I have nothing to declare except my genius…

…for completely and utterly cocking things up!

The thesis deadline is looming. No, it’s not the recently declared 13 December 2013. Really! Did you think I would stick to that?

Turns out I couldn’t stick to it even if I wanted to.

Yesterday, not having a proper space to sit and make sense of Chapter Eight (see the ‘plan’ below), I decided to not waste time and take a look over and edit Chapter One.

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What a mistake that was, morale-wise.

What a complete and utter lot of bottom-refuse that was! After a few hours of trying to figure out what the dickens it was all about, I moved on with slightly higher hopes to Chapter Two only to discover that was an even bigger pile of b.r.!

And now I have only one month or so to go until I have to submit this and it is in a complete shambles!

There is no one to blame for this except myself. The past [almost] eight years has been spent allowing everyone and everything apart from my Magnificent Octopus or, as it shall be known during days when I’m feeling like this, my Turd-Pile, to have priority. I have put casual jobs before my Turd-Pile. I have put other people’s needs and lives before my Turd-Pile. I have let The Melancholy take me away from the Turd-Pile too often. I have done everything except direct my undivided attention to my MO/TP!

I have said it before, I shall say it again — One cannot undertake a thesis part time. Well, you can, but it is not likely to be the brilliant opus it could be if you cloistered yourself away for three to four years and devoted your time entirely to its creation.

If you are in the fortunate position, as I was, to be awarded a scholarship, hunker down in your writing hole, wish your friends and family a temporary goodbye, and get on with it. There is nothing more destructive to the thought process than interruptions, and in my case, Me. Every time I listen to a particular episode of ‘Just A Minute’, there is a moment when the brilliant Kenneth Williams has a little hissy fit and laments, “I’ve got no flow!” Mr Williams, I know exactly what you mean. All these self-allowed interruptions to my thesis development have interrupted my flow and now in these final weeks, I am in too panicked and unprepared a state to find my flow. (And my sense of equilibrium, if this bloggy post is anything to go by.)

And it does not help in the slightest when I rediscover a draft and it reveals itself to be a hot, steamy pile of doggy-do-do!

I really despair of myself. If I was tweeting my despair, I would end on a #FacePalm.

The other crucial failing of my candidature is that I have procrastinated over and avoided the commencement of each chapter for so long and so completely that I had no time to prepare a ‘Shirley Plan’ for each. The wonderful thing about the ‘Shirley Plan’, devised for me back in 1998 by m’colleague and friend, Shirley, now Ariel, is that it helped me with my flow! I insert it here for you so you can utilise it yourself in prepping for your own writing spurts.

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Doing the creation of my dissertation, I spent 6 weeks producing a Shirley Plan for the complete thing, a document I still have bound and displayed on my Shelf of Achievements. (Although, I should say that it is currently in box #23 in preparation for my relocation to the Mother Country in February.) The beauty of the Shirley Plan, for me, is it gives me flow! The creation of this thesis has been all about writing myself quite violently into brick walls. I lose my flow. A concept of the chapter is floating about amongst my little grey cells, which are hardly reliable after four decades of use and five years afflicted by The Melancholy, but with the overwhelming amount of primary source evidence and no clear, documented Shirley Plan for where I am heading, BANG!, brick wall.

So now I’m in the unhappy position of knowing that I have, largely, eight turds (aka chapters) that no matter how much I polish, will still be turds.

(Okay, maybe they are not complete turds. I’m sure I’m being overly harsh. Not surprising as this is one of my other fatal flaws, along side self-destruction. #FacePalm.)

There is nothing to be done now except polish my TP as best I can. The thesis has to be submitted in January, come what may. If it is a complete and utter disaster, I have no one to blame, except Me. I shall run away to the Mother Country, retreat from social media and sink into the comfortable, non-demanding obscurity of a dull nine-to-five secretarial role and pretend the last eight years haven’t happened. Well, except for the good bits that involved my fabulous niece and nephews. My goodness, I haven’t set such a great example to them for the whole PhD thing. What a terrible situation I’m now in. After years of frustration suffering the ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ line from my parentals, I’m going to have to pull the same on my niece and nephews. #FacePalm Although, maybe I won’t have to. They are old enough, clever enough and have known me long and too well, so I’m sure they have figured out that when it comes to practical life and work matters, Auntie Lisa’s example is not the one to follow.

