Why I’m Starting a Blog

Last year I came across ‘Fragment of a Queen’s Face’ in New York. It’s what it’s called – part an ancient Egyptian bust sculpture. The upper portions broke off due to an accident(s), presumably. All that remains is the chin, the mouth and some of the cheeks and neck. Of all the artefacts I have come across over the years, this is especially intriguing. A few years ago, I would’ve tried hard to find out why; i.e., some effort to rationalise the attraction. I’d have thought that, beyond the fact it’s around 3,500 old, it must be part of some wider extraordinary story. Why else does it take pride of place in the, renowned, Metropolitan Museum of Art?

In recent years, I’ve learned to enjoy certain elements of life without feeling self-compelled to justify why. Fragment of a Queen’s Face is a good example. I gain much pleasure from this, arguably, imperfect artefact; maybe, because it gives me a break from the mundanity of the rational world for a little while. Looking at it and thinking about it stirs my imagination; e.g. the many ways it could’ve broken, how they managed to get it so smooth, what the whole face might’ve looked like, etc.

 

fragment of a queens face 2

 

I have always been a bit of a dreamer, or somebody that reflects a lot about a lot. For most of my life, I thought that this was an affliction. The more formal education I endured growing up, the more I became convinced that thinking in a clear, rational, and logical way is always best. However, something deep within me doesn’t fully trust this worldview. Since my teens, I have wondered if our decisions and behaviours are as much, if not more, influenced by intuition than rationality. Over the years, my growing interest in the interplay between rationality and intuition led to me starting a Doctorate of Management degree two years ago – a Professional Doctorate (ProfD) programme, which equates to a PhD. Here I have an opportunity to channel many of my curiosities though a research process in a way that, I hope, will contribute to my development as a person and, in some small way, to that of others.

It was during the first/taught phase of this ProfD that we had to write a reflective essay on an aspect of my professional practice. I especially enjoyed this challenge. It was refreshing to dedicate time to an effort in articulating my thought processes and the knowledge generated by the particular experience. While I enjoy meeting the demands of formal academic writing, I also get a kick out of the freedom that comes with reflective writing; the chance to create and explore my thoughts and feelings in the wider context of the ProfD, and related matters, in a less formal and structured way. I’ve loved writing for as long as I can remember, especially creative and reflective writing. So, as I enter the winter of my thirties, I have worked up the confidence to act upon this passion by starting to blog.

A good a reason as any to start blogging is because I can. I have the health and desire to write blog-posts. I’m privileged to live in a society that embraces freedom of expression. I live in a country (Ireland) that facilitated my education so that I can read and write at an adequate level, and which also provides access to the necessity infrastructure (e.g. electricity, the internet, etc.). I am also a management practitioner, with over twelve years’ experience. I’d like to write blog-posts about why I’m doing the ProfD. I’d like to share to share my experiences of juggling full-time employment, family commitments and completing this degree on part-time/spare-time basis through a University in a different country.

I don’t see my blog as a ‘how to’ guide for doctoral students. I’d prefer to share some stories on how I managed the day-to-day challenges; e.g. reading and data overload, staying focussed, etc. I am underwhelmed by the lack of information online about what it’s like to be doctoral student, especially for those who combine this full-time employment. I’d like to think that my blog-posts would inspire others to consider doing a doctoral degree, and inform current students to overcome some of the challenges that affect their progress. Completing a doctoral degree is often one of the most rewarding and, at the same time, challenging experiences a person could have in her/his life. Getting there can be a very long and lonely pursuit. So, if my blog achieves nothing else, I intend for it to be of some reassurance to other doctoral students (albeit a few), that you are, indeed, not alone.

As the years roll by, I find myself becoming slightly more introverted and intrinsically motivated. At the same time, there’s little that beats a good old chat with family or friends. I find it difficult, however, to discuss my ProfD issues with almost all of them. Thankfully, I have many other interests and hobbies, however the the ProfD has become the dominant one. The problem is that, understandably, most of my family and friends have no interest in discussing, for example, the difference between a theoretical and a conceptual framework. As a doctoral student, you have little choice but to immerse yourself in your thesis and having conversations about it are desirable. If I was doing the ProfD on a full-time basis, I think it would be much easier to manage this, as I’d probably be on campus in an academic environment, surrounded by others who have completed, or are completing a doctoral degree programme. Also, I’d have more time to spend at my other hobbies in the evening. This is one of the many reasons why doing a PhD / ProfD while in full-time employment can be a particularly isolating experience.

