A Bit of a Brain Dump and What to Expect over the Next Few Months

I’ve done that thing again where I’ve blogging infrequently and sporadically. There are a few reasons for that, and I wanted to take the time to write a post about what’s been happening in my life recently, and what the knock-on effects are likely to be in terms of blog content over the next few months.

Never ending to do list. Credit: The Daily Quipple

Starting with the most recent hectic/exciting thing..

Some of you will know that I have a small business called Science On A Postcard. I started the business because I was looking for a creative outlet, and a place where I could chip away at some of the stereotypes that surround scientists.

The Science On A Postcard stand at Etsy’s Aberdeen Summer Showcase 2019

Earlier this month I took Science On A Postcard to Aberdeen’s Etsy Summer Showcase (above). For me that meant lots of evenings and weekends getting stock ready, and 2 days off work for the actual event. Don’t get me wrong, I love this little business that I’ve built, I’m incredibly proud of it, but I need to start setting some boundaries before it takes over.

Look Again Creative Accelerator

Before I realised that I needed to start setting boundaries with the business, I applied for a creative accelerator program, and at the end of May I was told that I have got a place. One of the things that annoys me most about myself is that when I do something I tend to jump right in, go the whole hog, and then realise that there’s only 24 hours in the day. Anyway, this is a temporarily busy, but brilliant, thing. The Look Again Festival have worked with Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University to offer 12 individuals a place on a start-up programme for creative businesses – and I am one of the lucky 12! That means 13 days off work over between June and September this year.

So far that’s 15 days away from my full time job in just 4 months. That’s not great for my ever-growing to do list, but it’s doable.

Now throw in:

  • My first MSc student with a July thesis submission
  • Fairly urgent work for the ORINOCO project that I’m leading (June/July) (hopefully I’ll get chance to do a blog post on ORINOCO soon)
The ORINOCO Project; tidying up outcomes in clinical trials
  • A 3 day trip to Oxford for EBMLive (July)
  • A 2 day trip to Edinburgh for the BIG Event (July)

and things are getting to an almost unmanageable level.

That’s all work stuff, small-business work, full-time-job work – but all good, all exciting, and all doable.

Then we get to the rest of life.

A few weeks ago, my partner and I were driving into Aberdeen and we saw some houses that we thought looked really nice. We booked an appointment to go and look at them, and the prospect of moving house towards the end of this year (the house we had our eye on had not been built yet) became a very real thing, very quickly. The night before we needed to make a decision on that house, I found another house – closer to Aberdeen and a better layout for us. We went to look at it, and it was perfect. Absolutely perfect, within our price range and all fitting into place with just one minor issue.. we’d need to settle on July 5th and we’d have 4 weeks to move house. The house was ready and if we wanted it then we needed to be ready too. For context, the first and second weekends in July I won’t be in Aberdeen as I already have things booked elsewhere.

In a matter of weeks I’ve gone from a busy summer with work, to a busy summer with work and Science On A Postcard, and now a brain-tingly busy summer with work, Science On A Postcard, and moving house.

I’m currently at a writing retreat (during the writing sessions I’m writing a paper from my PhD thesis – this is being written from the comfort of my hotel bed with a tummy full of dinner), and I feel like I’m about to be greeted by the busiest summer of my entire life. Something needs to give, or more realistically, multiple things need to give. The first of those things is this blog.

I’d like to post blog updates on the conferences I attend, but at the moment I’m not sure whether that’s feasible. I’m taking the summer to Get Shit Done, and then once I’ve moved, and ticked off the majority of my urgent to do list, I’ll be working on setting some boundaries so that my brain doesn’t explode before 2019 is out.

 

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Jen Campbell’s Creative Non-Fiction Writing Workshop

I write non-fiction all of the time. it’s the most consistent part of academia – backgrounds, methods, analysis, it’s the one thing I know I could do every day and never get to the end of. Academic writing is a specific type of non-fiction designed to convey information, packing in details though remaining concise. What I do much less frequently is creative non-fiction. That is, using storytelling techniques to communicate factually accurate things.

