Writing Up: Getting finished

Oh, the inexpressible glee of freedom. I submitted two weeks ago, and immediately came down with the Cold of Doom, which I am still struggling to shake off. But do you think I care? Not a jot! Because for what is the first time in years, I can be sick to my heart's content, stare at the TV mindlessly while sniffling, and not feel guilty that I should be at the computer, typing.

Not that it was an easy road to get here. MuseumWriter posted about beginnings last week, so it's fitting that I talk about endings now. It was a struggle, but for me the most important thing was having deadlines (lots of them) and not allowing myself the option of missing them. I literally had week-by-week calendar print-outs noting what I had to do for my thesis and when; I included procrastination and real-life in there, of course, but even that dwindled to a minimum at the very end. I am not proud to say that cooking and cleaning took a definite back seat to proof-reading in the final throes; I often wished for the bad old days when I would have been a man with a wife to cook, clean, arrange social activities, and type up my thesis for me! As it was, I was my own wife, and I totally failed the wife test.

But the challenges were worth it; setting clear expectations of myself meant that I was able to celebrate accomplishments. I literally bounced around the house and squealed with joy when I completed proofing the body of my thesis (unfortunately I had to quickly calm down as I had to move on to proofing my bibliography and images).

I also learned a lot about myself in the revision and proofing stages. For example, when I first re-read my first drafts, I despaired and wondered how my supervisor was still speaking to a shitty writer like me! But then I reframed my disgust, and realised that it meant that I had improved if I could recognize my own failings! I also learned that maybe a bibliographic software would have made it easier to do fiddly formatting, but that my strength is not in managing software packages so maybe building in hours of struggling with Word was sensible for me after all.

And I must say that I didn't expect the mixed emotions I had when it was over. When I printed out my thesis, I felt some measure of what a new mother probably feels: joyful, proud, overwhelmed (350 pages is a hefty whack when you see it all in front of you, and not virtual on a laptop screen!). And when I submitted the thesis to the graduate office (having taken a photo of the moment) and walked away, I felt a bit like mothers must feel when they leave their child at nursery for the first time: terrified, but proud. And I felt a bit of a sense of loss - these days, when my housemates ask me what my plans are, I don't quite know! Of course, laundry and cooking and napping are still on the to-do list, and I have new academic tasks like applying or jobs and preparing publications, but there isn't that nagging thought at the back of my head all the time, telling me to "work on your thesis"!

Preparing for my viva, when I begin in earnest in a month's time, will bring it's own challenges, I am sure. But for now, I am savouring the freedom. And I'd like to thank my colleagues for their support and to wish them the very same joy when they also finish!


Amy said…
Best way to prepare for your viva? Get the worst chest infection in history, completely lose your voice for a fortnight, develop severe asthma two days before, and spend the next 24 hours expecting to be admitted to hospital. Suddenly a PhD viva seems very insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Breathing takes priority. ;)

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