Perceptions and Reality

Remember how I mentioned that I’d written my weakest chapter yet? Turns out my supervisors think it’s my strongest. It really goes to show how unreliable our own perceptions can be when we’re in the midst of things. I met with both of my supervisors to discuss chapters two and three; it was actually really helpful to look at both at once. I think it gave all of us a feel for how the whole thing is coming together.

I’m working on my final chapter now, I’m only a thousand words in. I’m looking forward to having a full draft of the thesis put together so I can go right back to the start and make sure it all flows smoothly. I’m also interested to see how far I’ve come since writing that first chapter. I know the first couple will probably need to be entirely overhauled. I feel like I’ve learnt so much in the past few months, things have really started to click. I want to make sure that my first chapters are as strong as the last and reflect all of the things I have learnt. Aiming to have things finished by Christmas gives me a really solid chunk of time to edit the whole thing and get it as strong as it can be.

I’ve submitted that narratology paper – I’m not holding my breath on it being published, it’s not my field and I’m not massively confident on the way I’ve situated my work. It was really helpful to write it though – it made me consider my thesis and my stance from a new perspective, one that has really helped me clarify my thinking.

I wrote and submitted an abstract for Talking Bodies 2017 – I bloody loved TB15, and I’m really looking forward to attending again. I’d be thrilled if they accepted my abstract.

On a slightly negative note, however… I’ve been doing some lectures with a colleague on gender and feminism to second-year undergrads. I’ve had a bit of feedback and apparently they’ve found us a bit intimidating and as such haven’t enjoyed the lectures as much as they could have. This is obviously really disappointing as we put a lot of work into it and wanted to do something a bit different and thought provoking. We obviously pitched it a bit wrong – maybe too emphatically. But it’s good to know for the future. I’m doing the final lecture of three on Monday and have toned it right down, I’ve added in some discussion activities, so hopefully they’ll feel more like they can speak with us rather than being intimidated. I’ve found it really interesting to see the difference between my Creative Writing students and these English and History ones – I pitched it at about the same level in the lecture as I do with my CW lot – that is, lots of energy and enthusiasm – whilst the CWs seem to really enjoy it and get quite bolshy back and spark lots of conversation, the E/H lot seem to be much more reserved. It’s a good thing for me to know at this stage in my career where I’m still learning as I go. I really hope they enjoy Monday’s lecture more. It all comes back to how your personal perceptions of something don’t necessarily meet up with the external.

To finish on a high, though. I wrote a short story for the Off The Shelf short story competition and came second! I was so thrilled. There were some properly brilliant writers there, and the winner was fantastic. It was lovely to meet other local writers too.

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Online Presence

I was discussing online presence with my supervisor this weekend – she’s trying to up hers. It’s something that she’s actively thinking about, concerned about. I think it’s certainly something that you need to keep on top of. There are so many platforms available, twitter, linkedin, wordpress, piirus, academic.edu, researchgate, etc. Should you blanket them all or just pick a couple to concentrate on?

I personally spend a lot of time on twitter. Once I’d discovered hashtags like #phdchat #phdlife and #acwri, I felt like I’d found a proper community online. It was something that really helped me get through the isolated nature of the PhD. Conferences regularly use hashtags too –  you can keep up with all of the panels, and find the other people that you’re meeting there to talk to later. Building connections and a sense of community is so important when you’re in academia, I think, being the isolated office dwellers that we are, that it’s easy to get completely separated from the world.

I started this blog to help me keep track of what I was doing during my PhD – it’s easy to forget that you’ve made any progress when you’re stuck in a mire of deadlines and failed lines of thought. At the beginning, writing things down, keeping track of my weekly word count and holding myself accountable to the blog gave me the motivation I was lacking at the time. As I’ve gotten more in the swing of things, I’ve written on the blog less, but I find what I do write now is more useful. More about tracking achievements than berating myself for falling short.

People talk a lot about Linkedin, but to be honest, I’ve struggled to get to grips with it. I’ve had a profile on there for years and I update it semi-regularly; I add new people I meet. It hasn’t really seemed to do anything. Then someone told me that there are groups on there. Lo and behold, there are – groups about different areas of academia, about different theoretical interests. I’m beginning to see how it might actually be used for networking rather than just a static online mini-CV.

Things like academia.edu and researchgate are great for keeping track of what’s going on in your field, and for putting little bits of your research for other people to see what you’re up to. I probably don’t use them as much as I should, but I’ve also been concentrating on blasting my thesis, rather than writing papers.

