On social writing and other things
Disclaimer: This post is more personal than usual for this blog. But it is necessary… It is necessary to help me keep going.
Since 30 September last year, when I published here that my PhD thesis was finally available in the Lincoln University library, I haven’t written about writing and research anymore. This made this blog slow going.
Truth is I thought I could only write about my research topic from now on, and on trying that I had an unpleasant surprise. I realised I need to write here on this blog, I need to take part in twitter conversations, I need to feel part of the ‘group’ to be able to write at all. This way I can write both about writing process and about my own research topic.
During the PhD I had ups and downs as most people – who doesn’t? – but above all I loved it. I loved doing the fieldwork, writing about it, going to conferences, I’ve been proud of the results I’ve found, and the writing I’ve done. And I thought the worst bit was behind me… I was wrong.
Since I submitted the PhD thesis I’ve spent a semester doing research in Germany, then upon return to New Zealand I worked in a non-academic department at the university, and since July last year I’ve been back teaching at the School of Landscape Architecture at Lincoln University. This is my passion, this is what I have been preparing myself for during the past 10 years since I finished my undergraduate degree, and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to carry on in that great School. The many classes I have been teaching, however, have been challenging my writing and time management skills. I have been following much advice I read online and trying to write at least 2 hours per day. But recently I realised that when I don’t have a two hour block I feel like it is not worth even starting, and this has been delaying everything. So based on Wendy Belcher’s Writing your Journal Article in 12 weeks I changed the strategy. My very minimum now is 30 minutes a day, meaning that every day I have to at least remind myself of where I stopped (and add a line to my on-paper thoughts). This is my extreme attempt to keep going, but I recently realised there was something else in this equation.
As a good South American I am passionate and I am also a social butterfly, have always been and have never denied it. I love talking and chatting, and these chats help me shape my thoughts, identify strengths and weaknesses in my work. Many times over the past five years I’ve seen PhD students around me struggling with writing blocks and hating their own work, and only now, in the midst of this feeling of isolation I can understand them. I can understand what they are/were going through. I’ve always known that you guys, readers of this blog, and the academic twitter community out there were of great help. But I confess I didn’t realise I’d suffer the same writer’s block if I didn’t have you there. Many times I encouraged my colleagues to join the conversation, without knowing that I would face the same trouble if I let the conversation die. Reading Belcher’s advice on the fact that Successful academic writers make writing social it all made sense to me. So I am back in my pursuit of comfort. Hopefully ‘writing about writing’ will help me write about all other equally important things.
What is your experience? Am I the only one in need of an inspired academic chat here?