I’m now in the writing-up stage of my part-time PhD. I’m struggling, I’m really struggling. I found the empirical research process really rewarding, easy to pick up, easy to put down – it’s the practical side of doing a PhD and because of that, I found it easier to dip in and out of. I conducted my interviews via email, and looked forward to receiving responses, and in turn sending out more questions and conversation. Writing is not like that, you need to immerse yourself in it, your head needs to be 100% focused and if you haven’t looked at it for a day or two, it takes a loooooong time to get back into it.
I juggle my PhD with working 3 days a week in the voluntary sector, as a domestic abuse outreach worker. Something far, far removed from my PhD topic – which is good, because my academic life is a welcome distraction from what is quite a draining, emotionally charged job. But making that switch at the end of a Wednesday, from outreach worker, to PhD student, is extremely difficult and something that I find even harder now I’m writing up.
My job is tiring, and sometimes distressing. Because I have worked in the voluntary sector for over 10 years in various roles, I have learnt to ‘switch off’ at the end of the day – but it still uses up a lot of physical and emotional energy. After a day thinking about safety plans, risk assessments and child protection, I would love to come home and contemplate Bourdieu’s theory of cultural capital, however I really do lack the brain power.
So Thursday comes around and I’m excited and relieved that it’s PhD day. I know that I have until school-run time to get some significant work done. However, it takes a while to get back into the swing of things – especially now I’m writing-up, I’m sure this didn’t happen when I was actually conducting the research. And because time is so limited, the pressure to be productive is at times over-whelming, and sometimes a really negative and unhelpful force.
The other really prevalent issue for me is language. When I’m conversing with my clients, or social workers, police officers, health workers – I am professional, passionate, empathic, determined, knowledgeable – but not academic. I write endless case notes, supporting letters, conference reports – they are well written, but not academic. Converting back to thesis writing and academic language is therefore something I am finding increasingly difficult. I’m finding it a struggle to find my voice within my thesis – probably because my voice is so deeply entrenched and well versed within my working life. I feel like I’ve lost my academic brain to the voluntary sector. And I really wish I hadn’t.