Earlier this year, I had an idea for a non-fiction book. I’m not going to say any more than that – maybe one day I’ll write it, maybe I won’t – for now I’m mulling the idea over in my head to see if it’s got legs. Anyway, after having that idea I decided I’d like to learn how to write creative non-fiction. I searched online for local training courses, regular classes that I could attend to learn the basics, and I struggled to find anything around the Aberdeen area. Most options were online, and most were cost-prohibitively expensive. I pushed the idea to the back of my mind, and a few days later whilst watching one of Jen Campbell’s YouTube videos, she mentioned that she was starting a new online writing workshop for creative non-fiction. I signed up straight away; it was only £50 and though I didn’t think that something so short (and distant) could teach me a huge amount, I figured that it would at least get my head into the right space to get started.

I completed the writing workshop whilst I was on my Fellowship travels in Singapore and Hong Kong, and I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to talk about it here.

Who?
Jen Campbell
Jen Campbell

Jen Campbell has written a number of (fantastic) non-fiction books about books and booksellers, she’s also written poetry, short stories and children’s books, and she’s currently working on her first novel. Jen runs these workshops for a small group of people a few times a year, and you don’t need to have any formal writing experience or training to take part.

Where?

Since this workshop is online, you can take part wherever you are in the world. There is a text-only Skype session scheduled for feedback, but if the time isn’t suitable then you are able to get feedback on your work via email instead.

What?

The workshop includes two tasks. The first involves looking at some examples of creative non-fiction and analysing them to work out why they are (or are not) successful, the second is a bigger beast; writing your own piece of creative non-fiction of up to 2,000 words.

The first task was necessary and interesting, but it was the second task that really got me thinking. The instructions Jen gives state, ‘You might want to write about a personal experience, you might want to write an informal essay, or a piece of memoir. Do whatever you like.’ I’d never had this much freedom to write non-fiction before, and it scared me (I’m not sure why, only Jen and the other workshop participants would see my writing. It wasn’t as if the stakes were particularly high – we were all there to learn). Regardless, it took me a few days of bouncing ideas around in my head to settle on something to write about, and then I did it. I sat down at my laptop and wrote, and honestly, it felt like a form of therapy. I wrote something very personal that I doubt I’ll ever share, and I loved it. It was a rough first draft and I knew it could be significantly improved, but for the first time in months I genuinely enjoyed the process of writing.

I sent both of my completed tasks to Jen before I had time to doubt myself, and a week later I got feedback. I’ve watched Jen’s YouTube channel for a few years and I’ve read lots of her books so I know that she is good at what she does, but for something so quick (and reasonably priced), I was expecting surface level feedback at best. Instead, I logged into the Skype chat (the one good thing about my experience with jet-lag) and she explained fundamental techniques, gave in-depth, well thought through feedback, suggested edits to my text, and the promise of a second round of feedback on a future draft. There were only 3 of us on the Skype chat and it was useful to hear both Jen’s feedback for the other workshop participant, and the other participant’s feedback on my piece.

I fully intended to edit that piece of writing within a week of the Skype chat; I felt passionate about learning this new skill and I was looking forward to revising my work (seriously, when does anyone think that?). Perhaps obviously, I didn’t have the time. My Fellowship travels were in full swing, and I got caught up with writing what felt like a million other things.

Now, I’m at one of Rowena Murray’s writing retreats, and as usual, I’ve managed to get way more work done than I thought I would (if either of my PhD supervisors are reading this –  I’ve finished a new draft of the qualitative paper!), so I’m using one of the last sessions to edit my piece and write this blog post.

On reflection, I’m glad that I took a forced step back from creative non-fiction as it feels like Jen’s advice has sunk in over the last few months. Now I’m excited to make time to write, whether it’s as a sort of therapeutic outlet, or to continue banging on about science and science communication in a (hopefully) more engaging way.

When?

If you’d like to try one of Jen Campbell’s online writing workshops for yourself, take a look at her website for dates. There are currently no dates for group workshops, but she also doing individual workshops throughout the year.

Recommended?

Yes, absolutely. I’m actually thinking of signing up for another one of Jen’s workshops later in the year – something further out of my comfort zone; perhaps this is the year that I start writing poetry!


