Separating the person from the product

Greetings from day 3 of 5 of the Postgraduate Writing Retreat that I am attempting to survive this week. I am also secretly blogging from the retreat because I need a mini-mini-timeout from writing this chapter. So if anyone from the retreat is reading this, I haven’t suddenly emerged with a surge of inspiration at 1500hrs. I am merely blogging. Do not be fooled by my incessant typing.

I took a two-week break over the Christmas and New Year break since our uni was on a shutdown (Yay, Australia!). Spent most of it at the beach and in the park and hanging out with friends over BBQs and drinks and rewatching my favourite episodes of Generation Kill and completing two fiction books (Fiction! Completely unrelated to my thesis! What life is this!). I. Had. A. Blast! But I am also suffering from this intense post-festive inertia and finding it really hard to get back to a good rhythm of productive writing and thesis work in general.

On day 1, I closely scrutinized this chapter I had written before fieldwork exactly two years ago, and decided that two-thirds of it had to go. I think I have finally overcome my fear of hitting the delete button on my laptop. Seeing 8,000 words disappear from the chapter made me feel like all that time was wasted, and I had some insecurity that future me is going to want to bin the new 8,000 words I set out to write in the next three days. But I knew that this could only mean progress and did not hesitate to make way for newer, better words. (Besides, I can always turn these 8,000 words into some semblance of a journal article when I next have time on my hands!) Still, day 1 ended on a low because I wasn’t as productive as before the long break. I did chance upon a kickass sunset though, so that sort of made up for some of my dejection.

Said kickass sunset.

Day 2 was awesome sauce. I hit my target an hour before the deadline I set for myself, despite taking more breaks than usual, and was pretty pleased with these new words (that I really liked). I thought I might have gotten back into a fairly reasonable momentum and was over the moon. I even rewarded myself by reading fiction all evening.

Day 3 was somewhat moderate because my writing goals and pace were midway between the depressing day 1 and the amazing day 2. I then realized how much my (non-PhD, after hours) mood and emotional state was so tied up with my writing progress, and it made me want to step back and look at all these facets of my life in perspective because

my self-worth is not based on academic achievement.

this PhD is but one segment of a (presumably) long(er) life i will live.

the product (PhD) is not a reflection of me as a person.

Tomorrow will be day 4. On day 4, I will learn to separate the person from the product.

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