The Post-PhD Life

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It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I was trawling through all my old accounts and noticed the footfall for the Pimpernel had been quite heavy of late, so I thought I would pop in and say, HI! Nice to see you and thanks for dropping by.

Life has changed now I am now Dr. Pimpernel and I have the elusive Ph.D. in the bag … official and everything and OH! my word, life is somewhat exceeding expectations and undermining them, simultaneously!

Graduation was a wonderful day full of love and laughter and celebration and almost made the hard work and anxiety worth it … almost. In the intervening two years … TWO YEARS!  tempus fugit indeed! … I have once more been hospitalised for major surgery, with another surgery imminent … gynaecologically speaking, if I was a horse they would have shot me! But here I am, still ploughing on, still buying my body weight in books, half of which I will never get a chance to read!

And, in other news: I am a lecturer. Albeit at a small local FE/HE college, but never the less I am doing it! Sharing my love of the written word!

All in all the Ph.D. journey began by accident. My intention on embarking upon an undergraduate degree was to enable a career in teaching. Fortunate enough to secure funding and foolish enough to think that a Ph.D. meant something, I followed the dream and created a monster. I fell hook, line and sinker into the academic bubble and nurtured dreams of a promising future, researching long forgotten women writers, publishing fascinating books and being hailed as the next F.R. Leavis.

Alas, a need to work and earn money has overridden my desire for academic acclaim, hence the  lecturing post at a local FE/HE college. Mainly my job entails teaching communication (that’s English grammar to those of us old enough to remember o’levels) but I do get to teach literature as well, and this is the part that sustains me. The job is rewarding in so any ways, but it is equally as time-consuming and finding the right balance between my economic and creative selves is proving a challenge!

IN the two years since I graduate, I’ve written very little, fallen into slovenly academic habits and allowed myself to drift into the day-to-day humdrum of earning a crust …

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I am hopeful that a re-awakening of my academic vigour is imminent and with the reviatlisation of this blog – or possiby a reincarnation of the Pimpernel into something more ‘grown-up’ ( or groan-up, which seems more apt! Though it looks like that domain name is already spoken for!) – I can hopefully overcome the debilitating ‘writer’s block’.

There’s a book proposal on my desk that is waiting to be put together, there’s peer-reviewing in my inbox, waiting to be read and there’s two weeks without students to reinvent my blogging self. The marking, can wait!

I invite you to submit suggestions for my new blogging personna … literary allusions wanted: apply within.

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An Update

I started this blog back in the distant days of my early career as a Ph.D student.

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I say “career” because for me it was the equivalent of a full time job with the added disadvantage of being able to organise my working hours around a growing family. As a single parent I remember thinking how ‘ideal’ this arrangement was, and to a certain extent it was. However it also meant for some very stressful times, when work life and home life seemed destined to collide and the debris was not pretty!

I started out on blogger and moved to WordPress roughly around the time I was planning my nervous break-down. I think most doctoral candidates suffer at least one of these at one point or another , some endure several ( I think I may have had more than my fair share, what with me being so damned wound up most of the time so laid back and all … )

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It has been a test of endurance, physically and mentally. I have gained more weight than I care to admit through excessive sitting … I laugh in the face of the physiotherapist who “advised” me to read whilst on a treadmill … oh yes that way accidents lie, I can tell you from experience!

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In the course of the years I have been studying I have been hospitalised for major surgery twice, once for a broken limb and several times for Biliary colic, caused by gallstones, resulting in one of the surgeries!

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I started this whole journey whilst going through a painful divorce, I think it was my way of rediscovering who I was and where I wanted to go with my life … back in 2002.

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What started as a one-day-a-week access course led to 1o years of full-time study.

And finally on September the 25th 2013, I submitted my doctoral thesis.

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On November 15th 2013, I passed my viva with minor corrections … to become the first Doctor in our family history.

I PASSED – YOU MAY BOW DOWN TO ME CALL ME, (FANFARE PLEASE)

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DR PIMPERNEL ….

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I am Ph.D Pimpernel, MA(hons), M.Litt, Ph.D … there are more letters after my name than there are actually in my (real) name!

Has it been worth it?  I am not entirely sure yet. On a personal level I am a different person to the one that started out. I am more confident and assured in my own abilities, but very aware that the more I learn the less I seem to know. I sometimes wake in the night sweating with panic at the thought of all the books I haven’t read … I think this is what’s commonly known as an occupational hazard of long-term study!

By necessity this blog must evolve – like myself – from the caterpillar into the butterfly … or in my case maybe more of a moth …

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The search has begun in earnest for an academic posting and the reality that all this entails is hitting me quite hard. The Ph.D has been like a huge, iridescent bubble, shielding me from the harsh realities of the real world … and now that bubble has been popped, in a spectacular way and I am left, once more, exposed ….

