Ups and downs of academic research

I believe, and I have been reassured, that writer’s block is a constant companion in the journey of a PhD student. Could this be especially true for people in humanities, especially those dealing with phenomenological study compared to those dealing with hard sciences? Whatever the reason or the norm, I have been plagued with this for weeks on end now.

It’s not that I do not try. I do try. I try different tactics, sitting at home in my converted study corner, I try sitting in the library in front of the huge computer screens, I try keeping to allotted time slots of break, and all has failed. Three continuous weeks of not a single important read, not a single comprehensive sentence – and I feel despair.

I keep checking news, keeping up with social media, day-dreaming about more exciting stuff or about getting this done, re-organising my files, or just sneaking in an online game or other trivia from time to time, promising myself that I will get it done in a minute, in a few minutes — that never happens. I am even contemplating seeking clinical help. Maybe the anxiety and depression is finally getting a hold of me.

And today, here I am. Trying something different. I hear the birds chirping in the distance. I hear traffic somewhere far off, probably Manning Road, I hear the leaves rustle (and that reminds me of psithurism), I hear the heels of tap tapping carrying people to and fro, I hear the lazy and sometimes purpose stroll of the sneakers caryying students I suppose, I hear bouts of laughter from happy coffiers in the Aroma Café some 30 or so meters away. Good thing I don’t smell the brewing coffee. I feel the cold of the autumn breeze, I also feel the warmth of a brave sun trying to poke through the clouds, I see vast green of the fields, I see brown building lining around in a curve in the distance. Most importantly I hear my mind ease. I hear silence, silence in my brain.

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No wonder, with this silence, I have been able to read at last. I am able to read and absorb and finally feel good about my effort to break this writer’s block.
I lean back in the wooden bench and my eye catches the brass sign on the top rung of the bench – the words on it. “Steve Hill (1950-2005), Curtin colleague and friend to many for 25 years

Urg! Now I have the urge to read on Steve Hill.

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