Putting the puzzle together

By Rachel Cahalane, PhD student.

For me, I decided to undertake a PhD because I am very passionate about the research area that I am involved in. However, I think I forgot that by agreeing to do this I was also (unknowingly) agreeing to produce quality pieces of writing.

At the beginning, I really struggled with getting over my perfectionist tendencies. I experienced feelings of fear and was constantly second guessing myself. Have I read all the right papers? How do I start writing? There is so much to read and write!

I wanted to force myself to start producing work as early as possible, and not start procrastinating, so I began to think of my writing like putting together a jigsaw. As I read relevant papers and made notes for myself these became my jigsaw pieces. After I read a significant quantity of work, I found myself with lots of pieces scattered around. It was much easier for me to consider these notes as a part of a puzzle than as a large quantity of writing. I found it easier to figure out what works fit together and which ideas connected.

What frustrated me was attempting to put a work together during the day when I am surrounded by noise and other people. I discovered that short spaces of time during the day were useful for working on individual pieces but not sufficient for me to work on the overall puzzle.

Therefore, I changed the times of day I tried to write so I could have limited distractions and this awarded me with the opportunity to tease out problems, ‘join the dots’ and actually finish the puzzle.

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