reservations

Well, this is a rough approximation of my dissertation withdrawal process. Turning in my dissertation has not been an immediate relief. Kind of like getting released from prison isn’t freedom.

I worked from 8am to 10pm the very last day. I was caffeinated all day. I didn’t really eat dinner. I sent it right before it started snowing. And few hours later, the power was out. Close call!

First. Exhaustion mixed with the the dwindling supply of adrenaline and mania that fed the last few days. Coming down, and trying to let go into feeling tired and relieved.

Second. But I wasn’t relieved. I was (and am) afraid that this dissertation is in fact not “good enough.” I always thought when people expressed reservations about passing their defense after truing in their dissertation, they were just doing it for show. How could you not be sure by that point? Now I understand. The fear is real. And my capacity to clearly perceive where I am at has been eroded by the sheer stress of the final push. Anyway, I’ve talked it through with other people, and I feel somewhat reassured that I will at least pass my defense. It seems politically impossible for them to fail me. BUT WHAT IF THEY DID? The EMBARRASSMENT! There are real weaknesses and problems. With a clearer head (when will that come?) I hope to assess what they are and be prepared to address them at the defense. Still, uncertainty is a dominant feeling at this point.

Third. All the ins and outs of my relationship to my committee start to come to the surface. I’m realizing all the particularities of my relationship with my adviser and its strengths and weaknesses. I am wondering, what could I have done differently? What could she have done differently? Kind of like a break up.

Fourth. More exhaustion. Feeling it even more as I come down. Brain is fried and can’t focus on anything. Also, I am starving. I realize that my diet hasn’t been ideal the past month or two.

Fifth. What to do first? I need to delay jury duty. I need to tour Piper’s kindergarten. I need to do laundry. I need to return all the clothes I bought online while I was writing my dissertation. I need a haircut. I need to schedule a contractor to repair the bathroom. I need to … just a million things. They aren’t urgent; they have waited this long. But suddenly thinking about doing them all is kind of overwhelming. Where to begin? Plus, life doesn’t stop. You imagine that when you finish, you will just suddenly be free to do everything you have put off. But really there is very little time in a day to do random shit, even when you are done. Also, getting back into my share of the childcare isn’t as easy as one would hope.

Sixth but who’s counting anymore. Wait, there are more deadlines. Article revisions. Need to actually print the diss and deliver and mail it. Need to submit it to grad school. Need to do a travel grant application. Need to write conference paper. Some of this requires going back to that frantic pace. So, I’m not quite free (yet?).

And. The big questions, which have certainly been brewing during the dissertation writing, but now I have time to really start considering them. What are my chances of a job? Where will we live? Do I like this career enough? Can I hack it–it is going to get harder after grad school? Should I pursue a Plan B? If so, how? How will Josh and I negotiate how we prioritize his job and my aspirations for a job? Finishing the dissertation is the beginning not the end!! Like child birth! I’m just kind of overwhelmed at getting started.

In short: Tired. Overwhelmed. Disappointed. Stressed. All the same feelings as before I turned it in!!!

I know this sounds depressing. There are good things, just as there were good things while I was writing. I have a new confidence in how much work I can do. I have the dissertation done, an article ready to publish, a conference with a famous commenter coming up, another conference proposal I am confident in, lots of new research ideas. I don’t have to face the dissertation everyday any more. And I am taking a real vacation in an actual warm place far away from here very soon.

I think it is just going to take me a while to recover and get back some energy, which really impacts my mindset. I feel like I really enjoyed most of the past 6 months of intensive dissertation writing, but there was a tipping point where the pressure took over. And now I’m trying to regain my foothold.

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5 day survival strategy

Ok, here is the master plan for the next 5 days.

Friday: 6 pomos on chapter 4 in afternoon and evening: 2 before I get Piper, 1 while Piper watches WildCratts (one of the Cratt bros is a Duke alum, BTW), 2 while Josh does bedtime. Quit by 8pm. Send it to Sally.

Saturday: Have a family morning with breakfast and SkyZone (its an indoor trampoline park). 8 pomos starting at noon: 4 from 12-2pm, 4 whenever later, but breaking for dinner. This will all be on the introduction. Send it to Sally as is (it will not be done). Finish by 7pm and enjoy some television.