Honestly though, twitter and facebook have been my main links to the outside world – I think they’re such important resources, both personally and professionally. I encourage everyone to find their online community.

Other useful online stuff:

This post on being an online academic – I took part in the online chat last year and it was pretty interesting.

My previous blog post on surviving the PhD – just in case you need a reminder that you’re not going crazy.

Indoor Waterfall

I’ve started my second chapter. And by that I mean that I’ve been typing up quotes and copy and pasting from various other bits of work I’ve done during my PhD that seems to be relevant to this chapter. No original thought has happened. But it will. Soon.

I was supposed to meet the linguistics professor last week but the night before, my house flooded so I had to cancel for plumber related purposes. The header tank in our loft flooded and the overflow pipe had come disconnected, so litres and litres of water came pouring through the attic room’s ceiling and down into the first floor. Nightmare. I managed to get all of the water turned off and located an emergency plumber. Still waiting for them to come back and fit some new parts, though.

Other than that I feel like I’ve barely done anything. This has been my first weekend at home in a month, so I achieved a fair bit, previously I’ve been down and up the country visiting various people for various things. I’m away again next weekend, and possibly for the week for Easter. Planning on getting some writing done at my Mum’s house as it’s in the countryside with no distractions.

Lesson planning takes so much of my time and brain-power. I’ve had to limit myself to a day for it, otherwise I waste half the week, but even then I spend a good ten to twelve hours on it for just a one hour lesson. I wonder if anyone else does the same? Teaching is fun though, I like seeing the students grasping something, or at least getting enough of the gist that they know which questions to ask. It helps that I’ve got a fairly cheery group. they’re all bricking it over their essay at the moment though, so I’m getting a lot of panicked emails.

Hopefully next week I’ll have something more impressive to report.

A photo posted by Emma (@emma_spud) on Mar 13, 2016 at 7:45am PDT

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Marking Melodrama

I collected a pile of essays from work this week from last term’s module. My students were asked to write a 2,500 word critical essay on one of the texts we’d studied that term. I’d had some interesting discussions with students and was looking forward to reading what they had to say, but actually sitting down and marking? So boring. I sulked a bit on Saturday before I got stuck in. Sunday was easier, but by the end of play I still had five essays remaining. I’m now lesson planning for this term’s modules, so those five will have to wait until next weekend. I have no idea when I’ll fit in editing my chapter.

This term I’ll be teaching Intro to Critical Theory, which I’ve been looking forward to. I am getting a bit nervous. There’s a lot to cover and this module is literally the basis for all of their future essays. I want to give them all of the information they need, but I don’t want to bombard them and put them off. It’ll be a tricky balance. And of course there will be loads of students that just think it’s boring and pointless, so I need to try and get through to them too.

I’m eager to try and get my chapter edited and sent off again, but I’m knackered all the time. Officially too old for all-nighters. Will try and get this lesson planning done ASAP so I can salvage some week for that.

Oh, and I had a short story published in Severine Literary Magazine 🙂

A photo posted by Emma (@emma_spud) on Jan 16, 2016 at 8:14am PST

Marking and Larking

On Tuesday I spoke at an event held by the careers service. It was about getting on to a PhD and what it involves. There were two of us speaking, both second years. Rachel was far more upbeat, it must be said. She was great at talking without a script and still actually making sense, which is just not somrthing I can do. I shared with them the horror story of my first PhD interview, which is still to this day the single most humiliating thing that has ever happened to me. And I embarrass myself a lot. Ultimately it was entirely worth it, it gave me more focus, it prepared me for what was to come. Taught me that expecting the unexpected isn’t just for paranoid Aurors.

The end of this week was a dark pit of marking. I did two mammoth sessions and just got them all done. It was an interesting experience. It took me about five essays to get in the swing of locating the assignments within the grade boundaries. I was really chuffed that my students did so well, they came up with some really intersting ideas and have clearly been listening in class. I can’t wait to see them improve over the next couple of years.

Marking left me entirely brain dead, so I pretty much lost the weekend to staring at the walls and hoping that the world would make sense soon. Not ideal. I wanted to get all of my lesson planning done over the weekend so that I could work on my chapter today and tomorrow. Oh well. Will just have to knuckle down.

I’m heading to Birmingham from Thursday to Monday for my birthday and to see various beautiful people. Feel a bit guilty about sacrificing so many days to larking about, but I miss my mates something fierce and I’m so bloody excited to see them.

Stuck on a short story I’m writing. Have about half of it done, but no idea where to take it. Hopefully the weekend will shake something loose.

No sleep for me. Work instead. #cushion #reading #tired #louisemayalcott #books

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