According to the Professor I work for there is a condition known as the ‘PhD blues’. After two years of intense research, a PhD student writes up their five hundred page study, sweats their way through a four hour Viva, perhaps follows up with a few amendments, but then they’re done. They’ve passed. Then what?
He reckons I am experiencing something similar. After two years of hard graft I have finished my MA (fingers crossed), and the first draft of my book. Perhaps not as intense as the ‘PhD blues’, more an ‘MA slump’, but definitely I have a feeling of now what?
This feeling of uncertainty is magnified by a change that is happening at work. My day job is not going anywhere but who I work with could change and that is throwing up questions in my mind. After thirty years, could now be the time to have a break from London?
The one thing I am sure of though, whatever I decide or wherever I go, I will keep writing. Depending on the feedback from my tutors, I am hoping my next step will be to go back to the first draft and edit it into something a little more polished. There is of course the concern that my book could be a complete turkey. That being the case, once I’ve locked myself away and sobbed into a pillow for a couple of weeks, I will have a shot at a fresh story. But regardless I am determined to plug away at the writing.
Post MA I now have my weekends back; my evenings too, as I no longer need to tap away on the keyboard trying to hit course deadlines. Having banned myself from looking at my manuscript and doing any work on the book, time is on my side, and it feels very strange. I have found myself walking listlessly around, wondering what to do with myself. A couple of Saturdays ago I decided to go through my TV record box and catch up with all the programmes I’ve missed while studying. After several episodes of Poldark and the Musketeers, I rolled off the sofa, overdosed on men in breeches, knee high boots and flowing shirts slashed to the navel. There’s so much chest hair a girl can take.
Deciding I needed to get some fresh air, I wandered along the Embankment to the Tate and popped in to see the Turner Prize exhibition. There I was confronted with Anthea Hamilton’s twenty-foot high butt cheeks. It was a change from the pecs.
The selection of artists and the work they’ve chosen to exhibit for this year’s Turner Prize is very good. I do love my art, particularly sculpture, but I approach it on an amateur level and sometimes the hanging bin bags and piles of bricks can baffle me.
I noticed there was a theme of the written word running through this exhibition. Anthea Hamilton talks about being strongly influenced by the early 20th Century French writer and dramatist Antonin Artaud and his call for the ‘physical knowledge of images’. That explains the bottom.
Another of the artists, Michael Dean, starts his work with writing – which he then gives physical form. ‘He creates moulds and casts of his words, abstracting and distorting them into an alphabet of human scale shapes.’
Walking through these giant distorted letters I felt like I was revisiting one of my ‘first draft’ nightmares.
After seeing the exhibition I went up to the members’ room. Outside of a library, it is one of the most serene and calm spaces I’ve found in London. Based up on the top tier of the gallery, beneath the large glass domed atrium, chairs and tables are nestled between the cool stone pillars and arches. Over the past two years I’ve spent many a Sunday morning sitting on one of the Art Deco sofas, tucked behind a bronze bust on a plinth, notebook in one hand, coffee in the other, as I worked through my plot.
This time though I just sat quietly with no pen in my hand. And I think perhaps that’s what I need to do. Just sit and be for a bit. Let my brain have some time off and breathe.