Sunday: Go to Monuts and stock up on food. Start working on East at 9am. Work date with Dominique. Quit at noon. Take the afternoon off. Do yard work outside with Piper, weather permitting. Do a few more pomos while Josh does bedtime (again) to make 8 for the day. All this will be on Chapter 5.

Monday: 8 pomos on whatever needs it. Meet Sally in the afternoon.

Tuesday: AM yoga. Some morning pomos. Then Hartman in the afternoon. Then evening pomos.

Wednesday: AM yoga. Work like hell until 2pm then go to campus and print. Deliver.

pause

Unfortunately, there is no pause button, and the clock is still ticking. But I need a moment to assess where I am at and steel myself for the next few days.

I am supposed to meet with my adviser today, but she tried to move the meeting because the public schools have been closed all week. Now I haven’t heard from her, which is weird. Come to think of it, she tends to get sick when I am approaching a major deadline. She gets migraines and sinus infections. We had to move my prelims defense because she got the flu really bad–in August.

The last time I over-worked my self for a significant stretch was last summer, when I taught two hours a day, five days a week, for four weeks. I thought I was handling it pretty well. But actually I think I was in a fight or flight mode for about a month straight. After the last day of class, I got an insane headache and I was basically in bed for two days. And it really took an entire week in a meditation retreat to really wind back down and find a stable energy level again.

Wouldn’t it be great if I could finish this dissertation without that happening?

Because I have a lot waiting for me on the other side. Final round of article edits are due the following Saturday (very minor stuff, but still, it is my last chance to make changes and I need a clear head for that). A conference paper to write. Writing another article? Preparing for the job market? And don’t get me started on “real life” stuff. The millions of things big and small I have put off until this dissertation is done. I’ve kept a list.

Right now I can feel myself getting tired. I am sleeping in later than I usually do. I am getting kind of lethargic. Less because I am actually doing too much, and more because the anxiety is burning me out. Anxiety is my main enemy. And the problem is … You know when a blow drier over heats and just stops? That’s me. I just hit a breaking point and cannot go on. Can’t write a single word. Can’t solve a single problem. That’s why I have to tread so carefully to sustain a work pace that doesn’t get me to the over heated point. I can’t just push through. I have to completely reboot, and it takes time. So, I’ve got to find a reasonable pace for the next five days so I don’t burn out before at least the most essential parts are “good enough.” And like I said before, Wouldn’t it be great if I could finish this dissertation without burning out at all?

What is left to do?

Introduction: Rewrite the “hook,” pulling from the stuff I cut from chapter 1. Edit a couple of sections that are very rough. Add a couple of sections that are not written at all. Its a lot.

Chapter 1: It is in a “complete” state. I need to proof read, perhaps incorporate suggestions from Sally (if we meet?). There are a couple of things I could do, but they can be forgotten if necessary.

Chapter 2: Same. Needs a little more attention.

Chapter 3: Same.

Chapter 4: Not complete yet, but close. The main body stuff is close to done and I am not worried about it. The intro and conclusion still need to be written–this is the most important thing.

Chapter 5: This is my main source of stress now. It is just so much worse than I remembered. I have a very clear idea of what I want it to do, and I tricked myself into remembering it as already on the page. It is just not there! Ok, what can I reasonably do this this chapter given the time constraints? 1. Write a really good summary of it in the intro–say what I intend for it to be doing, even if it is not doing that in reality. 2. Write a solid piece on the film. This is all new, but it is one of the most important things int eh chapter. 3. Rewrite the intro to the chapter, which is currently 5 pages of rambling. 4. Lightly edit everything else. 5. Put in transitions. Again, these will point to what the chapter is supposed to be doing, even though the reality will be much messier. 6. Write a conclusion, for the imaginary chapter.

Bibliography and Citations: I’ve cleaned up citations for chapters 1-3. This only takes about an hour per chapter. I think I can put the bibliography together in about two hours.

Printing: How long will this take?!? If I need to put the diss in people’s mailboxes by 5pm, I am going to plan to get to campus at noon. I expect to have to change printers a bunch. Who knows. Worst case scenario, I email it to them Wednesday, but get the hard copy to them Thursday. Except for one person, who I think truly needs it on Wednesday. Maybe I should check on that.

