PhD Survival: 7 Bullets To Dodge* (Pete Kalu)
The poet, Coleridge was famously interrupted as he was writing his brilliant work, Kubla Khan. He said he dreamt the entire poem (some reaearchers say possibly under the influence of opium!) then sat down to write it. He was halfway through when someone knocked on his door. By the time the stranger left, Coleridge had lost recall of the dream and couldn’t complete the poem. If true, it is one of literature’s most frustrating losses.
While I may never pen a Kubla Khan, I do sometimes feel myself on the cusp of something as I’m writing. I slip into a fragile form of self-hypnosis, easily broken by any disturbance. Of course that’s when the knocks on the door come thick and fast. Here’s my tongue-in-cheek, top seven concentration-breakers. You can add to the list!
1 Human beings. They are the single most annoying presences on earth. They call at any time. They bring crises that cannot be averted or diverted. They ruin possible Eureka moments and gobble your research time.
2. Next is cats. Cats sit on your papers. They knock down your pile of books. They attack your keyboard. They lie in a corner smirking at you when you are stuck, as if they have the solution and it’s obvious.
3. Neighbours’ washing machines. You think you’ve mapped, quarantined and neutralised all possible sources of disturbance: you choose to work in the dead of the night when no neighbours knock, no family phone and the cat is out hunting. But that’s when you discover that your eco-neighbours in the apartment above have programmed their washing machine to start rumbling in the middle of the night because that’s when the cheap rate electricity happens.
4. People with hobbies they think might interest me: PhD study is an exercise in monomania. Please do not bother me with, like, actual real world stuff. I’m not interested.
5. Natural disasters. There’s a tsunami heading my way? Umm. Does that mean I actually have to abandon this thought, this keyboard, this problem? No. Let the wave do its worst.
6. Human disasters: Unless the flames are licking my feet I do not need to know about the nearby gas storage plant explosion and, no thanks I’d rather not evacuate, I’ll take my chances.
7. Amatory adventures: love is PhD work’s sinkhole, a resource-intensive experiment in emotions that produces results too subjective to hold any scientific validity. Swipe left! Swipe left! Swipe left!
*survival not guaranteed