The first step

When you start a PhD there’s a brief sense of elation that you get to do this (and in my case, get paid to do so) followed by a crushing insecurity.

Impostor syndrome.

You rock up to a new town or city, unpack you belongings – mostly books – take a week to settle in and then on Monday you sit down at your desk and contemplate the 80,000 words you need to write.

At this point what you have is a title (subject to frequent change) and a proposal that you’d cobbled together a few months ago, heavily quoting from your MA work and frequently dotted with the words ‘new’, ‘hitherto unstudied’, ‘academic impact’ and, of course, ‘publishable’, all for the sake of the admissions committee.

Let me tell you exactly how helpful these two things are:


…Yeah, they’re not. Not really. What you actually have is one or two key words, 100 books and approximately four trillion potential web hits. So you do what any sane person would do, you calmly pick one thing to look at as a starting point and move on from there. Or…you’re promptly paralysed by panic, frozen by indecision and rendered incoherent by uncertainty.

Don’t worry, this is normal. It will pass. In three to four months, in my case, and perhaps with the aid of antidepressants. You’ll finally feel free of the pervading sense of despair that’s been making you procrastinate from everything, even finishing that series of X Files or cooking something other than beans with brown sauce.

And THEN you’ll do what any normal person would do. Sit down, draw a spider diagram of ideas, pick one and start.

So that’s where I am now. This blog will be the tale of my PhD. I have no idea yet what it will include other than rambling and the occasional book review, but it’ll be here every Friday until I’m done.


12 thoughts on “The first step

    1. Thank you!
      Best of luck with your proposal! University of Leicester has a pretty good website with lots of info on writing proposals for various subjects. Most unis that you apply to have different demands, but as a starting point, that one might be worth a look.
      Best wishes πŸ™‚


  1. OMG ! I just discoverd your blog, and I am so happy !
    I feel soo relieved by this post ! I am a “new” PhD student and I passed the 4 to 5 past months doing absolutely nothing but procrastinating … I was/am so paralized ! I thought I was an unable lazy person !


    1. Aw, glad it’s helped!
      We’re all just bopping along wondering if we’re doing it right. Just keep chipping away at it. What/where are you studying?


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