I’ll be planning a 5-day survival strategy soon …

Revisiting my own advice

A while back, when I was facing Christmas break and the reality of getting a “full draft” done, and moving into “revising” chapters (i.e. a terrible, partial draft with major holes and then rewriting chapters), I made a set of rules for myself to try to make the most of my time. The rules were basically 1. Start early 2. Take real breaks 3. Keep a current to-do list 4. Work out of the house some for variety 5. Respect the Holy Trinity of self care: sleep, eat, exercise.

The good news is that I pretty much did this. My work habits improved a lot. I worked more reliably and consistently. I figured out, and came to terms with my limits for any given day. I can only really eek out 4 good hours/8 good pomos before working becomes futile. With Josh’s help, I am fed and exercised and rested.

I got to where I was headed, more or less. I had a draft of each chapter by the end of November, drafted about a third of the intro in December. I did not completely revise chapter 3 before going on Christmas vacation, like I planned. I stalled out really close to the finish line, and ended up editing and writing at a leisurely pace while I was at my parents’ house and sending it by Januray 1. It wasn’t so bad. Then I got chapter 2 revised. Not to as high a standard as chapter 3, but I made it. Then I worked on chapter 4. It is very close to “send,” but, again, I need a break from it before I can really wrap it up. Which brings me to today: trying to get the intro sent off. 3 weeks left with chapters 1 and 5 left to revise (and that pesky issue of finalizing chapter 4).

The old advice is just not going to cut it. How am I going to accelerate the pace somewhat and also get into a mode where I am “finishing” things up left and right? Finishing is always the hard part for me. By the end, I get overwhelmed. I lose perspective. I can’t tell how close I am anymore. The way I deal with this is to work towards a deadline as if it were real, then when I get to that vertigo point, I take a break. If I come back a week or two later, I can usually wrap it up much more easily than if I had tried to keep pushing. One writer’s advice thing I read said, “Don’t strip the screw.”

But now I am facing the hard deadline in 3 weeks. I need a different attitude. Having a good workday, making progress bit by bit, and getting things 80% done is not the game anymore. I need to get this dissertation in the bag. I need to decide what finished looks like for each chapter. And it needs to be an amount of work I can do in the amount of time I have.

Why is that so hard? Its that hard nugget of terror-kryptonite that says “I can’t do this.” I feel like writing a dissertation is overcoming that feeling day after day after day. And for a while, I might get to a phase where I feel more or less efficacious, “I can do this, I AM doing it!” But then a new phase will come and the dread is still there. This is why people do not finish. This is why, if they have foresight, they never go to graduate school in the first place! But I have some kind of masochistic bent that takes me to where I have to get over this feeling, over and over, and over.

All signs point to yes. I have done much more already than I have left to do. My adviser thinks things are going fine. My committee is on board to the extent that they even care. Much worse dissertations have been granted Ph.D.’s I am sure. My adviser would not let me fail.

So, the finish strategy isn’t about pomodoros or chocolate rewards or group writing sessions. It is:

1. I might feel like like I can’t do this, but I know that I can.

2. What will make this “good enough” within the given time constraints? (Quietly mourn the great dissertation that will not be.)

3. Do the work (This wise instruction courtesy Erin A.)

The problem with seeing the light at the end of the tunnel…

is that you begin to wonder what you are going to do once you get there.

In other words, once you get to the place where you really do believe in the ‘good enough dissertation,’ meaning you are ready to complete the damn thing come hell or high water, you are inevitably going to start wondering what comes next. The question of ‘what next’ is of course, an impossible thing to consider when you are in the end-stages of writing because it is utterly debilitating.

I am writing this entry from a writing retreat that I have been at all day, in which I was meant to write a conclusion to my dissertation, and if I failed at that, to work on a journal article or some other writing task. This went well in the morning, between 10:30 and 11:45 I did some good writing on the conclusion, writing that I am happy with and will I think help me keep going w. this conclusion. But after 11:45 it all went to hell. I started doing some research on journals I could submit a recently rejected article to, and then it was lunch. And after lunch, it just all went to pieces. I started thinking about what I will do next year, and before I knew it I had gone to all the places that I cannot go to when trying to write. I was on the academic jobs wiki– the place we all know is designed to crush our souls (and is of course also necessary), and after that, researching organizations that might be doing interesting things, on the inside higher ed job board, the chronicle job board, literally all of the most stressful places on the internet.