Possibly, this blog could be a conduit for engaging with other students in the same boat, and act as a catalyst for related conversations. If this doesn’t happen, at least I’ll be expressing thoughts and feelings about elements of my doctoral pursuit. Also, the blog could become a repository for some of my ideas that, otherwise, may be forgotten. One of the differences between a ProfD and a PhD is an emphasis on the impact that your research will have on professional practice (as well as theory). In terms of impact, I wonder if my blog could have as much external impact as my thesis. I read somewhere that an average of eight people read a doctoral thesis, and half of them are paid to do so. I’m hoping that a greater number of people will read my blog-posts and that it could influence their decisions as potential or practicing doctoral students.

I believe that writing these blog-posts will help me to maintain a discourse that is understandable to most. Writing at doctoral level demands an academic rigour that, unfortunately, is not comfortably grasped by many readers. I appreciate that academic writing has its place, however, it’s important for my development as a management practitioner that I maintain a balanced approach to how I communicate. I do not want to end up in a thesis bubble talking only to myself.

Another motive to blog is that I find the process of reflective writing to be mindful. This contradicts a general assumption that peoples’ increasing engagement with modern technology/the internet is encouraging mindless behaviour and decreasing attention spans. It would be mindless or distracting if I was drafting blog-posts while having dinner with my family, for example. This is and will not be the case. Like drafting this post, I’ll set aside dedicated time to reflect and try to translate relevant experiences, thoughts, etc. into meaningful articles. There is nothing more I value than time spent with family and friends; where you give them your time and attention; i.e., not being on your phone/laptop. For those working full-time, these opportunities are the smaller fractions of the week/month we have to enjoy their company.

Presuming the blog takes off (to whatever level), I don’t intend on looking back in years to come and cringing at my innocence, lack of knowledge or conceptual vagueness. I find it a little sad when people do this; e.g. looking at photos of themselves when they were younger in embarrassment. This blog-post is the best I can put together today, and I am committed to getting better at it in time.

At the moment, I’m incapable of putting into words all the reasons why I have decided to become a blogger. I’m confident that, in time, I will discover more of these reasons and, ultimately, more about myself. Maybe after years of blogging, I’ll be able to clearly articulate why I’m passionate about it, like Phillippe de Montebello can about his love for ‘Fragment of a Queen’s Face’, as follows. For the time being, though, it just feels right. So, I’m happy to trust my intuition and to start blogging, wherever it may take me…

‘If you told me you’d found the top of the head, I’m not sure l would be thrilled because I am so focused, so absorbed and captivated by the perfection of what is there; that my pleasure – and it is intense pleasure – is marveling at what my eye sees, not some abstraction that, in a more art historical mode, l might conjure up. It’s like a book that you love, and you simply don’t want to see the movie. You’ve already imagined the hero or the heroine in a certain way. In truth, with the yellow jasper lips, I have never really tried to imagine the missing parts’. Phillippe de Montebello was Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York from 1977-2008. This is an extract from:

Gayford, M. & Montello, P. (2014) Rendez-vous with Art. Thames & Hudson Inc., New York

#ProfDockers

13 Thoughts

  1. Hi Pat – really enjoyed the metaphor of the ‘fragment of a queen’ – a reminder to be content with life’s essential incompleteness. Think it’s also true that blogging – like a diary – is a good way to reflect while the experience is fresh and thereby capture the moment. You’re so right that it can be difficult to find people with whom to discuss the doctorate – actually the point you bring out about the isolation of the ProfD is well made; the academic in the professional environment is very different to the full time PhD student who as you say, is immersed in an academic environment.
    Lesley

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Pat – really enjoyed the ‘fragment of a queen’ metaphor. Reminds us of life’s essential incompleteness. Who to talk to when doing a doctorate – actually the blog is one way to have a conversations – and to keep a diary when the reflections are current. Your point about the ProfD having its own kind of loneliness – the academic in the professional environment is well made.
    Lesley

