Writing support

Sometimes we all need a little support.

I started seeing the #madwriting hashtag on Twitter… maybe a couple days ago? I had a suspicion of what it might be, but was too shy to ask. Luckily, @nparmalee started a Posterous for #madwriting and expounded there on what it represented for her, how it worked, etc.

She mentions that #madwriting for her at the moment is her PhD thesis. (Best of luck @nparmalee!)

That brought to my mind an online support network in which I was briefly active during the last stages of my thesis writing. (I wrote my dissertation in the summer of 2007, before I had joined Facebook or Twitter.) It was a forum/message board (remember those?) called PhinisheD.

I am delighted to see that it’s still up and active! To be frank, I had a good amount of support when I was writing up. I had lots of classmates who had either gone through the process already or who were going through it with me. My family and then-boyfriend-now-husband were also very supportive. I was very lucky to be in a well-funded lab in the sciences – in other words, I had a healthy stipend to rely on for living expenses and could devote myself full-time to writing.

Despite all the support I already had, it was really nice to know that there was a large community of people who were going through similar struggles. It was nice to have a place to vent and ask stupid questions. Reading other posts and comments also helped me put my own frustrations in perspective when I read the stories of other students’ struggles (unsupportive committees and advisors, heavy teaching load on top of trying to write up, etc.).

If you go to the PhinisheD Hall of Phame and scroll down to September 2007, there I am!

I added the gold star

I couldn’t remember if I had ever posted anything to the forum. So out of curiosity, I logged in. Evidently, my last login was shortly after I defended.

I searched for myself on the forum and found that I had contributed to 7 threads. There was one I found particularly interesting.

In response to sumitra000phd, who had decided he/she no longer wanted to be an academic and was debating whether or not to switch thesis topics or even quit grad school altogether, I offered my own story. I’ve copied and pasted my posts here. (Click on the images to enlarge.)

I should note that this sentence in my first post is no longer true: “I just sort of regret having entered the PhD program in the first place.” I no longer regret having started my PhD, and I certainly don’t regret finishing it. I wouldn’t be where I am now without it.

I have been quite the “alternative” careers evangelist since I made my own decision to leave the bench, but it’s still funny to me that, back in 2007, I was already providing written advice to other disillusioned academics.

So what was the point of this blog post? Actually, I didn’t have one.

But in review, with the help of #madwriting, I have:

  1. Remembered a resource that had provided me with support during those last crucial stages of dissertation writing
  2. Maybe helped spread the word to some of you who would find such a resource helpful
  3. Conceived of, written, and posted a fairly long blog post in less than 2 hours (instead of the months it usually takes me)

Awesome. Ready to start my actual working day now.


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