Sunday, May 6, 2012

Buddhafull Moon and the Thesis Blues

About a year ago I met a woman who was at the same stage in her PhD as I am right now. She burst into tears in front of me and said, "I can't do it. Everything about the Jungian archetypes and brain plasticity that I'm working on has already been done. What's the point? Why am I doing this?"

At the time I was aghast and quite appalled because there were three or four of us postgrads sitting around a table watching her falling apart and I didn't really understand what was happening.
I do now. She has the same supervisor as me, who said, "You are at the two year stage. Yours is a perfectly normal experience. Stay with it."

I've spent all day trying to write and failed. The back of my calves are tight because I haven't walked more than twenty metres since bedrise. I've been stuck on the internet, consuming and not creating. I have two serious essays due in within the next month and their deadlines - instead of motivating me (normally I love deadlines) - are just stressing me out to a point of complete impotence. My hands shake with caffeine. I should have finished with my thesis research but I'm hanging onto it because it is a comfort zone and soon, I'm gonna have to write. I've got nothing to write. Finally, after all the research, I have nothing to say.

Tonight I drove home, the headlights sifting through the lowland's the first autumn mists of the year. Apparently tonight is the Buddha Moon, one of the biggest moons in twenty years but the sky is cloudy and I couldn't see it rise. I'm thinking, given my rampant dreams over the last week, that even though I can't see the Buddha Moon tonight, something is shifting in my universe.

Tomorrow, I will get up and make breakfast for Stormboy and me. I'll send him off on the school bus and then I will settle down to write. Anyone who knows me will know it is a split life ... because by mid afternoon, I'll be heading back out to Pallinup with the San Patricios blaring on my car stereo and mullet on my mind.
What to do.
Just write, my supervisor says.
She's right, of course. She's always right.


  1. "Just write."


    When you get a moment, if you haven't already done so, you should read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. In a nutshell his advice is the same as your supervisor - just write. At the beginning you'll think you've gone to hell in a handbasket but eventually it will all make sense and before you know it the work will be done.

    The mullets will still be there when you're done! ;)

  2. "$%^&@#$"
    (That's me descending into expletives Cathy. I feel a bit like that bloke at the end of the river in the Heart of Darkness. "The horror ...!")

    She says much the same as Steven Pressfield. I've just had a bad day and I want to whinge. Thanks for the reference. I will have a look.

  3. mullet are so much more appealing...
    thesis, pfffft :)

  4. Don't write, then write. :-)

  5. Well I'm not sure if I have passed the 'year 2' thesis crisis or not because I have been doing it part time, but I empathise. And as you know, I was in crisis for about a year becuase of external factors before I managed to get going again. During that process I really had to let go of it completely and accept that I might just not be able to finish it.

    I have been into the 'what's the point, it's all crap and I have nothing to say'. That's when I allow myself to chill out, for an allotted time, doing something that feeds my soul. Then I go back to my candidacy, my proposal and the core reason I started this damn thing in the first place. I have to resituate myself in it somewhere beyond the fact that I may actually get a qualification because of my efforts.

    I agree with the 'just write' advice. But sometimes you can just go around in circles for a while if you push too hard. I have to invoke the mantra: 'just paint', because the writing, although bloody impossible, seems manageable at least. It helps to say to yourself, 'OK, I'll start and do this for 2 hours and see how I feel after that - bite-sized chunks. Lately, because I can see the finish line, I am keen to get on with it. BUT, only because I threw out a lot of self-imposed expectations and went back to what I still believe in.

    Hugs and support, you'll get there and it will be brilliant, but even if you don''s NOT the end of the world.

  6. Daily practice is a good habit. And I like what you say MF, about situating yourself beyond the qualification factor. I feel like an examiner is looking over my shoulder every time I put a word down at the moment.
    And there's another thing I realise - feeling resistant to producing something REQUIRED of me. Number 5 factor kicks in about then!

  7. Well yes, but it's not just a number 5 problem. I am a number 9 and I struggle to yoke myself to a particular regime. I think it's a dilemma for creative people too.

  8. Difficult, but you will prevail. No doubt about it.

  9. I totally agree with your supervisor that just writes. It can really help to stimulate the mind and help with thesis to avoid writer’s block and procrastination. It can also help produce the flow of creativity. Anyway, I hope many grad student would read this blog so that they would have an idea on what to face on grad school.