Going on a bear hunt

BearsParents out there, and maybe some younger readers, will recognise this line: “We can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, Oh no! we’ve got to go through it!” The line has been going around and around in my mind the past couple of weeks.  On a global scale, my challenges are miniscule – but nonetheless they have ebbed away at my steady PhD research-and-writing habits so that I find myself almost entirely out of the way of working now. I can’t quite believe I’ve let it get to this stage.  I really need to get words on the page. I find myself forcing my way through excuses – I’ve just got to go through it. I wish I could summon up the energy and drive I had as I studied for all those law exams so many years ago – I remember making clear sacrifices back then (not going to footy matches for a few weeks before exams, not going out on Friday nights – I remember those ones!), but I now find making sacrifices very very hard. I’ve just got to go through it.

My aim by the beginning of December is to finish my draft introduction and literature review, and a second chapter on plantation/merchant life which I’ve almost finished researching.  Perhaps putting that aim in writing on this blog will impel me towards the finish line! I really want to have some proper, guilt-free time off over Summer.

I’ll end this post with a quote I heard from Ira Glass on the Happier podcast this week. This hints at the “we’ve got to go through it” sentiment, but with a positive promise of better things to come…

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

6 thoughts on “Going on a bear hunt

  1. Trevor McClaughlin

    Hi Jen,
    I’m sure you know about the Caribbean Studies Association conference in Canberra at ANU this coming February. It would be worth going methinks, not just to meet luminaries like my good friend Baz Higman who’d be interested in what you are doing for your thesis. May i encourage you to write down whatever comes into your head? It doesn’t matter if it’s twaddle. No one else will see it and it will be a sure way of getting you going.
    best wishes

    Liked by 1 person

    1. McLarenJen Post author

      Trevor – thank you! That is good advice. I hadn’t heard of the Caribbean Studies Association Conference so will look it up, thanks for the tip.


    1. McLarenJen Post author

      Enjoy it for a start! Treating it like a job has worked well for me (in terms of hours put in) , until I slipped a bit recently. Depending upon the environment you are studying in, it can be a solitary endeavour, so be sure to build in opportunities to interact with others regularly and maintain a healthy social life. Also probably best not to spend too long reading blogs etc from PhDers in the negative stages of the process! On the whole, I feel very privileged to be doing what I am doing, and love the research. All the best.



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