erhaps I was a little bit too giddy about my awesomeness and productivity on Sunday, for Monday’s writing sucked. I had planned to write three pages. Not too much, and frankly what is a totally doable amount. I was nearing that part in the first section where I had to make my case, really firmly state what it is that this project does. It was there that things got messy. Really messy.
I’m at the place where I really need to talk things through with my advisor, for I’m at the spot where things really matter: structures will come into play that will govern the dissertation as a whole, words need to be chosen carefully, things need to be thought through for future implications.
But there is a problem: Ideally I am submitting a full draft on Friday and I don’t meet with my advisor until Thursday afternoon. I think that Thursday and Friday are bound to suck.
apologize for the radio silence for the past few days. Between being ill, the internet going out at home, and several days of craziness – the notation on my “to do” list to write the blog managed to get overlooked or just buried in the list of a million things to do. Life has seriously gotten ramped up at chez dissertation and it has been causing much fretting and craziness and it is taking its toll.
As things stand with the dissertation, I am completely redrafting the dissertation proposal. While this makes me feel like I’ve just blown the last three months, it is for the better. I think back to a paper situation in which something similar happened, and in the end that turned out to be a damn fine paper, but man did it suck while it was going on.
My advisor is about to drop the hammer on Wednesday: get the proposal finished by the end of the term (yes, that will be a week and a half away); begin working on my job documents; draft a chapter per quarter for the next three quarters; research post-docs, positions, and fellowships for next year. That is only the stuff he is assigning.
Me, well, my own list… that is a bit longer:
- I need to finish and submit the article I am working on right now.
- This past weekend I went nuts and submitted almost all of the projects that have been lingering on my desktop. Actually, I have two more that I intend to send out – one today and one in the coming weeks. Right now I am just taking the scatter-shot approach: toss out five or six papers and see which one will get picked up by some journal. I figured I should just do this before the diss takes over every waking moment of my life.
- I am waiting on comments from my reviewers as I need to revise an article that is due to come out in February.
- There is a whole dossier I need to assemble at some point for a submission.
- Revise a paper for a conference in January
- Write my syllabus for Winter Quarter
- And there seems to be one other thing I am forgetting….
Right now all of this just makes me want to cry or throw-up. Plus, somewhere in here I would like to see the man-friend, but he too has a list equally as long of publications he needs to get out by the fall.
Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the vast ground I seem to be covering in the dissertation project. While the question is focused, the sites in which it is in play are very different and the through line is still not fully cemented in my mind. Some days I think this will make for an awesome project while other days it feels like a complete disaster in the making.
I know how to go about simplifying this project and still keeping to its interdisciplinary nature. And maybe the simplification would lead to a really interestingly focused work, but part of me feels like that would be some sort of a cop-out.
I am of two minds about this because I know that the dissertation is just an exercise. On the one hand, it is something I must get through to graduate and get to be called Dr. On the other hand, it is that which will get me a job and get me a book contract. I guess I am just feeling like a crappy academic today and wondering what path is the smarter one to take.
Today I meet with my advisor about the first draft-ish something of the dissertation proposal. He is very smart and kind and our conversations are always very productive, but I am feeling a bit uneasy about our meeting. After two weeks of working on the document I was a bit tired of it. I was running out of steam towards the end of the overview of Chapter 3. In fact I ended the overview of each chapter differently becasue I am not sure how we will want it the overall document to look.
Since I emailed that document off to him a couple of days ago, I have been working on paper for a super-huge conference and big-deal panel at the end of the month/beginning of next month. I am really excited for the conference and all the people I will get to see and meet, but I have not been really excited about this paper for some reason. Last night, however, I opened one of the new books I picked up from the library earlier on this week and I was totally blown away. I am feeling reinvigorated about that paper.
Now it will be a balancing act for the next few weeks as I write that paper and revise the dissertation proposal into an acceptable draft.
Yesterday I had a bit of an odd conversation with a special friend of mine. This individual (well, I guess we should give him some sort of pseudonym — how about Ally?), Ally, is very much like an non-academic advisor. He is a really great person to talk to and often helps me sort through both academic and personal life stuff. Yesterday we ended up talking about my frustration and lack of progress/very slooooooooooow progress on the dissertation. An odd analogy came out of the discussion, but it is one that seems to work pretty well.
Ally talked about the dissertation as being like a baby and me as being like its mother. Right now mama is having a bit of trouble caring for the baby because she lacking the support she needs to care for the baby. If no one is supporting me well, then how can I support the baby. I have tried all of the quick fixes I know to get this baby to settle down, the types of things that work when you are babysitting your cousin’s kid, but this is my kid and I have exhausted my knowledge. I need the support not only of other friends and mothers out there, but the support from those parents who have babies who have this type of colic….
I think the analogy can only be pressed so far, but there is something to his point. It is rough going it alone when it comes to the dissertation. Talking with other diss. writers helps, but something is still missing. And what is missing is needed.
After finishing my exam I emailed my advisor, some members of my committee, friends, and other dissertation writers to see if any of them had consulted specific books or websites when they began the writing process. I guess I was not all that surprised to find out that none of them had done so when they began writing. Typically such books (IMHO) suck as they are filled with ra-ra, get you going, you can do it type advice. I was never a cheerleader, I went to schools that did not have cheerleaders, and I certainly was not in the mood for one. Nevertheless, I still felt some need to check about a dozen of the various books on dissertation writing out of the library.
To me the compulsion to read through some of these books was simple: just because I know how to write a paper does not mean I know how to write a dissertation. Like, just because I know how to change the oil in my car does not mean I know anything about working on its engine; If I suddenly found myself in a situation in which I needed to work on the engine of my car I would turn to my 1200 page Bentley Service Manual and read up on what was wrong and what I needed to do. Faced with the dissertation I was looking for some sort of instruction manual. Instruction manual is perhaps the wrong term, but I think you get the gist of what I mean.
For me looking at the various books on dissertation was a practical move and one that would hopefully help to calm my nerves. I think of it as a practical move because, well, lets be honest, how many dissertations has your advisor written? How many books has he or she published? How many dissertations has he or she overseen? If the number here is kind of low or if your field of study is a relatively new one (as mine is), I personally think it makes sense to peruse the writings of those whose job it is to guide students through the dissertation process.
There are many, many books out there on how to write your dissertation, and certainly consulting one is not a necessary step (as my informal survey of academic friends proved), but it is a step that made sense for me. I am not going to endorse any one book here, but there is one that I, personally, have found the most helpful and will probably use as my guide over the next year plus of writing.
For now I am a big fan of this book, but we will see what my advisor thinks of the book soon enough.