Embrace mess and imperfection?

the gray Sunflower poised against the sunset, / crackly bleak and dusty with the smut and smog / and smoke of olden locomotives in its eye– / corolla of bleary spikes pushed down and broken like / a battered crown, seeds fallen out of its face, / soon-to-be-toothless mouth of sunny air, sunrays / obliterated on its hairy head like a dried wire spiderweb, / leaves stuck out like arms out of the stem, gestures / from the sawdust root, broke pieces of plaster / fallen out of the black twigs, a dead fly in its ear, / Unholy battered old thing you were, my sunflower O / my soul, I loved you then! … / A perfect beauty of a sunflower! a perfect excellent / lovely sunflower existence! ~ ‘Sunflower Sutra’, Allen Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg’s poem ‘Sunflower Sutra’ celebrates beauty in decay. Ginsberg laments the way technology can destroy creativity and crush inner beauty. He reminds us, though, that “we are not our skin of grime”; “we’re all beautiful golden sunflowers inside.” Ginsberg suggests that if we stay true to ourselves, celebrate our humanity, our uniqueness, our creativity and our connection to the natural world, we can retain our souls and rediscover our glorious selves.

The poem, published in 1956, still resonates today, 60 years on. How many people in our current world feel like they are weighed down by the “grime” of pressure, technology, work, external expectations or life events? How many are influenced by the “soot” of the social media highlight reel, the constant always-on-ness of devices, the weight of online trolls? How many feel they aren’t accepted, let alone celebrated, for their authentic selves? How many make life choices out of freedom rather than fear?

This post has come about because today’s post by Naomi Barnes has me thinking about mess and imperfection, and the ways in which we impose structure on the magnificent chaos of human experience. I agree with Naomi that Twitter is an example of a wonderful, lovable mess. I like her notion of trusting the mess; that messiness is ok, even diffractively productive. It allows meaning to be made and connections to entangle and untangle. Her metaphor of tangled webs of yarn as webs of learning and connection resonates with me. It feels to me like an extension of our blogversation around the web-ness of learning, research and relationships (my webby musings are here, here and here). Naomi has reflected on webs of research as messy. While Pat Thomson talks here about why it can be good to follow intuition and live with mess in research.

I wonder what we dismiss or try to control, which, left alone, might be beautifully imperfect or gloriously creative. Or is it the job of teachers, writers, researchers, artists and scientists to work to make sense of the mess, for themselves and others?

I’ve chosen some of my own images, below, which explore the beauty of the messy or the broken.

Do we look closely enough, at people, situations, places and possibilities, in an effort to appreciate, accept and celebrate them for what they are? Do we see people, not for how we think they can be fixed, improved or developed, but what they offer and how they are their own wonderful selves doing their own authentic things? To what extent do people and organisations feel they need to conform, to organise, to fix or to judge?

Can we trust mess and idiosyncrasy? What happens when we do?

We’re not our skin of grime, we’re not our dread / bleak dusty imageless locomotive, we’re all / beautiful golden sunflowers inside. ~ ‘Sunflower Sutra’, Allen Ginsberg

 

broken or beautiful? rail at Gullfoss

broken or beautiful? rail at Gullfoss

irregular or extraordinary? Pinnacles at dawn

irregular or extraordinary? Pinnacles at dawn

imperfect or interesting? wire at Shark Bay

imperfect or interesting? wire at Shark Bay

misshapen or unique? NY Halloween pumpkin

misshapen or unique? NY Halloween pumpkin

mess or creativity? painting with nature

mess or creativity? painting with nature

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One word 2016: MOMENTUM

I spent the last day of 2015 in motion, quad biking along a beach.

I spent the last day of 2015 in motion, quad biking along a beach.

Last year, in the new year, I focused my attention on three words: presence, sharing and strength. I was focused on being present in each life aspect and relationship, sharing and storytelling, and building my strength in body, knowledge, connection and conviction. My 2015 ended up being focused around lots of writing, and on the one word we had written on our chalkboard at home: CONQUER. I was focused mainly on conquering my PhD thesis (and I got it submitted), but also conquering some academic papers and conferences, conquering fitness and strength goals. Seeing a daily reminder of that one word gave me a laser-like focus on finishing, completing, conquering. I pushed hard, remained motivated and hit milestones. But it also left me exhausted!