Books with Jen podcast logoI also wanted to mention Jen’s podcast – BOOKS WITH JEN. If you’re at all interested in reading, writing, books, authors and/or cups of tea, you’ll like this. All of the episodes are spoiler-free too, which means it’s one of my favourite sources to find out about books before going out to buy them.

Goals for 2019

Yesterday I published a post reflecting on 2018 – a massive year for me that encompassed huge highs (hello PhD!), and some very real lows as well. Many of those lows were in relation to my personal life, and this blog is not the place to talk about them. That conscious decision to only include professional things in my reflections made it look like 2018 was essentially made up of achievement after achievement; good thing after good thing. Lots of good things did happen in 2018, but there is room for improvement to make 2019 the year that I want it to be – enter, goals for 2019!

A side note before I get into my goals: this year it feels like there’s an awful lot of people rubbishing the idea of the new year being a trigger for change, but for me it works. It’s an obvious time to refocus and reassess what I want out of both my professional and personal lives, and looking back gives me a boost to kick start the year with positive intentions. This isn’t about turning supposedly bad habits into good ones, or that whole ‘new year, new me’ bullshit, it’s just about making some tweaks to make sure that I have realistic expectations for the year ahead.

So, some things I’d like to do in 2019…

Refocus my career aspirations and invest my time accordingly
As I said in my reflections post, I spent a huge amount of time doing public engagement and science communication activities in 2018, but that’s not my job. I am not a professional science communicator or a public engagement professional, I am a researcher that communicates my science and works to engage the public with my science, because I am passionate about my field of science. I would like more people to know that research on research is a thing, I would like more people to understand just how important it is for us to get research methods right, for us to optimise and ensure our methods are as efficient as possible so that we can get good quality evidence from ‘traditional’ research (here I mean the scientific research that is being done to cure a disease or improve the way we diagnose etc, rather than research on research which is what I do).

Towards the end of 2018 my research work started to suffer because I was spending too much time on public engagement activities. Before I left work for Christmas it was becoming really clear to me that I needed to make some decisions about how I approach public engagement. I’ve said before that I don’t want to be a science communicator, I don’t want to make a living from doing public engagement; that’s still true, so it’s time for me to refocus and set some boundaries to make sure that I’m investing my time and energy in projects that are reflective of my future career aspirations – to stay in academic research that aims to improve the way that we do clinical trials.

Publish 2 papers from my PhD
This goal links in with the point I made earlier about spending a lot of time doing public engagement. Just after I submitted my thesis in June, I told my supervisors that I wanted to have drafts of 2 papers complete and ready to submit before Christmas. That didn’t happen, but in 2019 I want those two papers drafted, revised and submitted. This shouldn’t take a huge amount of work – I had one draft done and sent to supervisors before Christmas, so I need to spend some time editing that and cutting text down etc to send round for comments again, and the other one is currently sitting as a thesis chapter that needs to be reshaped. I’d really like to have both of these submitted and with journals for peer review by April this year, which I think is realistic.

Wind down my freelance work
I’ve talked about being a freelancer on this blog before – there are definite good bits and bad bits, but this year I’d like to continue winding down my freelance activities. When I first started to do freelance writing I liked the flexibility of it and the additional money I made enabled me to live more comfortably. Now I’m in a very fortunate position where I have a full time contract for 2 years when I start my new job in March, I’ll be on an actual grown up person’s salary and during those two years I don’t want to be spending my ‘spare’ time on freelance stuff. Instead I want to use it to put my absolute all into my research career – finding fellowships, making connections with people and doing some bloody good research. I enjoyed freelancing at times, but in recent months it has become yet another thing on my to do list; even during the final weeks of thesis writing I was writing copy for businesses, and this year it’s been a pretty relentless schedule of two blog posts (that require a decent amount of time to research before I even start writing), every single week. In 2019 I want to spend that time in other ways.

