Skip to main content

The Diary of a PhD Student: Separation Anxiety

Separation Anxiety is defined as ‘anxiety provoked in a young child by separation or threat of separation from its mother or main carer’. Writing as someone who has just submitted the second draft of their creative thesis to their supervisor – still 18,000 words shy of the length it should be, might I add – I feel like I’m currently in a steady position to widen that definition – or at the very least, add an alternative meaning to it, perhaps.

Separation Anxiety (2):
The feeling experienced by tortured creative types on distributing their work to a group of people who aren’t morally obligated to care about their feelings, and will therefore give them (brutally) honest feedback on their submission.

When you look at it that way, I think the anxiety I’m feeling right now is legitimate. Entirely useless and fairly debilitating when it comes to establishing a proper work regime for the remaining chunk of my thesis, which I still haven’t written. But legitimate, nevertheless.

For the past few weeks my mantra has been, ‘I just want rid of it for a bit now. I can’t stand to look at it anymore.’ I was elated by the prospect of having the book off my plate for a while, sinking gleefully back into research and flinging around some opinions like I knew what I was talking about – which I sometimes do, depending on which research paper I’m thinking of writing that day (yes, it really is that changeable). But now the time has come and, like an anxious mother leaving the house without the baby for the first time, I am plagued by a series of feelings and questions that I should – should – be pushing to the back of my mind in an orderly fashion. So nervous am I, in fact, that I’ve started to second guess what my supervisor will find wrong with the book!

I think the plot is thinner in this one, and the pace, which lagged in the first draft, is now too fast-moving – hence the major drop in the word count and oh yes, let’s not forget that problematic word count. Despite not viewing these as real-life issues with the book ahead of emailing it in – and therefore doing nothing to fix them – they are now top on my list of expected critiques, to the point that I may email my lecturer shortly:

Dear –,
I was wrong. This isn’t the second draft. Please disregard previous email. DO NOT read document that was attached. I’ll be in touch.
Best –
One of your stress-ball students.

I am over-shooting this slightly, I know.

They are the issues I expect to hear back on from my supervisor, but I’ve also not ruled out the possibility that I’m totally wrong about them – maybe the pace is much better this way, and with a shorter book comes a more condensed plot and so maybe that’s fine too. The word count is, for me, an ongoing issue, but the underlying idea behind sending this second draft out to not only my supervisor but also to readers outside of a university setting is that they can read it and tell me what’s missing – because I know that something is and, given that this is the second draft of the book, I know that it’s perfectly acceptable for something to be missing at this stage. That’s my logical hat that I’m wearing there. But, while straddling the line between writer and academic, not quite knowing whether I am actually either of those things, I reserve the right to wear my illogical hat on occasion – because I wear that one particularly well.

Separation Anxiety (3):
The feeling of anxiety experienced in post-graduate university students on realising that a) time is no longer in close proximity and is, in no uncertain terms, slipping away from them and b) their ideas for their research paper are slowly slipping away from them also, causing both the student and the research paper to become two entirely separate entities that no longer live harmoniously together, and show no signs of doing so for some time.

But I’ll bank that for a future blog post. 


Popular posts from this blog

Book Review: In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings

In Her Wake is the recently published novel from Amanda Jennings, released a little earlier this year by the friendly folks over at Orenda Books, and it has been collecting glowing reviews – all of which I have tried to avoid – for weeks on end. Now, having dipped into the book myself, it’s clear to me why. I was around three pages in to this read, in fact, when I turned to my friend next to me and said: ‘Bloody hell, this is going to be a good one.’ The novel follows the story of Bella. A young woman who returns to her family home following the unexpected death of her mother, only to be greeted by a father who is so overcome with guilt and anxiety – perhaps what you’d expect following the loss of a spouse, but certainly not how you’d expect it – that their already strained relationship only worsens in the opening chapters of this book. When Bella’s father, Henry, finally reveals what he’d been holding in for so long, Bella’s world promptly falls apart – and the reader’s heart pr

The Diary of a Whatever I Am Now: Corrupted Hard Drive.

Take a walk with me. We’ll go back to August 2010, late August, when I finally found out that despite my below par A-Level grades, there was a university in the country that was prepared to give me a chance. Praise be to them. Ahead of starting this journey, my generous mother bought me a laptop. A brand spanking new laptop. That my kind and patient sister, and her partner, set up for me and taught me how to use. They deliberately picked something that would suit the university life style – and they were bang on the money in that respect. That laptop lasted I-don’t-care-to-remember how many assignments and a 10,000 word undergraduate dissertation. Let’s not forget, either, that during my first and second summers home from university, I also wrote two “novels” (I use that word in a bland and unimpressed tone, incidentally) that were typed on that same laptop. From there, we moved to postgraduate studies. More assignments and eventually a 25,000 word dissertation. By this point

The Diary of a (former) PhD Student: Now I actually have run out of work.

In case the title of this blog post didn’t give it away, let me clarify: I have handed in my PhD thesis.  I handed it in exactly a week ago, actually, and I would have blogged a brag sooner if not for the fact that the day after my hand-in, a family member was taken into hospital, and the last week has sort of slipped away from me as a result of that. It’s been a while since I gave you an update at all, I know, and the last time we “talked”, I was in this blissfully ignorant place of not having any work to do. Let me catch you up from there:             My readers were wonderful. All of those who read and provided feedback for the book part of the project were insightful, considerate, and careful with their responses. I ironed out technical issues and even one or two final plot holes and so, to those who read the manuscript ahead of hand-in, I cannot and will not ever be able to thank you enough.            My supervisor made me cry. A lot. The “final few twe