This year I was looking for a “one word” (sometimes called one little word or one word 365) which was more yin and less yang, more reflective and less explosive, more about regeneration than domination. While I was still attracted to active words like inspire, ignite and create, I considered gentler words like refine, renew and play. But none of these cover what I think my 2016 will be about. Maybe I’m not so ready for stillness or space or quiet just yet. I don’t want to be conquering in 2016, but one of my big lessons of 2015 was to put one foot in front of the other and just keep moving.

I spent my last day of 2015 quad biking with friends and family on a long pristine stretch of white beach. Snaking, quickening, turning, moving, the wind whipping around and against us. Speeding up. Slowing down. Driving away and towards and around. Playing with speed and direction, throttle and velocity, movement and pace. Feeling the terrain beneath the bike: sometimes flat, sometimes bumpy, sometimes hard, sometimes cushioned by peaks of white sand. Concentration. Adrenalin. Acceleration. The word I have come to for 2016 is MOMENTUM, from the Latin movere, meaning “to move”. This will be a year of being in motion or on the move.

my son, dressed as an angel, in motion

my son, dressed as an angel, in motion

I’m not starting 2016 from a stagnant place. I am already moving. My PhD is being examined, and will hopefully be done, dusted and doctored some time in 2016. I have some academic papers in the pipeline. The coaching professional learning model at my school is implemented and in an iterative refinement phase, and I’m in conversations about what my role might look like in 2017 and beyond. So what I want to do in 2016 is keep the momentum going, capitalise on what I’ve achieved so far and push ahead. Move.

The idea of momentum in the sense of a rolling snowball isn’t quite right for me, as that kind of momentum is quite linear. I’m thinking of something more fluid. Kayaking through rushing river water. The momentum of paintbrush over canvas. Skis slicing through snow. Music building to crescendo. Feet running off a mountain to begin a paraglide. Quad biking on a beach. This kind of momentum requires a combination of knowledge, precision, creativity and mastery. It can be messy and lead to the unexpected.

I’m not sure about the end point of my momentum. People have asked me what I’ll do after the PhD and the answer is, I don’t know. I have some ideas of what might be similar or different from what I’m doing now, but I’m not set on one course. I’m happy where I am, doing what I’m doing. But I’m open to alternative directions and possibilities. I figure if I set my intention for 2016 on being in motion – forward, diagonally, in, out, reflectively, critically, creatively – my path with open up before me. Or I’ll find that I’m already travelling along it.

roses in the ocean, in motion carried by the waves

roses in the ocean, in motion carried by the waves

Indra’s Net: We are all connected

There is an endless net of threads throughout the universe … At every crossing of the threads there is an individual. And every individual is a crystal bead. And every crystal bead reflects. Not only the light from every other crystal in the net but also every other reflection throughout the entire universe. ~ Anne Adams

This post itself is a tangling of threads. It is in part a reflection on the first day of the national Australian Association of Research for Education (AARE) conference, which I am attending and at which I am presenting a paper. It is also part of a wider conversation I’ve been having through blogging. It was incited today by Robyn Collard’s Welcome to Country in which she used the above Anne Adams quote which refers to Indra’s Net, a Hindu and Buddhist concept that articulates the interconnectedness of the universe. It imagines each individual as a dew drop, jewel or pearl: reflective and distinctive, but also interconnected with all the other dew drops via the threads of the web. Parts and whole. Dazzling individualism within collective network.

This quote and concept added a layer to an already-layered conversation I’ve been having in the blogonet with Helen Kara and Naomi Barnes. It started with Steve Wheeler’s #blimage (blog + image) challenge. When Helen shared a photograph of tangled dew-bejeweled spiders’ webs in her garden, both Naomi and I responded to the image. Naomi wrote about the messiness of research. I wrote about how technology connects people to one another. I’ve since also written about the web-weaving spider as a metaphor for the researcher. And today I was connecting at AARE, in person, with a web of academics who I know mostly through their work and through Twitter.

So here I am again. Contemplating the web. And the dew drop jewels. And their infinite reflections and refractions. Their beauty and fragility and separateness and togetherness.

I spent much of this first day of the AARE conference in a four hour symposium in which scholars brought diverse perspectives to the same general topic of leadership in education. They agreed and disputed. They converged and diverged. It was a great example of respectful, well-considered and articulate debate. Graceful disagreement. Elegant contestation. Research as conversation.