Rediscover a love of fitness
Linking into public engagement and all of the extra things that I’ve done along side my research, I have not been to the gym in months. I don’t mean like a month or two, I mean probably about 9 months now. I’ve been paying for use of a pretty high end gym for that entire time, and I have booked classes, but I’ve then gone on to cancel them because something else came up – Science On A Postcard orders needing to be packed or freelance projects had tight deadlines etc. In 2019 that needs to change. I used to go to the gym 4 or 5 times a week, and I loved it. It was a normal part of my routine, and one that kept my mental health in check just as well as my physical health. Recently I’ve been experiencing really bad tiredness – I’m hesitant to call it fatigue because I don’t think it’s been that bad, but I have been sleeping a ridiculous amount, and feeling too tired to do things like going to the gym. Starting the year with a holiday and some much needed stress free time has been great, and I now have some supplements that will hopefully help the tiredness to reduce over the coming months, so I’d like to stat re-building my gym habit, and start going to hot yoga classes again. Whilst I’ve been out of the UK I haven’t had access to a gym (nor have I wanted it to be honest), but I’ve been walking lots which has been a great way to see new places whilst also keeping my body moving.

Those are the 4 main things I want to focus on during 2019, I have some little things I’d also like to do or get involved with, but I’ll update those as and when they (hopefully) happen! What do you think of setting new goals at the start of a new year; does it help you? If so, leave a comment and let me know what you plan to work on this year – I always find that putting my goals ‘out there’ and telling someone gives me more of a boost to pursue them so let’s share and encourage each other 🙂

Reflections on 2018

I’ve come to the end of my little Canadian holiday – Cameron has left Toronto to head back to the UK, and hard work on my WCMT fellowship starts next week. Wahhhhh. Well, it’s hardly the worst thing in the world, but I do miss him already.
Anyway, emotions out of the way… it’s already January 5th and I haven’t spent any time reflecting on how 2018 went, so this what this blog post is going to be. The start of a new year is the perfect time for me to step back and have a look at what I’ve achieved in the previous 12 months, and what I’d like to achieve going forward (that’s coming in another post).

2018 goal: Finish the thesis, become Dr Gardner
How did I do? NAILED IT. To be fair, this goal was a bit of a cheat – my funding ran out at the end of June, so I really had to have my thesis done and handed in before that. I was hugely relieved and happy to have passed my viva with minor corrections, meaning I was able to make those corrections and resubmit in time for the winter graduation ceremonies that take place in November at the University of Aberdeen. It’s still weird when people refer to me as ‘Dr’ – I say people like this has happened a lot; it hasn’t, it’s mainly been my mum.

(L-R) Prof Marion Campbell, Dr Katie Gillies, me (and Tatty, my bear), Prof Shaun Treweek. Three wonderful colleagues who were supportive, enthusiastic and passionate throughout my PhD studies.

2018 goal: Secure funding for after the PhD
How did I do? This was the goal that I was most worried about. When you finish a funded PhD, that funding eventually comes to an end – for me that date was 30th June 2018. During my PhD my tuition fees were paid for by Aberdeen University’s Development Trust, along with a modest stipend; a lump of money that was given to me in monthly installments, tax-free, for me to live on. Whilst I was very lucky to have that funding, it was a small amount of money that enabled me to live, but I wasn’t able to save money during that time so the stress of funding completely stopping was a definite worry of mine in the early part of 2018. I explained this to my supervisors, and made them aware that I wanted to stay in Aberdeen doing research on trials methodology work of some kind.
Being open with those around me meant I had a little team championing my quest for funding and cheering me on – and it worked! I got a 6 month contract as a Research Assistant from June 2018, finishing just before Christmas, I’m now away on Fellowship travels, and when I get back I have a new contract as Research Fellow waiting for me on March 1st. I’ll post more about my new project nearer the time, but I’m really excited to get my teeth into it after having a few months of working on lots of different things at once.

2018 goal: Get involved with some new, innovative science communication and public engagement projects
How did I do? I think this one went pretty well – I did a lot of public engagement in 2018, maybe too much (can you ever do too much? that’s a question for another day, but I do feel like it started to encroach on my research time which wasn’t great).
Anyway, I brought Soapbox Science to Aberdeen for the first time (in 2019 we’ll have 2 events, which reminds me, if you’re based in Aberdeen and would like to take part as a speaker then you can apply now here), I then created another event called ‘Snappy Science’ which followed a similar format to Soapbox, but speakers only had 20 minutes to communicate their science before they were told to get off their soapboxes, I also gave talks about my research to members of the public based in rural communities as well as other academic researchers, I took part in I’m A Scientist which involved online chats with schools across the UK every day for a period of 2 weeks, I contributed to events at Aberdeen’s May Festival and TechFest events, and I continued blogging – though I did have a pretty significant break over the summer whilst I was in a thesis-induced meltdown.

