I’m coming up to the end of my 8th month as a PhD student. 8 out of 36 – terrifyingly, I’m just over 20% of the way through this thing. I’m still enjoying it, and I’m still absolutely sure this was the right PhD for me, so things must be going alright.
Throughout the past 8 months I’ve been to multiple workshops, training courses and sessions dubbed as the ‘key to PhD success’. Without exception, every trainer, workshop facilitator, researcher, academic and student I’ve spoken to has told me to write as I go. Essentially the message has been, ‘don’t be that guy who leaves everything to the last minute and completes their PhD with less hair than they started with, and a thesis that doesn’t do their work justice.’
I enjoy writing, I don’t usually have that sense of impending doom when faced with a blank page – I just tend to begin writing, and once there’s text on the page that nervous feeling goes very quickly. I always go through multiple edits and then a few final tweaks and I’m there. I’m lucky in that writing just doesn’t stress me out as it does some people – when I wrote my undergrad dissertation my housemates didn’t even realise and it was handed in a stress-free 3 days before the deadline. Of course I get frustrated when the words refuse to flow as well as I want them to, or if I have to stop for some reason and then can’t find the same train of thought when I return, but the writing part itself I really enjoy.
So you might think I’ve started writing my thesis; afterall if I enjoy writing and everyone’s told me to write, there’s no reason why I wouldn’t have started already. The truth is, I’ve written words, loads of words in various places and I’ve even gone so far as to put collections of words into various documents for different purposes, but none of them have yet made it into a document entitled ‘Thesis draft 1’. This isn’t because I don’t want to, I’ve just had no pressure to start yet. During your PhD other things take over, other projects, thinking of ideas for your own research, the wish to publish, on-going assessments at various stages, conference abstracts, training, etc etc etc. So this blog post is designed to act as a point of gentle pressure to begin writing my thesis. Chapter headings, rough outlines of what I hope each section will be crafted into eventually, the introduction, aims and objectives – these can all be done before things get super stressful in the final months. In my next blog post I’ll hopefully be able to report back with what I’ve done for the thesis, and by that I don’t mean rejigging some existing words from other places, I want to really begin writing this thing over the next few weeks.
For other PhD students in the early stages, have you started writing already or do you have the blank page fear? Tweet me @heidirgardner and let me know!