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I am not sure whether I shall continue blogging. I can’t say I am a natural at it and it has been sporadic at best, usually whole months between posts and then a clumpy flurry of not a lot, so maybe as a form it isn’t my bag?

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But who knows what 2014 may bring. Thank you for following my  erratic progress. I raise a glass to all of you who are still treading the minefield that is postgraduate research and wish you every success in 2014 and for years to come.

So,  it’s a fond farewell from me … for now at least!

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Feeling Furious

Reading Kate Zambreno‘s latest brilliant book ( and I don’t use the word brilliant very often) HEROINES I am incensed, furious, livid, at what was (and maybe still is) considered an acceptable attitude towards women’s writing of the modernist era.
I can’t put the damn book down – my PhD – the submission of which is fast approaching, imminent in fact! – sits neglected as I devour Zambreno’s deliciously constructed text.

“He writes I imagine, in the tradition of neurotic men who treat women as objects but are forgiven for their insight and sensitivity, in the tradition of falling in love and into beautiful girls. The entire history of Western literature is dominated by absolute pricks, I realize, pricks that can’t get hard but yet ejaculate with such eloquent language, Beckett was a prick with Lucia Joyce (poor Lucia), Scott Fitzgerald was a prick and how does she get revenge? She is always the minor writer.”

Kate Zambreno, Heroines (2013) p. 228.

The only problem being? Now I want to read EVERYTHING she mentions – all of it – the novels, the biographies, the letters, the diaries, the scraps – THE EVIDENCE of the silenced/othered.

I like to think my own heroine, Rebecca West, survived and was artistically successful because she dumped that pompous narcissist H. G. Wells , who tried his damnedest to control her, squirrelling her and their son off to the wilds of Wales and Norfolk to keep her out of sight and away from her career … just in time!

It’s made me more aware of myself as a female, as a writer, as a fractured identity than anything else I have ever read – it speaks to women in the here and now. Claim yourselves! She seems to be saying. Don’t be negated – don’t be sanitised by male expectations!

This author is inspirational.

In other news – 

Meet Hilda!

We don't all need to be size 0 to look HOT!
We don’t all need to be size 0 to look HOT!

On a more frivolous note – a friend sent me a link to this cheeky little bit of lighthearted fluff … leaving the whole hyper sexualised/objectifications of the female body thing aside for now it’s good to know a fat girl can rock the Pin-up world!

After all I keep saying it so it must be true  FAT is a feminist issue!

Zaftig /zäftig/ adjective: (of a woman) Having a full, rounded figure; plump. Yep – and baby I am not giving up cake for no man!

Absentminded Blogger

Is it just me or am I the only blogger who keeps forgetting they have a blog?

I start with such good intentions then real life gets in the way and it all goes to pot!

I am clearly the most inattentive and absentminded blogger on WordPress! But I do have an excuse – I have a huge 25k word chapter due – NEXT FRIDAY!!! And I am just scraping past the 16k mark … sloooooooooow progress! So this is an appeal for anyone out there with a spare 9000 words or so – please throw them my way. If they are somehow connected to inimitable Rebecca West or to modernist periodicals so much the better but at this point I am just not fussy!

 

In other news i really should not be sharing this or even playing with it myself – great procrastination can be found playing with Pinterest! Can I tempt you?

Just call me – your bad influence – I have broad shoulders I can take it!!!

I am going back into the word wilderness – I may be sometime … blogging will resume at some point after I have recovered from the imminent collapse of handing in a huge chunk of work! Arriverdecinever goodbye!

New Title – Same Problem!

Ok so yesterday I was having a wee browse on the internet (as you do) in the interests of my research (why else would I surf the net?) when I came across a blipper who claims to have spent the day in ‘active procrastination’.

That’s a new one on me, I thought! So I enquired – how is that different to normal procrastination then? Her reply was that active procrastination is the art of avoiding one job by doing another. The example she gave was that she wrote her first book when she should have been writing her PhD … Little did I know it but I have been actively procrastinating for YEARS! And somehow now I don’t feel so bad about it!

However there is no getting away from the fact it is all a beautifully repackaged version of displacement activity!

So setting manageable goals is the key –  so I am following the 3 in 30 challenge of setting 3 things I want to do each day for 30 days. As a twist to this I will make it a bit of a challenge. The first one will be the thing I like doing least and need to do most. The second will be the thing I don’t mind doing but find it easy to put off and the third one will be a pleasant thing I enjoy doing and would like to do first.

So: Today I want to:

1) read at least one section on the thesis on my desk

2) have at least passed the 13,000 mark on my writing … I have 12,321 so doable!