For instance, in conceptualising leadership as artistry, Fenwick English noted the webbed connections between research, art, leadership and creativity. Scott Eacott discussed the relational aspects of leadership and of research, asking scholars to consider how their work relates to that of others. Christina Gowlett approached school leadership from a perspective of challenge and critique, agitating against dominant approaches, norms and expectations by embracing alternate theories of uncertainty and transgression.

Additionally, Gabriele Lakomski and Colin Evers discussed thinking in schools as a wide cognitive net. They define cognition as a dynamic system, comprising reciprocal interactions between people, artefacts, resources and environments. They noted that thinking is not just computationally logical-deductive; it is interpretive, intuitive, behind consciousness and beyond awareness. They explored the notion of the extended or supersized mind which distributes cognition. Our tech is our selves. Our communities and social networks are change collectives. Gabriele and Colin noted that cognition occurs “beyond skin and skull”, challenging the myths of the stand alone thinker, the heroic leader and the change agent. Individuals influence and are influenced by each other. Thinking and being is connectivity. Web not hierarchy.

These ideas resonate with the perspective I will be presenting at the Heroism Science conference in 2016, which suggests a reimagining of heroism in school leadership. That is, that school leader ‘heroes’ can work subtly, fluidly and invisibly in the service of their school communities. In education there needs to be shared vision and individual purpose, collective and individual capacity. Strengthening the web while protecting and nurturing the dew drops.

Like Costa and Garmston’s (2006) notion of holonomy (which is based on Koestler’s 1972 conceptualisation of the ‘holon’), Indra’s Net shows the dual importance of the individual and the collective. The jewel and the net. All are simultaneously together and separate. A change in one is reflected in a change in all.

So as I reflect (like the dew drop), I imagine webs of learning, webs of emotion, webs of relationships, webs of identity. I wonder: What influences the symbiosis between individual and collective? In what ways might we shape others? In what ways might others shape us? These could be questions for families, friendships, organisations, communities, nations, the world. What about our selves can we control and what choices are we making about what our own self-jewel reflects onto those around us and onto the universal web? In what ways could we harness the global mind, the universal self and the interconnectedness of humanity?

Imagine a multidimensional spider’s web in the early morning, covered with dew drops. And every dew drop contains the reflection of all the other dew drops. And in each reflected dew drop, the reflections of all the other dew drops in that reflection. And so ad infinitum. ~ Alan Watts

‘WRITE ME’: Writing to be, writing to know, writing to connect

Round the keyboard was a paper label, with the words ‘WRITE ME’ beautifully printed on it in large letters. Alice ventured to touch the keys, and, finding the sensation to be addictive and quite wonderful in its staccato rhythm, very soon found she had written a page! Three pages! “What a curious feeling!” said Alice, “I must be becoming a writer.” And so it was indeed, for there were words on the screen and the pads of her fingers were singing with a kind of joy.

~ adapted from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

'WRITE ME'

‘WRITE ME’

It is coming to the end of #AcWriMo, ‘Academic Writing Month’, when, for the duration of November, academic writers take to social media with valiant goals of words written and writing tasks completed. I know how good it feels to watch the words grow. But writing is more than increasing words. It is reading. It is cutting out words. It is drafting words upon words that don’t work; words which are the evidence of problem-solving processes, etched onto white screens or into notebooks; for erasure or storage in shadowy places, not for publication.

In my PhD, and in this blog, I use writing as a medium of reflective and analytic thinking. ‘Writing aloud’ or ‘free writing’ is one way in which I sometimes see where the words take me and which surprising and non-linear burrows I might be catapulted through.

This post emerges out of a blog and Twitter conversation with three academics around writing and autoethnography: Helen Kara (who writes here about ‘showing her workings’ and revealing the personal), Naomi Barnes (who muses here about autoethnography as a vehicle between the personal and theoretical) and Katie Collins (who responds here with her thoughts about writing as thinking, as filter on reality and as power). Here, I offer my own thoughts to this conversation.

I was ushered into this conversation by Helen, but was already familiar with Katie’s work. Once Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was enmeshed into the fibres of my PhD thesis, I went looking for someone else who had done something similar (because surely I couldn’t be the first), and came across Katie’s then-recently-published dissertation. We had done different things with Alice, but the novel clearly resonated for both of us.

