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 …