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve been truly inspired by the content on your blog and by your skills in reflective writing. But most notably I am encouraged by your ambitions to support and help other Professional Doctorate students considering this programme of education. As stated in your blog, “success stems from intrinsic motivation and doing your best”. Not only is this your own organic belief, but in supporting this belief you are transposing future educational practitioners to be the best they can be and to deliver new and exciting knowledge.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you Eileen. I appreciate your comments. Beyond the fact that writing these blogs will contribute to my own writing and critical reflection skills, I hope that, even, one other person will take some small piece of information/inspiration to invest in their own learning.

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  5. Hi Pat
    Really enjoyed the blog, thanks for sharing. The point I find most interesting is the struggle talking about your work with family and friends. I find myself struggling to discuss some of my own projects underpinnings, especially when I know that most of the time they are just asking out of politeness. Keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Stephen. I get the ‘politeness’ thing. Depending on the company, I’ve whittled it down to “I’m in Glasgow doing some research on strategy implemenatation.” For most, when you go beyond this point, their faces change to something that reflects that they don’t really care (even the most polite of people). In all fairness, there’s little worse than being stuck with a rambler….

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  6. A fantastic piece Pat really insighful , reflective and honest … as you know I have recently completed my own Masters journey and to a much lesser degree can emphatise and relate to your points excellently documented regarding isolation and the constant challenge of trying to balance it all ! thank you for sharing – Talk soon . Daragh

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comments Daragh. I’ve been surprised by the amount of feedback on the isolation piece (even more surprised that people are reading the article at all). It seems to have resonated with a no. of people, with a few having mentioned it to me in face-to-face chats. It’s important to get those conversations going to start addressing the lonliness of being a part-time student with a full-time job, etc.

      I think your story of what led you to the masters degree and your journey to getting it would inspire others in a similar position – not only juggling a very demanding job and family commitments, but also your motivation for returning to formal education after so many years (not that you’re old, or anything LOL).

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  7. A lovely post to read Pat. I agree that the discourse around technology being ‘mindless’ needs to be challenged, and not just by scholars. My thinking has been profoundly challenged by tweets and blogs from mindful people. Secondly, your point about not wanting to regret your innocence is striking – we are always changing, that’s what learning is, so it is best to celebrate every stage of a doctorate, rather than label ourselves. Best of luck.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Louise,
      Thanks a million for taking the time to read my posts and for your encouraging comments.
      Another way we (I and two of my fellow Doctoral students) have embraced technology to stimulate learning and social connections is through a recent chat we recorded (on my mobile phone) on why we decided to do the doctoral degree. Here’s the podcast: Listen to #ProfDockers – First Ever Podcast by User 697088801 #np on #SoundCloud

      Lesley Martin, Eileen O’Neill and I call ourselves the #ProfDockers , just for a bit of fun. As well as contribiting to our own learning, we hope to contribute, in some small way, to that of others too. We also want to reach out to other students in a similar position, who are enjoying and enduring the doctoral degree journey!
      Thanks again and keep in touch…

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Hello Pat
    The decision to take on a p/t study alongside f/t work – plus family, friends and other elements of life – is not for the faint hearted. But – doing this in 21st century – has the advantage of digital connections for reaching out and making connections. Blogging can be a great way to do this and linking to something external (like Fragment of a Queen’s Face) is often an enhancer of the post – as well as offering fuel for more reflective and creative writing!
    Good luck Pat – looking forward to your next post about your PhD journey 🙂
    Sue

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many thanks Sue. I really appreciate the time you have taken to read my posts, and your acknowledgement of the effort!

      We do live at a time when we have the amazing opportunity to embrace technology to support our learning in so many unprecedentes ways.

      Sometimes, I feel many people’s attitutudes to information technology is a bit black or white / all or nothing; e.g. technology is bad, it’s shortening attention spans etc.

      It’s a bit like money; it’s how we decide to engage with it. Technology, in itself is neither bad nor good. Ultimately, it’s how peolple decide to use it, that determines its contribution to and influence on society.

      Liked by 1 person

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