While I didn’t use Deleuzian theory in my PhD, Deleuze’s 1990 Logic of Sense reflects some of my thinking of Alice as a novel of identity contestation, fluid becoming and un-becoming, through language. Carroll’s fantastical, imaginative world questions adult realities and plays with the power and (non)sense of words. Deleuze positions Alice at the borders. As a neophyte researcher who has made some non-traditional choices, I have felt that I have operated in some ways at the borders, questioning and pushing at the edge of where I am expected to be, what I’m expected to do and how I’m expected to do it. Being at once curious about, filled with wonder for, and at odds with, the world is an affinity I feel with Alice. (This week I will present on my use of the Alice metaphor in my PhD, at the Australian Association for Research in Education conference.)

crudely sketching Alice

crudely sketching Alice in my notebook

While for my PhD I didn’t adopt autoethnography per se, I did use the autoethnographer’s lens as part of my conceptual bricolage. That is, I saw myself as research instrument, self-conscious participant and immersed, self-identified insider member of my study. Michael Schwalbe’s 1996 metaphor resonated: reflections on my self were both door and mirror; a way in to others and a way back to self.

My PhD thesis self-story (I was interviewed as one of my own participants; but that’s another tale) had the purpose of making transparent my own worldview (along the lines of Helen’s ‘showing my workings’), but it also had another function: to help me know myself. As I worked to find the words to explore and articulate my own lived experiences of the phenomena I was studying, I found, as others have, that I wrote my way into knowing, wrote my world into a version of its reality and constructed my own story in new ways, through the talk-aloud experience of the interviews and the process of forming and finding the words to frame my narrative.

I wrote at one point about writing a PhD as like freeing a sculpture from stone, but I wonder if the process of writing is one in which we free what already exists within, or if it is more than this. Creation? Collage? Weaving? Moulding? None of these seems to adequately embody the process of writing which seems to come simultaneously from within and without; from past, present and future; from materials tangible and intangible. It is deliberate and intuitive; visible and invisible.

And so, I continue to welcome opportunities to write my way into being, to write my way into understanding and to connect my words and thoughts with those of others.

I came across this 'Pour Me' cocktail the night of this Twitter conversation. Coincidence?

I came across this ‘Pour Me’ cocktail the night of this Twitter conversation. Coincidence?

Doctoral examination limbo: Frozen in PhD carbonite

So okay― there you are in your room with the shade down and the door shut and the plug pulled out of the base of the telephone. You’ve blown up your TV and committed yourself to a thousand words a day, come hell or high water. Now comes the big question: What are you going to write about? And the equally big answer: Anything you damn well want. ~ Stephen King, On writing: A memoir of the craft

The irony isn’t lost on me that, the same month I set a blog writing challenge for PhD and other research students (and others in the academic pre- and post- doctoral world), I am struggling to find content for a PhD-related blog post. So, following Stephen King’s above-quoted advice from his excellent On writing: A memoir of the craft, I’ll write about ‘anything I damn well want’; or perhaps just anything that comes into my head as I type. This follows Pat Thomson’s technique (which she also attributes to Ray Bradbury) of writing with a blank screen and a few selected words which spark associations. Pat says it’s ‘writing fast’ or ‘running writing’ rather than ‘free writing’, but I’ll call my approach free writing here, because that’s what it feels like to me. Screen. Keypad. Words. Let them form as they will, then revisit and see what’s been made.

Part of the reason I’m finding a PhD-related post difficult is that I am currently in examination limbo. I’ve submitted the thesis and it’s been posted to three examiners, so now comes a wait of two to six months.

In this limbo period, I’ve got some papers to revise and to write, and I have work, parenting and life which go on. And thank goodness! Inger Mewburn, Thesis Whisperer, has likened completing the doctorate to running off a cliff. I can certainly relate to that, in a Road Runner cartoon kind of a way. My little animated PhD legs are still sprinting even though the thesis is submitted and I’ve run off the edge. Suspended in mid-air, legs madly cycling, I’m grateful to have work to keep me busy, purposeful and grounded.

selfie scribble

selfie scribble

Meanwhile, today as part of the #aussieED Twitter chat, we were asked to ‘sketch note’ an introduction to ourselves. I have declared my love of notebooks in previous posts about my flânerial packing list and on my pre-professional-fellowship art journalling. So I sat with my kids and scribbled some bits and pieces, watching them join together. The interesting thing about the process of thinking-while-scribbling is that thoughts and ideas emerge, seemingly through the very process of the pen scratching across the paper. Before beginning, I hadn’t mapped out what I was going to include. Much like this blog post, which is free-written, I was free-drawing. I surrendered to the moment and watched what emerged. If I did the same exercise tomorrow, or in a week, or a year, I’m sure the result would be very different (there’s a time-lapse video idea!).

