Thursday, 30 July 2009

What's That Over There?

I have noticed that my recent posts have been distinctly non-academic, at least in the direct sense. I am in heavy thesis mode at the moment, thrashing out the very last of my empirical chapters. I will then turn my efforts to rewriting the history and context chapter, and then, only naturally, rewrite the introduction and conclusion as if I knew exactly what I was saying all along. Nothing to see here, really. I ride to my Department most days and sit in an open plan workspace. Otherwise, I walk a few hundred metres to my College library or else, I stay home (in College). It all depends on the type of thinking I need to do and whether I am in a focused or excitable mood.

Each day and all day, I receive emails about upcoming seminars and conferences, job opportunities, IT maintenance, washing up (drying and putting away) coffee mugs. I struggle with the habit of writing a good few sentences or paragraphs and then - instead of stretching (I have a clicky sternum from cowering over the keyboard), doing my eye exercises (it's all about varying that focal length!) or simply ploughing on - finding someone or something on the Internet to make me feel connected to something other than my new ideas or old ideas in tidy sentences and arguments. I am often confronted with Facebook status updates of fellow academic friends gloating about internships, accolades or some garden party or other. I get lost in the anxiety and find myself frantically clicking on a total stranger's Greek Island holiday. Each time I do this, something (probably sharpening my focus and seeing the strange couple in their swimwear) kicks in to make me stop and return to my work, vowing never to go back to Facebook during work hours.

Nonetheless, if I get up and walk to the Department kitchen for a drink, I then have to absorb the complaints of various students about how long a PhD takes, how the time required for academic tasks is almost impossible to predict, how ill-disciplined and/or inadequate they feel, how someone else in the Department published an article or received some research work from a Professor. The next day, sometimes the next hour, the same people offer speeches on how fortunate (and horribly selfish and without perspective) we all are. We vow to be more grateful. Often I hear myself jumping on these conversational trains or even, I admit, spearheading a theme. But, these days, I am actually quite bored of these types of conversations. I have little energy for anything that won't help me across that finish line. This aloofness is uncharacteristic. Sitting and typing is the way forward. I am writing a lot. This means my downtime, even at the Department kitchen, has to count as downtime.

By the end of the day, after I go for a walk or to the gym, feed myself, check my emails again, read, watch some BBC iplayer, read again, the last thing I feel like doing is writing an involved blog post about my day, the unremarkable bullheadedness that is academia for me right now. I trust or at least sincerely hope that once I am done with the thesis I will have whole spaces in my daily routine and brain to dedicate to more thoughtful, dynamic posts about the politics, vagaries and practicalities of academia. And I plan to get a whole lot more whingey too, possibly in that ultra dramatic, filthy tempered way that is quite the hip approach in blogland. Maybe not. I suspect having some sort of job security (there are degrees, I am aware) will lead to a blog reblossoming of sorts. I hope so.

So instead of battling on, trying to provide spiffy, insightful posts about academia, I will instead refer you to some far more keen, reflective and/or witty posts about the subject. I am hoping it will serve a 'Look over there!' and a counterweight function until I finish my thesis. Here we go. Some inspiration:
  1. Academic Cog (2007) Dissertators, Has This Ever Happened to You
  2. Academic Cog (2009) Lessons for Girls: Don't Just Ask Insist on Help (even if it makes you feel weird)
  3. Dr. Crazy (2009) One of My Best Qualities: Ability to Meet (Ish) Deadlines
  4. Dr. Crazy (2009) How to Succeed in Academia Without Really Trying?
  5. Dr. No (2009) Getting Naked
  6. Dr. No (2009) I Got Nothing
  7. Inktopia (2009) And then my Grading Pen Exploded
  8. Inktopia (2008) You Might be an English Professor If...
  9. Historiann (2009) What is Good Teaching, and How Can We Know It?
  10. Historiann (2009) Teaching and Tenure: What counts (and what's good?)
  11. Candid Engineer (2009) Irritation Yields Clarity
  12. Bavardess (2009) Career Angst and the Scholarly Life
  13. John Flood (2009) What is Your Research Worth?

Ok. That actually took a lot longer than planned. I intended to include around thirty as there's some excellent stuff out there. Need to stop now. Too fiddly. But if you have any favourite academia-relevant posts to share (your own or others), please do send them to me in a comment to this post. Thanks team!

p.s. Just in case there's any confusion, you're still expected to stay loyal and check my blog a few times per week. I'll still be nattering away.


Kate said...

Ha - weird cosmological alignment indeed. Felt like that post came from my brain and not yours.

All I can say is: the crafternoons cannot come fast enough!

Hang in there, too. Miss you xxxx

Bavardess said...

Ouf! Sounds like you're doing it tough at the moment, but I guess you just have to try and accept it as part of the process (I know, easier said than done). It's funny how sometimes things seem to get so much harder as you get closer to the end of them. Sending you good writing vibes.

Anonymous said...

Aw, that's a lovely list of links and I'm honored to be included. Hang in there: sounds like you're working very hard! Sending you a thesis care package that includes chocolate, a month's worth of caffeine, a fluffy blanket for naps, free ink cartridges, endless reams of blank paper for printing, a set of glitter pens, and a brand new chair that will magically align your spine in such a way that all muscles (including eyes) function perfectly and without pain. Oh, and some of your favorite wine.

Academic, Hopeful said...

Thanks ladies! This all helps, especially that chair.

LPC said...

I will send these on to my sister, now in charge of supervising people in your position as they work on their theses:).

Digger said...

Sounds like you're at the point where, holy crap, it's almost done! MUST MAKE IT DONE!

As opposed to, "Must write 3 sentences before I get out of my chair. This will never be done 3 sentences at a time. Must write 3 sentences..."

I remember the feeling from my Thesis. Scary part? I want to do it again and get my PhD lol

Hang in there!

Dr. No said...

Fair enough. I could never have blogged while I was in full dissertation mode...just remember to give yourself a break every now and again (and a cocktail).

Candid Engineer said...

Perhaps a suggestion (feel free to ignore): I would try to reward myself for good chunks of working. I'd say, okay, you write for a good 8 hours during the work day, and tonight you get to watch a movie and eat an ice cream cone. Every time my eyes glazed over and I wanted to take an extended break on the interwebs or talking to others, I'd keep my reward in mind. But hey, whatever works for you.

Thanks for including me on your list! Certainly one of my more irritated offerings. :) Hope the dissertation wraps up quickly.

Candice said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Candice said...

excellent post. reposted on Graduate Junction 24.08.2009.