Perfectionism as a Bully

I’ve been thinking about the comment I left on Olivia’s blog ‘We Got So Far To Go’, aboout “realistic expectations” and how mine are but a shadow of their former selves. Realistic expectations for me as an undergrad included me pulling 8 hrs of revision a day for 5-6 days a week during the exam period, which usually lasted about a month, and submitting every bit of coursework on time. I’m currently not really capable of that. I used to be able to write a 2000 word essay in two or three days, some of that time including all the necessary reading, but not any more.

Thus, when I worked out my plan for getting my Intro written in time for my deadline in January, it entailed me writing 500 words a day, 5 days a week for 4-5 weeks. It seemed so sensible but in the first week of that plan I wrote… no words. None. I couldn’t face sitting down to write.

The massive irony being I can churn out a 1000+ word essay on my blog in the space of an hour. Continue reading


Jesus fucking H Christ, my supervisor is an idiot!

Just have to put this out here. Where I’d been accusing my supervisor of not getting back to me with comments, he had prepared comments and MANAGED NOT TO SEND THEM.


This would not be the first time he’s convinced himself he sent an email when in fact he hadn’t. A prime example of that would be when I emailed to say I was going off sick with stress for two weeks and he didn’t respond at all.

So, on top of him not sending his comments on my draft for over 6 weeks, when I finally got to read them tonight, one comment really took the biscuit.

Mmm, biscuit.
Sorry. Distracted.

He’d managed to claim that the thing that was my idea was actually his and that he’d told me to do it all along, when in truth, he’d opposed me from the beginning.

It needs a lot of backstory, apologies.

A long time ago, back in my first year of my PhD, Continue reading

Dealing with Emotions and Thesis Writing

I’ve been trying to pay attention to the meta aspects of my thesis writing process and I have discovered a thing that is making it extra difficult.

I do not like sitting with uncomfortable emotions.

I would rather avoid, avoid, AVOID! than pay attention to them and work through them in order to carry on with what I am supposed to be doing. It is a big contributor to the procrastination habits that mar my writing habits, the other big contributor being boredom. Continue reading

How to Recover from Critical Feedback

“… kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” – Stephen King

It’s been a while since I last blogged a long post and the mere thought of it has been nagging at me. Honestly though, I’m at a bit of a loss for what to say. The PhD writing is hard, as expected, but it’s thrown me for a loop and I’ve been procrastinating like a motherfucker. In fact, this very post is me procrastinating! How meta. You known those situations where you feel like you have a long list of excuses but no good reasons? This is one of those times.

I’m procrastinating because I’m trying to avoid something difficult: editing my “Shitty First Draft”. I was previously angry at my supervisors because they weren’t giving detailed or useful feedback. This time, when I submitted what I thought was a pretty good chapter, I got it back with devastating criticism. “Your writing is hard to read”. “It’s too waffly”. “I couldn’t follow what was going on”. Some of the comments were useful but mostly they just cut me to the bone. It felt personal, ya know? It’s my writing, an embodiment of my thoughts, and now you’re telling me it’s shit and I need to cut it down by half?! They’re my words! They made sense to me! How can they be that hard to follow?

Editting while defensive is not an easy task, it turns out. Continue reading

good academic writing – it’s about revision not editing

Things it is very good to read about at the start of the writing-revising process. There’s a difference between revising and editing and multiple revisions are necessary in nearly all instances of long form writing. Those who can produce a successful text in one go with very little editing are a rarity!


Creative writers are accustomed to the idea that their writing must go through several drafts. However, much of the advice on offer to academic writers proceeds as if all they have to do is produce a draft which is then edited, tidied up, everything made neat and clean. I have seen many a thesis completion timetable come unstuck because doctoral researchers have not grasped the fact that by and large this is not what happens. Most of us have to do more than one draft of a piece of academic writing. In reality, very few of us write the scintillating introduction, the elegant conclusion, the persuasive argument right from the start. It takes several iterations.

A few people do of course produce brilliant prose early, and consistently. Prolific writers and those who just happen to be good with words seem to be able to gallop off a chapter or paper…

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Authorship and Voice

In writing the first chapter of my Thesis I decided it would be a good idea to read a few books about how to write a good thesis. A lot of the books cover only the basics – IMRAD structure, how to produce informative clear graphs, how to do a literature review etc. Now I could improve in all these things but none of them were new concepts. Apart from one new idea in one book, “Surviving Your Dissertation” (2nd Ed. Rudeston and Newton) which concerned authorship, Voice and their importance to the writing process.

So what are they and why are they important?

Authorship is the confident ownership of your written words. Voice meanwhile is Continue reading

Transferable Skills, What Are They?!

Welcome to Part Two of my careers advice notes. Part One is here. This part is about transferable skills in general: what they are and working out if you’ve got any. Part Three will cover ones specific to PhDs, and how to market the damn things. 

If you’ve had any careers’ service exposure at all, you’ll know of transferable skills. They’re those annoying things you have to demonstrate on your CV or resumé with examples of your brilliance, as opposed to just saying you’ve got them. You know, the standard “Our team won first prize for_______. I contributed to the smooth functioning of the team by_____.” instead of “I am good at teamwork“. The stuff that feels like over-egging yourself, and feels like a tick-boxing exercise of the sort so beloved by HR with their wretched ‘Personal Development Programmes’. As you can tell, I’m maybe not so fond of them! However, the speakers at the conference had a lot of useful advice, of which I’m going to share as much as I can remember.


The first thing the speakers said was that, as a science PhD graduate looking to work outside of science, you have a reputation, or rather a stereotype, to overcome. If you ask Joe Public what he thinks a scientist is like, you’ll get a description of someone who is too focused on nit-picky details (à la classic geek), who prefers to work alone (with the concomitant lack of team-work skills), and who is so shy they simply cannot speak in public. If you come from the hard sciences, they’ll expect you to be better at numbers than words. They may also think you’re a bit wacky or expect you to have evil genius powers. Muwhahahaha.

"Same thing we do every night, Pinky..."

“Same thing we do every night, Pinky…”


These negative stereotypes are less of a concern if you’re looking for work in fields related to science that regularly or solely hire science post-graduates/post-docs, but you do still have to prove you have the desired soft skills. It’s hard, I know.

So, what are these elusive transferable skills?

Essentially, a transferable skill is one that you can use wherever you go. Continue reading

An Introduction – Or ‘People Want to Hear What You Have to Say’

So, I’ve had this nagging desire to start a blog. I have no idea how it is going to turn out, and that terrifies me. I have ideas for things I want to write about but I’m not sure how they’ll fit together and I am not sure what you are going to make of them. However, if I don’t take this risk, I’ll never know.

I’ve been commenting on a number of blogs under the handle NessieMonster and it’s become apparent that I Have Words, indeed, far more than I thought I did. Elodie Under Glass penned two sentences many months ago on blogging well and they struck a chord,

            “There are things that you have to say that nobody else does. Trust that the people who need to hear your words will find them.”

echoing what someone said to me in May. Now, nearly a year later, it is time to speak. I want to talk about the ideas that interest me, puzzle me, infuriate me and inspire me. I expect there will be posts on feminism, BDSM, sex and body image. There will undoubtedly be posts on the trials of being a scientist-in-training and I expect this will be a place where I struggle to make sense of and explain difficult concepts, especially where I haven’t yet succeeded in person. Of the blogs I read avidly, few have such a wide scope. Is a singular vision necessary? I don’t know. I hope you’ll stick around and take what’s useful to you. I can’t be the only one thinking these thoughts so I’m going to throw them out there and see what takes root.

love, Nessie