Well, for now, in my Negative Nelly state, I retreat to the Special Collections room at the Scholars Centre to do my 3.5 hours of paid employment for the day. Maybe sorting through the papers of Professor Leslie R. Marchant might inspire me to come back to the desk I have claimed for the day and begin to make some sense of the gold-ribbon-wrapped bundle of notes meant to form some sort of Shirley Plan for Chapter Eight. I’m certainly not going to improve my mood by returning to chapters One and Two today! I shall deny their existence for a little longer and concentrate on making a complete mess/triumph of Chapter Eight and my Introduction.

On that positive note, I leave you. I hope you have much more productive Thesis Writing Days/Week than I have had over the past week. It’s December. It’s a positive month. My Mum will be making chocolate coconut balls for Christmas, hopefully factoring in enough for me to be sampling them daily up to the Big Event. It’s also the month my nephew arrives from the UK for a Christmas holiday with us.

Yes, let’s sprinkle some fairy dust, think happy thoughts and write some brilliant stuff!

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Friday 13 December 2013

I know I posted that Thesis Submission Day (TSD) would be Monday 2 December 2013. But one thing my tenure as Doctoral Candidate has demonstrated is that I am very flexible with deadlines.

As I remained in an incapacitating state of procrastination following my previous TSD declaration, I had to expand the deadline a little and I figured Friday 13 December 2013 was the furtherest I could stretch things. The Magnificent Octopus has to be in before Christmas and if I submit the following week, being the last week of the university year, the Graduate Research School peops would very much want to kill me. (Fair enough.)

I have also been inviting people to a Pink Drink Celebration on Friday 13 December 2013 to toast my TSD. I have asked people to pop it in their diaries, thereby securing it as an actual event, which means I have to do something about deserving celebratory drinks. And there are kiddies invited, so I can’t upset the kiddies. If you are near UWA on Friday 13 December 2013 around High Noon, do look for a little group of people huddled around an esky full of Arrogant Frog Sparkling Rose, Dirty Girls Pink Champagne, (aka Kirks Red Creaming Soda) and Masters Strawberry Milk (for the kids). One member of the party will be lying on a pink picnic blanket, purchased especially for the day, with a bucket full of Arrogant Frog Sparkling Rose on her chest and a long straw going from said bucket to her mouth. That will be one mentally and physically exhausted me.

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As it is, my hand has been forced by the fact my Long-Suffering Supervisor (LSS) has been in contact with the four academics we hope would assess my Magnificent Octopus, aka Blasted Thesis, indicating that it will be submitted before Christmas. Sigh. Looking at the positive side of all this, they all responded most warmly, encouragingly and enthusiastically apparently. I say apparently because I suspect my poor LSS is in Kid-Glove mode with me. All ‘positive positive’ for Lisa so she doesn’t implode again and retreat to the Bed of Avoidance. She may have been in communication with lovely Dr Ali who offered to proof read my chapters for me and, despite having two gorgeous kiddies, parents-in-law visiting and her own book in the process of being published, managed to get them back in good time with most encouraging comments. No, I must think positively and they are being encouraging not because of the threat of me retreating to my Bed of Avoidance, but because my Magnificent Octopus is truly magnifique!

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You can see why the Bed of Avoidance is so hard to resist though, can’t you?

Anyway…

So Friday 13 December 2013 is the date I have to work toward. It is not that long away. [Deep breaths into brown paper bag of calm] I have decided, after the frantic, nervous state I was in at our last meeting a few days ago during which she put me on the relaxation machine, that fortnightly visits with my lovely counsellor are definitely necessary. If you are undertaking a PhD and, like me, have a big problem with the procrastination and avoidance, then get yourself to a counsellor. Most universities will have a counselling service available so you don’t have to expend your precious monies on ‘Keeping Sane During Thesis Creation’ sessions. Although UWA has an excellent counselling service, which I have made use of in the past, I signed up with a lady near home and she has been brilliant and worth the $… each session. I might not be too good at implementing all the helpful advice she has shared over the past year, however, when I hit that Procrastination Wall, it is her voice I can hear in my head telling me what I should do. Yes, I do manage to ignore it for a couple of days, but this really is an improvement because I used to ignore good advice for a lot longer than that before I started seeing her. A lot longer.

