Thursday, 30 October 2014

The Diary of a PhD Student: Entry 1


I’m doing a PhD. It still feels weird to say that when people ask what I’m doing with myself these days. Although, the alternative answer of ‘I spend my days reading about murder’ would probably impress people a whole lot less than dropping the PhD-bomb seems to. That is, until I tell them that my PhD is in Creative Writing, then a whole other can of worms gets opened about why I’m doing a PhD course in such a widely put-down subject. But it’s probably best that I don’t get on my soap box about that just yet…

I thought the idea of a PhD was that you went in with an outstandingly specific idea and carved a place for yourself in your industry, based around this innovative idea of yours. So when it came to writing my proposal, that’s what I tried to do.

In isolating a specific area of both history and modern literature that I thought was under-explored, I gained my place on the course. I had very strict ideas about how I would research and develop my novel - because that’s what my PhD requires, an 80, 000 word novel, and that’s just part of it - and that would, in turn, shape the critical element of my thesis which will be around the 20, 000 word mark. Now I’m five weeks in, and this innovative, inspired, and totally original idea has completely changed. And - this will surprise no one more than it has surprised me - I’m totally okay with it.

After my first work-sharing session with my fellow PhD people yesterday, everything changed for me. There was a notable shift, in my mind at least, that took me from research to creativity, and I didn’t realise exactly how much I’d missed that feeling until I got it back. 

This morning I’m armed with not only a different research approach but also a boat-load of new questions about this novel that I’m going to be working on; questions that, prior to yesterday, I had only dreamed of thinking about because I simply didn’t feel ready to provide the answers. It’s a little terrifying, I’ll admit, to see an idea that you felt quite invested in take a dramatic shift in front of your eyes. Although, the more I think about it, the more I appreciate that that in itself is just another part of the process, no matter what you’re writing. 

This blog post is a short introduction to what I hope will become more regular posts as my PhD continues, but I suppose I just wanted to introduce any readers to the ideas that I myself had revelled in yesterday. Seeing these changes happen was scary, but in a good sort of way, and I took away so much from yesterday’s time spent with my lecturer and my fellow students that I’m already feeling a new burst of life for a project that I haven’t even properly sunk my teeth into yet. And that, as far as I’m concerned, is a damn good feeling to start with. 

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