Dr Alice Violett
Book witterings and PhD archive

'So close to giving up, so close to going all the way'

There has basically been no progress since my last post. I started restructuring my thesis two months ago and promptly stopped for four reasons.

1) The new structure, as I interpreted it from the viva and report (thematic, as opposed to case studies) didn’t work. I ended up writing a hell of a lot about three interesting people who said a lot and was facing writing several, much shorter, sections about groups of two or three who didn’t give me so much information.

2) I felt utterly miserable contemplating and while writing. How could this possibly be as good as, or better than, my original submission when I was dispassionately writing stuff in a few hours on a Saturday and Sunday night (I did some writing one Monday night and ended up feeling hungover the rest of the week, culminating in a headache so bad I had to leave work early on the Thursday) rather than full-time and with heart like before? When I thought the new structure took away the humanity of the original? When I no longer had the devotion to pay attention to my formatting and make sure I was putting ibids and short titles in the right places?

3) It occurred to me that I was mechanically changing my thesis in a way I don’t like for the approval of one person, my external examiner, and it seemed as though I wouldn’t feel any pride if I did get a doctorate because it wasn’t my best, or even ‘my’ work.

4) Kind of related to #2 - why was I doing this to myself? Spending hours being unhappy just to go through however many months of viva anxiety, and potentially another traumatic viva, and then either failing or having to do yet more corrections, for a qualification I don’t think I care about and certainly don’t need?

I had a meeting with a colleague today, who suggested that I try to get my motivation back by leaving the structure thing for now (and not worry too much about following what I think the external wants to the letter) and focussing on what’s important and significant about my thesis. It might rekindle my interest in completing my PhD, or the pull of negativity might prove too strong - what if the arguments for importance and significance I come up with still aren’t enough? What if I get failed for not fitting the external’s vision of the ‘right’ structure? Am I mentally ‘tough’ enough for another viva?

It still seems like so much work just to fit into a few hours here and there and I’m so tired and down on the whole thing and like my new non-PhD life. I’ve got people telling me to just power through, but I can’t when I dread doing the work, spend the whole time I’m doing it feeling distressed and wishing I was doing literally anything else, and it matters to me that I’m proud of the thesis that gets me my doctorate. Can I nurture this remaining small spark of meaning so it’s strong enough to pull me through?

I’d like this to be a ‘triumph over adversity’ story, but I also wouldn’t object to a ‘sod this, I’m walking away as an act of self-care and re-evaluating my priorities’ narrative. Over the next couple of weeks or so, I’m going to see if I can remember/grow the meaning and significance or my thesis and change to a positive perspective - I’m trying to be open to it despite having been mired in the mindset of ‘making myself miserable for the approval of one person and a qualification that means nothing to me’ for two months - and decide whether I can continue.