Hello, World! And Why I’m Writing

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Introducing my blog, sharing a little perspective on grad school, and why writing is the secret to better thinking.

The self-managed style of many PhD programs is a double edged sword. On one hand, you have the freedom to pursue whatever ideas you think are interesting, regardless of how whimsical or impractical they may be. On the other, it means that ultimately, you are the one that’s culpable for your own success (or failure). When you can go days, weeks, or possibly even months without much feedback, it’s very clear that you need to be able to set boundaries and hold yourself accountable to even have the chance to be successful.

Now throw in a global pandemic, and it’s basically like cranking up the slow burn of unstructured time into a raging fire. If you thought weeks blended in together before, just ask yourself what you’ve done in the last 2 months. Besides learning how to use Zoom, how much can you remember? I imagine that for most people, the biggest effect of the pandemic is that it’s redefining what work means in our lives. When there’s no manager around to peek over our shoulder, what do we hope to accomplish, and what do we even like doing? Probably this thought has crossed the minds of many, and perhaps even multiple times, only to be snoozed for later.

One of the great burdens of writing is that it forces you to choose. And by choosing, you must then think about what that choice implies. Is this really what I meant to say? Does it actually capture the stream of thoughts going through my head? How will others interpret my translation of these ideas? Personally, I find it liberating to write about thoughts that keep popping up in my head. By spending the time to sit with them and reflect on what’s worth distilling, it actually frees my mind to move on.

In times like these, it’s all to easy to spend the day just waiting til the next comes along, rather than making use of the only resource that is truly finite. I’m finding writing to be one of the rare activities that gives me a sense of moving forward.