The challenge of writing a PhD blog

It’s July.

 

… Wait, what?! Where has the time gone? It seems like only yesterday I was writing an entry for this blog. Turns out that was actually 5 months ago! That’s nearly half a year. Woah, I feel slack.

I surprisingly did not expect that writing a blog during my PhD would be difficult, but boy, was I wrong! The last five months have been busy, and I had been constantly looking at the bookmark on my browser that said ‘PhD Blog’, but I never seemed to find the time to write it. On reflection, however, i’ve had heaps of time to write it. All those days where i’ve come into the office and sat in front of the computer screen, staring at it blankly, wondering where to start. But it’s so much easier to say that I could have done it than to actually do it. That said, i’m going to start scheduling in a time, perhaps every two weeks, to write a blog post and hold myself to account. Surely that will be doable!

So what has been happening over the past five months? Well…

I’ve presented my PhD research in a proposal format to transition from provisional to full candidacy. The presentation went really well and I had some great feedback about some of the ethical difficulties I was having with the research, as well as some tips for responses to the ethics committee to ensure I can actually undertake the research. Although presenting your research to a group of your colleagues, fellow postgrads and people interested in your topic doesn’t sound like a lot, it’s felt like a huge milestone. I felt a huge sense of relief in getting this done, and it’s helped counter some of the crappy imposter syndrome i’ve been feeling lately, which is always a win.

As well as presenting my PhD proposal, i’ve also had my first ever journal article rejection. To say I was a bit gutted was an understatement. I sent a journal article from my Master’s thesis off to a well-respected journal and heard back from them in May. I was disheartened to say the least, especially as I had presented my work at their annual conference the year prior and had amazing feedback at the conference from people that attended my session. That said though, I left the feedback sitting in my email inbox for a few weeks, and managed to rustle up the courage to incorporate it into the article and have now sent it off to another journal that looks to be more aligned with the themes in the article, so fingers crossed!

Also, I sent off my first ever book chapter to the editors for inclusion in an edited book on fat women’s lived experiences in May this year! I’ve recently completed the changes for this chapter and am awaiting peer review of the full manuscript. I actually feel like a real academic! It’s hard to say how awesome it feels to know that I have achieved it, so i’m feeling pretty good about that too.

Amongst my academic achievements, i’ve also managed to adequately balance my work and social life, which has previously not been an easy task for me. So as I reflect on the first paragraph I wrote in this post about feeling slack – i’m thinking I should cut myself some slack. I’ve been busy. And I haven’t felt like i’ve had the time to contribute to a blog. But i’m going to hold myself to account and ensure that this is done regularly, because if I do that, that’s another thing i’m achieving. And achievement feels good. 

 

Putting yourself (and research) first

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This post is about over-commitment. Over-commitment is like this invisible ‘thing’ that I seem to attach myself to far too often, and this year i’ve decided to let go of the strong bond that holds us together and put myself, and my research, first.

When I was an undergraduate student, I worked a minimum of 15-20 hours alongside my degree to support myself.  In Honours, I was working 30 hours a week in the public sector while I was studying full-time. The motivation for working this much was purely financial, I had to make ends meet. Yes, I was busy.  And no, it didn’t leave a lot of time to fulfill my social needs, and I still managed to make time. But only just. I was over-committing. 

The same thing happened during, and after, Masters. I handed in my Masters in early December, 2014. A week later, I was working full-time at a private educational provider in a role that challenged me in more ways than I can describe. Meanwhile, I was awaiting the results of my thesis, which came through in February. Two months later, my thesis was lodged, and I was back working as a tutor and as a Research Assistant at the uni. Tutoring is one of my favourite things in the world, and if any of you know me, you know exactly how much I love seeing my students on a weekly basis and how much effort I try to put in. 

Before I knew it, I was enrolled in a PhD in October. I was still teaching and working as a Resesrch Assistant. And then things got busy. I presented my Masters research at four conferences and symposia, both nationally and internationally, over a three week period. At one of those conferences I was presenting a 45 minute workshop, as well as participating in a panel straight after. I co-convened one of the symposia, and a week after all of these finished, I co-convened another within our department.

I took two weeks off at Christmas, which was well-overdue, but I felt that I had neglected my PhD by spreading myself too thinly, and I really didn’t want to get behind. So I started 2016 with a drive to write like i’d never had before. I decided I would write 500 words a day to help me keep on top of things. This goal has been semi-adhered to, but i’m definitely working on it! I also made the very tough decision to not tutor in first trimester this year.

As hard as it was to let go of applying to teach my favourite courses, and to have ongoing interaction with students in a teaching capacity, i’ve decided to put myself, and my research, first. I always hear my supervisor telling me that it’s okay to put yourself first, and that you is just as important as they, and your needs are more important than their needs. It’s important to understand our own limitations. I want to do everything, and I want to be involved in everything. But I can’t. I’m only one lady, and there aren’t 48 hours in a day. Realistically, if it wasn’t for the last minute, nothing would get done in my office.

So i’m heeding my supervisor’s advice about not over-committing and i’m putting myself first. I’ve got conferences coming up this month, research assistant work, a book chapter to write and a social life to maintain, all whilst i’m doing a PhD. It sounds like a lot, but I think there’s a difference between being busy and being over-committed. Not tutoring will be a hard adjustment, but making this sacrifice means I will have one less thing on my plate.

One less thing to think about.

One less thing to worry about.

One less thing to do.

And one less thing to distract from what i’m already committed to.

This decision might just be a really good learning curve for me, so watch this space!

 

My First Blog Post…

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I’ve been an avid blog reader for years. I wholeheartedly admire people that can write. And by write, I mean write witty, funny, clever things that simultaneously make you think.

I also admire the people that blog about the research process, and the tumultuous journey that is completing a PhD. Throughout my Masters, I always thought that I should do a blog to document my journey, which in many ways was a transformative one. However, my innate ability to procrastinate like nobody’s business meant that never happened. Further, the time pressures associated with a one year Masters complicated that decision.

I’ve regretted not writing a blog throughout my Masters, and am determined to not let my procrastination get the better of me this time. So here I am, 4 months into a PhD, and i’m finally writing a blog post about my journey to completing it. Better late than never, right?

My PhD is exploring the role that pornography, largely internet pornography, may have in shaping young people’s experiences of sex, love, intimacy, relationships and the self. As I re-read that statement, I think it sounds like I actually have a clue about what my thesis is about. In actual fact, I truly don’t yet!

So follow me for my journey to PhD completion. I’m not quite sure what this blog will entail just yet, but i’m going to try and post regularly and keep you all (if anyone is interested, that is!) in the loop with the different paths that my research takes. I’m positive it’s going to be an exciting journey, because let’s face it, researching sex is fun!