Soapbox Science Aberdeen 2018 speakers.
Collaborative project with Nina Draws Scientists.

As well as public engagement events, I’m really proud of the work that I’ve continued to do with Science On A Postcard, which is a very tiny online business that I run from the office I share with my partner in what should be our spare room. This year I specifically wanted to do more collaborations; I wanted to work with other creative people so that I could create more products that were relevant to

the science community. That went pretty well; Science On A Postcard’s first collaboration was with Nina Chhita from Nina Draws Scientists – we created a set of postcards featuring women in science; they were released in time for International Day of Women and Girls in Science (11th February), and a % of profits went to organisations supporting and advocating for women in science.

Collaborative project with Teddy Perkins.

That little collaboration sparked a few more, in 2018 we’ve worked with Cutie and The Feast, Teddy Perkins (a greetings card business ran by my Mum, who is now looking after the Science On A Postcard shop whilst I’m away), the Scicommunity, the PhDepression, Super Cool Scientists, Designed By Ebony, and Wonk! Science magazine. Writing that all down has made me realise just how much work that Science On A Postcard has taken this year – no wonder I’m so bloody tired!

So I did quite well with the goals that I set myself for 2018 – hoorah!

Professionally, 2018 was a huge year for me, but that doesn’t mean that it was all positive. I’m incredibly proud of myself for what I’ve achieved over the last 12 months, but honestly, it has left me exhausted. Writing this post has really highlighted where I’ve invested my time, and it’s given me some real food for thought for the goals that I’m going to set myself for 2019. Those goals will be up on the blog within the next few days, so keep an eye out if you’re interested to know where I’m hoping 2019 will take me!

Non-Work Goals: 3 Month Check In

3 months ago I wrote a blog post about setting non-work related goals; something that my PhD supervisor suggested I do in order to combat the post-thesis hand in slump. In doesn’t feel like anywhere near 3 months has passed since I wrote that blog post, but it’s time for a check in.

Goal: Rediscover my love of reading

What I said I was going to do: “Over the next few months I’d like to get to the fiction books I bought from Powell’s City of Books (a selection of the pile shown on the right – I know, I buy too many books) when I was in Portland, and also some books that were released this year (Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie, When I Hit You by Meena Kandasamy, and Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon).”

What I’ve done: I think this has been the most successful of the goals that I set myself in July, so I’m starting on a high. Since then I’ve read 21 books! I’ve read all three of those that I listed, and a good chunk of the books that I bought in Portland too. Here’s a list of my favourites from those 21 books (if you’re on Goodreads then come be my friend on there too! My profile is here):

  • When I Hit You by Meena Kandasamy (4*/5)
  • The Accusation: Forbidden Stories from Inside North Korea by Bandi, translated by Deborah Smith (4*/5)
  • On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (5*/5)
  • Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley (5*/5)
  • Stickle Island by Tim Orchard (4*/5)
  • The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay, and Disaster by Sarah Krasnostein (4*/5) (I listened to this one on audiobook)
  • Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (4*/5)
  • Life Honestly by The Pool (5*/5) (I listened to this one on audiobook)

Goal: Learn how to ride a bicycle

What I said I was going to do: “Now I’ve proven to myself that I can write a whole thesis and actually do a PhD (which I will always argue is more about tenacity than intelligence), I figure it’s time I give the bike thing another shot. Also, I really want a bike with a basket on the front that I can fill with picnic food and gin, and if I can’t ride it then that dream is never going to happen.”

What I’ve done: I DID IT I DID IT I DID IT! This was the goal that I thought I’d struggle with, but I can actually ride a bike!! My lovely boyfriend lent me his bike and then spent a few hours at the park near where we live holding the seat whilst I squealed “I’m going to fall, ahhh I’m going to fall!” Turns out, I did fall pretty spectacularly and then I had to be taught how to fall off a bike… yes, I can write a thesis worthy of a doctorate but when time’s going really fast I completely forger to put my feet on the floor.

