Thursday, August 04, 2005

Day 17: I digress

I'll be out of town for a few days (for fun! no work will be allowed) but before I go, a few thoughts...

The heat: spent the night in a wonderfully air-conditioned climate. The power was flickering because we'd plugged the AC into our surge suppressor/power bar kind of thing. It didn't like that. I guess it just needs the juice directly from the source. Problem solved. And at some point during the night a glorious, glorious cold front moved in! I started this morning with energy, vitality, all while wearing a light sweater. This is further confirmation that my people must have some Nordic stock in them, and that I should never live in Houston. My brain tends to shut down at temps over 80.

Some comments to one of my posts from earlier this week got me thinking about the value of support groups for us ABD folks. What have you all found helpful? I've been in a number of writing groups with other ABD folks, and it was good to have comrades and some semblance of deadlines. And also the inspiration of having another group member literally say things like, "I'll have another set of chapterS for you to read at the next meeting." ChapterS??? Who writes them in bunches? Well, someone does, so I must be able to write just one. Etc. I also get periodic e-mails from the folks at ABD Survival Guide (good newsletters) and have done one of their teleconference workshops.

Also, loved the comments about the "perfect" place to work. I agree with Stewgad who thinks jail would be a good idea. That reminded me of a particularly stressful moment while studying for my doctoral exams/orals... I started to think about how wonderful it would be to be locked in an institution where I could stare at the walls and not take my orals. A good friend who was finishing her book at the same time agreed! So we thought perhaps actually going insane (rather than just feeling like we were going insane) would be a good strategy. But I digress.

About working in "jail" -- a few years ago I agreed (when my wonderful Dean asks, I agree!) to attend a workshop/conference about assessment. Spending three days talking about assessment is frankly my idea of a slow, painful death... but off I went to a suburb of Chicago where I spent the weekend imprisoned in a concrete bunker facility that was mostly like a hotel but was also somewhat dorm-like (in that it was constructed of concrete blocks.) The downside: talking about assessment. Scariest quote I heard, "A day without assessment is a day that's wasted!" True believers, all. But the psychologically interesting thing was that, by the end the weekend, I, too, believed. And I almost wanted to stay and learn more, more, more! about assessment. Stockholm syndrome in action. But thankfully we left and laughed ourselves silly in the car during the long drive home about taking some crappy old kitchen appliances and turning them into a robot who would eat data and do our assessment for us. (the opposite of the organic "faculty driven" process that is supposedly ideal, of course.) The robot would be named Rubric. And now I can't sit through any meeting about assessment without getting the giggles, because sooner or later, someone says the word "rubric." But I digress.


So, the upside to this place was that I thought it would be a wonderful place to work on a dissertation -- sort of like a writer's retreat, but more hardcore. So when I win the lottery, the first thing I'll do is pay for every woman to take a serious full-force self-defense course -- check out this link if you're interested in learning more about the kind of class I'm talking about and have taken myself. The final story is pretty amazing -- a graduate's story of fighting off an attacker. Digressing again. Anyway, after I win the lottery, the second thing I'll do is pay for ABDs to live in such a writer's retreat. There's nothing really going on, so you'll just have to work. Plus there is always coffee available and they put out snacks from time to time. And there's even a bar in the lobby for the occasional "adult beverage" and relaxing. Jail-like, but not as bad as jail. And if you don't work on your dissertation, someone will come and make you talk about assessment.... that should scare you!

Anyway, those are all the digressing thoughts I have for the moment. The intro. is coming along, actually. I spent this morning reading a couple of samples I got from friends who share the same advisors as I do. So that was good. Reminded me that this is not rocket science and that I don't have to actually write an essay that is so brilliant that it will mingle theory with historiography with my own Very Original Argument. I just have to accomplish a few pedestrian tasks. Interestingly, I realized that I sort of boxed myself into the corner that originally stalled me out years ago... the expectation that now that I'm working on a Dissertation it somehow has to be magnitudes better than anything else. And it doesn't... it just has to be done!

On that note, off to pack.

2 Comments:

At 7:02 PM, Anonymous New Kid on the Hallway said...

Love the robot named Rubric! I'm going to giggle every time I hear "rubric" now...

As for writing in jail, or being locked in an institution - there have been times (especially in grad school) when I was so swamped by work that I'd be driving somewhere and would think, You know, if I fell asleep now and drove into that underpass, at least I wouldn't have to write that seminar paper! Kind of sick (I never have any intention of driving into the underpass), and less productive than your own ideas, but along similar lines...?

 
At 10:16 PM, Blogger timna said...

For good or for bad, I left my university area before I started writing the dissertation, so I had to find a writing group that wasn't my grad school cohort. The group I found (at the local U) was diverse in terms of writing challenges -- all in the same subfield, but at different levels. There were a few grad students, a few writing dissertations, but there were also postdocs and profs, so we could see that we were all pretty much dealing with the same challenges. I think reading someone else's article, derived from his dissertation, was great for me to see. I could do that. It wasn't over my head or beyond my abilities. There was also a sense of writing going on forever, the dissertation was not the end, but only a beginning.

 

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