I know better than to follow myself through that void, but I also am finding it more and more difficult to avoid these pitfalls as I get closer to completion. I am a planner and an organizer of my life! I have known what I was going to be doing ‘next semester’ since I was 18 years old. This is the sad reality of what happens when you go to graduate school straight after college graduation. I like the order and predictability of academic work, and the thought of nothing ahead on the horizon is truly terrifying. And yet I also know that I will survive the chaos. If necessary, I can always wait tables. I will be able to pay my rent.

There are graduate students who know where they will end up when they get to the light at the end of the tunnel, but they are a small minority. The statistics seem to imply that the vast majority of us will not have a clear path ahead, and most of those that do will find themselves in another temporary position, just another tunnel really. So clearly this is something I have to learn how to accept. And actually, I need to learn how to deal with this like today, because I have a serious writing month ahead of me, which is going to involve massive revising and editing, and absolutely must not involve the kind of internet reading I have engaged in today (and if I’m being honest, far too frequently in the last few weeks).

In order to get to the tired image that is the light at the end of the tunnel I have to finish writing my dissertation, which means I have to write free from distraction and the anxiety that looms in my brain. In order to do this I must refrain from worrying about what comes next. I have three responsibilities for the next 1-2 months: 1. finish dissertation, 2. apply for one fellowship, 3. teach MWF.

For the next 1-2 months, these are the rules to live by:

  • No web browsing that is not related to either the aforementioned tasks or “fun,” this means I am allowed to read about celebrities, politics, books, etc, just not about the fate of humanities PhDs or job boards.
  • Practice the art of not worrying about what I cannot control. work on non-attachment when it comes to future plans.
  • Stay away from all humans who stress me out! especially those that ask questions like “what’s next.”
  • Channel my ability to focus– which means fostering good habits through repitition and practice.
  • Keep working every day, even if it’s just 15 minutes, on the dissertation.

At least, this is the plan. Working on reminding myself of each of these rules every day, from here on out, until I really have a ‘good enough dissertation.’

she’s a mean one …

grinch We’ve been reading this book in our house a lot the past week, and I can’t help but sympathize with the Grinch just wanting some peace and quiet in his cave.

“Every kid down in K-ville liked Christmas a lot …

But the Grad, who lived just north of K-ville did not!

The Grad hated Christmas! The whole Christmas Season!

Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.

It could be her external monitor wasn’t synched up just right.

It could be, perhaps, that her deadline was too tight.

But I think that the most likely reason of all,

May have been that her draft was two sizes too small.”

looking out for #1

This is a review of the writing retreat for the curious who were not able to come. Perhaps I am not the best person to review the writing retreat, since I technically flunked it.

The retreat, sponsored by the Language Arts & Media Program (some new configuration funded by some big donation) and organized by a post-doc in women’s studies was really just about perfect. I showed up at 10am and there were breakfast sandwiches and fruit and coffee and tea. Around 10 people gathered–a mix of grad students in all phases of their program and some undergrads. We went around the room in the typical way introducing ourselves and our work, and some side notes about what we hoped to get out of the session. We got started about 10:40am and just worked until 1pm. People got up and took breaks as they liked, but it was pretty quiet and most people seemed focused. Lunch was the good catered stuff from FHI, and people just sat in groups and chatted for an hour and ate. Then we sat down again, chatted about out work strategies, then started the next block of work time. It was great, I would recommend it highly, especially to people who are able to get a little more motivation and focus by working with other people around who also won’t distract you.

I couldn’t hack it, though. It just didn’t work for me. I cleared the whole day for it. Josh was going to take care of Piper all day, and I was planning on taking Sunday off since Saturday was supposed to be such a full work day. I get up really early, so by the time 10am had rolled around, I had done a lot of puttering around, mostly assembling a huge amount of STUFF I needed to take to the retreat. I showed up with outwear since I walked (coat, scarf, umbrella), a bag of 4 books, and a backpack full of computer, computer charger, folders, a notebook, pens, ear plugs, chocolate, hand lotion, gum, highlighters. It was quite a scene. I don’t work outside of my office much, and certainly not for 8 hours. I got increasingly antsy and frustrated waiting around to actually get started working. I tend to hit an energy slump by 10:30 or 11am, and I couldn’t help feeling like my best hours were going down the drain. Then, the introductions–where we had to hear about everyone’s work … that just about sent me over the edge. It just gets to me. Having to process all that information people are spewing, and the internal process it kicks off with me is one of comparison–is their project more interesting or sophisticated than mine? Are they further along? They are working on an article–do they have publications? The kind of crap that it is best to keep as far away from the writing process as possible.