And how about free-talking? I am connected with educators and doctoral students on Voxer, and I sometimes find myself using that walkie-talkie app as a useful ‘think aloud’ tool. I find that if I press the ‘transmit’ button and start talking, I don’t know what I’ll say until I’m saying it (sorry VoxSquad for the occasional ramblings). The act of talking aloud helps me to surface my thinking.

What can we learn about ourselves, what internal thoughts can we surface or capture, through the acts of writing, drawing, or talking aloud?

Here I am, in limbo between PhD submission and PhD completion, frozen in carbonite as an almost-Dr (yes – I’m anticipating The Force Awakens and am reminiscing about my favourite Star Wars moments, like Han Solo being unfrozen from carbonite). I’m wondering what might come next. Continuing to work in my current job, at my current school, business as usual? Considering what kind of role might be possible in my present context? Starting at the bottom of the pile, after a 15 year career as teacher and school leader, by dipping my toe in the academe? Heading down a consulting or alternate/indie academic pathway?

I know my current thinking, but I’m open to being carried in other directions. Free-writing, free-drawing and free-talking open up possibilities, so why not free-professional-decision-making? Lay out the materials and see what surfaces.

* This post is for the #HDRblog15 challenge. Join me to blog all things higher-degree-by-research this November!

my PhD notebook stack <3

my PhD notebook stack ❤

Coaching fields forever #educoach #twistedpair

strawberry fields forever

strawberry fields forever

Today’s blog post is a response to two blogging challenges: the #educoach October blog challenge and the #twistedpair blog challenge set by Steve Wheeler, in which a blog post needs to blend two disparate things. I’ve decided to pair coaching (something of my journey as/to coach here) and picking strawberries. (Although now that I look back on Steve’s challenge, he asks us to pair people or characters, not things; still, I hope this counts as a strange duo.)

So how is coaching like strawberry picking?

Today I took my two young children to pick strawberries. After a week of working relentlessly on my PhDdeep in the thesis cave where it’s dark and solitary, and with a sprained ankleit was so good to get out into the sunshine and the dirt. 

The first rows were dry and over picked; there wasn’t much to find. We fossicked and looked, but our box remained sparsely populated. It wasn’t until we walked further afield that we found bushes that were greener, bushier and more bountiful. Even then, it wasn’t until we crouched, paid attention to a particular plant, and looked deeply into its foliage, that we found the glossiest and juiciest strawberries, protected by shade and unseen by others who had trudged by without stopping to examine that plant and explore its blossoms, leaves and unseen-from-the-outside fruit.

This reminds me of coaching, which requires us to approach a person, the coachee, uncertain of what we might find or where we might find it.  We cannot assume where they are at, or where the conversation is going to go. In order to uncover and bring to the surface thinking which they haven’t previously accessed—not to mention the a-ha moment, or ‘cognitive shift’ as it’s called in Cognitive Coaching—we need to be present, pay attention, and expertly use questioning to reveal those glossy, or rotten, unsurfaced thoughts which help that person to take their own reflection, practice or dilemma to the next level.

by @debsnet

part of our haul

Not only that, but as I picked the strawberries this morning, and later washed and sorted them this afternoon, I noticed their snowflake-like idiosyncrasies. Each was recognisably a strawberry, but each was a slightly different shape, colour and texture, with a stalk which bent a different way, or seeds which sat differently against its skin. Some were under-ripe, some had just begun to turn, and others were at the apex of their strawberry-eating life: red, shiny, firm and glorious. Each coachee is an individual, and they are in a different place each time we meet with them. So while a coach might apply a coaching conversation map or set of tools to all coachees, each relationship and each conversation will look different, shaped by its person, time and place.

