Professional development. Training needs analyses. Skills checklists. Interactive learning journals. E-portfolios. Career objectives. As a new postgraduate researcher, it feels like I’m spending half of my time doing stuff, and the other half, writing stuff about doing stuff. And that isn’t okay.
I’m not arguing that all of this stuff is completely pointless. I’ve found a lot of reflexive writing tasks in the past to be particularly useful for me in better understanding my thoughts, my experiences, my ideas, my positionality, and, indeed, my progress. Take ‘All-Res’, for example. It’s very early days, but two-and-a-half blog posts in, I’ve already found it to be a provocative site for new personal insights and meanings to be forged.
But why do these tasks have to be so regimented at uni? The whole point about reflexivity – not only reflecting on what we are doing, but also becoming aware of our own place or situ: in society, in research, in relation to what we do in our work and whom we chose to do it with – is that it’s supposed to be creatively-driven and, therefore, unpredictable. Placing it all within a “I did this, and then I did that/This is what I need to achieve, and this is how I’ll get it” framework is, quite frankly, stifling. And it’s reflexivity itself that suffers as a result.
I can’t just be reflexive on the spot, either. There are some days – like most days this past week or so – where I have absolutely nothing to say. And on other days – definitely like today, where I have three blog posts-in-progress going on simultaneously – where I have so much to say. I don’t know when I start writing what the reflexive process will create, or what this blog post will turn into, because I have no idea of knowing what new thoughts I will encounter through the process.
Sometimes, I never actually get to the end of writing a blog post, or a personal diary entry (yeah, I still have one of those!), because the exercise will spark something deep inside of me – an idea, newly found, or long forgotten – and I will frantically jot the idea down before I lose it from my mind altogether (which happens a lot). And then, that diary, or that blog, might be left untouched for a week, or a month, or even longer, whilst I give this new pursuit of actually doing something all of the attention it deserves.
The point I am trying to make is, there are times to reflect, and there are times to do. And if that means that my online ‘Pebblepad’ e-portfolio has several month-long gaps in it, well…so be it. Because I’d far rather be slated for not having time to write about writing about research, than writing all about the research I haven’t had time to do.