In spite of all of that, I was able to focus and get some really good work done in the first session. I really got a lot of my intro together and thought through the whole intervention. It was nice to have a quiet room and no interruptions. Lunch came at just about the right time.

But sitting back down, I had really reached the limit of how far I could get with the introduction without my shelf of books (I chose the wrong 4 books, apparently). And I wasn’t fresh enough to start a revision plan for chapter 3, which was kind of an entire new can of worms. And I needed a printer. I pretty much felt stuck. Once I had the idea that if I left now (3pm), I could still salvage a weekend family day and save some work time for when I was fresh the next morning, I was totally checked out. Josh and Piper came and got me (you can imagine the elaborate packing up that had to happen with all that stuff, in a silent room of people working) and I apologized profusely to the organizer. I spent the rest of the day watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, reading books with Piper, having dinner (which I had actually assembled the day before in anticipation of being gone all day), and then putting Piper to bed. I even read for half an hour that evening. The next morning I got a miraculously early start, worked about 3 hours, took the whole day off, then pushed really hard for an hour after Piper went to bed in order to send a piece of the intro to my adviser.

I felt pretty guilty about leaving the retreat. Because I felt like I was backing out, or letting other people down, or that I just simply couldn’t work for very long, unlike all the other people there who stayed. But one of the (or the only?) nice things about being in this stage is being able to use the pressure of the dissertation to just not compromise about my time at all. Who would I let down, really? Were other people really going to judge me? Did it really mean that I failed? No, actually it just meant I know what works for me and that wasn’t working and I was going to waste 3 hours of my time and throw off my work flow if I stayed. And that’s the moral of the story: Retreats and writing groups and advice–and even my own techniques and schedules and productivity apps–are great if they are working, but I’m the only one who knows if they are working for me, and if they’re not, then I’ll move along tout suite, thanks.

be careful what you wish for

I have an entire 2 weeks to work on my dissertation with very minimal obligations or other work (a haircut, an adviser appointment, a teeth cleaning, a small application, and some conference planning).

This is what I do NOT want to happen: I feel pretty relaxed because I have all day. I stay in my sweat pants (got to be nice and cozy for a full day of writing!). I have breakfast and surf the internet. Get started around 9:20–still basically on task, but I’ve already wasted 40 minutes and dissipated my mental energy on facebook and current events. Work a good stint for 45 minutes, but now I am hungry again or need my tea warmed. Get a snack, which turns into a 22 minute break. It is getting kind of close to 11:00. Work a little more, but soon it is legitimately lunch time. But I have already wasted time, so I decide to just get something small from the kitchen, and continue to work at my desk. Eating and working is a joke, obviously. Now it is the afternoon. I feel crappy because I haven’t gotten much done, but I am already getting into the unproductive part of the day. I am mentally tired even though I’ve done little. Excuse myself to work on something easier, like reading, which I then do aimlessly and probably waste a lot of time because now I am just kind of meandering through books without a clear idea of how they will go into my writing. Quit to go get Piper, and feel dejected because it was not a great day, which depletes my motivation to do even just a small bit of work in the evening, and contributes to having a harder time really getting going the following day. Which gets me into the dangerous territory of starting to think, “Maybe this week is just lost. I should get the Christmas shopping done, and then I will be fresh to really get going next week.” And this, my friends, is how I slip into being less productive in two uninterrupted weeks than if I only had from 8:30-11am to work in the first place.

Being disciplined and focused for short stints has been my tactic. It has worked really well given my schedule and responsibilities this semester. Even though I constantly feed myself the lie, “If only I could work the whole day, I would get so much done!”, extending this discipline and focus to a 7 hour workday is actually a huge challenge.

So, I am making some advance rules and regulations to govern these next two weeks, that will hopefully nip that whole devolution into Christmas shopping in the bud before it can even get a foothold.