3) Go out and take a picture for my daily blip that I am proud of. (I spend far too much time doing this and I enjoy it far too much!) Also my blip has now taken on a literary twist if anyone wants to join in just follow me on The People Twitcher

The Academic Community

On the back of yesterday’s good news post I began to think of all the times I had been the recipient of another academics generosity. And there have been many.

SO here is my list of things that have made my life as an academic easier

  • My supervisors never fail to respond to emails promptly – which as any fraught student will know is invaluable. Their feedback can bite sometimes but I know when I do submit that my thesis will stand up to any scrutiny as it has already been seen by the most invested and thorough of eyes!
  • Support staff at my institute and others are usually the most accommodating, usually bending over backwards with the skill of a contortionist to provide the help and support I have needed.
  • When attending conferences I usually find the discussions are unrestricted and unguarded – information is freely shared and whilst some academic reticence is necessary there seems to be little jealousy. More a kind of shared enthusiasm for the subject.
  • Librarians – now libraries are usually a source of contention in any HE or FE institution. Book provision has to be the no.1 talked/complained about matter at any student/staff council. But setting that aside I have found librarians (the proper qualified kind with expertise knowledge in your field) to be the most patient  and generous with their time and knowledge. Our specialist librarian once had me in for a one to one session on how to search for information and locate archives. This was of a great help to me when I was floundering. Her name will be included in the acknowledgements to my thesis because it was as important to my research at that time as my supervisor’s feedback
  • National Libraries – busy busy places that deal with all levels of enquiry yet never fail to come up with the goods – they are like specialist librarians on speed – is there anything they don’t know?
  • Archives and repositories – the best place to get in touch with someone as enthusiastic as you are – the curator of any archive that relates to your topic! It’s a reciprocal relationship because you can learn from them but they can also learn from you!
  • Department faith in students – ours recently handed over book ordering responsibilities to the student. This means we can access our Coutts account and order books that we need in order to carry out our research effectively. They may be subject to approval but simply letting us be responsible is a great sign that our faculty trust us to behave in a grown up fashion.
  • Other academics inc. fellow students and bloggerstudents – Apart from yesterday’s wonderful gift I have also been given book chapters before they were published, as well as articles and information relevant to my work. One in particular involved other academics talking to each other so I got an advance copy of a seminal text that was not going to be complete for another 6-10 months – Thank you Peter Brooker and Jean-Michel Rabaté  for you utter selflessness … I bought the book!
  • Family and friends – last on the list maybe but never least. None of us could manage this without their unstinting support.

Sometimes in life it is just the right time to stop and smell the roses and realise things are never as bad as they seem – that in the darkness of that blinking black cursor and vastness of the empty white screen there is always a glimmer of light

Have a good Wednesday – I am off to write!

UPDATE ON SCRIVENER: it was so good I bought the license – I cannot imagine writing without it now. It just organises all the information you need into these neat little split windows – it shows you any view of the document you want and is adaptable for academic and non-academic writing. Well worth it. Even though I would say it still has a lot to offer that I haven’t tapped into and it is not glitch free or perfect, the forums are fantastic for tips and the software creator is constantly trying to improve the product with regular updates. If you are serious about writing it is well worth downloading the FREE 30 day trial! 

Pecha Kucha

This is a very new idea to me and I have just received a CFP for a 10 minute presentation based on the Pecha Kucha style.

My immediate response was to google the term and see what it threw up. Started in Japan in 2003, it is an innovative presentation style consisting of a 20×20 presentation lasting 10minutes; you show 20 images lasting 20 seconds each, talking about each one. This is an unique and concise way of getting people to present their research in a fast and dynamic way.

I am intrigued and am contemplating submitting an abstract (it is being run by my Undergrad supervisor so I am familiar with the folks on the panel) but not sure how I can fit it into my PhD research; though I have some ideas… I also think it would be interesting to put a presentation like this up on my public academic profile at Academia.Edu

So that is my new challenge for 2012 – firstly to learn how to pronounce Pecha Kucha

AND – to submit an abstract for a Pecha Kucha Style presentation, get it accepted and actually survive the experience.

Any advice welcomed!

My other challenge is to finally learn how to use colons and semi-colons with efficacy and precision! Apparently according to Lynne Truss

“The main reason people use [the semicolon], however, is that they know you can’t use it wrongly — which, for a punctuation mark, is an uncommon virtue” (Truss 122)

Virginia Woolf may have wholeheartedly subscribed to that dogma but unfortunately  my supervisor doesn’t!!! I would like at least one piece of crit that doesn’t berate my use of the colon and semi-colon! Tall order me thinks!