A Return To Education

And my thoughts about getting on with it

I started an MA in October, something I did very quietly after years of thinking about it and months of agonising about whether the time is right. Very few of my nearest and dearest know, mainly because know, mainly because I’m terrified I’ll fail, and the fewer people that know, the fewer people I’ll have to admit failure to.

My first term has been challenging: an extended period of humility and feeling stupid. The lectures require intense concentration. Yet afterwards, everything I’ve just heard exits my brain pronto and I have absolutely no idea what I’ve just listened to or read.

Covid 19, of course has not helped. The first year being the one in which all the theory modules are completed, I had been looking forward to intense and challenging lectures with time before and after to meet and get to know new people as well as getting back into a well equipped studio to re establish long dormant skills and get playing with glaze recipes. The reality is challenging and engaging lectures on Microsoft Teams with no studio access this year. Fair enough, but coupled with hearing problems and isolation from my fellow pupils, some of whom presumably feel as overwhelmed and confused with the whole learning process as me, it has been a tough start.

I’m struggling to engage with the lectures despite being interested, wanting to understand and know more. I suddenly and belatedly have much more understanding and empathy towards the mature students from my BA who worried and struggled about written assignments for weeks. Whereas I’d roll in from a night out, pen whatever came to mind, re read and type the following morning probably after 2 hours sleep, hand in that afternoon with last night’s make-up still smeared across my face and head back out for drinks to celebrate another deadline met. I’ve moved to the mature student camp. I feel paralysed with fear when I sit down to type. Although I can talk through my ideas when I sit down to write my essay I have a complete disconnect with the thinking part of wards.

I’ve had a long hard look at myself and at my procrastination/ over thinking techniques. Here are some pointers helping me move beyond this ridiculous writers block of my own making:

1. know your time.

Despite knowing I am (and always have been) a morning person, I continually sit down in the evening to get started. I’m completely useless in the evening, really struggle to answer emails never mind focus on essay writing. Its not unusual to be accompanied by an audio book, podcast or the TV. Honestly, no wonder I can’t concentrate. For me silence is golden, when writing or reading I struggle to concentrate when other things are going on. I’m sure this is linked to me hearing loss and reliance on hearing aids as I can’t mentally block out/ syphon off sound like I used to.

So the solution is short, morning sessions with no technology. Computer near for any checking or referencing but closed. Pen and paper are what’re needed to break the back of this piece, preferably at the big table rather than my miniscule desk so I’m not tripping over myself to find books, notes and scraps of paper.

2.Wear the right clothes.

When I say the right clothes, I mean right clothes for the job. I’ve lived in a fabulous 80s mohair number this week. Its cosy, comfortable and completely unsuitable for lots of activities. Although I have to admit I did a little gardening in it yesterday, it just doesn’t work for practical jobs. Studio stuff and clay just gets stuck in it and its a nightmare to clean. I can’t even make a cup of tea without finding magenta fluff floating in it, this definitely rules out cooking, baking and general kitchen pottering, which is my usual procastination tool of choice. In short I’m wearing one of the few garments I own that will make me pause before heading to the kitchen or studio- Win!

3.Focus on the task in hand, not the bigger picture.

I’ve been feeling totally stifled with fear/ worry, this is hindering me. Aside from all my normal day today worries, I panic about why I’m doing my MA, what my final outcomes will be, which direction my work is heading in, oh AND I have an essayto do and its all too hard and too much…

Stop. Breath.

I sat down yesterday with my patient husband and talked about and wrote down the points I want to discuss. This morning arrived and armed with a pot of tea, silence, my trusty mohair jumper and a plan. 2 of 6 points have been addressed, it’s a start and something to build on, now I’m planning to leave it until tomorrow, then repeat this process.

Its overthinking that’s holding me back, not lack of ability. Worrying about what grade I’ll get for a piece, instead of getting on and writing, is not going to help me get the job done, no?!

I think what’s been the hardest thing to get my head around in the return to formal education and writing my first essay, is that my procrastination technique are different to those I use within my practice as a Designer Maker. I’m a big believer that understanding why I’m struggling can help me move forward hence the above musings. Perhaps they’ll help someone else, if anyone reads this that is!

Catriona

P.S. These ramblings are nearly half the length of the essay I’ve been struggling with, proof perhaps, that I can do it, or maybe just another form of procrastination. Watch this space more more musings…

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