For a task to be finished it must be named

I have noticed a strong shift in the conversations I have with other students. It is common for us to enquire as to what is being worked on at the moment or what we plan to do that day. Some of this is possibly intentional positive role modelling directed at my benefit but it does also demonstrate something of (1) the experience of ‘writing up’ and (2) why it’s great to be part of a cohort. Yes, I know that the reason I so often feel like I do not get anything done is because I do not know what I am doing. However, this is an easier problem to name than to solve.

Working through my thesis plan did not prove to be such a success over the summer. Last week I went away for a few days to do some volunteer work. On the first day we were asked to think about what we would be leaving behind; I could see my thesis outline in Scrivener. I was not leaving behind working on my thesis so much as looking at it while I shift my weight in my computer chair.

Arbitrary commitments can work for short blocks of time. If I plan to go for coffee with somebody or to a gym class then I might find some references to cut and paste into my thesis plan or a project blog post to work on. If I have a whole day to fill in then I might cobble together a pre-draft of a potential chapter section. However, there is rarely a robust rational behind such tasks so when the allotted time is up they remain unfinished.

The joy of following up on inspiration is being squeezed from my weeks as any new idea is quickly chased away by the guilt of the papers I have never finished redrafting and the chapter section pre-drafts that are still too messy to even think about asking somebody else for comments. 

I did have a good break with my volunteer work and I never expected it to change my work habits. I have even returned knowing that this is really what I want to being doing at the moment. Or rather I fell like I want to be doing something related with writing my thesis. If only I could offer a more robust definition of ‘this’ than ‘something’.

At least I finished this post?

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