Between Counsellor and Kid-Glove LSS, I am hoping I can keep it together until Friday 13 December 2013 so I can finally, nearly eight years since I commenced, get this MASSIVE albatross soaring out of my life.

Well, at least until my examiners come back with rewrite suggestions.

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Violence and Emotions in Europe, 1400-1800

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Gulp. I just realised I know have less than 3 weeks to actually write my paper for this symposium! It’s been brewing in my head since I came up with the abstract, but… Yes, it’s all about avoidance with me. Other academics I know are able to write something really good in that time, but my brain just takes longer to get this sort of thing sounding good. Oh well. I am sure it will be okay. It usually is, which is probably why I allow myself to procrastinate for so long. “I do without doing and yet everything seems to get done.” This is a quote I retrieved from a bowl inside a fairy’s cave a few years ago and I had to laugh because, freakily, that is most apt.

I am really happy with my title. As Joseph Fiennes was known to say in Shakespeare in Love quite often, “Good title”. Although, it is an amusing title for what will sometimes be a rather disturbing look inside Paris’ Hôtel-Dieu.

I leave you with my abstract to fuel your interest. If you want to torment yourself, download the programme and read the other participants’ abstracts! So many interesting papers and such a time to wait until we can delve into them all! (They shall form the basis of a dashed good edited collection.) I will come back to you all after October 2nd and torment you some more with tales from the symposium.

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Violence and the Emotions in Europe, 1400-1800

Symposium – Wednesday 2 October 2013

Paper by Lisa Keane Elliott, The University of Western Australia

‘“Big belly, big mouth, fat pig!”: Tantrums and tumults in the sixteenth-century Paris Hôtel-Dieu’.

On 2 May 1505 the traditional governors of the Paris Hôtel-Dieu, the Chapter of Paris, relinquished their temporal governance of the hospital to the Parlement of Paris after two decades of confrontation between themselves and the hospital’s religious staff, particularly the nuns. Attempts to reform the hospital had resulted in one lay governor being hounded to his death by the verbal abuse hurled at him by the religious staff and another finding his position untenable as the religious staff refused to acknowledge his authority over them. These confrontations, which could sometimes turn violent, did not end with the installation of eight secular governing men, but marked the beginning of fresh outbreaks of verbal and physical violence in the hospital as the new governors sought to reform the Hôtel-Dieu from a refuge for all to a hospital focussed on the spiritual and physical care of the sick poor (pauvres malades). Extant documentation on the tumults within the hospital following 1505 demonstrates the emotional connection the nuns in particular had with the hospital, which was their home as well as their work place. When the governors bought in Flemish nuns to assist them in implementing reforms, they suffered verbal and physical abuse from their Parisian counterparts resulting in one nun being returned to her parents having been driven mad by the tumults and others fleeing back to their convents. The documented verbal abuse of each other, the governors and the male religious staff creates an impression of a hospital in which emotions ran high as their traditional relationship with the hospital was altered around them. The verbal abuse would, on occasion, evolve into physical violence. One nun, in a fit of madness, murdered her cell mate, attempted to kill another before flinging herself from a window into the Seine. This paper will examine the reported instances of verbal and physical violence within the sixteenth-century Paris Hôtel-Dieu, analysing the motivations behind the frequent tumults and tantrums within the hospital and how the violence manifested itself.

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Thesis Avoidance: No More!

