Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Bitten by the blogging bug

Posted by Sarah Smith

On the 1st of October 2014 I started my PhD. I felt excited and happy at the prospect and keen to get started, although I was a little sad to be leaving the research group that had taken me under its wing again. I feel very fortunate to be in this position and know it’s in part due to them really. My first task is to move my ‘things’ to the PhD office, all the way next door! Two years’ worth of research work needs sorting and it takes me a while (most goes into recycling) but finally I am set up in my new office space. I meet new officemates and all seems well. I meet with my supervisor, we chat about my work and I head off back to my new desk to begin my journey as a PhD student. Student? [thoughtful pause].

Using the word ‘student’ to describe myself seems strange. I’ve worked in research for 10 years already and feel that at my age I’m too old to be even a mature student. It’s made even stranger by the fact that I’ve worked in the same University, department and corridor even up until only yesterday. My whole status has changed overnight. I start to waiver a little. But after a coffee break and chat with new officemates I feel this newly acquired student status could work out just fine.

My fear of blogging is actually that of the unknown
During the first week, after the usual student-related teething problems I start to join up to activities offered by my department, and workshops and reading groups. I have the time to attend these now. The daily pace is slower than my previous role, there seem to be fewer demands on my time, I get headspace, I can think, I get to read, a real luxury! Things are looking more and more on the up.

My first student outing is to attend the Qualitative Health Research Writing Group Network meeting where Jenni Remnant introduces me to the world of blogging, something I’ve heard other people doing but never dared myself. She really sells it to me, that it’s a great way to network, and collaborate even with other academics, some out of reach normally. Then she sets us a practical exercise, to write a blog. Panic ensues. I draw a blank. I’m only a PhD baby of a week old; I have nothing to blog about. I glance around the room and everyone else seems to ‘get it’, writing notes, chatting about their existing blogs with others. I admit ‘I’ve never written a blog, I’ve never even read one’ to which people repeat my words back to me ‘you’ve never read a blog?!’. Am I so out of touch? Am I cut out for this? More panic ensues.

Then I start to think rationally and realise that my fear of blogging is actually that of the unknown and that I might do something I shouldn’t and once I do it’s out there in the ether. I’m reassured that as a first time blogger I can submit my blog, editors read it and will bounce it back to me if they think it or parts are not suitable for the public domain [sigh] I feel more comfortable about the idea now. But still, what do I blog about. Apparently anything, but it still seems daunting. I decide to embrace it and write a blog, but I’ll start tomorrow, then I’ll start the next day and it doesn’t happen, until I’m gently persuaded once more.

So today is the day, blog writing day. I open a blank word document and write ‘Blog’ at the top, the cursor blinking at me expectantly, and I have no idea what to write. Then I think back to where the blogging story began, the Qualitative Health Research Writing Group Network, and I remember my blog-writing fear, and I realise I’ve partly conquered that fear by even opening a Word document and being willing. I recall Sally Brown’s presentation at the meeting and a quote plays back through my head ‘don’t get it right, get it written’. And so I start typing, and typing. And the rest is history….

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