The right place to write

This is the final push, last leg of the journey or labour and birthing of the PhD process. If I were to continue to use my mothering analogy. I have done the fieldwork, written up some parts of the work, presented at conferences, I have even published my work as a book chapter, but that seems to pale in relation to writing up the big thesis document that will be examined. This is what I am considering the birthing of the PhD. Producing that big 200-300 page document that will be sent to the examiners.

Many times when I was pregnant there were lots of questions did we know the gender of the baby, did we have a name, where was I planning to give birth and most of all I hated the question about how I planned to give birth. I’m glad this PhD baby’s birth doesn’t involve “choosing” a vaginal or c-section birth. Its about writing but it does involve choosing where I want to give birth. In a way I have already chosen my university but this birth is a long labour and birth and looks like I will need to consider where to labour. I am still not sure whether the writing is the labouring or birthing phase so I will just think of it as both. Anyway the issue is I need to think about ways to make this process as easy as possible. Or maybe its making myself as comfortable as I possibly can while I labour. During the birth of my sons I tried to stay at home as long as I possibly could because it felt safer there but at a certain point I went to the birthing centre because no matter how homely and comfortable my home was I felt safer knowing the midwife was close at hand even if I was going into a place not my home.

I hope the birthing analogy helps me make this point, that I am thinking about the right place to write. I recently acquired a home office it is shared with my husband but makes for a permanent space where I can leave my work and I don’t have to be moving my books transcripts, pens etc around, losing track of things and sometimes important things.


The White Board!

So I have this fabulous office with a big white board that I can scribble my thoughts on and make sense of the connections I am trying to make. I am finding this helps me to process my data as I am trying to come up with a coherent narrative and tell a story in my thesis. The white board also helps me to stand up at intervals from my desk and I find thinking on my feet while staring at the white board stimulates my thinking better than staring at my computer screen. The computer screen somehow beckons me to have a well thought out story, ready to be told. The white board says just write whatever you like, use the different colors draw mind maps, write in note form or whole paragraphs. I love that I can move around the entire room and think while I am still able to see the links I am trying to make and how they are coming together or how they could be two separate things.

Another reason I love the new office is because it is at my house and indulges me in the many breaks I take to go peak at my son, hear him play while I work and sometimes just pick him up and cuddle. The problem only comes when I hit a hurdle in my work and instead of pushing through I instead take the easy exit of going to play with the baby. On those days when I am easily distracted and my PhD motivation meter is reading close to empty the library happens to be the best place to write.

I use the local community library that has desks and power sockets to plug in my computer and write away. I do not have internet access at the library and that guards against the tendency to keep searching for literature instead of writing or just getting distracted reading blog after blog about writing instead of just writing. It’s a community library however and on certain days it has reading groups for little ones and these turn the library’s quiet space into a kindergarten noisy play area. This means it works on some days but on some days the library turns out to be the most frustrating place someone wanting to write in a quite place can find.

I have seen people talk about mapping out coffee shops to write in, I am not much of a coffee drinker and in my experience coffee shops tend to be noisy and expensive. They are full of people doing interesting things like talking which I find easily distracting and makes it difficult for me to concentrate on my work. I am finding my most productive times in the library or my office. Which leads me to wonder what exactly do I mean when I talk about productivity in relation to a PhD? I think it calls for a blog post of its own so expect my musings on this in a future post.


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