Ode To Felt Tip Pens

There are many things that help to make the PhD journey both possible and survivable. For me, both man and dog are at the top of the list – heading for the beach at the end of each day for a run around in the sand, listening to the waves, and debriefing from the day’s events is something to look forward to even when the words I should be writing are are swollen and glued shut to one another. There’s not much that good company and a JackRussell/ Doberman cross with an epic underbite can’t make better, and for that I am thankful.


There are other people who help as well – friends, family, advisors, mentors, librarians, and even other students in far-flung places around the globe. it’s the latter group with whom I have had regular contact over the past 10 weeks, thanks to the #survivephd15 MOOC. This Massive Open Online Course was structured around a range if different themes, all linking to the sorts of emotions students may experience during their candidature. Sure, there were the usual suspects such as fear, loneliness and procrastination, but we did end on a positive note, thinking about joy. That was a good place to end, and also a good place to start my reflections on the course.

More specifically, we were asked to write a letter to an inanimate object that has helped us in the course of our PhD. The responses in the forums were very varied – from computers and back-up drives (the latter of which has been super handy for me this year too!) to cups of tea and a favourite chair, and many other examples. It didn’t take me very long to think about the subject of my letter – all I had to do was think about the one thing that has been by my side ever since I started high school back almost 15 years ago. They’ve come in different recipes, the packaging has altered somewhat, but my trusty crayola washable markers have stood by me through all the years, translating ideas from brain to page and back again, and all in glorious technicolour. So, here you have it – my response to the topic of “joy” is an ode to my felt tip pens:


To My Crayola Washable Markers (yes, that’s you…)

THANKYOU for being such fabulous learning companions over the past 12 years. you’ve come to writers festivals, highlighted parabolas, untangled thesis chapters, & even endured double-freeze – first in the kitchen freezer (as training) & again in Antarctica, out on the Ross Ice Shelf. Your thick and thin tips have seen me doodle my way through countless lectures, capturing every word in your rambling, looping scrawls. Who needs a dictaphone when you’ve got technicolours? Sure ,we’ve been laughed at, and it took me some time to lend you without flinching… You’ve been through many renditions, & I still miss your original pink colour, even after all these years… But you continue to stand by me, ready when needed, to stain the page and my forefinger, & translate between brain & world. I think you’re awesome, and I do look forward to many more adventures and ideas in the future.

Love from Hanne (Hobart)

One thought on “Ode To Felt Tip Pens

  1. Hi Hanne!
    Thanks for your ode – I too will have to apply my gratitude to the thing that I love. I think a post is in order on this very topic. I too completed the #survivephd15, but I think I only answered posts in the last week, I don’t recall creating any. And, although I saw the Periscope mention of your post, I hadn’t dropped in to read it. Awesome – thanks for sharing!

    When I was doing my under-graduate degree I used four colours of pens – three in kind of pastelly shades of lime green, pink and turquoise – to create my class notes as mind maps. I get the whole colour-junkie thing. I too was reluctant to lend my spares (yes, I had spares – it would be TERRIBLE to get halfway through a lecture and not be able to embellish in green!).

    But then, technology bit me in a big way, and I abandoned my pens for another love…

    My name is Sam, and I love my computer. I have never admitted this before to anyone. I would be TOTALLY lost without my PC (yes, not even a Mac: I know, how sad is that?).

    My husband suspects that I love my computer, but I have always distracted him and not answered him directly when he has asked.


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