It hasn't helped that this week has been a pretty busy one in terms of important-but-not-directly-related-to-the-PhD-work. To me this is another mild frustration of the PhD life; with an aspiring post-doc for a husband, I'm acutely aware that it's never too early to start thinking about preparing your CV for post-PhD job applications. On a much less cynical level, I also genuinely enjoy the 'extra' bits and pieces of the academic life; seminars, getting to know fellow researchers, writing paper proposals for conferences, etc. But either way, when these additional commitments all come at once it can be difficult. I'm currently writing a chapter for an edited volume (which I'm very excited about and will be writing a post about soon), which is absorbing a lot of 'daily' work time. It's been too long since my undergraduate days when I was able to write 5,000 words in eight hours: perhaps I'm just getting old, but enthusiastic as I am about the subject matter writing this week has felt like squeezing blood out of a stone. I've also spent every evening this week doing 'after school' activities - speaking at the postgraduate forum which I help to organise, attending seminars - which, due to the bus timetables round here has resulted in late home-comings and even later dinners. Even though these post-5pm commitments aren't academic work in the strictest sense (last night's seminar, for example, was about medieval armour, which has nothing to do with my topic but which I found absolutely fascinating), they do have a knock-on effect, because I wake up the next morning feeling as if I've had hardly any real free time to myself to unwind and recharge.
And as for PhD work, dear me. The gods of the literature review have not been with me this week. During my last meeting with my supervisor he recommended that I read Foucault's On the Order of Things, and I am genuinely intrigued by the possibility of applying more theoretical concepts to my work than has hitherto been the case. But, alas, I have found that thus far Foucault is the kind of author more likely to leave the reader furrowing their brow and gazing out of the window in bemusement than leaping up and saying 'yes! that's it exactly!' For me, at least, I think On the Order of Things is one of those texts whose value to my overall topic will reveal itself gradually over time, rather than all at once. But at the outset of a PhD it feels much more emotionally satisfying to be able to put a book down and know its value and relevance to your three-year project, rather than hoping for it to become clear as you absorb the complex ideas laid out in it.
So, what to do at the end of one of 'those' weeks? I comfort myself with the thought that the key word there is 'end'. I fully intend to finish my chapter draft tonight, no matter how tough that stone proves for the last few paragraphs, and then at the weekend I will sleep and go running and have time to cook healthier food. Then, next week, I will continue my ongoing conversation with Foucault alongside a few books that might feel, at least, more directly relevant to the subject-matter of my thesis, and perhaps start drafting the parts of my literature review that I already have the reading in hand to cover. Above all, I think it's important to balance self-motivation with intellectual self-flagellation. 'Those weeks', I think, happen to everyone, and being a PhD student involves more than just writing a single thesis - it's also about doing all of those things that sometimes feel like they're leading you to hit 'pause' on your main research. Better to accept weeks that don't go as well as you'd hoped than to beat yourself up for them happening at all. Otherwise you risk having a whole long run of 'those weeks'.