Have any of you, like me, found motivation for PhD work during the COVID situation to be absolutely dismal, at best?

For me, when we went into lockdown I was (perhaps topically?) working on a chatper for my PhD on ‘Love as a painful feeling’… I had started drafting this chapter in early February…and found by mid-April I was still no where. Even though covid hadn’t directly hit anyone near me or my family (Thank God) I still found everything quite disjarring… the change in working circumstnaces, socialising, and the looming fear that you might lose someone close to you at any time…

So how in the world is a postgrad student expected to stay focused during this time? Thankfully, many universities are taking this into account, offering extra time to complete your postgrad degrees should the need arise, for extenuating circumstances. For me, this won’t make much of a difference… I’m a self-funded part-time PhD student aiming to finish everything as soon as possible…if I need ‘extra time’ it will just cost me more money…thus, not terribly helpful.

Yet, at the same time (for me) the peaks and troughs of this season have been palpable. I recently put together a view with a few top tips on how to deal with this season which is attached here.

In this blog post, however, I realy want to place emphasis on the third point I make in this video : using this time to do ‘creative work’.

I don’t know about you guys – but I find I need a LOT of concentration to focus upon rigorous PhD research and writing. However, when it comes to creative things – making videos, writing blog posts, podcasts, creating scripts, etc… I find this to eminently more feasible during this period. Indeed, for me, being creative also lifts my mood. This isn’t that surprising… numerous articles (behind paywalls) note how creativity helps lift your mood. This Forbes article from 2018 details of them.

This is probably unsurprising to many of you…anyone who is familiar with the rising ‘mindfulness’ movement has learned to appreciate how certain exercising, like colouring, can be hugely alleviating for anxiety. Thus, when I feel unable to move forward on my PhD, I try to think about it from a more creative point of view. Throughout the history of my work this has included:

Purchasing a sketch pad and drawing creative mind-maps and posters illustrating my thoughts on my research

Creating blog posts about various ‘rabbit trails’ regarding my research – which focus upon tangential pieces which will never make it into my academic PhD, but are perfectly palatable to a ‘public audience’.

Creating videos and podcasts on these same topics above – and experimenting with different formats. Reaching out to friends, and other networks to improve my skills in these arenas.

And, finally, one of my favourite ways to cope when I am just too anxious to deal is to dip deep into my creative organs and write… I love to write stories, and I love to compose music. Both of them, in different ways, permit me to be manifest my feelings and transcend the issues at hand.

Musically, the piano is my instrument of choice (indeed, also the only instrument I can play!) As a treat, here is a piece I composed on one such occasion, when I needed to unwind, reflect, and transcend (Autumn) and another, which is still in progress…

After You
Autumn