Earlier this week, Nick Hopwood posted 10 things you should know about a PhD but may not have been told. On reading the post I located myself somewhere between 1. (you and your work are crucial to the future of humanity and the world); 2. (you're in an astonishing position of privilege); 5. (yes it is hard) and 6. (you will continue to feel like a fraud). It hasn't been a comfortable position to be in! So in the spirit of Nick's '10 things' here are a paltry three I've come up with as a remedy for my current discomfort:
1. Scale down. Getting limited satisfaction from small stuff can gradually ease the sense of disappointment and impending panic (what's the point? I've wasted six months reading the wrong things? etc). A week of small stuff means my desk's tidier, I've got my references up to date AND I've managed to work on small tasks which will, at some point, contribute towards the whole: drafting small sections in timed sessions; checking out bang up to date journal articles on my topic....If I haven't done what I'd ideally like to have done this week, I have, at least done something.
2. Let some air in. The atmosphere between you and your supervisor(s) can become very rarified. Allow yourself and your ideas to breathe. Get fresh air circulating. Talk to others in your field whose opinion you respect, absorb the implications of different perspectives, rehearse your ideas in different circles. Freshen your thinking and your conviction about your research and your right to do it may well strengthen. And there's nothing better than literally taking some air. Get outside and walk.
3. Get off the beaten track. If your confusion and sense of inadequacy are becoming entrenched, try a detour. Cross discipline, read someone/something new, go and hear someone speak/sing/play and enjoy their competence in what they do. Sometimes detours give us unexpected views of the roads we were travelling on or remind us why we chose that route in the first place.
I'll let you know how it goes....