Combining two very different things seems a disruptive way to approach a topic. I’m interested in how we might bring new understandings to familiar concepts or practices by attempting a twisted pairing. I’ve written before about research and Wicked, the musical, and my PhD as a sculpture or birthday cake. I’m wondering what else I might uncover about myself as coach through analogy or metaphor.

by @debsnet

strawberry blossom in the sunshine; perfect potential

Risky business: Living on the PhD edge

The doctoral requirement for the candidate to produce a significant and original piece of work … indicates that the most significant and original ideas can be those that are most likely to challenge the status quo or the scholarly paradigm within which they are examined. … the ‘best’ doctoral research is likely to be much riskier than modest research. ~ Professor Terry Evans

WRONG WAY GO BACK

WRONG WAY GO BACK

As I inch towards the thesis submission finish line, I have been pointed towards Terry Evans’ 2004 AARE paper, ‘Risky doctorates: Managing doctoral studies in Australia as managing risk’ by the How to Survive Your PhD MOOC. The above quote is from this paper and surfaces the interesting point that the pursuit of knowledge and science is perhaps better served by research which is willing to take risks and challenge accepted knowledge and paradigms. Yet Evans goes on to note that the performative measures imposed on academics and universities encourage modest paradigm-following research, rather than that which is risky, status-quo-challenging and paradigm-bending. That is, PhD researchers are most likely to play within the established rules of the game, in order to complete within time and assure a pass. Evans argues that this results in the loss of “unknown and incalculable benefits” to science and scholarship.

This makes me feel better and worse about the PhD thesis which I’m hoping to submit in the next few weeks. Better, because I think my research is risky; at least the bricolaged – that is, bespoke and woven-together from a number of traditions – paradigm and the way I’ve chosen to communicate my findings. I haven’t totally smashed through academic norms; my thesis is still recognisable as such. But I have pushed at the edges of what is accepted. I’ve been ok with embracing my discomfort and doing things that seem, within the traditional schema of the academe, ‘out there’. My work proposes slightly new ways to go about protecting participant anonymity and communicating participant stories. It is these things about which I am presenting at the AARE conference in November.

While I am feeling proud of my research and my writing (despite having chosen not to employ a professional editor), Evans’ paper also makes me feel nervous because I am getting ready to send my thesis off to three external experts who are to examine my thesis. In the USA and the UK PhD examination usually involves a viva voce, or oral defense, of the thesis, followed by questions. Examiners are then able to deliberate before deciding on the result. In the USA the committee is made up primarily of professors from the candidate’s university, including their supervisor (who hopefully supports the work). Under the Australian system, my thesis will be sent off to three different individuals, including one external Australian examiner and two international examiners, who don’t know me or the work at all. These three people will read my thesis and send in their (potentially conflicting reports), without any discussion between them. At least if examiners’ reports disagree about the quality of thesis, there is a majority one way or another.

While I hope that my thesis is one in which the examiners think the work is interesting an original, and the text worth reading, there’s a lot riding on the opinions of three people, coming from different places, different perspectives and different paradigms. That’s part of the challenge of a bricolaged thesis which weaves together multiple phenomena and methodological threads; there isn’t a clear box in which it fits. Risky.

writing retreat collage, by @debsnet

Having just come back from a mini revision retreat in Sydney (read: 2 nights solo, away from work and family commitments – a PhD-working-parent’s dream), I am so deep ‘in’ my text that I can’t see the wood from the trees. As I have worked at the various levels of editing, I’ve been in the forest, sometimes looking at the whole lot together, sometimes at patches in between and sometimes at teeny micro details. Undergrowth. Canopy. Bark. Branches. Veins of leaves. Reflections in dewdrops. The feel of earth and sound of sticks underfoot. Birdsong. I’m so immersed at this point that I’ve lost direction. Time to take a brief step back to regain perspective. A helicopter ride to survey the scene wouldn’t go astray.

A couple of iterations ago, my primary supervisor said, ‘You could hand it in like this,’ which gives me hope that if the text is better now, it can only be more submittable. I’ll have to see what my supervisors say tomorrow about the most recent version of my thesis. Is it good? Is it good enough? Is it risky? Is it finished? Is it finished enough? Are there mistakes? Will the examiners be sympathetic to my approach? It’s so hard to know because, while I can read other dissertations, the PhD process for me has been in isolation from other students; I don’t know where my work sits on a continuum of doctoral standards.

I guess at some point, it’s time to trust, print, send, and see.