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.’
I wanted to write a brief introduction ‘introducing silence’ before focusing on the more familiar territory of silence and psychotherapy. When considering silence as a general concept, I have been feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information, and the sheer diversity of the topic. Unable to get out if the rut of the writer’s fog I went back to a tried and tested method of writing inch by inch, line by line, as opposed to a paragraph by paragraph. It is a laborious method, but at the end of a hard week, inches become sentences, and sentences become paragraphs and just a little bit more progress is made. This is much more preferable to no progress!
It is hard to put into words how excited I am today. Finally received the thumbs up to submit the now famous improved proposal pack to the University’s’ Ethics Committee. Feels like a major milestone in a long hike. Feel that I have learnt so much already, in part thanks to the brilliant support from my DoS, supervisor and the support staff at Northampton. Now I have just a million articles and books (ok 100+) to read and digest…
Ok so the gap between blog posts has not been because of a lack of activity, on the contrary, it has been a hive of busyness. As of today the improved proposal, bibliography, participant information sheet, consent form, Gantt chart, risk assessment, and data management plan, have been completed. Just waiting on some feedback on the risk assessment and then I think I am ready to submit to the ethics committee. Given the preparation, it feels like a significant milestone, home is so far back that I can’t really see it, but nor can I see the destination just yet, but the map is getting much clearer. Wow, how many mixed metaphors can one get in a sentence!?
Ok, so I had a face-to-face on campus with my DoS. Very productive but so many things to do. Has a very tangible feeling of ‘in it’ rather than looking ‘at it’. Got some great input from DoS, academic librarian, research information specialist, and GT group. So much to do now to implement and process everything that came out of these meetings. Working towards a PhD is a kick-ass, hardcore, focused graft – not for the faint of heart. One of my mottos moving forward is: ‘Excellence is doing ordinary things extraordinarily well’ John W. Gardner
Working on the mechanics of a solid literature review and search strategy requires the motivation of Zeus and industrial amounts of coffee..!