Well, not only have I been avoiding the thesis, I have been avoiding my blogs. It’s all writing and if I can demonstrate capability for mindless blogging, then thesising should not be so difficult. The only reason my laptop has made it out of its protective sleeve in recent months has been so I can enjoy the numerous televisual joys I’ve purchased from iTunes or do work on the Finding Aid for the Access Press archive that I had been entrusted with doing for the library. Oh, and emailing my niece and nephews, not that they ever respond! Just because, for example, my nephews have been busy doing a soccer tour of South Korea with their club, Monaro Panthers, they think that’s an adequate excuse for not responding to their favourite aunt. [Upturned nose and huffy flicking of hair]

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Anyway…

So. My Magnificent Octopus, you might be wondering. How is it going? Well… I did get chapter 4 re-drafted. It was massive and apparently I got rather lost in all the great information that I wanted to share, so it need not have been so massive and traumatising. My brilliant supervisor, my brilliant and ever-patient supervisor, has done her editing magic and given me ideas on what to cut. I will do this once I have stopped procrastinating over chapter 5. Yes, chapter 5 has been getting the procrastination and avoidance treatment I gave to chapter 4, so two months on, possibly longer, I can’t bear to find out the truth on that, it’s still not finished, but it will be tomorrow! Yes, I know I say that a lot, but… Oh, and it is not as if the extraneous stuff from chapter 4 will go to waste because I have a paper on violence and emotions to write for a symposium in three weeks time, so I shall pop some of the good stuff into that. (Bloody hell! When did September decide to show up?!)

Anyways… The reason I decided to bloggy post tonight is that, THE END IS NIGH!!

No, I have not decided to stand upon a cliff top and throw myself to the mercy of the Poseidon and his human-loving shark friends. Nothing that drastic. No, I have just made the decision that I have to finish this thesis!

No, why I am here is that I am publishing my intention to FINISH the blasted thesis for a NON-NEGOTIABLE Submission Day of 2 December 2013.

There are several reasons for this, not least of which is the fact my brother is heading to England in December to collect his son, my nephew, to join us in Perth for Christmas! Apparently he has purchased a ticket for me to escort Jackson back home in January 2014. And, I’m feeling the love, my ticket is one-way! I like to look on his gesture as motivation from a loving sibling to get his procrastinating sister to finish her thesis and forget his comment about it being his way of getting me out of the country. (Charming!) So, I wouldn’t want to waste a free ticket to the UK seeing as I want to relocate there anyway.

Secondly, my supervisor has told me that she can’t be doing with me in Doctoral Candidate mode any longer and I need to get it finished before Christmas so she can get on with her life. Yes, completely justifiable after 7 years! Besides, she has threatened to take away my iPad until it’s done, so I have to show some Grown-Upedness or I’ll lose my life line to the world and my sanity. (Over dramatic much!)

Thirdly, I have a ticket to see Miranda Hart on 13 March 2014 and I can’t miss that!

Fourthly, several of my fellow Australians have just elected a sexist, racist, hypocritical moron to run the country and I can’t bear to stick around and see them all regret it. I am going to head to England where they have a Slimy Lizard slithering all over them. Oh yes. Much better!

And finally, I’m 40 years old! I’ve been procrastinating over this for 7 years! My thirties have been taken over by poor people, hospital reforms and sixteenth-century Paris! (Well, avoiding them.) Not to mention sixteenth-century French accountants with appalling handwriting and minute takers with even worse handwriting!

In addition, and not that this is a huge consideration because, quite frankly, I’m their child and they are obligated to me until death do us part, but I think Mum and Dad are ready for me to leave the spare room and, given that they are about to move into a retirement home, well, I think that might be a hint. (You can see where my brother gets his charm from!)

So, it’s happening. No more avoidance and procrastination. I’m in completion mode. Well, actually, I think Calvin of ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ has put it quite well. The faucet of creativity is at last flowing and my Magnificent Octopus will finally be completed. My mental state come 2 December 2013? We shall just have to see.

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If you can be bothered responding to my bloggy post with some positive, “YOU GO GIRL!!” comments, that would be so lovely of you.

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Chapter 4?

Yes.

Well.

Next question!

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Smithfield Markets and Prince Henry’s Room under threat

I have just received the latest e-newsletter from the Society of Antiquaries of London and am dismayed to read of the losses to our cultural heritage that are being threatened by so-called progress. I am doing a cut and paste job directly from the e-newsletter here and I do hope those of you in the UK can spread the word and get active in your defence of the Smithfield Markets and Prince Henry’s Room.

