Is it a word? It sounds like a word! The final stages of writing-up

WordsI’m in the final stages of writing-up my thesis. More accurately, I’m swirling round the dark abyss that is thesis-prison. I’ve dropped so far down the rabbit-hole that I’ve turned to creative writing as a break from the research. It’s like doing anything too different would have disastrous consequences. I’d be coming up to the surface too quickly. My lungs would burst.

My study buddy – R – and I frequently look up from our laptops with an expression of genuine puzzlement and say “is this a sentence?” I put it in anyway. Surely the proof-reader should pick up on that.

Today I’ve been editing my Methodology. I’m trying to walk the fine line of ‘reflexive vs professional’. I thought I’d been pretty careful throughout but a quick ‘control and F’ tells me there are no less than one-hundred and forty-four ‘I’s in the chapter. One-hundred and forty-four! Come on now.

Driving home tonight I experienced a genuine thrill of excitement when deciding to take a different route. It’s no shorter or longer, just a different stretch of road. Not prettier or faster, just not the same. I start fantasising about a holiday.

Lovely and supportive friends and acquaintances ask me how many words I’ve written. How many words? Are they kidding? Rather than smiling and replying with a number I feel the need to tell them why their question is flawed. The amount of words one writes is not an indicator of how much work one is doing or has left to do. I repeatedly say to people, “it’s the work behind the words that takes the time, not the words themselves”. At this point I’ve probably written about ten theses, you know, if words are what we are going off.

There seems to be a trend emerging in myself and my other thesis-writing friends. We start off with high expectations. We don’t want to change the world or anything, we’re not disillusioned, but we want to do justice to our participants’ accounts. At first we agonise over discarding each emergent theme. We spend ages asking of the transcript “but what does it mean” and changing our minds over and over again. Eventually the extract gets coded under numerous headings, we’ll decide later. Then, as time goes on, we start getting ruthless. We can’t put in everything can we? As we discard more we get almost sneaky, the examiners will never know what is not included. Eventually every decision is made based on the statement “I just want it done”.

At first qualifying was the absolute win. Qualifying and actually being a psychologist was coveted more than a free therapy session with Irvin Yalom. And being paid! Being paid! How nice to finally be paid! But now it’s so close I can almost smell it and I’m getting a bit scared. I’m not sure I want to be a psychologist. I do, of course, but I’m not sure I want to actually get a job and have the responsibility of a fully-fledged professional. It all sounds like an awful lot of effort and at this point I’m eating soup every day, purely because it requires less energy. R is hooked on Peanut-Butter. R hasn’t been seeing clients whilst she writes up her research. She confesses to me she’s a bit nervous about getting a job and having to ‘do’ therapy again. “Maybe I’ll just watch some episodes of In Treatment” she says, “you know, to brush up”.

Heidegger said that death imposes the concept of time on individuals. It’s no longer death that measures time for me, it is deadline. Each day is another day towards deadline. My supervisor has gone on holiday in August. This is pre-deadline. This is unacceptable. A friend is getting married in September. This is also pre-deadline. This is also unacceptable.

I’m way past the luxury of procrastination. Oh for the days when a ‘break’ consisted of catching up on last night’s Made In Chelsea. This show is truly awful and surprisingly fabulous in equal measures. One does not have to think, one does not have to engage. One is simply entertained.

Last night I started contemplating taking some time off after hand-in. I’m definitely going on holiday. I’m also going to have a lie-in. I might get a dog. And, when I do get a job there will (hopefully) be evenings, and weekends, and the holy grail of annual leave. I’m going to get my hair done. I might even get a tattoo.  

Not long now.

Emily Brookes is a final year trainee counselling psychologist. We’d love her to write more for us; Like, Comment and Follow if you would too!  And visit our website for details of our research support services!

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