Still at it. Still haven't quit. Still not writing anything. Still sitting here, waiting for a miracle to happen, writing little notes to myself every day, trying to keep going.
What is going on with me? … The PhD is dead. I can’t seem to write a thing. I have made the decision not to quit and to keep going, even though in my brain there is a little voice that says move on…. Move on! It doesn’t have to be called ‘quitting’. It could be called ‘moving on…’ I have decided not to quit, least of all because I don’t want to have to explain to siblings, grannies, and the Lover, that, after all this time, I have given up. But at the same time, I am not writing anything useful.
Let’s look at some of the problems:
- I am bored. I think it may have been Picasso who once said that, if you know exactly what you are going to do, then why would you bother doing it? That’s exactly how I feel about planning: once you have planned the chapter and you roughly know where to put what, there is no interest in writing it all down. I know I can do it; I just can’t muster up the enthusiasm to do it. It doesn’t help that my RSI has flared up, and my hand hurts. (it’s my fault, really; all those years spent showing off how good I am at opening jars and vodka bottles are now coming back to haunt me.)
- I DON’T WANT TO. I keep sitting down to work. Then I remember: I don’t like my work. And then I stare into space for a while.
- My mind keeps wandering off to other things. I have agreed to teach a course, for money, on a thing I know very little about. (this is not entirely my fault, by the way. I did initially refuse, but they kept pestering me, telling me how much they need me, how much they would appreciate it if I did this; they kept sweet-talking me, and in the end I caved in, if only for the money and for the dubious prestige of having ‘something on my CV’ other than ‘wrote a PhD, for about fifty years’.
- I’m scared. What is there to look forward to, once I finish this PhD?... by then, surely I will need money so badly that I will be grateful for any job that comes along. Therefore, I am writing this PhD, for what exactly? So that, after this horrible job, I can (if I am lucky), walk straight into…. Another horrible job?... I am scared of several things, therefore: that I will never do a good PhD anyway, because I am not clever, so why bother; that there is no point in finishing it, because … it won’t give me anything; and that I should somehow be using this time to get some sort of work experience, so that I have a hope in hell of getting a job afterwards that I might actually like.
- There is a pile of stuff in front of me which needs doing. The examination entry form to be sent to the exams office (aaargh). The pile of receipts from conferences that I never claimed for, and which now I am frankly ashamed to send in, because they are so out of date; the train tickets that I must get a refund for, because they overcharged me; the savings account that needs updating. The invoice for the last job I did. The handbook for that bloody course I agreed to teach. There is a million things, real-world type things, that I need to get around to doing. Every time I start to do them, I think, no, I have to concentrate on this bit of PhD. But as I can’t actually put them out of my mind, neither one nor the other really gets done.
- My birthday. Birthday month is upon me. This means only one thing: birthday. I would quite like to enjoy the last few weeks of my twenties. I would quite like to spend some time with a few nice people, without either me or them feeling like this is a massive imposition on my time. I would like to spend this month enjoying myself, enjoying being me, doing things that make me ‘me’, and not crying because I have an impossible thing to do. (the fact that it’s my birthday month is not a problem as such, mind. It’s just another thing which I know will cut into my time, and there is nothing I can do about it, except enjoy it. but how, how can you enjoy birthday when there is all this…)
- Somewhere in my inbox there is an email from my supervisor, short and succinct and elegantly phrased, and it goes something like this: I hope you are surging ahead with your thesis. We should set up a meeting. Help…
Plan for this afternoon, therefore:
- after I have peeled myself off this floor, will attempt to write 200 words of this chapter (something which I have been trying, and failing, to do all morning.
- Whether I have achieved this or not: I will go into town and buy printer ink, run a couple of Important Errands, and therefore be ready for phase 2, which will be:
- Print off the claims form for those bloody receipts on my desk. Put them in an envelope, ready to send off tomorrow. (likewise: get exams form ready; anything that needs sending off, put it in a nice envelope and write the address on it.
- Email the people from the course and set the ball rolling: ask questions,, sort things out.
So, in short: I feel like I am drowning in stuff. I wish the real world could just… go away. I wish I could run off and go live in a hotel for a week, living off croissants stolen at breakfast, seeing no-one, doing nothing. Thinking about nothing but my thesis. I can’t juggle this life/thesis thing any more.