Writing about writing

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What am I afraid of? I can’t put my finger on it… I sit poised at the computer, fingers at the ready atop of the keys, waiting for the tappity tap tap that alerts me to my flow. But all I get is staccato sounds; infrequent, small bursts of activity amidst long silences…. Ideas? Where’d they go? What was I just thinking? I have a thesis to work on – I talk incessantly and passionately about my research, but as soon as I sit in front of a screen with a keyboard, everything disappears from my head – a miraculous vanishing act.maitriser-le-web-reseaux-sociaux

I sit, like a frustrated musician at a grand piano with the finest instruments, waiting for a concerto or symphony to flow out of me. But all I get is a crappy jingle that has probably been unintentionally plagiarised from something I’ve heard before. Ugh… I know the tools of the trade, the tricks to tickle the habit, and yet I resist using them. Write everyday. Be disciplined in your approach. Set daily goals/tasks/topics. Make them public so you are accountable (does humiliation for not doing what you publicly claimed really work as a motivating force?)

I struggle.
I procrastinate.waiting_to_write
I do everything to not write.
I’m afraid.
I’m a fraud.
I’m a fool.
I’m frustrated.

I find myself waiting for inspiration, knowing full well that this is not the way to get ideas (or writing) out of me. I have experienced profound flashes of writing elation, where I get lost in the moment and write with fervour in a feverish fit of flow. And then it stops. Dead. Where did it go? How do I get it back? What if I have nothing of value to say? WTF?

mjz4DV3x10DNRJoFvT0zufgI do not believe in my own ideas and musings. I am afraid of being publicly consumed and criticised. It seems that I am a coward. And what is life if I stay in the safe confines of my own head? I am passionate about sharing discourses and delving into dialogues about the human condition. I can discuss such things with strangers on a bus, travellers on a train and customers waiting at the supermarket checkout… and yet, I struggle enormously to articulate my thinking via the written word. Can I find the right word(s)? Can I get my meaning across? Am I using too many adjectives? Am I over complicating what is an essentially simple premise: my struggle to contemplate and capture ‘stuff.’ Stuff is slippery. I forget stuff. Somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind I know that I know the underlying theoretical issues that help explain some stuff, but I labour with accessing this knowledge. My memory is not sharp. Maybe if I wrote more, I would be more successful accessing what I know, or maintain the knowledge better? But these are the ‘what ifs’ that I am riddled with. What if my mind was sharper? What if I was a different version of myself that overcame these insecurities? What if, in a parallel universe, another me was successfully forging ahead?

dd7ebaf7f329992e21302762b28a3ff0None of these questions help me get on with the job of writing now! Even while writing this piece on the challenge of writing, I have followed the white rabbit down the hole and been distracted by new thoughts and ideas, losing my grip on the theme I was expanding (or lamenting) upon. The Mad Hatter teases me; the Cheshire Cat grins tauntingly at me. My brain pings. I want to follow every new trajectory in a way that is akin to experiencing ADHD symptoms. I start many projects and very rarely complete them all. Poor form. Poor discipline. I lose interest. I can rationalise that I have learned what I wanted and thus moved on. But this is self-deception of the highest order.Cheshire-cat-8

So, here I am, an aspiring author struggling to ‘phinish’ my doctorate. Colleagues, friends and mentors have more belief in me than I do. What do I need to spur me over the phinishing line? How do I access the internal dialogue and transform it into an academic thesis?

I will share my odyssey over the next few weeks and months. It doesn’t matter if you, dear reader, are not actually interested (though I do hope that you are). I need to forget that you might critique my process, or nod knowingly at my dilemma, offering no words of encouragement or enlightenment – because you know that while these are great to hear, they do not generate the writing. I know you will judge me, and I have to be comfortable with that. There will be flaws. I will mix tenses; use too many adjectives, analogies and metaphors. My narrative will lack cohesion; I will neglect to fully expound an idea due to being distracted, or simply losing my thread. I will feel vulnerable. I do feel vulnerable exposing myself to potential judgement. But I remind myself of the spirit of generosity that many readers display because the ‘stuff’ resonates. Because of empathy and shared experience. So, I give myself permission to write badly. It is a self-full journey. I have to find my own way….

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To Blog or Not to Blog

Today I attended the inaugural (for 2011) Collaborative Research Online Psychology Team (CROPT) meeting – given I was co-facilitating this event, it was imperative that I attend! Our first meeting looked at the benefits of blogging for thesis writing (a topic close to my heart).

