18 Dec

my long overdue #acwrimo wrap up post

I started out AcWriMo with an ambitious plan: I was going to write 1666 words of findings every day in November. 50,000 words in one month, just like NaNoWriMo participants do.

The only problem with this goal was that I wasn’t actually ready to write on 1 November. I still had several transcripts to code and I was still integrating codes to form categories. It wasn’t until 11 November that I actually had my categories pretty sorted, but even then, I still had transcripts to code before I could write.

So in reality, the sun was setting on November before I got going on writing in earnest. That meant that in terms of writing, my AcWriMo really kicked off in late November and lasted until yesterday. But during November, I did do a lot of coding, analysis, synthesis and sense making throughout the month and I really feel like participating in AcWriMo spurred me on during this period of working intensely on figuring out what my findings look like.

Yesterday I finished writing up my categories, just over four weeks after I started. Four weeks ago, I had 17 categories grouped into three broad streams. As I wrote, I consolidated these and I ended up with 13 categories that formed part of a single core category. The category write ups on their own (excluding the write up of the theory and discussion of how the categories relate to each other, which I haven’t done yet) amounted to 40,016 words. I didn’t make it to 50,000 words on my findings chapter, but I did write just shy of another 10,000 words on other parts of my thesis. Although my month was more like six weeks, I did manage to hit my AcWriMo goal.

At the beginning of November I was panic stricken. I had two months left of my sabbatical and I hadn’t written a single word (well, apart from in memos). My teaching and service commitments for 2014 mean that at the end of January, I will no longer be able to do ‘thinky’ work on my thesis. I will probably manage revisions, but I need to have the hard stuff done. My goal of having a full draft of my thesis by Christmas was (and still is) completely shot and I thought I had no hope of getting a draft done by the end of January, either.

Now, I am slightly more optimistic. Assuming what I’ve written is okay (and I don’t know that yet – I’ve only just sent it to my supervisors for feedback), I may just make it. Or at least, I may be able to draft the remaining chapters, excluding my conclusion. What I won’t get done is revisions to my method chapter (which I wrote about 20 months ago for confirmation, and it needs updating) and I won’t have had time to incorporate any feedback. When I write about this, I feel pretty panicked. But the reality is, this is doable.

AcWriMo came at exactly the right time for me and the sense of community and accountability really helped. I get a lot of support from a friend who is at a similar stage in her write up, but AcWriMo added an extra layer.

But the single most valuable thing about AcWriMo for me was that I realised writing is bloody hard work for everyone – not just me. This realisation boosted my confidence and buoyed me up. So thanks, AcWriMo organisers, for making a real difference in my experience of writing my thesis.

17 Jul

holy shit! sabbatical is here and i am not ready

Tomorrow, I am officially on sabbatical. Like, holidays over, time to knuckle down and kick this thesis to the curb.

There are three problems with this.

1. I didn’t do all of the things I wanted to do while I was on holidays.

Actually, I didn’t do hardly any of the things. The things were all about getting me sorted so I would have a good, tidy, organised workspace as well as good habits, good routines and a good frame of mind for my thesis writing sprint.

There are various reasons why this didn’t happen. Which leads me to problem number two.

2. I may be on sabbatical from work, but I cannot take a sabbatical from my life.

It sounds pretty obvious, doesn’t it? But this is something I only just realised, and I only realised it because I’ve just had one of those periods you have where shit just goes wrong and even the easiest things are way, way too hard.

The everyday stuff continues. Food still needs to be bought and cooked. Appointments at sundry medical practitioners (physios, doctors, dieticians) need to be made and attended. Houses need to be cleaned. Washing needs to be done and folded and put away. Children need attention – lots and lots of it. But it’s not these everyday things that worry me.

It’s the little things that shouldn’t be hard but take up ridiculous amounts of time. The photo frames that are faulty and need to be returned. The cabinet doors that don’t fit that need exchanging. The birthday presents that are too big to fit in Australia Post boxes. The children that choose Lego as reward gifts and are too young to assemble it themselves. The clothes ordered online that don’t fit, need to be returned and rebought. The wedding presents that need to be sourced and sent to unknown addresses in Europe. (Shit. That one is well overdue.) The paintings that fall off walls. The TV antennas that die and need replacing and the technician that wants to spend an hour explaining the mechanics to me when I do not care.

It’s the big, random, complete pain in the ass stuff. The fridges that break and stay broken for weeks while the extended warranty companies make decisions about repairs (and meanwhile you have to call them ten times and eventually shout “I’m calling the Office of Fair Trading” to get some action). The shade sails that tear in bad weather, the insurance claim that results, and the banging of the broken shade that keeps you awake all night. Discs that slip, get better, slip again. Siblings that get sick, get hospitalised, come home, need care.  Shit happens and needs attention.

