Friday, July 01, 2005

Day 10: No excuses

Even though I have no excuses for my lack of dissertation work today, I'm going to try to make some anyway. I hate that feeling of having a very busy day but with little to show for it. Even my house is a mess. Well, I managed to do some course work/grading in the morning, before leaving for my doctor's appointment, which took me by bus (the one we call the Slow Boat to China) into downtown. Then lunch with a friend. Then my return migration on the slow boat. But with Lucinda Williams on the ipod it was almost pleasant. Then a bit more grading. Then chatting with my colleague who dropped off his dog for me to dog sit. I think she is a Great Pyrenees or some other mountain dog. She looks like a polar bear, and while sweet and harmless, is also dumb as a box of rocks. And she is terrified of cats, which works well in our household, because our alpha feline demands that all creatures bow down before him. I swear, this huge dog will not even attempt to come upstairs if there is a cat sitting on the landing. Then I went for a run. And here I am. So in the great spirit of dissertators everywhere, I'll close by saying that "Tomorrow is another day!" and try not to think about the fact that we're going to a wedding extravaganza starting at 2 tomorrow...


At 12:29 PM, Blogger Just my opinion said...

This reminds me of the days when I was finishing my dissertation.

I had two and a half months to _write_ without interruption. Before the break even started, my first husband (whom I had divorced 11 years before) committed suicide. I had just accepted a tenure-track job that I thought was the dream of a lifetime. The irony of my success converging with his demise was compelling, and I grieved deeply.

Luckily, my wonderful second husband (we've been together 23 years now) recognized that I needed immediate intervention. He set up an appointment for me with the VietNam Vet Center, because my first husband had disintegrated emotionally during his time in VietNam and never recovered. The counselor gave me two books to read, and I realized that nothing I could have done could have prevented his suicide. Indeed, I had stayed to comfort and care for him to the point where I would have gone over the edge myself had I stayed longer.

So what did I do? This was before the internet, so I was able to get up and work at my computer every morning without distraction. My data was collected and analyzed. I just needed to put it into a coherent form. I got up, made coffee, and sat and stared at the computer screen. I knew from previous reading that successful writers often look at what they had previously written to begin the new writing day, so I did that. I would also write in what I called "junk files." If I wrote a lot of stuff that didn't seem to connect with anything else, I would cut it and paste it into a junk file. I don't think that I ever actually used much of that stuff, but it was a way of thinking to myself.

Anyway, I would write for at least two hours a day that way. Then I would have breakfast and go about my day. I had been an avid exerciser before this stage of the dissertation, but I found that it was extremely draining to write this stuff up.

All the usual self-doubts appeared, but I had the job looming and also the knowledge that I had been given the gift of life and the luxury of living the intellectual life.

By the time I started the new job, I had sketched out my chapters and sent copies to my committee. A few months later, my chair called me and told me that the committee had consolidated their advice. He told me what needed to be done, and I defended successfully in December.

So in May, I got the job offer. Then, on the day I was going to buy a house in the new city, I heard about the suicide. I finished buying the house, grading the papers from the final course I was teaching and did the counseling experience in June, wrote in July and part of August. In mid-August, I started the new job--with three preparations for classes I had never taught.

I say this because I want you to know that it can be done. Would I want to relive that six months again? No. But there are times when the housework has to be ignored and we leave parties early because our priorities have shifted.

So as they say in the Nike ads, Just Do It.

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