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.’