I want to take a rain check on everything that is not essential until the thesis is written. Birthdays, social events, life milestones… Can we just hit pause and I’ll make it up to everyone early next year? Yeah. I didn’t think so.

Also, I would really appreciate it if we could just not have any other minor disasters in the next six months. Really. I think we’ve had our fair share.

I had this vision of a nice calm life and a finished thesis. But this is *my* life we’re talking about, and it is never calm (is anyone’s?).

3. I have absolutely no idea where to start or how to plan for this beast.

That’s not quite true. I know where to start. I need to start with analysis. But I’m not sure how that happens, really, and I’m not sure how long it will take. And I’m not sure what will come after that or how long it will take. Everyone says doing a PhD is like eating an elephant. The only way you can do it is one bite at a time. But which bite do you take first?

The end

Actually, that’s not the end. Because after I wrote about these three problems, I had an…

…epiphany

I have been saying to myself (for a very long time): “Go go go! You’ll be on sabbatical soon and then you’ll be HOME so you can cook and eat properly and get up in the morning and exercise and take time out to be creative and pull your weight around the house and…”

Who the hell was I kidding? The start of a (slightly less than) six month thesis sprint is not the time to try to transform my life. Yes, I’ll be working at home all the time, and yes, I won’t be teaching at night, and yes, in theory, I should be able to cook dinner every night. But transforming my life is not something I could I am trying to undo four years worth of bad habits and I’m trying to do it all at once, at possibly one of the most stressful times of my life. *RE-OW-RE-OW-RE-OW* (In case you didn’t hear it, those are the alarm bells.)

When I took this job, I thought being an academic would mean I would have time to read and think. Haha. I haven’t been more wrong about anything since then. Until I decided that sabbatical was my chance to transform my life, as well as right my thesis.

I have just packed that idea up into a little box and thrown it in the bin.

Let’s just get the thesis done and come out the other side alive and well(ish).

Ready or not, here I go.

01 Jun

k-k-k-katie blogs june (under a shining moon)

Cover of sheet music for the World War One song K-k-k-Katy

Courtesy National Library of Australia. Digitised score available at http://nla.gov.au/nla.mus-an6090122

K-K-K-Katy, beautiful Katy,
You’re the only g-g-g-girl that I adore;
When the m-m-m-moon shines,
Over the c-c-c-cowshed,
I’ll be waiting at the k-k-k-kitchen door.

My grandmother used to sing this World War One era song to me when I was a kid. More recently, my niece and nephew have learned the song and they like to sing it to me too. You might like to listen to this recording from 1918, although personally I prefer this rendition sung by my nephew, who was two at the time I recorded this.

For some time now, I’ve been debating what to do with my professional blog. I’m still debating whether to take it down, or close it off and leave it there. I’m leaning towards the latter, but either way, aside from a wrap up post, I won’t be blogging there anymore. I’ve only blogged sporadically for the last few years and while sometimes I’d love to jump up on my soapbox and write about professional issues, the reality is I don’t have the time to craft posts the way I’d like to craft them, so nothing ever makes it out of draft. I have a professional portfolio site where I post presentation materials, information about my research, and my publications list, and that site acts as the online hub for professional-Kate, so I no longer need the blog to be my professional online home.

But non-work Kate is scattered far and wide and so I’ve also been thinking about how I might bring together all of these other parts of my life in one online space. I decided several months ago that I’d set up a new blog where I can do this. I bought the domain name for this new non-library, non-lecturer, non-researcher, Kate-at-large space several months ago. And when I did, the first thing that sprang to mind was this song. I think when the moon shines is an apt name for this site for many reasons. It’s whimsical and pretty and reminds me of being a kid. There’s something poetic and idealistic about a shining moon, even if the moon is shining down on a less-than-poetic cowshed and a clandestine rendezvous at a kitchen door. And let’s face it, life is all about cowsheds and kitchen doors and we could all use a bit of glamorous moonlight to make them a little bit more fancy.

So, it’s June. Which means two things, and both of these things have given me a reason to kick off this blog now.

Firstly, a bunch of library and information types are going to be blogging every day in June, as they have done each June for the past three years. There is a whole bunch of people playing along.

Secondly, on 1 July, I go on sabbatical. Dissertation writing sabbatical. The thought gives me heart palpitations. And I’m only half joking. Why is going on sabbatical a reason to start a blog? Surely it’s a reason not to start a blog, since I’ll be spending the next eight months pumping out my dissertation? Surely I would want to save all my words for the thesis? It would be reasonable to assume these things. But I am an odd creature and the story about why dissertation writing sabbaticals and non-work blogs go together is a pretty lengthy one, and one I’ll save it for tomorrow’s post.

I’d end this post by asking you to take a look around this site. Except there’s nothing to look at. So… ummm… Maybe come back tomorrow.

30 posts in June: 1/30