4 weeks 6 days

by Anna Blanch on May 28, 2012

Sunday marked 5 weeks until the submission deadline I set at the beginning of the project (about 2 1/2 years ago). As I mentioned in this post marking 8 weeks and 6 days, I am seeking to work as hard as I can to get a draft of all the chapters by that self-imposed deadline and to seek submission now around august 30. All of this is contingent on my supervisors considering my work to be of sufficiently high standard at that point.

In many ways the hurdle that I will face after I have a first draft of all five chapters is not even whether my supervisors think my work is where it needs to be, but that I think my work is where I’d like it to be. Nevertheless, quite a few iterations lay ahead.

I’ve generally found that I have a realistic assessment of my own writing and abilities. I was never one of those students who came out of an exam lamenting loudly and dramatically that I had failed when in fact I had passed well. It always seemed a waste of energy to me. But it is difficult when you are so engrossed in such a long and multi-layered project to be realistic about how convincing your argument is.

I haven’t always felt that I was writing as well as I was capable during the last couple of years. Often I’ve been disappointed at my own lack of detail and the anxiety I felt when I read back sections and they were not clear or cohesive. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the sheer size of an 80 000 word project and the demands of such a weight of other material which demands to be dealt with, responded to, interacted with, that often also falls outside the exact question I am seeking to ask/answer. But to find your place within that raft of other thinking is part of what a PhD is about. It is also why a PhD thesis is not a book. At least not a publishable book without major revisions.

I feel a sense of nervousness about this coming week that I haven’t often felt. I feel my own sense of expectation in wanting to get a first draft (at least for me) of Chapter five to a good place. I feel a little nervousness bout my first supervision in some time. I gave them a lot of the writing I did while I was in Australia and I really don’t know if some aspects of my argument are at all convincing. I have quite a few questions but I’m feeling quite lacking in confidence even though I still feel strongly about the benefits and value of the kernel of my thesis. I also know that as soon as I meet with my supervisors I am going to feel compelled to deal with their suggestions, questions and concerns and that those will naturally pull me away from chapter five.

This is the difficulty of the hermeneutic circle. It is important to keep returning to the same pieces of work and revising but there also the need to move forward on new writing. The tension and pull can almost be paralyzing if you let it.

As I wrote in When you just want to curl up into a ball… a while ago now,I’ve had to come to terms with the way my emotional state effects my writing. The fact is, I write better when I am happy, content and relaxed. Boring as that may sound.

Finally, as I have done in the past, the words of Thomas Aquinas seem appropriate to share.

Creator of all things, true source of light and wisdom,
origin of all being,
graciously let a ray of your light penetrate
the darkness of my understanding.

Take from me the double darkness
in which i have been born,
an obscurity of sin and ignorance.

Give me a keen understanding,
a retentive memory, and
an ability to grasp things correctly and fundamentally.

Grant me the talent of being exact
in my explanations and the ability to express myself
with thoroughness and charm.

Point out the beginning,
direct the progress,
and help in the completion.

I ask this through Christ our Lord.


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