|Photo by Vee O. | unsplash.com|
The longest piece of writing I’d ever produced was my 15,000 word thesis for my Postgraduate Diploma, and I was terrified at the thought of having to produce 80,000.
Not just terrified: I was stopped in my tracks. I knew I wanted to do it, but I didn’t know how.
I’m particularly grateful today that I allowed myself to be a beginner at that moment in time (something I haven’t always been particularly good at).
I’m also grateful that a good friend told me, a long time ago, that if I wanted to get somewhere or change something in my life, I needed to find people who were already where I wanted to be, then copy them.
Enter the Thesis Whisperer, Twitter, Shut Up and Write, and my early PhD motto: "If Inger says it, do it".
Inger Mewburn (who created and manages the Thesis Whisperer [TW]) had completed a PhD early, with small children. I had small children (still do). I was 37 when I began, and knew I couldn’t afford to have an excruciatingly drawn out process: I had promised my partner this was the last study I would do, that I would finish on time, and get a job.
I started my PhD with a 6 month old and a 2 and a half year old, I finished in just under 3 years, and a big part of how I did that was by following excellent advice.
My favourite TW posts were:
Then there was Twitter. Twitter freaked me out. I was all over Facebook but all those Twitter hashtags and @ symbols made me feel like I was reading mathematical equations. But Inger said do it, so I did.
What I found there was an extraordinary gathering of writers, scholars, researchers, editors, and friends. #phdchat and #phdparent became my favourite hashtags, most #shutupandwrite sessions were organised on Twitter, and I had a (short) conversation with Margaret Atwood that I will never forget.
And, finally, there was Shut Up and Write. Plenty has been written about this, so I won’t describe it for you again, but I will say this: I worked out pretty quickly that I could write around 1,000 words in three Pomodoros. I then realised that if I wrote 1,000 words a week, I would have way more words than I needed at the end of 3 years. So (hospital stays and sick children aside), that’s what I did.
I read and made notes and did lots of thinking from Monday to Thursday, and on Friday I went to a café with other PhD students, academics, and writers, and wrote.
At the end of 3 years, I had an 86,000 word thesis, a number of peer reviewed papers, international and national conference presentations, and a partner who told me she rarely felt like a PhD widow. Also, the kids survived, and are very proud that their Mama wrote a book.
Karina is an Honorary Associate at La Trobe University and, when she's not editing or writing, she is shamelessly blogging or tweeting (@riotk)