I was prompted by a forum thread to think about what I was doing this time last year. I was quite shocked to find that I had just finished my PhD and was considering writing a novel! The last fourteen months of my PhD were an uphill struggle with major stress issues. When I embarked on the path a colleague remarked that ‘They don’t give them away’ and he was right. It’s hard work. It took me five years, and writing up was the hardest part, as well as revisions. As well as learning about psychology and philosophy I learned about endurance.
The constant plugging away, the developing a thick emotional skin when responding to criticism and the passion for the subject account for the physical and material aspects of endurance, but I fell that there is also a strengthening of the spirit involved. Mustering everything you have, all the reserves of energy, both mental and physical, in order to give the best you can draws obvious parallel with marathon racers and my partner often dubbed me the Paula Radcliffe of philosophy!
Postgraduate education is all about transferable skills and hopefully I got some pointers on how to write efficiently, as this is one area that has opened up for me creatively. During the past year I have realised that it’s not just about the writing or the getting published, but also about the process. I have felt ‘flow’ and plodded on through the peaks and troughs of the writing and critique minefield. I have also taken detours into validation and hopelessness as I have shown my work to people and realised that there are major flaws.
Isn’t that what endurance is about, a constant revision process? Funnily enough, there are three things in my life that I feel have shaped me. Bringing up my three children to adulthood, completing a PhD and writing a novel. All these are important to me in different ways and have enhanced my life, but there is something they all share. The commonality of not being able to buy them. You cannot pay to obtain any of these experiences. Lots of people have told me that it is possible to buy a PhD online, but they are mistaking buying a certificate for doing an enriching experience of focus and passion, which is the real gift of learning. I admit that I am not Mother Earth, and that some aspects of parenting have challenged me, particularly my initial inexperience, but I saw it through single-handed and I am proud of that. Writing a novel is a similar kind of endurance. An immense amount of work is put in on the basis that hopefully you will get it published. Along the way is the journey, a path of doubt and delight, and the final creativity of smithing a story.
So with the hide of a rhinoceros and the virtual calf muscles of someone who runs 20k every weekend for fun, onward and upwards to the editing and submission of Life: Immaterial!
How many things can you think of that are really worth something, things that invoke pride and love and knowledge, and how many of them can you buy? Here’s to the stuff of dreams that have no price tags!