I have more work to do than I have time which is much better than the other way round. 13 interviews have been Initially Coded (ongoing as I code the remaining). Feel like I am hitting the wall a little, it takes so long to code and a lot of brainpower to stay focused and mindful. But I guess the prize is the next stage: Focused Coding. Time is also pressing as I am now firmly on the work schedule with a deadline in focus: October 2021. Sounds far away but it certainly is not given the work to be done.
It’s been an excruciating period of rejection! I have had to work so hard to secure each participant. It seems clinicians are inundated with requests to support doctoral research. 99% of the emails were not answered. The most effective way of recruitment was snowballing. Onto final transcriptions and lots of deep analysis.
It is hard to believe that I haven’t had time to blog since February. I have since completed 7 interviews and commenced initial coding.
Ok, so the project has started in super earnest, as I have conducted my first interview with an extremely generous participant. I think it went very well but the transcription and careful eye of my supervisor will soon tell. I have also begun the task of learning NVivo from scratch. Looks straightforward enought but I would rather use cards and pencil – old school I know. There is definitely something to be said about going beyond one’s comfort zone.
Yep, it’s nearly official, I passed the transfer leading to becoming a PhD ‘candidate’. The research board just needs to meet to rubber stamp the internal and external supervisors teams’ decision. I learnt a lot through the delivery of the research seminar and transfer viva. Among them, I had probably written 8,000 words too many for one section. I don’t think I can bear to look at the section for a month or two. I want now to concentrate on the methodology and the first interviews.
So after a mad amount of writing…3 Chapters at quite a progressed level i.e. references and quotes, double checked, I was ready to take a breath. But through a slight miss communication, I missed a formal deadline for transfer. Through appeal and informed mercy, I was allowed to continue but my case for transfer, research seminar, and transfer viva are taking place next week! It is a mixed feeling. One of ‘wow I cannot believe I go to this stage’ with the pressure of flying to the UK and giving the presentation of my life. It’s been an exhausting but deeply creative time. I don’t feel like the same person who started this process. I feel stronger, more focused, more enthused, more creative. Here’s hoping that my next post will be an update on the next stages of potential PhD candidacy…
So after a very painful period of being up against a blank wall in terms of writing, the wall eventually transformed into a maze, as reading and reflecting took me in so many directions, with no clear way out or forward. At last, I am through this period and am experiencing a burst damn, all the water under desperate pressure to be released.
The writing is just flowing out of me as I critique and knit together the wealth of thinking and ideas contained in the literature. There were times when the fantasy of giving up entered my head like a poison. It was lonely, frustrating and dark. I have learnt from this awful period that the most important thing for me was to be constantly writing or rather sitting in front of a computer, line-by-line until the momentum increased. Someone clever said success is about what you are prepared to give up. In my case, I gave up my neurotic need to watch and read the news, therefore clearing a huge amount of unnecessary clutter and distraction.
After a non-stop wave of enthusiasm, I have finally hit the dreaded wall. The cause of this pain and difficulty comes from trying to synthesize 4 studies that make up part of the main literature review. I just feel like I have this foggy brain and am overwhelmed by all the info I have amassed so far. After a week of this, I have tried to address the problem by writing line by line. It is starting to build up into something, but the process is laborious. Yesterday was the first day that I ever thought that I don’t have the energy to do this. Today is a new day and although the struggles remain, I feel engaged to finish the current task.
When I told a friend of the sudden departure of my DoS due to health issues, she said ‘We are like Skittles’. I interpreted this to mean, we are all brightly coloured and diverse, but incredibly fragile. After just coming out of an ‘oh can I really sustain this momentum’ phase I learnt today of this sad news. My thoughts and hopes are for my DoS’s speedy recovery and much gratitude for the positive influence she has had over my work thus far.
I cannot begin to think of the ramifications of having someone else take her place. I am too far up to look down into uncertainty.
A colleague on viewing a video on PhD students and the risk of ‘mental health issues’ wrote:
‘Rather than eliminating these symptoms, which our self-absorbed, self-care, deficit-corrective culture tries to do, another view is that this is part of the dismemberment and re-collection of the doctoral transformation—an ancient shamanic journey. This is why I am not a health care (mental, physical or otherwise, though maybe an Otherwise) professional; there are other values besides health. Some journeys give us symptoms-as-archangels, such as: The loneliness of slow and tedious critical analysis in a shallow and accelerated culture so that the sensory deprivation can draw into focus what is unattended, or reading in solitude while others party so as to meet aspects of yourself for the first time, or when the birth pangs of inspiration and futility lead you into the noctural light that visits at 3am when the hard work changes your life in an instance (which fools, ignorant of the mystical traditions, will call a manic episode). Trust the process. It’s really ok if this is not your cup of hyssop; there are other callings. This is scholarship.’