(c) Gaye Wilson 2014

Image courtesy of http://www.freeimages.com/profile/garwee

Image courtesy of http://www.freeimages.com/profile/garwee

I’ve just come back from the Third Australasian Egyptology Conference, a three-day conference for scholars in the Australasian region to discuss recent research in Egyptology.

I met another independent scholar there, Elizabeth Bettles, and asked her how she keeps up her motivation to do Egyptology, given that she has no academic position.

Her answer was simple: it gives me a buzz.

For Elizabeth, whilst the work in the library is a necessary part of being an Egyptologist, or any scholar for that matter, it’s working in the field – excavating in the Dakhleh Oasis is her current dig project – that gives her the buzz to keep going, and to keep publishing in a discipline she loves.

It can be a lonely thing, being an independent scholar. You have to use your own funds to buy reference materials and equipment, to travel, to attend conferences and to do all the other things that an academic in a university or museum has access to as a matter of course. You have to motivate yourself in the midst of your day-to-day life, and in most cases, unrelated paid work, to go the extra mile and actually do research. You don’t have the regular contact with other minds that people working in your discipline have, and therefore your life tends to lack intellectual stimulation.

It’s HARD to work on your own. That’s why I am a dissertation coach. Working on your own requires intense concentration and fierce determination to succeed. It requires motivation, both external (going to excavations and conferences) and internal (doing the stuff that has to be done but is not quite as exciting).

In order to work on your own, in any endeavour, you need the following:

  • Motivation – a reason to be doing this.
  • A plan – a schedule of what you want to achieve, when you want to achieve it, and how it will be achieved.
  • Support – interaction with other people who will inspire and encourage you.
  • A routine – actually making the time to do the work.

Find your buzz. That will make the motivation so much easier.

So what’s your buzz? What motivates you, and how can you get your motivation back when it wavers?

© Gaye Wilson 2012

Ninety years ago this week, on 6th November 1912, archaeologist Howard Carter stumbled upon some steps leading down to a hitherto unknown royal tomb in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt.

It was the tomb of Tutankhamun, an Egyptian king who died while in his late teens.

The discovery was a turning point in the history of Egyptology. It showed the richness of tomb goods that were provided for royalty in ancient Egypt. Up until then, royal tombs had been plundered of their wealth long before they were discovered by archaeologists.

Whilst this is all very exciting, the point of this post is not the riches that Carter found, nor the notoriety that followed the discovery. The point I want to make here is that Carter was broke, and nearly at the end of his time in Egypt. He had spent several years coming the Valley of the Kings trying to find an undiscovered tomb, with no success.

But he didn’t quit.

He didn’t give up.

He kept looking, and finally found the tomb that made his name.

If you want something badly enough, never EVER give up.

References you might like to read about the discovery of Tutankhamun: