I am just starting the second year of my PhD and last Thursday was the first appointment of the year with my advisor. Before then, I was asked to write a summary of the research I had done during the first year so it could be reviewed by a research committee. I can gladly say that both the committee and my advisor were satisfied with my work and thought everything I had done so far was convincing and sensitive. They also concurred in saying that it was very clear and explained carefully… And that’s where I get to the title of this post.
Because inside my head, everything looks quite the opposite. There’s a chaos of thoughts and doubts hiding behind the splendour of the summary that I gave to the professors. There is something about writing a dissertation that creates messes and confusions inside your brain. Sometimes, it feels as though I were facing a large ball of wool that I didn’t know how to disentangle. I have the intuition, deep down, that this ball, once it is unravelled, will be the long, beautiful thread which will hold the thesis together, but now, it just lies there twisted on my brain-floor.
And I do have most of the elements I need to write and make an outline, but all of the ideas just keep floating inside my brain, and they are unwilling to come together. It scares me… All of these doubts… Teachers say it’s natural and healthy. Keats even believed the ability to remain in doubts and uncertainties was key to writing poetry and to easing the burden of being unable to understand everything about life. I agree with that… I really do, but what happens when positive, philosophical doubt turns into questions about whether or not you are capable ?
I suppose you have to push ahead. You have to take a step back and reflect on what you’ve done so far and how you can go on. You have to let the fog scatter and clear. And you have to write, even without a plan or a specific goal, just to see where the ideas take you. And hopefully one day, it will all make sense. So if there’s any piece of advice I can give myself, and anyone else, it is just that: DON’T GIVE UP !