In Albert Camus book “The Plague” there is a character called Joseph Grand. Joseph Grand is writing a novel, he has been writing it for years but has never got past the first sentence. He constantly writes and re-writes the first sentence, never finding the right words, revising each word. He knows if he gets it right the resulting work will be a masterpiece, but he is word anxious and nothing flows.
I always considered Joseph Grand a figure of fun, someone to laugh at, a bit of comedic relief in a tale of death and disease. However, it has been dawning on me in the last few months that Joseph Grand is a much more sympathetic character than I imagined. I am caught in a trap of re-writing and revising. I feel my project has lost direction and I don’t seem to be able to get it back on track. The thought of the amount of work I have to do terrifies me, I can’t think and every time my thoughts do drift towards the PhD I panic, I mean proper panic, where I feel I can’t breathe. My family and friends have (thankfully) stopped asking me how it is going because I can no longer talk about it. I feel totally rudderless.
Recently I have been thinking about whether or not I should even continue. Would it be better to give it up and move on to something else? Should I just chalk this up to one of those things that did not work out, like a failed love affair or a novel that is just not worth reading?
I love being at the University, I love the students, the projects, the teaching. These are the things that are driving me on, giving me a reason to get up and come in. The PhD just seems like a mountain I cannot climb.
It was never going to be easy.