Write your thesis!

Bright Autumn--19

Photo Credit: Robyn Lang (c). Used with permission. 

Does it ever happen to you that you spend months, sometimes years, listening to people giving you the same weary piece of painfully simple advice that seems so ridiculously underthought or simplistic that it can’t possibly work, for example, if you want to have a good marriage “you need to communicate.”

People say that like it’s the easiest thing in the world and yet, it seems, very few of us can do it. It’s not that it’s not true, almost every relationship whether it be with a martial partner or not could be greatly improved with communication. And it’s not even that communicating is really that hard, most of us manage it to some extent throughout our lives. The real issue is that when you say “just” communicate, what you really mean is, “overcome all your family of origin issues, achieve a substantial level of personal maturity, develop resilience and learn to be silent when the cupboard door is left open for the nth time.” It’s just not that simple.

I think the PhD equivalent of this is “just write your thesis.” It seems like everyone is saying this, from the PhD bloggers I trusted to have my back with these kinds of things, to my supervisor, whose response to a question of how do I start was something along the lines of, you just start.

Of course, having all kinds of perfectionist limitations and insecurities, it’s not so simple. What if the words don’t come out……..better than anything that has been thought by humankind since time immemorial? What if I don’t have evidence for these claims? (insert a million other potential, terrifying, what-if scenarios).

It’ll probably be fine. At the end of the day, I have enough experience in the writing process to know that its rare indeed that a whole unaltered paragraph – even sentence – will ever survive each stage of the cutting and editing process.

So I started writing. And all those PhD bloggers were right. Making a daily writing goal, five days a week has been incredible. Even apart from the fact that I have now got some text in front of me that I can work with, evaluate and even – shock – send to my supervisor, the feeling of productivity has really altered my mood throughout the whole week. I feel a lot more confident and that gives me a lot more impetus to actually work harder on other projects and aspects of the thesis.

In order to start writing I had to let go of a lot of my perfectionism and accept that this work I am doing now might not be perfect and it might not be my best work. But it is certainly a lot closer to my best work than a blinking cursor on a blank page.

I think there is a real lesson in this. If you are a PhD student and you haven’t started writing, maybe try it for a while. Our Rabbi is constantly giving the advice “experiment and experience.” Even if it’s just once or twice that you set the clock and give yourself time to do nothing but write and give yourself permission to be perfectly imperfect, at least in my experience so far it is really liberating, and once the perfectionism is chased away, it really is as simple as it sounds. Just write.

 

Podcast Faves of 2017

Canada proc-790

Okay, so firstly, I survived the holiday period and the rather painfully busy first week back to “normal life.”

Unfortunately between catching up on thesis writing, some babysitter cancelations, cucumbers that needed to be transplanted and my research job… I didn’t get a chance to write an essay style piece. But in place of my own thoughtful thoughts, I thought I would thoughtfully present you with some of the finest thinking thinkers I have encountered on the interwebs – namely, my favourite podcasters.

For those of you as yet unfamiliar with PodCasts, they are essentially radio shows that are available through iTunes and various other platforms. There are PodCasts on hundreds of topics and you can even make your own! The way I listen to Podcasts is through iTunes and you will find all of these by searching. I have also included the links here to the websites of the individual podcasts, where in some cases you can play them from there.

So these are my faves – according to category. I figure if you are reading this, there must be some shared tastes between us.

PARENTING AND HOMELIFE

So this one is easy. Exploring Unschooling with Pam Larichia. Not only does Pam have a lovely voice to listen to, but she brings a fascinating range of guests to discuss all things relating to Unschooling. If you are interested in natural parenting and generally fighting the man and you also happen to have a kid or two, this may be worth checking out.

I also like Cohesive Home which is this interesting discussion between two homeschooling moms about life, minimalism and priorities. They partially inspired me to start this blog.

HISTORY

History of the Crusades. TOO MUCH FUN. Okay, so I listened to this while my son was between the ages of maybe 8 and 10 months sliding around the floor while I basically listened to this and hoped my research proposal would write itself… I mean, worked on my research proposal. I have so many wonderful memories of that time. There were more than a hundred episodes in the original series dealing with the Crusades in the Middle East so the fact that they got snapped up in the course of two months should astound you. I would literally listen to this stuff all day as I nursed, cooked, carried the baby whilst imagining myself riding into battle brandishing a… wait… I mean, did I say that out loud? Spoiler alert, I literally cried when Saladin died. Sharyn Eastaugh the presenter does an amazing job presenting a mixture of sources and narration. It really gets addictive and has a great adventure story feel to it. The fact she has an Aussie accent is a bonus 🙂 She has since continued into a series on the Crusade against the Cathars in Europe and the Inquisition, which I found a little too depressing and gorey for my tastes. There was also a decided lack of Saladin.

LEFTY-ACADEMIC-STUFF

I enjoy listening to The Always Already Podcast mostly because they make a bunch of basically hilarious in-jokes that only someone working in the very narrow field of critical theory would get – for example, their “phallic” microphone is called Lacan. I like keeping up to date with the way the presenters discuss issues, it helps me keep my English academic lexicon robust, even as I spend most of my time on my current campus speaking a mishmash of Hebrew and Hebrew-ified English. They talk about current books from their various perspectives, which range from curious, interesting to downright insightful.

TORAH/JEWISH/SPIRITUALITY

I am going to initially recommend the Women in Depth Podcast which discusses all kinds of interesting topics – like really all kinds, from why women stay in unhappy marriages, to birth trauma, to emotional neglect. The presentation is definitely touchy feely, which wont be everyone’s style, but I find the willingness to discuss such a broad range of issues from a woman’s perspective very interesting.

On Being with Krista Tippett tries to ask the big questions about the meaning of life and the universe in dialogue with a whole spectrum of religious leaders. This is one of the ones where I find myself composing my debate lines in my head while I listen. It’s been a while since I got into it, but it’s great for thoughtful, kinda heavy times where small talk just wont cut it. It also has the benefit of being super professional and well made. It listens like a real radio show.

My favourite Torah podcasts are found through Pardes and they have a whole range. They come from a wide variety of perspectives, Pardes institutionally, I believe is not affiliated with any one denomination, so not everything comes from an Orthodox perspective, but I find the insights and especially the Parsha commentary fun and suitably bite sized. I also find the “offensive statement to overall content” ratio of these shiurim extraordinarily low.

Happy Passover/Pesach and see you in two weeks

I apologise that there has been a hiatus in blog posts over here.

Last week, I missed the post because both my computer and my husbands computer went on strike, catapulting us back into the Iron Age where we were forced to do absurd things like use recipe books and philosophise about what people did while folding laundry before Podcasts.

This week has been overtaken by preparations for Passover or Pesach, one of the most significant Jewish holidays of the year. I have a lot to say about the significance of these days, but every practical, the Torah and the tradition also demands some pretty scrupulous cleaning in the lead up to the holiday (essentially a multi-day search and destroy mission for bread products) and until this is complete I don’t really have time for any of my usual rhetorical flourishings.

The blog will be on Pesach break starting Monday next week. If I do get around to writing some thoughts on Pesach, it will be posted this coming Sunday. If not, look forward to the 21st of April when I will be back with our regularly scheduled post.

For those celebrating, have a wonderful holiday.