These last 2 days I have spent mainly travelling around in order to achieve academic type things, without actually doing any writing.
First I went to a pair of seminars dedicated to part-time researchers hosted by Vitae and focused on avoiding defeatism and getting the most out of your supervisor.
It was nice to meet other students juggling work, life and study and to feel comforted by their (both very similar and quite different) gripes and fears. I think I did also come away with a renewed impetus and maybe even some tips (mainly about methods of planning, beating performance anxiety and taking supervisors firmly in hand). It was good to come away feeling I had gained something – so often this kind of researcher development is self-evident or ideas offered in most good books without even offering a sense of community. Hats off to the guy running it, he was very good.
Today I went for a face-to-face meeting with my mentor to discuss progress made and the next steps to take. It felt odd to answer those direct ‘how are you’ questions again after avoiding them for so long. Its so very hard to resist the temptation to just say ‘fine’ and change the topic.
Mostly we re-iterated some of the steps I need to take to improve my relationship with my supervisor and become more productive – namely ask him to help me set specific goals and timetables, I also want to ask him to give me specific positive feedback as well as constructive criticism, I need to know what I am doing right.
My mentor and I also agreed when our next sessions would be and that we would give phonecalls a try. Since I find using the phone terrifying we made a contract about how it would work. She will ring me. It will last 30mins and she will tell me 10 mins from the end. She will speak slowly and anticipate long pauses while I gather words. Fingers crossed this will be a step forward.
I also went to the library and found me some more background research books. I am struggling to decide a) what are crucial ideas and theories (as opposed to truism or irrelevant though interesting links) and b) how to link the ideas into my critical narrative.
On the plus side train journeys are great for enforced note-taking.
What I really need to do is get more stuff onto that computer screen and then fiddle…
Hmmm, easier said than done.