Over the last few months, I have been struggling through the thought process on a few projects. Projects that were not selected by choice – but rather through the necessity of my program. At first, I thought that it would pass quickly; they were small projects so they really should not be that much of a problem. But the more I try to work on them, the more I sit at my desk for hours at a time, with all the right books open, appropriate word documents on my screen, there is always a feeling that something is missing. Only after a heartfelt conversation with a colleague today, did I realize what it is; Inspiration & drive.
When I was finishing up my Bachelor’s degree, I was driven not only by a budding support system, but also by a desire to get what I had to say out of my head and onto paper. I remember one of my first presentations on identity in mmorpg’s, I was arguing that my avatar had an identity that was seperate and outside of myself. Unlike the commonly held avatar as representation position, and unlike the material culture position or even the fetishism position, I believed that my avatar was something beyond me. My (then) advisor had told me “…well, sociologically speaking, that is impossible”. My retort was simply, “perhaps so, but it is my personal experience after nearly 5 years playing EverQuest”. From that point on, I had something to prove – to convince him that I was not delusional or simply uneducated in the positions on identity and avatars…
That comment sustained almost 3 years of reading, research and writing. The final product was my Master’s thesis (and all the extra-curricular work around it). By all means not the last word on the subject, but it was wrapped up with a pretty bow at the time. Since then, I have entered my PhD in Film Studies. A logical place to be when thinking about people, avatars, games and screens … and over the past year, I have read quite a bit of literature that will only benefit the work that is ahead. But the detour that is the first year of doctoral studies, centered around lecture style courses has derailed my drive. It has forced me to put my inspiration on hold. Like hiding something for later, then forgetting where you hid it – I have been frustrated that I have not really had the time to think about what got me to where I am today.
But thanks to this realization (and my colleague!) I think it’s time to buck up and get the little things done. Once they are off my plate – in a ‘just another hoop to jump through’ sort of way, I can sit down again and reassess what it is that brought me here. Reassess the fire in my belly (or to stoke the coals at least), since I cannot imagine embarking on the next 3 years of my doctorate without the feeling that something is fighting passionately to get out of my head.
I think it is time to get back to the source of what’s been driving me – my object … my subject … my burning questions. While everyone around me have told me that to get a little bit lost in the PhD is part of the process, I think it’s just starting to hit me that perhaps the point of this first year was to see how far away from my work I had to get before I realized how much it is really what I want move forward with.