Once again, it has been ages since my last blog post. Once again, life has over taken me somewhat and it really wasn’t all my fault this time. I resolved to make and keep time for myself to prevent exhaustion and running around like a headless chicken. I even went on a long weekend break at the very beginning of February which was very relaxing and intended to spend the rest of the term getting my head down and pressing on with that term’s course and preliminary reading for my dissertation. A family crisis intervened, spanning several weeks in all, and I spent the rest of the term trying to catch up with myself. I find myself with some time off work over Easter and so I am working on the term paper for my spring term course. This has been an interesting one so far and I haven’t even started writing it yet.
For a start, I now find myself free of anxiety about whether or not I can write a term paper. I realised that I wasn’t worried about it with a sense of awe and revelation. Our class was charged with writing an informal essay each to give us some practice for the term paper and to give the tutor a chance to give us all feedback. I cursed this at first as I didn’t feel I had time. I have found the prospect of writing essays very worrying and, on top of the weekly readings, I didn’t know how I was going to find time to research and write an essay, even a short one. Surprisingly enough I managed to write the thing without much fuss and was really pleased. We were told we could use the essays towards our term papers as they were informal assessments. I was happy with mine and thought that I had essentially already written half my paper. Then I spoke with the tutor about it and while the essay was not bad, his feedback essentially came down to a challenge to do better and to push myself harder, with a push of encouragement and belief in my ability to suceed in doing so. There was no way I could resist the challenge, and at that point I realised I wasn’t hugely anxious about writing the paper. The other papers have worried me so much that I have had to get on and start writing them as soon as I have had a workable idea so that I can know they are done and not have to worry that I won’t finish them. With this one I have spent the last two weeks faffing about refining the title/topic of the essay. I have even been brave enough to seek feedback from the tutor on two separate occaisions! In the past I have been too scared to get feedback on my work on the basic idea after the tutor has agreed it is within the remit of the course just in case I am told my work is rubbish. I also haven’t allowed myself to refine the structure and focus of an essay this much before starting to write it before. I am rather hoping that this extra time spent working through the focus of the essay will improve the standard.
If nothing else, it is a revelation to realise that the writing of the thing and expressing my ideas is now hardly worrying me. So I find myself with time to worry about formulating the problem and exploring the more difficult aspects of it. I think this is what another tutor was getting at when they commented that there wasn’t enough critical focus in a previous essay. Its interesting how feedback from one person (the tutor for the latest course) has suddenly crystallised in a way that enabled me to understand where there was room for improvement. It is possible that I couldn’t have understood that feedback until this point in my MA, I suppose. I suspect it is a culmination and coherent crystallisation of all my learning over the last 18 months rather than just a sudden lightening bolt of advice that could have come earlier. Anyway, back to reading up for this paper and also thinking about my dissertation. No time to stop and endlessly contemplate the architecture of my learning and experiences, interesting as they may be.