#AtTheCliffFace: Musings of a Romance Academic

May 3, 2017

PHS editor, Ali Williams, is talking about being nervous about her PhD, and how she's building her confidence...

 

I'm feeling a little bit overwhelmed at the moment.  
It's as if I'm at the cliff face, but instead of looking out over the sea, I'm at the bottom looking up at rugged peak with stormy skies behind.

 

I have a habit of giving myself over completely to whatever project I'm working on; it means that if I commit to something, I'm forever enthused by it, but it does mean that sometimes I forget how much work may be involved.


That's not to say that I was unaware of the amount of work that a PhD involves - I have plenty of friends and colleagues whose lives were enveloped by their research - but none of them did their PhD part-time whilst working full-time.  And as my job's ramped up a little, I'm beginning to feel like I've bitten off a whole lot of something!

 

So this month I'm talking about how to inject a little confidence back into your life when you've realised that you've taken on a lot!


And I suppose, for me, I can't really emphasis enough the importance of having your own personal cheerleaders.

 

This squad is usually made up of friends, family, your other half and colleagues, essentially the people who tell you that you can do it when you've given up on yourself.  They're the people who've you talked to about your idea so many freaking times that they can parrot back to you every reason why you took on your project in the first place.


I'm pretty damn lucky:  my friends are awesome and have a startling amount of knowledge about Popular Romance Studies, considering that most of them have only ever read the romances that I've force fed them; my family don't quite understand why it is that I've chosen to focus on Mills & Boon books, but they support me anyway; and my other half who essentially bought me my Popular Romance Studies library, and who didn't even blink when I said I was thinking about starting a PhD.

 

And then there's the PHS gang.  From Trish and Christy in the editing team, who gee me up when I'm feeling down, to the columnists and friends I've made who are unfailingly supportive (TTQ, I'm looking at you) and push me to finish my own writing (thanks Heidi!), I'm surrounded by people who let me know that I CAN do it.


Then there are those who inspire me.  People in my life who've faced difficult odds and come out the other side smiling and with determination.  

 

From all those women who are freaking awesome in their writing and their passions and their drive, to my family whose experiences have shaped the person I want to be, I'm surrounded every day by people who are living their lives with integrity.

 

And then there's the hunger.


I want to do this.  I'm passionate about my research, about the importance of not ostracising mass market romance in favour of moralising about what is and isn't good writing.  There's something innately sexist about dismissing an entire mode of writing because it adheres to its genre's structures.  We need to focus less on what a happy ending means, and more on what writers use the safety net of that guaranteed happy ever after to explore.

 

These are the kinds of books that I want to study, that I want to write about - and want to write as well - and no amount of nervousness or awe at the mountain of work that awaits me, is going to put me off!

 

How do you build your confidence when you're feeling overwhelmed?  Share your advice and tips with Ali by using the #AtTheCliffFace hashtag on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

 

Ali Williams is an all round romance nerd, who splits her time between working on a her PhD proposal, quilting and trying every restaurant in the West Sussex area.  For more information about her and her writing project, check out her website and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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