One of the major hurdles has been this notion of “publish or perish.” When you are a new (and hopefully!) emerging scholar, your survival depends on publishing or not. Perhaps this is one of the most frustrating aspects of my PhD life is publishing my research (or in my case the battle to publish with no prior research). It is a never ending negotiation of what to send in, what not to send in, and where to send it. As I have alluded to already the major challenge that has emerged for me is my lack of data from my Masters. Unlike other PhD students, I came into this PhD process with no prior research under my belt. Of course, I can naturally argue that I have much more practical experience especially in K-12 then many other researchers because of this tradeoff. However, the lack of data does pose an issue especially when your dissertation study has not officially started. Naturally it has caused me to be more resourceful when it comes publishing my work.
My writing issues haven’t been just about “data.” I have struggled with my identity as a “writer.” Before I came into this, I thought I was a writer but apparently I am not because the measure of a writer in academia is one that publishes. It is about finding the right words to express yourself (or at least the words that people in your field understand and appreciate). It also about taking on a register that is not quite you but in order to be successful you need to learn it well. It may also mean taking on an identity that does not fit.
I had an interesting conversation recently with a friend. English is not her first language and she expressed her frustrations with learning to write in “English.” She commented on how it might be easier for me since English is my first language. However, what she does not realize is that “Academic English” is often not anyone’s “first language.” I might be a native speaker of English but I spend hours learning how to mold my sentences in the “right” academic way. It is a “new” language for me. I need to learn the structure, lexicon and the right ways to say things.
Back when I was in high school, I spent hours offline and online writing. In the digital environment, I wrote for an online fan magazine for Savage Garden fans and much of my spare time was devoted to crafting articles for my newsletter column. In the non-digital environment I was writing for my high school newspaper or writing in my notebook. All of these writing experiences were empowering.
As I entered into adulthood, I began to blog. When I blog, I often write and decide not to post what I have written for a number of reasons. Perhaps it is because what I am thinking and reflecting on has become too personal. Or maybe it’s just because I am not ready to share my “half baked” ideas with the world. However, what I have learned during this PhD process is that words are a powerful tool to express what is on your mind. I also find that writing is a very personal experience especially as I move forward in this PhD process.
So why am I reflecting on writing today? Long story short, I am experiencing some writer’s block lately and to be honest I think it is a case of the “procrastination blues.” What usually takes me about 5 hours to produce has taken me about 2 weeks. I spend hours moving paragraphs around and rewording things to make it more (or maybe it is less) coherent. I am more excited about checking social media then doing my writing. I am pretty sure everyone goes through these stages in their PhD journey. However, the question for me is how do I move out of this “hole?”
A friend of mine has been encouraging me to use an app called “Toggl” (https://www.toggl.com/). It is a digital timer. My goal starting today is to get about 5 hours of writing done daily. I have to start the timer when I am working but stop it when I take breaks. You get a running total of how many hours you work for the entire day if you use it continuously. I used this during my comps process when I wasn’t able to focus. It really worked, at least for me and then I stopped using it. However, I am going back on the “Toggl” train. Hopefully this is will get me out of my “writer’s block” aka “procrastination blues.”