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Smithfield Markets under threat

“As many Salon readers are surely aware, SAVE Britain’s Heritage thought it had achieved an important victory when consent to demolish the General Market, Fish Market and Red House at London’s Smithfield Market was turned down after a planning inquiry in 2008. Communities Secretary Hazel Blears stated at the time that these buildings made a significant contribution to the character and appearance of Farringdon and the surrounding area. Our Fellow Adam Wilkinson, who led the four-year ‘don’t butcher Smithfield’ campaign for SAVE, looked forward to these characterful buildings playing a central role in a Covent Garden-style revival of Smithfield. Imagine SAVE’s distress then when the new plans that emerged for the site in October 2012 proved to be just as potentially destructive of the existing structures as the rejected plans.

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The new plans involve what Clem Cecil of SAVE calls a ‘scoop-out job’; that is to say, retaining the three facades that line the edges of the site, but demolishing all the buildings behind (shown in red above) to create what the architects describe as ‘low-rise pavilions’ to accommodate new office space.

Architecture critic Oliver Wainwright says the new scheme (see above) ‘will leave only a flimsy skin of heritage, a picturesque skirt of Victoriana around the base of yet another slab of generic commercial development’.

SAVE has put out an appeal to everyone who cares about these buildings and wants to see them preserved to write ‘a strong note of objection to the Corporation of London, addressed to planning officer Gemma Delves, quoting planning application numbers 13/00150/FULEIA, 13/00155/LBC and 13/00156/CAC’.

The main grounds for objection are that the proposal entails the loss of a major landmark building, including its splendid market halls and roofs; will cause substantial harm to the Smithfield conservation area and surrounding conservation areas, as well as to the adjacent Grade II* listed Meat Market and Grade II listed Poultry Market; that important views will be lost, including those from the Holborn Viaduct; that the buildings have never been market tested (as recommended by the Planning Inspector’s Report following the Public Inquiry in 2008) to estbalish that they are needed; that there is an alternative conservation-led scheme for the site backed up by a viable business plan; that there is no convincing justification for demolition (the National Planning Framework paragraph 132 says that ‘Heritage assets are irreplaceable, any harm or loss should require convincing justification); and that the condition of the buildings, which have been deliberately neglected, is not a justification for demolition (‘Where there is evidence of deliberate neglect of or damage to a heritage asset the deteriorated state of the heritage asset should not be taken into account in any decision’: National Planning Framework paragraph 132).

Our Fellow Marcus Binney, President of SAVE, says that in his view ‘this will be the worst mutilation of Victorian buildings in thirty years’. For further information and images, see SAVE’s website and its Facebook page.

Prince Henry’s Room

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Our Fellows Paula Henderson and Claire Gapper write to say that: ‘The small half-timber gateway to Inner Temple at 17 Fleet Street is a remarkable survival of the Great Fire of 1666. The room on the first floor is known as Prince Henry’s Room because of the Prince of Wales feathers and the initials “P H” featured in its exceptionally fine plasterwork ceiling. The building certainly dates to the early years of the seventeenth century. In 1969 the care of Prince Henry’s Room was transferred from the Greater London Council to the Corporation of London, which opened it to the public. An exhibition on Samuel Pepys was installed; Pepys was born not far away and spent many happy hours “drinking and singing” in the room, when it was known as the Fountain Tavern.

‘In December 2012, the Corporation’s Culture Heritage and Libraries Committee declared the room “surplus” and transferred its care to its Property Investment Group, which is actively seeking a tenant. In recent correspondence to us they wrote that the room is no longer available for cultural purposes and that they do not have the financial resources to facilitate visits. Surely whatever rent they could get for this small room could not possibly be as important as the good will that is engendered by making it accessible to those who wish to see an all-too-rare relic of early Stuart life amidst a sea of commercial development.

‘Along with other interested parties (including the Samuel Pepys Club, who paid for the restoration of the room and who have used it for recitals, readings and other events related to seventeenth-century London), we are hoping to convince the Corporation that this room should be made available to interested, scholarly groups at least on an occasional basis. If any Fellows have suggestions or would like to join our campaign, please let us know.’”

The copy in this post is taken directly from the e-newsletter of the Society of Antiquaries of London, Salon (issue 298, 13 May 2013) and has been shared by the author of this blog in the interest of saving the cultural heritage of the UK for the enjoyment and pleasure of future generations of Anglophiles like herself.

