So near and yet so far…

I can almost see the end.. and yet its not quite there.

I could scream.

I think I have the number of footnotes I need to sort don to single figures… I think I am at the stage of very seriously sorting my internal page refs… I think I could consider having this bound next week…
But I am waiting on refs from small independent libraries for obscure archival holdings, I trust my own ability to footnote and cross reference like I trust a salmon to swim across the sahara and I don’t know if I have the guts to let it go.

Bloody thesis


Dear Baby PhD Students,

Learn from my mistakes: No matter how tempting it is to just write down the book or authors, no matter how rigorous you are about creating your bibliography or putting references in EndNote (or whatever equivalent system you have)  – Do Not forget to put page nos. with any specific ideas.

I am currently checking pages for literally hundreds of references. Now don’t get me wrong I was (I thought) meticulous in my note-taking and most of my key texts are easy to find and neatly organised but all of those little assertions I threw in to flesh the argument out with ideas from years of research – aaargh!!

Nearly There!

On Beginnings & Endings

As my thesis suffers in its death throes I am drawn back to thinking about its conception, gestation and birth.

I don’t remember the moment the idea of my topic came to me. Somewhere near the very beginning of my Masters dissertation I knew that an MA would never do the ideas justice. I don’t remember choosing the topic of that dissertation or even writing it (what can I say I was working a 40+ hr week and not really rocking the sanity).
But I knew.. I knew it was a PhD and I knew I was the only person to write it.

What I didn’t know was whether I could get a PhD, whether I was good enough. I got a 2.i in my BA, failed to get funding for my MA (hence the full-time job). I didn’t apply for a PhD until after I got the results of my masters, I only applied to one university and I didn’t applying for funding.
It was take the hard route or don’t do it all. In the absence of guidance from my previous department, I knew of no funding opportunities except AHRC or my proposed university. I didn’t have the confidence (or in my mind the grades) for the AHRC and most funding support appeared to be tied to departmental teaching, something I had no experience of and knew I couldn’t commit to because I wanted to stay living with W.

It was surprisingly easy.
I sent an email with a general overview of my research proposal to my potential supervisors; one of whom offered me a few suggestions. I filled in the application form and three months later I was accepted. No grilling, no debate.
I went down met my primary supervisor ran a chapter plan passed him and then fell of the face of the world for a few years..
Methodology classes were attended, Research was done and writing begun, I even jumped through the annual monitoring review hoops and passed my upgrade requirements but I mostly I pootled into the world of my own devising. I haven’t even really changed my research topic – though it is of course more tightly defined and didn’t extend to some of the areas I had originally wanted to explore.

Now, post-interruption and with 2 different supervisors to those I started with, 5 years later the beast is nearly complete and I look back and wonder whether I was lucky that the initial process was so straightforward or whether I would have been more ambitious if I had fought for it. Mostly this has been quite an expensive way of reading a lot of books and journals in order to write my own. Though I am aware that my tone and style has tightened through the years and that my supervisors have pushed me to become better at summarising and putting myself forward I have no clear notion of ways that I am a better scholar or researcher…

Only time will tell what the legacy is.

Definitely not Thesis-related..

Currently finding it extremely difficult to think of anything to write about that isn’t my research… or more specifically the delights of editing my thesis.

I am doing non-PhD stuff. I go to work (and take my computer so I can still do editing); I have done some drinking.. I sleep, I have sex, I eat – those are all good non-thesis related activities right? [I also appear to read blogs and burble incoherently online – these I think are less good non-thesis activities]
I don’t think I have any way of explaining to those outside of academia how this can take over your life. I owe it to the people who care about me to continue with my daily tasks: working, making packed lunches, doing the laundry.. but everything that I do outside of staring at my own words on a screen feels like procrastination and I feel the chances of me submitting this month slipping away from me. It seems so hopeless.

So I must think happy thoughts. Currently about sleep, which, if done right, is a non-thesis related activity

Pain is not good for Concentration

These last few days (4 or 5) I’ve been feeling somewhat under the weather.
Headaches, nausea, dizziness and basic malaise – not enough to send me to bed or the Dr. just enough to make me into a whiny sod. I have footled about on the thesis, moped and cried a bit and generally not been very productive.

But once or twice it slipped over into real pain and utter failure to work. I Hurt. Wrist, knee, hips.. My shoulder has been doing a burning, stabbing agony type thing. Not so that I can’t move my hand or type, just enough that it hurts all the time and I can’t move my head without wincing. Although, ironically, it seems to be better in the pub and hasn’t yet stopped me hefting firkins or pulling pints but tends instead to sieze up when I sit down to write or try and sleep.
B tells me it is because I haven’t been using my proper chair and laptop stand… (Don’t tell him but there may be some truth in that) I however am firmly of the opinion that I am suffering an acute psychosomatic stress reaction.
I feel like shit because I am worried about my thesis and I have an excuse for not doing much on my thesis because I feel like shit – sounds like a perfectly plausible self-fulfilling prophecy and one step up from laziness. Fact remains though it is really difficult to concentrate when you hurt

Library travels

It takes me nearly 3 hours to get from my house to my university library and a little over 3 to get back
(yes – the train always takes an extra half an hour on the return journey, isn’t that fun)So 4 hours of quality source-checking makes for a bloody long day. On the plus side I can work on my thesis uninterrupted on the train as well as in the library – no internet, no conversation, nowhere to go; on the down side I feel wiped out, anxious and lonely through the whole experience.

Today I added accents to my passages of Diodorus, checking all of the text against Teubner for transcription errors – time consuming and boring but essential if you want to be taken seriously by classicists.
I also found page refs for a handful of the books missing such things in Chapter 1, returned some books and picked up a couple more. I began chapter two again and fiddled with yet more footnotes
But mostly I wonder whether today was productive or not…


“A thesis for the degree of PhD shall not normally exceed 100,000 words..”

Apparently my current draft is 97,000… I am exceedingly worried. Since I haven’t finished all of the tidying up and writing I am clearly going to have to start cutting sections before long.The trouble is not that I don’t have ideas about where things could be cut but more how to do it without destroying the narrative flow.

I am however glad that the total is exclusive of footnotes and bibliography..cos there are 16,000+ words worth of footnotes and nearly 10,000 in my biblio.

Having trouble with the idea of ‘good enough’ at the moment. Perfectionist streak is pretty wide and its nagging me. How do you let go?

Achievement and giving up Goals

So.. success comes in many shapes and sizes.

Yesterday, I didn’t give blood, or send my DSA form off. I didn’t stay up all night beforehand and I didn’t finish the chapter. Instead, today I gave up my opportunity to go to the Games again in favour of writing.
I am sad and I am disappointed in myself for not being better at what I do and for not finishing what needs to be done in the time-period I had allocated.
And yet, I am also proud. Proud because unusually for me I both recognised a limitation in myself and then worked out a way round it. I made a choice to prioritise something for me rather than something that I feel I should do – and simultaneously considered what I want and need both long and short term. I did also send the chapter to my supervisor today and aim to send a big chunk of text to both my supervisors in approx 1 weeks time.

The editing and tidying of my thesis is a slow, time-consuming and stressful process. I can’t do it with interruptions, I can’t do without support and most of all I can’t do it without ruthless dedication


In other and related news: The DSA process is terrifying and stressful and I feel like a complete failure because of the inability to fill in forms – this is not a supportive disability scenario and not conducive to good mental health. OTC Sleeping pills are glorious – but perhaps real (anti-depressant style) medication might be more sensible. Sitting at my computer everyday is causing me all sorts of shoulder pain and I creak every time I move also I would still really like to get a weeks worth of sleep. /whinge