 Thesis writing and research can be a very isolating experience. As a PhD student I have found that once you take the dive into the rabbit hole, it is an exclusive journey that is conducted in a vacuum. No one can truly share in your experiences. Your topic is unique and ideally, no one else is doing the same research (but serendipitously there is always someone doing something similar somewhere else in the world – many ideas/discoveries are worked on simultaneously without knowledge of the other). The criterion on whether a doctoral thesis proposal is approved is that it is original work that makes a significant contribution to knowledge. By it’s very nature it is a solitary process. In fact, the only people you really get to share part of your journey with is your supervisor(s), who help guide you through the morass, and are there to support, critique, encourage, chide, question and praise you (if you are lucky)!

 My supervisors (wonderful, inspiring women that they are) will be the only people (apart from the examiners) to read my work. All those words (90,000 of them) will only be read by 4 people (and 2 of them – the examiners – are judging me by my work). I am already putting myself off! Although I can hear my optimistic self tell me: it’s the journey, not the destination! The process is likened to being a sorcerer’s apprentice in research. I have digressed….

 Blogging to share the experience

The point of my diatribe is this: blogging is a way of sharing the words, the inklings, the epiphanies and sorrows. It is a way of finding an audience that is interested in my ideas and creating a dialogue so that I am not always operating in an isolated space. It is a means to encourage interaction with my audience. It is also a method for developing routine in the practice of writing.

 

Today I have ‘outed’ myself as someone who desires to be disciplined in the practice of writing (but thwarted by continuously finding (valid?) reasons not to)! This Blog is dedicated to my fellow CROPT colleagues who will be watching for my commitment to write 250 words per day via this blog. THERE! I have committed! Let the writing begin!

(This post was 419 words – can there be too many words???)

About my PhD

Welcome to my blog that explores the world of families and their use of media technologies! I am curious about how, and in what way technologies (such as Internet, mobile phones and even the television) shape our activities, and in turn, how those activities shape the use of technologies. Sounds complicated, but really I am identifying the fact that when we introduce a new media device into our home, it is novel and exciting. While we become familiar with the functionality and exotic applications of some devices, it can feel like the technology takes over our lives. In time though, we take control of the device and sometimes find completely new ways of using it (we take control over it)!

PhD Project

What am I doing?

I am currently working on a PhD research project that looks at how Australian (Melbourne) families interact with each other using the Internet, mobile phones and television. My purpose is to gain understanding of how these technologies are used in the home, and to gain insight into the dynamic interplay between families and technology use in their everyday activities. The focus is on how technologies facilitate the ways in which family members communicate and spend time with each other. At the moment, there is little consensus about how technologies affect family life and relationships – my aim is to cast some light on the area. This project is supported by the Smart Services Co-operative Research Centre, and is being conducted through RMIT University’s Graduate School of Business and Law.

Who can participate?

During 2010 and 2011 I will be recruiting families that wish to be involved in my research project. I am seeking families with children between the ages of 12 to 18 years. I am looking for a range of family situations such as intact families, single parent families, blended or step-families that live in the Melbourne metropolitan area.

What’s in it for me?

Ultimately you will be helping me gain a better understanding of the way Australian families interact with technology in the current environment and its consequences in shaping family activities. You will assist me in developing an updated snapshot of how communication technologies are used in the home and how these technologies affect, and are affected by, family members in their everyday activities. The research will offer information regarding the use of current technology, and identify potential needs that will benefit future technology development. Your input will also help Smart Services CRC who work with a range of government and industry partners to develop potential innovations and improvements. You will be contributing to important research, and there will be reports and papers generated from this research that you can obtain copies of, should you desire.

What’s in it for you?

Your family will get the opportunity to examine and reflect on your own technology use. You may find your research involvement thought-provoking, stimulating and fun, and that doing the research activities becomes an engaging shared family experience. It might generate a lot of thought about issues that come up, with the possibility of reflecting on identified issues as an individual, and within the family context. Most importantly you will be contributing to research that provides significant and valuable insights into how Australian families are using communication technologies, and the way technologies shape family activities.

I have a family with teens – what would I need to do?

If your family agrees to participate, you will be visited by me on a number of agreed occasions for interviews with all family members (together and separately). Some of these visits will be for formal in-depth interviews, and some will be more casual and relaxed. I will begin with a general discussion with the family, in which you will be asked some basic facts about yourself, and about your use of technologies.

Your family will be asked to monitor their use of technologies over a period of 4 weeks. You will be given a Research Kit that will provide some fun and interactive ways to do this. For example, you may take digital snapshots of family moments with technology! During the research period, I will be observing your family (at agreed times) whilst engaged in activities using technologies. Your family will also be asked to complete a questionnaire about family closeness that will take up to 15 minutes for each family member to complete.

How do I get involved?

If you would like to become involved in the project, you can contact me via email at yvonne.gora@rmit.edu.au or call me at RMIT University on 9925-1600. I will send you a project information pack and set up a time where I can meet with you and your family to discuss your participation, or answer any questions you might have.

You can also download a copy of the flyer for the project.