Anyway, I’ve got actual real life video evidence for this one, and I don’t care how embarrassing it is because I am 26 years old and I can ride a bicycle!

Goal: Do something new and creative

What I said I was going to do: “A few months ago I bought the ‘How to be a Craftivist’ book by Sarah Corbett (right) after listening to a podcast that she did with Leena Norms, I haven’t yet read the book, but just listening to the podcast gave me tonnes of ideas about how I could use craftivist ideas to spread awareness of scientific concepts. All of those ideas are still in the back of my mind but I haven’t had time to do anything with them, now I do have some time and I think this could be a brilliant little passion project before Christmas. Not sure what the creative project will be just yet – maybe a zine? Not sure.. ”

What I’ve done: This is the goal that I’ve barely made a start on, but given that the other two have gone so well I think that’s ok. In August I bought Joe Biel’s book, How to Make a Zine (photograph to the left taken from Syndicated Zine Reviews), and I’ve had a very quick flick through it, but I haven’t done anything about said zine making challenge yet. I also thought about taking on board some of Sarah Corbett’s ideas on craftivism, but I haven’t got around to reading the How to be a Craftivist book yet. I did order a little craftivism kit from Sarah’s website though, so I think I’ll do that before I start making plans for my own craftivism.

I’m pretty pleased with the status of these goals just 3 months on – in particular I hadn’t realised that I had read so much, so that was a lovely surprise. How have you been doing with striking a work/life balance over the summer months? I feel like during summer it’s easier to strike that balance because it’s sunny and people are making plans to go adventuring after work. It’ll be interesting to see how I do with maintaining this new found balance into the autumn months when the nights get darker and it becomes all too easy to stay sitting in front of my laptop.

Setting New Goals: Non-Work Related

Towards the end of last week I had an annual review with my Line Manager at work. He was my primary PhD Supervisor so he’s known me for over 3 years now, and he’s pretty good at sensing when I need a kick up the backside, well, that and the fact that I’d literally blogged about the post-thesis hand in slump the day before our meeting… Anyway, we had a really good discussion about his experience of the post-PhD slump, what he did to combat it and what I could start doing too. His exact words were ‘avoid work-related goals for the next 6 months’, which was both shocking and comforting. Shocking because, he’s my Manager and therefore explicitly stating that I should avoid big goals at work was weird, and comforting because oh my God, thank GOD he said it. Obviously, I’ll be working away as I’m expected to, but I’m going to make an effort to focus on things outside of work too.

I’ve had a few days to think about what I want to do over the next few months, and thought I’d share them here. Just as with work-related goals, writing things down in a relatively public place is a way to help keep me accountable.

Rediscover my love of reading
Last year I read an average of a book a week, this year it’s week 28 and I’ve read 21 books. I thought I’d be a lot further behind given that I wrote the majority of my thesis this year (yes, I’m still going on about it), but I have a huge pile of books waiting for me to read them. Over the next few months I’d like to get to the fiction books I bought from Powell’s City of Books (a selection of the pile shown on the right – I know, I buy too many books) when I was in Portland, and also some books that were released this year (Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie, When I Hit You by Meena Kandasamy, and Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon).

Learn how to ride a bicycle

Hi my name is Heidi, I am 26 years old and I cannot ride a bicycle. I can drive a car and walk and both roller skate and ice skate to the extent that I rarely fall over, but I cannot ride a bike. I remember learning to ride a bike – my Dad did that thing that Dads do where they tell you they won’t let go of the saddle when in fact they do, and as soon as I realised I was actually riding the bike myself I stopped and my Dad did proud-Dad tears and then we went home. I was about 6 or 7 I think. Since then I have needed to ride a bike once when I was on one of the National Trust for Scotland’s Trailblazer Camps aged 17. I tried and I couldn’t do it first time, so I stopped and admitted defeat. This has now become a shining example of my ‘if at first you don’t succeed.. give up’ mantra – it spread also to tap dancing, playing the keyboard, and various sports. Now I’ve proven to myself that I can write a whole thesis and actually do a PhD (which I will always argue is more about tenacity than intelligence), I figure it’s time I give the bike thing another shot. Also, I really want a bike with a basket on the front that I can fill with picnic food and gin, and if I can’t ride it then that dream is never going to happen.

