Just as it will always be slightly frightening to write (and then have published) something very confessional and raw, it is always incredible to see how people respond to it. I have been lucky enough to have a piece published by The Thesis Whisperer this week:
More than that, I have been lucky enough that people have read it and are talking about it. I had no idea so many people would read the piece; it feels a little overwhelming, a little like I’ve walked into the exam room naked. On the other hand though, to see how people have responded and what they’ve been talking about has been incredible. The support and acknowledgement of how many of us are in the same boat. How many of us are tired to our bones but still finding something to spark our passion.
And how we need to find a way to not let that go – to preserve it best we can.
Things may not be any less uncertain than they were when I wrote the piece but having other people share their stories as well has inspired me to keep trying. That maybe I shouldn’t give up just yet and move to a windswept cottage on a remote Scottish coast, small cat in tow, to bake and write. As good a dream as that is, maybe not just yet.
What it’s made me realise, more than ever, is how much research is fuelled by passion – that our curiosity is what makes us. These issues wouldn’t hurt us so much – we wouldn’t feel them so viscerally – if we didn’t care about the things we are researching. And the myriad things that we’re all doing. I am seriously still trying to wrap my head around the experiment Physics Steve shows in his blog (http://www.physicssteve.co.uk/) – images of terrible sci-fi movies… Qual, quant, or a mixture of both – all of these are shaping in the world, even in the smallest ways. And it’s so exciting to see how passionate people are about so many different things.
To me, as I work my way through feelings of burn out, seeing all of this has been inspiring. It may not change how difficult things are – and it doesn’t mean that things are better now like a vacuous happily-ever-after — but having these conversations and supporting each other – and knowing that we are supported too – makes it easier to come back the tomorrow, and then the next day, and the day after that. Even as piles of marking, half-written articles, and a very scary whiteboard await…
As an aside, and I’m wondering now just how much the things we read when we’re younger impact on us. If I’d read less Sylvia Plath and Dylan Thomas, would I have been less likely to gravitate to a confessional style of writing? Was I always going to be a qualitative researcher?I always tell my students or, you know, anyone I meet, that no first draft is perfect and my first drafts are always more lyrical in nature. I know this process well enough now that no one else sees these first drafts – they’re mine to then work on to make into structure and format more in line with journal and funder guidelines.One day, I’m going to submit a grant written entirely in prose. I may even try to make it rhyme.
After all that, what say you, my friends?