1. Get started by 8:30. This works. I realized that if I didn’t commit to starting by a certain time, that precious 2+ hours before I had to go the Hartman Center could easily disappear. But regardless of what my afternoon holds, that first stint in the morning (and the earlier, the better) is when I get my best work done, and really determines the course of the rest of the day. If I do good work in the first 2 hours, even if the rest of the day goes to shit, I will still ultimately have had a productive workday. Every increment of 15 minutes that passes in the morning, my chances of getting anything substantive done decrease exponentially.

2. Take real breaks or none at all. I am going to keep my breaks to under 5 minutes, or over 25 minutes. I am fidgety. I have to get up, walk around, pee, get tea, pet the cats, bug Josh, change the thermostat, look in the fridge. But I can do this without just throwing in the towel altogether and bringing my workflow to a halt. When I really take a break, I am really going to take a break–have a meal, take a walk, nap. I will take at least 45 minutes for lunch away from my desk. Get out of the chair, get off the computer and do something (or not do anything) so that when I return to work, I am refreshed to at least some degree. It is the fake breaks that really mess with my day: getting up to get tea, getting distracted, then sitting back down not knowing what I need to do next, surfing the web for 7 more minutes, then trying to get started again. It has turned into a 12 minute break that really did more harm than good. Really take a rest, otherwise keep my head in the game.

3. Keep the to-do list up to date. Each night, I will draw up a list of specific, concrete things I can work on the next day (of varying levels of difficulty). Then, I will start the day really clear about what I need to be doing. If I get stuck on one thing, I can move to a different task. I can’t be trusted in the middle of a work day. I need pre-planned course of action to make sure I don’t end up spending two hours researching something that doesn’t even need to go into the diss.

4. Get out of the house a bit. 2-3 days a week I will plan to work a couple of hours from a coffee shop in the morning or afternoon. This helps me feel like a real, grown up functioning person because I have to get dressed. The minimal interaction with other people makes me less prone to crazy internal monologues that might persuade me that this attempt at writing is a completely futile exercise and maybe I should go get groceries and make a casserole. It also gets me pretty focused because I can’t do any of my fidgety things (cats, no thermostat, no fridge!) in a public place.

5. Under no circumstance compromise the Holy Trinity of self-care: Sleep, Food, Exercise. Sleep when and for however long I want. Always have the house stocked with food and spare no expense to be well-fed at all times. Exercise in some way every day (I pretty much define exercise as anything that makes my body feel good and counteracts the effects of sitting at my desk). This is a universal rule that applies not just the next two weeks, but it always bears repeating.

its amazing what a person can do without bronchitis

Once again, the “chapter draft” I submitted to my adviser today is really just a sorry excuse for a rough draft, part outline. BUT my eight day strategy worked out very well. I feel like I am finally starting to get the hang of maintaining momentum and accurately assessing what I can get done in a given day or week.

Leading up to the holiday, I had a solid work week and did not get side tracked. I took Thanksgiving totally off. Friday, I managed over 4 hours total, but was able to spend the whole afternoon doing family stuff. Saturday, I got in almost 3 hours. And today, I got the final editing and writing I wanted to do done by 10:30am and had the whole day for family stuff. Considering Piper had four days off of school, I got a lot done. And more important than the quantity I got done, I just kept going and didn’t get derailed. Which means I am starting this week without that feeling of being in a deficit, which I usually feel after trips, holidays, or even just plain weekends.

Now I am focusing on the lead up to the Saturday writing retreat this weekend. Now that I have a draft of every chapter into my adviser (I would feel celebratory about this, if I didn’t know the truth about how much work they need to be even “good enough”), I am shifting gears to the larger picture. I am drafting the introduction. In the process, I want to more clearly delineate the arguments and parameters of each chapter.

What do I need to do to actually be able to sit down and write an introduction?

I need to read a bunch of secondary literature, take “prewriting” notes on it, and then render it into useable paragraphs to slip into the intro. These will be books and articles that I am “engaging,” literature I am “contributing to,” and all that jazz. The question is, how short should I keep this list?

I’ve already decided I am going to be pretty stingy and just really tackle a select number, rather than trying to write up paragraphs that cite and contextualize every single contribution to a given field/issue. I just really want the core stuff in there, I can always add in more tangential things later. For example, what is “the state” in my diss? Planning on just using one or two key texts to make up my definition, not everything under the sun.

I am going to aim for 10 books this week. Whichever are the most important. Some books I am already so familiar with, I can probably do them in an hour or so. Since I only have about 2-2.5 hours each morning to work, I can’t expect to get more than 10 realistically.