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You had better sit down for this

Greetings Fellow Academicians, Web-Wanderers who have stumbled across my blog and Friends who I have forced into following my ramblings. I hope you are all well.

I have asked if you are sitting down as I wouldn’t want what I am about to share cause you injury as you possibly faint with shock.

Are you ready?

I am actually WRITING for my thesis!!

Told you to sit down!

I have been giving myself an unnecessarily stressful time over chapter 4. Those of you who follow my other blog in which I am allowed to be a silly billy, I have been fart-arsing about with chapter 4 for some time. I blogged about it on March 28, but that was certainly by no means the beginning of the insanity. As a second bloggy post on March 28 revealed, I have been undertaking everything but chapter 4.

However, a little helpful butt-kicking from my fabulous counsellor a few days ago, helped me get my A into G (that is Elliott-speak for ‘arse into gear’) and I’ve put my head down and bottom up to try getting this chapter under control and fully drafted. (This is my second crack at chapter 4. I abandoned it, according to the title of the last draft, in November 2010. Oh that is shameful.)

As I have been actually working on this chapter, I realised that part of my unnecessary stressing has been because, deep down, I knew what a mammoth and monumental chapter number 4 has to be. The time span for the chapter may only be 39 years, but they were pretty action-packed years. Firstly, we have the 1505 administrative reform of the Paris Hôtel-Dieu where the traditional governors, the Chapter of Paris, happily hand over the temporal management of the hospital to a new board of secular governors. Then we have the nuns being very unhappy about some of the changes the governors try to make. The governors coming to understand why the Chapter of Paris was quite happy for them to take over the running of the largest charity hospital in Europe. And lots of other stuff outside of the hospital to do with the crown, Parlement of Paris and Paris’ town council trying to contain the perceived problem of the poor and all the chaos they create. Not forgetting, of course, that there were frequent outbreaks of plague, including a rather devastating outbreak that lasted for a good four years in the early 1530s.

So, I have been sitting there over the past couple of months staring at this mountain of notes within which are thousands of fascinating, important and revealing snippets from the primary sources and feeling completely overwhelmed about what the blazes to do with it all!

With me, there is nothing more motivating and clarifying than a looming deadline, real or self-imposed. I suddenly realised that if I want to get this thesis finished in time for me to return to London in time to enjoy Miranda Hart‘s comedy show on 12 March 2014, I had better put a bomb amongst the little grey cells, force the motivation to come out of hibernation and get the physical self out of Avoidance mode.

As I started working and concentrating on chapter 4, I could feel myself coming to grips with it. I think it’s making sense. I may not be writing sensibly at all. I might be writing complete and utter bollocks. However, I’m not thinking about that. I’m just getting everything from my head into the Word doc and when it’s finally completed, (this draft at least), I can email it through to my Supervisor Extraordinaire who will read, edit, tweak and comment in her usual brilliant manner, helping to sort the wheat from the chaff of my little grey cells outpourings.

In case my Supervisor Extraordinaire follows this blog, please note that I am, although not at this precise moment, still madly trying to get everything down into this mammoth chapter. She will have it by our meeting on Monday, just not in time for her to read, edit, tweak and comment.  But it will be done, for now.

So the lesson in this for any Fellow-PhDians out there? I’ve said it before and I will say it again – Don’t listen to that Negative Nelly inside you. Just write, write, write every day. Even if you just get some stream of consciousness drivel onto the page/into the Word doc. I haven’t been following my own advice. I am continually letting my Melancholia and Avoidance behaviours get in the way of ‘just getting on with it’ and suddenly a manageable, doable task becomes some kind of ‘Night on Bald Mountain‘-type nightmare.

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Well, my shift at the library is nearly over and I have a long drive home. Tomorrow is another day of writing, of getting all the chapter 4-related chaos from my head into my Word doc. I’m nearly there. 12,046 words and counting. (Told you it was a big one!) I hope you ‘just keep writing’. I hope I ‘just keep writing’. Let’s get our Magnificent Octopuses finished so we can get on with the rest of our lives as Doctors of the Thinking Cleverly, as my nephews refer to it.

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Filed under The Art of Procrastination, Thesis Trials & Tribulations