Blogging Manifesto

Since it’s that time of year again (another year older, oy vey), I think it’s a good time to reiterate this promise to myself I made (verbally) some time ago, when I started this blog. Now it’s for all the world to see.

I have never blogged… for money.

I have always blogged… when I felt the urge.

I blog in spite of… the fact that these posts may only be useful to me*.

I don’t blog… when I’m busy with work.

I should blog… more about my work and research.

I might blog… about novel writing.

I will blog… more often.

Blogging is… something I enjoy doing.

Blogging is not… that time consuming.

I blog… as an outlet for my creativity.

I blog for… myself, but I hope others might read and get something out of the entries too.

I blog because… I feel the need to share.

I blog when… I am in the mood.

I blog with… every intention of making entries useful and interesting.

*I really hope they are useful to others too.

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Blogging Manifesto

End the year as you mean to go on, so, I mean to go on by keeping to the following guidelines:

I have never blogged… for money.

I have always blogged… when I felt the urge.

I blog in spite of… the fact that these posts may only be useful to me.

I don’t blog… when I’m busy with work.

I should blog… more about my work and research.

I might blog… about novel writing.

I will blog… more often.

Blogging is… something I enjoy doing.

Blogging is not… that time consuming.

I blog… as an outlet for my creativity.

I blog for… myself, but I hope others might read and get something out of the entries too.

I blog because… I feel the need to share.

I blog when… I am in the mood.

I blog with… every intention of making entries useful and interesting.

Just a Few Things

First, thank you to everyone who has read this blog, or retweeted it on Twitter (or both), or commented to me in private.

If you have any questions about a blog post (or in general), please comment or tweet me.

If you’d like to start a conversation, please get in touch in whichever way you prefer. My email is va3akh@gmail.com and I’m on Twitter @akhetherington.

If you want to guest blog, please ask, I’d be happy to have guest bloggers discussing their experiences or an issue they’ve really struggled with.

Lastly, if you’ve missed the How to Survive Your PhD over on edX, it’s still open and running for a bit longer, so feel free to check it out. Lots of helpful advice and things to consider about the whole PhD process.

This is England

I should start with a caveat.

I am Canadian (that’s not the caveat), but I did my PhD in England. As such, my experiences of a PhD are very much shaped by that country and its requirements. Doing a PhD in the UK is very different than in the USA or in Europe. In many ways, I think, it’s simpler, but in others it appears even more stressful.

I was also a full-time student. I worked during my PhD, but not regularly; instead I did short-term projects that took a few weeks to a few months and did not take up much of my time.

If you have specific questions about the requirements of your department, at your university, I am not the one to ask. Ask other students ahead of you, ask your department administrator, or ask your supervisor. These are NOT silly questions. These are important questions that your university will answer. Some departments will give you a handbook when you first start that will answer many pertinent questions. If you are lucky enough to receive one of these, read it well.

If you are not, there will always be students ahead of you in the process. And they will be more than happy to answer your questions, because at one point they asked the same of someone else.

If you would like to know about work/life balance, however, I can comment. I can’t comment on what it’s like to raise a family and do a PhD, or work full-time and do a PhD. But I did work, and there were weeks I worked quite a bit and ignored my thesis. And there were conferences to attend and admin work to sidetrack me. But beyond the work/life balance is a whole host of other issues that come with a PhD that are similar across the board, and I’m happy to share my thoughts with you. There are a few really good blogs in the Blog Links to sites for people who do work full-time and do a PhD, and also one that has a young family, so please do check these out.

Structure of a Blog

No, not the structure of the PhD (we’ll get to that), but the structure of this blog.

Okay, you’ve found me. You have a million and one questions about the PhD experience. You want to ask them of course! Please tweet me @akhetherington and use the hashtag #phdingblog so I know it’s a question that needs answering here.

I know, I know, Twitter sounds so constrictive, but there’s a method to my madness. Writing academically is about being concise and precise. Asking a question on Twitter? The same deal. Consider it training.

You can also comment on blog posts here, if you have a question related to a post, for instance.

The PhD journey is about steps. One step leads to another leads to another.

Except it doesn’t. At least, it doesn’t do so in any semblance of order. I did things in Year 3 I should have done in Year 1 and vis versa. Just like that journey, this blog doesn’t have an order to it. I’ll answer questions as they come to me, and I’ll create posts as they occur to me. I’ll tag everything, though, so you can search that way if you have a specific topic you want to find (ex. starting out, writing-up, field work, etc.).

But, in the end (and I must STRESS this), just ask. I’m here. I won’t judge you (honestly, I’ve been there – I’ve asked it). Just ask me and I’ll respond. Sometimes I might direct you somewhere else, sometimes I might admit to you that I don’t have all the answers (this one is important: I don’t), and sometimes I’ll just answer you directly.

*Please keep in mind that this blog is based on my own experiences. My own PhD journey. Yours will be different, and that’s a blessing not a curse. But maybe this can make your journey a little bit easier.

Welcome, Welcome, to Another Year at Hogwarts

Let’s start with a completely useless fact about me.

I was lucky enough to attend private school. It was in a 110 year old house, that had been a hospital, a private home, and a business in the past. We had three hundred students. We had a very strict vice-headmistress. We had a very kind headmaster. We had four teams which competed in competitions and missions in order to gain points; the best house won the cup each June. Basically, it was Hogwarts without magic.

It was also before JK Rowling ever even envisioned Harry Potter.

Starting with a life regret will sort of set the tone of this blog. It’s a ridiculous life regret. I can’t control what JK Rowling writes (or wrote). I also can’t control when I went to private school or how old I was when Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published.

A PhD is a lot about feeling out of control, feeling that you should be in control, and frustrated that you don’t control either of those things.

This blog is going to have two main missions: the first is to answer the unanswered questions. Those questions you think are too silly to ask anyone. The ones that make you blush just to think about.

The second mission is honesty. Everyone spends their PhD pretending they are fine. You meet people at a reception, or a department gathering, or a conference and they all act like they Have It All Together. They do not. And I’ll be honest about that from the get go. I was a wreck for 99% of my PhD and I make no qualms about it. But I also know that everyone around me (including my supervisor) thought I was doing great. Part of the PhD process is getting good at pretending you are fine. Part of it is realizing you aren’t and getting help when you need it.

This blog is my way of helping.