To commemorate the return of the blog, a brief account of The Hiatus, in 5 acts.
Act I: The taking stock, in which I follow New Years tradition
I decided to take some time over the holiday season to think about this blog, and whether there were any changes I could make for the new year. I had a feeling that the Week in Review posts weren’t quite right, but couldn’t put my finger on it. I revisited my reasons for blogging and read everything I had written so far.
Act II: The abashed confession, in which I am disappointed in myself
My previous posts accurately reflect the reality of my research experience last term. I spent a lot of time learning about and trying to develop soft/supporting skills. I took the time to think about what I was learning, incorporate it into my daily behaviour and future planning, and write about it. In the research realm, I read and took notes on my readings, but went no further. I balked at taking the extra steps of analysis, integration and writing. I had a feeling this imbalance was forming throughout the term, but looking back with hindsight it’s almost painfully clear. I simply wasn’t working hard enough on my research.
Act III: The report, in which I have to write (dun dun dun)
My first official progress review was in mid-January, and required a written report. Writing that report was extremely difficult for me, even though it was only 2,000 words, and a good 1/3 of it came directly from my project proposal. Every sentence was like pulling teeth. I started working on it weeks in advance, but because it was so horrible I made little progress until the looming deadline forced me to work through the pain. I spent most of my time and energy trying to crystallise one new idea and incorporate it fluidly into the introduction and the project framework. This was a tricky task, and the result could have been much better had I invested more time into it. In the end, I wasn’t thrilled with the quality of the report, but it was passable.
Act IV: The meeting, in which I realise the value of writing
The meeting went really well. The report was used as a starting point for discussion, and we had a very lively and productive talk. Several participants have outside perspectives, so were able to identify weaknesses or areas that needed more clarity in the project. I walked out feeling energised and motivated. The experience taught me two essential things about the way I work and had been working:
 If I had gone into the meeting without having written the report, my arguments would have been poorly constructed and my participation in the discussion wouldn’t have added much. As I read and learn, all that new information isn’t falling onto a blank slate, it’s joining a growing network of information and making new connections. That network is full of inchoate ideas. The trick is to develop them into actual ideas that can be shared in words. This doesn’t happen automatically – it takes work, and it can be really hard, but it is absolutely necessary. Without that work, I would remain incoherent. Writing forces me to do the heavy lifting and get that work done.
 The act of writing something down seems so final to me – as a consequence I have been afraid to record ideas that I know will change. But nobody in that meeting was expecting immutable truths in my report. Nothing I say or write now will be held against me in the future if it changes. I am free to use writing as a tool in the process.
Act V: The road ahead, in which I shake off the self-pity and get constructive
So I messed up a little last term by not working hard enough in my research, and not biting the bullet and writing. The good news is that I’ve realised my mistake, and it has actually turned into something pretty exciting for the future of this blog. My original reasons to blog included documenting the research process and sharing my ideas to develop courage. Now I think it’s appropriate to take it a step further. Writing this blog can be an active part of my research, and allow me to develop my ideas. I’m not sure how this will shake out because – to be frank – my project is hard. I am finding it difficult to do, and even more difficult to talk about with other people. But, as The Hiatus ends, I will go ahead anyways; everything doesn’t have to be figured out ahead of time.