that women will do the majority of the childcare, it is reassuring to note the number of high up members who have children. 

Anyway,  trying to get back into things, and using this blog again to start typing out a few thoughts… I’m no superwoman, or supermum, I’m just another PhD Mum 🙂

 

To-Do-List no. 25367…

A slightly short day and week again this week as I have a graduation to go to (well done little Sis!).  But here’s the highlights of what I want to get done this week…

  1. MORE interviews… organising and doing.  I am really worried I am not getting enough interviewing done.  It seems to be at least a couple of weeks of too-ing and fro-ing via e-mail before I actually get someone in place and I really need to have more done by the end of this year.  40 plus if my supervisor is right….
  2. Finish reading and notes for the papers for the BASR/EASR conference, start planning them! Major task as most of August I have no childcare and the conference is at the beginning of Sept!
  3. I’m planning on attending some of the Cambridge timed writing groups and working more on my journal article that stalled prior to the writing school. 
  4. Read Brasher.  I’m being put off by the ‘cyberspace-y’ pictures in the book, but I’m sure she’s got something good to say….

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Thoughts arising from the Writing Summer School

After spending all my four working days last week at the Summer Writing School I am now waaay behind… But I do genuinely feel like I have learnt some useful skills for dealing with writing issues, as well as making lots of new PhD friends who are in the same boat.

A couple of phrases kept repeating that are worth having a quick look at before I write myself this week’s to-do-list:

Kill Your Darlings: Great advice and something I always told the writers I worked with when I was a script editor.  But, as a huge geek, I tend to think of my darlings as potential zombies… there’s always a chance for resurrection.  When I cut a larger piece of text I put it in a ‘spare notes’ document, one for each writing project.  But what I have noticed is how rarely those darlings make it back from the grave… there is usually a reason why they had to die in the first place and no black magic is going to make them stagger back into my main document.

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Imposter Syndrome: Lots of people I spoke to at the Summer School were definitely displaying the symptoms of Imposter Syndrome: here’s the well written definition from PhD Confessional:

“Suffering from Impostor Syndrome.  For those unfamiliar with the term, here is a definition:

Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.”

Many hadnt come across the term before, but I think at Cambridge its almost an endemic disease.  Cambridge can be a hive of supersmart people who never quite think that they fit in, and that the bee over there is doing so much better than them, and the one over there is coping so much better and being so much more productive than they are.  We constantly measure ourselves against each other, when really, when it comes to our PhD’s, we are all Queen (or King!) bees.  Some might realise that a PhD is not really for them, or an academic career isnt a good fit, but the actual work of getting a PhD is measured against what we can do, not what others can do.

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Two Body Problem: For some of the coupled up PhDs this can be a major problem.  Academia is a transient field these days and maintaing relationships and a career seemed to be problematic for a few people I spoke to.  I wish I had the answer. I have a husband and a son and I know there is going to be a crunch time when I have to choose between the awesome job and the right location for all of us.  Unless of course someone wants to pay me the big bucks and I can be the breadwinner for a while!

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Just some thoughts… 🙂