This post is a bit late – I had my 2nd year review in May and all went well. If you have read my post-confirmation post, you will understand this was a new experience for me.
For the 2nd year panel review, I had to hand in one chapter of my thesis and a section of my creative work, all in all, about 26,000 words.
The lead up was pretty anxiety-ridden. I just kept writing and tweaking and writing and tweaking, until I thought I would loose my mind. My chapter should have been between 10,000-12,000 words and ended up being 19,000, then edited down to 16,000.
I have a lot of trouble getting my head around that many words. Writing this many words, made me excited that I have made such big headway into the thesis, and totally sick now I know how much work is involved and how much I have left to finish.
During the meeting, there was plenty of constructive feedback on the critical work – questions about where it was going; suggestions of ideas I had not thought of (there are always so many other theorists/theories/discussions, I have never come across). I am lucky that I have a very easy-going, knowledgable group of academics supervising me, I know not everyone is that lucky.
I didn’t get much feedback of the creative. Maybe it is a bit hard with a collection of shorts that is not finished yet to have anything constructive to say. I don’t know how I feel about that. But it is a good time to reflect a little on what I have learnt during my PhD so far…..
I’m starting to trust my own writing:
The more creative work I write, and the more short stories I read, the more I feel like I am finally coming to terms with my own style and content choices. It has been a struggle for me to understand where my work fits in the academic realm. So many people around me are writing on deep and meaningful topics, with demanding and heavy stylistic choices. And my work feels a little fluffy in comparison. But I am starting to see its value, if only for myself.
The theme for this collection is pretty open. It feels a little like odd popular fiction, not overly literary or poetic. I am having fun with words and hopefully telling stories that will be fun to read and, occasionally, thought provoking/curious. I like to draw attention to the process and give a reader a bit of work to do. Sometime, that means it comes off as experimental and may miss the mark, but I am finding my balance. So, pretty happy in that department.
I am starting to get confident with the theory:
I am a lazy student. I know that I could be reading more and writing more, and I could probably come up with some valid sounding excuse like the brain needs time to consolidate and assimilate information before it can be truly creative and innovative, and procrastination is a vital part of any intellectual endeavour…. but really that is is just an excuse for being lazy.
BUT, I am learning my field, I am able to answer questions with more authority and I am becoming an expert (of sorts); which is the point of all this, right?
I now know that I will never and can never know all there is to know about my chosen areas of study (I did pick literature and science, after all), but I should be happy with what I have learned so far, and happy that when I read now, I have a base of reference and comprehension that I just didn’t have a year or two ago.
I need to forget thesis guilt:
This is a case of do as I say, not as I do, because I am riddled with guilt. I feel guilty right now, writing this instead of writing the paper I have spent the last few weeks avoiding. But guilt is pointless! Take a day off here and there. Go to a movie, go for a walk, go for a nap. It is amazing how much clearer your work will seem after.
I have taken a few month leave of absence over the last year, to stretch out my time. taking LOAs when you can, is great, but not always possible. You don’t get paid my scholarship when on LOA, but I will get it back at the end, and it gives me breathing room, which is so important.
And I will get it finish when I get it finished. A thesis isn’t your family or friends. It will not give you a cuddle you when you need one, so you need to put it in its place every once in a while and enjoy your life.
So that’s the main points for now. Hope it helps those of you out there in a similar, slightly leaky boat.