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!