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! 

Half Term

… has been rather a pain in the butt – I can probably write off the last two weeks because of the constant interruption, the cries of ‘I’m bored … so I am mighty relieved to have the ‘not so little anymore’ one back at school from Monday!

My New Mantra

I have 8 weeks to complete a 25,000 word section – which means as of Monday I will need to produce 3,125 a week … my goal is to have at least this many words by Sunday evening. It is possible to write a couple of thousand words a day when one is focused and not too distracted by offers of 50% off all orders from Monsoon  and at least a seven hundred to a thousand of those should be ‘good’ words: the sort you can read without shuddering at your own ineptitude.

I have found that I work through my thinking via writing – it is no good me me planning what I am going to write. My thoughts are of the willo’ the wisp variety which means the minute I try to pin them down they float off into another realm. I found when I was writing a paper for a conference a short while ago that I am far better and much more fluid if I free write without paying too much close attention to the editing process. The only thing I do as I go along is footnoting (because sod’s law tells us that if you fail to footnote your information as you use it you will immediately forget where the hell you got that information from and spend the next 3 months trying to locate it!) .

So the plan is – the weekend will be reading in dribs and drabs. Monday morning will be spent structuring each section to create an over all ‘plan’ and Monday afternoon I will try to have at least 1000 words down on the page. Whether those make it to the final cut is highly doubtful but early on writing without holding back is the key … words, any words, down on a page takes away the fear of empty page syndrome. 

I shall also be referring back to The Thesis Whisperer blog for handy hints on how to write productively; especially  the on writing section.

One other consideration that I will be confronting over the next two days will be whether or not to write this section in Scrivener or whether to stick with what I know and keep on plugging away with word?  I am sure come Monday I will let you all know what i decide … that’s if you can wait til then!