Do something new and creative
A few months ago I bought the ‘How to be a Craftivist’ book by Sarah Corbett (right) after listening to a podcast that she did with Leena Norms, I haven’t yet read the book, but just listening to the podcast gave me tonnes of ideas about how I could use craftivist ideas to spread awareness of scientific concepts. All of those ideas are still in the back of my mind but I haven’t had time to do anything with them, now I do have some time and I think this could be a brilliant little passion project before Christmas. Not sure what the creative project will be just yet – maybe a zine? Not sure.. I’ll likely update the blog as the project (whatever it is) progresses, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

Now I’ve written this down it seems a bit weird that I have had to go to the effort of setting goals in order to force myself to relax. I guess that’s a product of academic life though – this is the first time since I was a young child that I haven’t had an exam or assessment of some kind to work towards! Hopefully once I get used to having more free time this will all come a bit more naturally 🙂

 

Goodbye 2017, Hello 2018

At the beginning of 2017 when I first started this little blog, I published a post on my goals for this year. Now we’re in that weird time period between Christmas and New Year, so I thought I’d reflect on what progress I made with those goals, and then set some new ones for 2018.

Reflecting on 2017

2017 goal: Begin piecing together the thesis
How did I do? I’m pretty happy with this one, and with 6 months to go until I hand in I’m not feeling tooooo terrified. I attended my first writing retreat and finished a full first draft of my systematic review chapter (currently sitting at over 30,000 words), which is a really nice foundation to work from – much better than beginning to tackle the thesis with a blank page in front of me. I’ll go into more depth about where I am with my thesis in a post over the next few weeks, so there will be more details there. Overall though, I’m feeling relatively happy with the progress in made in 2017.

2017 goal: Read more widely, and more frequently
How did I do?
This year I have been doing the #365papers project – reading a paper every day (on average) for a year. I did a decent job with this, but let my reading slip in December meaning I haven’t finished the challenge. In previous years, I’d have forced myself to finish the project and completed the whole thing, but this year I just don’t want to. I’ve taken a proper break over Christmas – I don’t go back to work until January 9th, and I haven’t opened my laptop for anything work related since I left the office on December 22nd. Over the next few weeks whilst I’m off I’ll  start getting myself organised for going back, but I’m not going to force myself to spend my Christmas break reading papers. I kept up with the project until the end of November which was pretty good though! Outside of academic reading, I’ve read 52 books this year – a mix of non-fiction and fiction, and I think that’s helped with my writing too.

2017 goal: Seek out opportunities to publish
How did I do? One thing I’ve learned this year is that publishing takes AGES. Really, it takes a very long time. This year I’ve been involved in lots of different projects that will give me publications, but it looks like they’re all going to come in a bundle in 2018. To be honest, that’s no bad thing – I’m really excited to see them coming out, and I feel like lots of hard work on this goal has paid off.

New goals for 2018
Rowena Murray’s ‘How to Write a Thesis’ – a book that I’ll be carrying everywhere with me for the next few months!

Finish the thesis, become Dr Gardner
This one’s obvious – it’s the biggest and most important goal of 2018! I am aiming to hand in my thesis on June 30th 2018. So far I think I’m on track to meet that date, but there’s a lot of work to be done over the next few months to make sure that things work out.

Secure funding for after the PhD
This is the goal that I’m most terrified about. Academia is a competitive game, and I want to stay in health services research after my PhD is complete – this means finding funding. Keeping all of my fingers and toes crossed for this one.

Get involved with some new, innovative science communication and public engagement projects
I have a few ideas for projects and ideas that I’d like to put some work into, but the bigger ones will need to wait until after my thesis is handed in. Between now and thesis hand in, I do want to keep up with public engagement work – but on a smaller scale. I’m thinking of creative projects linked to Science On A Postcard, collaborations with other makers (I’ve already got 2 lined up for the beginning of 2018!), and small-scale projects that I can do alongside the thesis.

2018 is going to be a big year for me, and I’m looking forward to sharing it on this blog – hope you all have a wonderful break and a productive year ahead too!