Grad school is to me one of the few journeys in life that bring out the you to you. What do I mean by this? it is a time when you realise who you are on your own. You feel every feeling, every emotion and sometimes you can explain why you feel that way but most of the time you cant. You learn to live with yourself, the best of you and the worst of you. You learn to adapt to the person you are and though that is probably not easy and we often avoid it (I know I do), the nature of discovery in postgraduate studies jumps on to the art of self discovery as well. Though mostly through the difficult times of trying to figure out an analysis, trying to write but no words come out and having to plan your work with limited funding, it seems to be worth it at the end. Thats what they all say!
Today is one of those days for me, I am completely overwhelmed, nothing seems to make sense, work is a mountain, I have a rejected manuscript sent to me a while ago ( 4 weeks). I don’t think my work will add any value to the body of knowledge as it is supposed to and I have no idea if I am doing the right thing by trying to get this qualification. I am simply out of it, burnt out,trying to survive. I have read quite a bit on how to overcome these moments , on blogs, in books etc and none of that advise seems to be applicable right now. What could work is me just crying my eyes out and getting rid of the tears that have been welling up the whole time since I started writing this. I just want to slide under my small cubicle desk and disappear. Worse off , everyone kind off thinks that I have it together, my parents are always over the moon telling their circle how I am now doing this advanced degree , my siblings always tell me that they look up to me, my friends and even colleagues come to chat to me and ask me for help with their work and I do help them. Its all rosy but I am in the valley of **** and I dont know how to get out except type away all the nonsense like I am doing now. i am burnt out and pixabay had just the right image for it.
So what now? I should probably go and see the campus shrink and maybe my next post will be about how I got over this painful phase. wheeew it does help to type nonsense though doesnt it? 🙂
“You are not too busy to write, busy is what you do to explain your not writing” those were the words of an academic who just presented a writing workshop to our postgraduate student class. That was appalling to hear , I mean, we all silently wish for a block of writing time, when we can wake up and not even need to have breakfast , our bodies being miraculously nourished so that we can just start typing away. As we all know and unfortunately that block of time never comes. And we all wallow in the pain of binge writing and cluck about how we never get the time to get those papers out.
I love writing, I really do, but not so much scientific writing. Here is why I think I am in this predicament. During my school years I was applauded for my creative writing essays, I enjoyed it and though that wasn’t so much regarded as cool in university I managed to scathe past the anger of professors as most of that is directed towards English as as a second-language writers ( or the ones that supposedly have below average writing skills because technically I am a second language writer). And though once in a while I got hints on how I shouldn’t use flowery language, it wasn’t a train smash. Grad school changed that whole paradigm , it was drummed into me that scientific writing was not fun and it is my only way out of the postgraduate studies sausage machine. I had to learn how to write and write in a way that was according to my newly configured brain, “not fun”. I wish they had just told me that it was another form of writing and not emphasised the painful part of it.
So then started my misery with scientific writing. I do write and I do get papers done , but it is such a mission, and everytime someone asks me how my writing progress is ( academic writing progress not “fun writing” like what I am doing now), its always I am busy, busy yes because it is a mammoth task to do it. So here was this professor laying it all bare in my face that you are busy because you do not write. It was hard to hear it but its so true, most of my time is spend worrying about the many writing tasks I have or finding excuses to why the moment is not optimal for writing, and at the end of the day I don’t do much, the work piles and I am forever busy. I have never thought of it in that way you know, and it was eye-opening to hear it because if I look at how I always would rather clean the house in the name of I am cleaning my writing space and come the end of the day I have so little time to write not to mention nothing written, I had to face my dark fears about scientific writing.
So here is my new strategy ; scientific writing is just another form of writing, it is not a painful writing and everytime i find myself saying I am too busy I don’t have time to write then I will just remind myself that its the opposite ;BUSY IS WHAT I DO TO EXPLAIN MY NOT WRITING.
I haven’t written for awhile, I might have written a paragraph or two for my thesis and maybe even corrected a rejected academic manuscript in the hope of resubmitting it. Yet I can say that I haven’t written to the edge of getting satisfaction that comes with listening to a clicking keyboard, a form of writing without restraint or the judging of an inner editor that makes you backspace every 10 seconds, the satisfaction that comes with just putting every word that comes to your fingers and only going back to spell check after you are done schwpilling your brain. This is the writing I am talking about, it kind of doesn’t seem to be productive writing for someone who has 19 more months to hand in their PhD thesis, but its feel good writing.
I started a blog a year and a half ago, the same time I was also a newbie PhD student. That blog took off with two posts and it landed, I wonder if it’s because I just didn’t have much to spill out of a clogged brain like I do now, with so many academic papers floating in my head or I just didn’t have the urge to write something down. I honestly don’t know. Do I think that my passion for uncontrolled keyboard clicking is ignited again? , no I don’t think so, do I have so many thought piece iterations in my head? yes. So what will I write about, everything and anything that won’t have space to stay in my head. Culture, religion, identity, post-colonial Africa in the eyes of a young African whose education is mostly westernised, thoughts on why I think my paper should have been accepted in a journal and not rejected, well so much to do for not restraining my fingers from the keyboard. This form of writing will keep me sane during this trying Phdiing time. Only time will tell whether this blog will be about me seeking sanity through my musings or passion unravelled.