The first week of the year so far has mostly consisted of me sitting in a favorite coffee shop and facing my fears. I've been struggling with essay writing the last year –– a result of (emotionally) dealing with feedback to my first mediocre essay. My burnout's hardly been a secret, and my Sylvia Plath essay tailspin hardly has either. I managed to push through it when working on my co-written article with Amy over the summer/autumn, but I feel like much of the ease I felt there had to do with finding myself in a safe environment. I was writing about something I found truly fascinating /and/ writing with someone I liked sharing my ideas with who I also knew would meet them with respect.
I felt a bit of that writing this week, too. I picked a topic I found very interesting but hadn't gone into before but was still in a time period I was comfortable working with –– the 19th century. It was an interesting experience. I slowly did my readings for it in December, calmly taking note of things I wanted to use... and then I sat down and wrote this week. It was reassuring to write and realize that I'm well-versed and knowledgeable when it comes not only to 19th century literature, but to the social and cultural events and behaviors of the time. I was finding myself applying pages of previous knowledge to analysis at a time, and that was almost mind-boggling. What do you mean I know things? What do you mean this is usable and valid? So often with academia, we're throwing ourselves into the unknown and engaging with difficult material that we can forget that we do already know a lot. And so often with Imposter Syndrome, we think the things we already know don't really count. But they really do.
Awakened knowledge aside, I went about writing a bit differently this time, not producing an outline (something I /always/ tell my students to do) and just writing as things came to mind. I didn't even write chronologically, editing instead as I re-read and adding to and moving things around. It felt a bit disorganized, but that disorganization was the only thing I really stressed about. The writing came naturally, and while I don't know if my paper came out okay, I do at least know that I'm not afraid to write anymore.
If anything, I realized how much I missed writing argumentatively. It's something I used to enjoy immensely, that gave me a rush, and made me feel like I was on top of the world... and I began to feel that again. Here's to hoping that's something that fully comes back as I take on my thesis!
Hello & Welcome!
I'm Olivia, a twenty-six year old grad student studying in Switzerland. This is where I share my thoughts on the academic journey, culture, travels, baking, and my daily life abroad. Read More.