So, this week, I am going to just do the secondary reading, and make sure that after every book I have some amount of useable prose to show for it. I will also keep random brainstorm notes as I get ideas. I already have fairly robust chapter descriptions to use. I have some inkling of the “big questions” and overall arc of the diss. That just leaves figuring out the argument and I’m golden!

I plan to take all this stuff to the writing retreat on Saturday and start composing it into a draft. I will also take some extra secondary sources to read and “prewrite” in case I get stuck or too frustrated or too panicked about actually trying to express an argument.

Other goals this week are to be working by 8:30am on non-yoga mornings, and do at least a half hour of reading/notetaking (with an episode of The Good Wife as reward) on nights Josh does bedtime.

The writing retreat is from 10am-6pm Saturday, which means Josh is on child duty all day. Then I will take all of Sunday off to recoup and pay off my child duty debt (given the magnitude of support finishing a dissertation requires, the whole “I carried the child in my body, pushed it out, and breast fed it” guilt trip is starting to wear thin).

I am still interested in doing some kind of writing bootcamp (perhaps around the first weekend of January?), but I want to see how this Saturday goes first. I am not really sure about an all day thing. I usually work in pretty short blocks of 2 hours, 4 hours tops. I’m not sure if I can focus productively for the whole day, and if I can, if I will kind of be paying for it the next day. I am happy with the steady pace I’ve had the past couple of weeks, and don’t want to do these intensive things if it is just going to make my work flow more sporadic. But then again, 8 hours of focus time out of the house, away from needy spouses and children sounds like some kind of land of miracles. Who knows what is possible!

strategy for the next 8 days

Ok, I have 8 more days (including today) to hash out a draft of chapter 4. And as I have said before, I am not good with internal deadlines. And, of those 8 days, Piper will be out of school for 5 of them. And 1 is a major holiday.

So, first off, keeping Thanksgiving contained: Josh is doing the shopping now. There are a couple of prep things I will do Tues & Weds evening, but other than that, Thanksgiving is strictly forbidden from encroaching on work time. Thanksgiving is just Thursday, not an entire week.

Second, protecting the blocks I do have, and coming to terms with what I can reasonably accomplish in that time. I have the following:

Sun 9-1

Mon 8:30-11

Tues 9-1

Weds 10-11 & 3-3:45

Thurs OFF, maybe 6:30-8pm

Fri 9-12 or as much as I can get away from my spouse and child

Sat Mostly OFF

Sun 9-12 or as much as I can get away from my spouse and child

For any days that I am not able to get in the work time I planned, I am reserving the right to make Josh do bedtime so I can do some work in the evening. My guilt trip refrain lately is: “Don’t you WANT me to finish my dissertation?!?”

How to get through the material. This draft will not have an argument. It will not cover all the stuff I initially imagined going into it. I’ve already sent off 12 pages to Sally, I want to write at least 20 more for this first round.

I am starting with the Tanana Chiefs/CETA stuff. So so so much material here, but I think when I really start to read and think through it, a lot will be redundant. This will be one of the main programs I am going to discuss. Second, figure out the ASMUS stuff. Not totally sure how this program overlaps with the others or if it is a stand alone thing. Figure it out. Third, the BIA stuff. Already through some of this, it should not be too hard. Finally, what is the role of Alyeska in all of this? So, basically, I’ve got three more main topics I want to put in the chapter, which means trying to cover one every 2 days or so.

The pre-writing/writing strategy: Do 1-2 hours of reading and pre-writing on a set of sources, then move to 1-2 hours of turning that into writing-writing. ***EDIT: Just realized I need to flip this! Take notes so that I can begin the next morning with the writing. So, first half of the work session is writing, second half is notetaking/pre-writing, then always end evaluating where I am at and what sources need to come next.*** End each day looking over what the most productive set of primary sources will be to look at next. The key to keep moving forward now is to keep my eye on the forest so I don’t get bogged down in small issues.

Though I am not making November 30 a deadline where I feel this needs to be finished, it is important that on December 1 I move on to revising chapter 3 and preparing to write the introduction (planning on trying to draft the intro at the Dec 9 writing retreat). The more complete I can get chapter 4 in the next 8 days, the less I will have to do later, during the time I have scheduled for revising it.