Writing a PhD thesis can often be a lonely process. Long days spent in solitude staring at a computer screen and trying to make sense of reading material, theory, case studies, and ultimately your own writing (that what-on-hearth-was-I-thinking feeling!). Through the process you soon realise that beyond being utterly exhausting and unnerving, many lonely weeks of scratching your head and chewing your pen can also be depleting.
I submitted my thesis in September and I passed my viva in December. The first few months after submission have been dedicated, for the most part, to tide over my finances. This new semblance of relative financial security made me realise to what extent researching on the breadline could affect not only your thinking, your productivity on an academic level, but also your sense of self, your sense of worth. I did not dare aiming higher because I was so afraid of what was going to come next. Insecurity was like a constant drop of water, hardly perceptible at first but extraordinarily powerful in the long term. Insecurity also meant that I always rolled up my sleeves and prevented myself from complaining. You need a certain degree of confidence to tell your employer that your working conditions are not good enough.
The break from academic writing was needed, and not only because I desperately needed to pay off a credit card debt. It was needed because the the PhD depleted my intellectual energies. I submitted not because I thought it was ready but because I had run out of steam. During the summer I realised that I had given it everything I had, there was nothing left, it was time to let it go.
The post submission break was productive in other ways. I reconnected with friends and family. And with my husband (not enough is said on the strain research puts on relationships, many friends in long term relationships have experienced a similar situation. As postgrads we were utterly unprepared to face this aspect of our work.
It is now time to start writing again, starting, funnily enough, from the thesis. After many years of extenuating work, I need to come to terms with a work that is far from perfect but that paved the way to some kind of intellectual maturity. A work I hope might be of interest to others, a work that might be even helpful.
It is now time to go back to writing with joy; to go back to writing for myself, to go back to practicing being a better writer. Remembering that writers must get out of their den from time to time, they must nourish their craft interaction, emotion, connections, experiences.