Probably most bloggers will relate to the experience of not feeling inspired to write anything. In fact, anyone who writes for a living or has written work to complete for studies or a job will have been through periods of writer’s block, lack of motivation or general absence of decent ideas. On holiday in Germany I had loads of ideas for blog posts. Doing new things, visiting a friend and taking time out from my more usual routine coupled with plenty of time to journal and reflect meant the ideas were coming thick and fast. I even jotted some of them down, but by the time I got back some of the more Easter themed ideas seemed out of date and so I settled for writing the most burning topic about the paddling.
I had a busy few days including lots of people at a birthday party, baby shower and wedding. I did have bloggable thoughts relating to some of these but they either seemed not to do justice to the event, to be too personal to me or they risked offending someone. So I returned to something else I had been putting off – completing the corrections to my PhD corrections. Here again I struggled for what to say. Obviously, I had thought it was complete when I submitted the thing, and again, I thought I had addressed the corrections. My usually marvellous supervisor was uncommonly devoid of suggestions. He’d been pretty happy with it back in September, and had agreed that I had addressed the corrections back in March.
In the end I think I got on to it because I knew there was a looming load of marking approaching, and that if I didn’t get the corrections submitted I might not have time to get them done. The break from it all during my trip to Germany had helped and I came back to it more fresh, able to look at the diagrams more from the point of view of someone who had not written them. Thankfully I found a number of changes I thought would improve the diagrams and would show I had taken on board the comments from my internal examiners. I sent them off again and am waiting to see if he will send me back the email which means I can finally call myself Doctor. All that will be left to do then is get it finally printed, hard-bound and submitted, and then graduate, all being well in July. Please Lord.
I am now properly in the thick of my marking (some of it is proper thick). I have struggled to get into the swing of it, particularly when the work is of a poor standard. I try to start each feedback sheet with something positive about the work. I have resorted a couple of times to “Thank you for submitting your proposal”, not exactly inspired and to be honest, not exactly sincere. The batch I have just finished were research proposals and some of them were utterly lacking in inspiration. There are a range of reasons why some of the students are submitting work that is below par; in some cases extremely valid reasons. In other cases, I feel that they have done themselves no favours by choosing a topic they do not find interesting. I am getting rather sick of lacklustre work regarding teenage pregnancy having discovered that one reason students choose the topic is that they have studied it before at college and think it will be easy. I talked one student round to choosing a topic she actually found interesting and I hope it led her to read with more enthusiasm and create a better proposal. I can hope.
While I push on with marking essays I know other people are really struggling. Struggling with difficult home circumstances or relationships. Struggling with their health or to support others suffering in body, mind or spirit. Struggling to get up in the morning or to care for their children. But the struggle means they are engaged with life, however hard it may be, and that’s inspiring. Maybe I can find inspiration in the way they are not giving up. In the way they face another day knowing it will likely be painful or difficult. Maybe we can inspire each other.