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Once again, this is a weekend in which not enough will happen.  Sure, it is  quite early on a Sunday to making such a declaration, but enough chores need to be done that I know dissertation writing will fall by the wayside.  Well, it will at least not get the full 15 hours of attention it needs to make up for the last week.  However, instead of beating myself up about this, I’m trying to take some of the advice I’ve been dole-ling out to everyone else this week.  I’m trying to give myself permission to do my chores and to NOT feel bad about the lack of writing.

In order to help myself in this process, I decided to salvage what I could of this train wreck of a process.  Today, instead of the incessant whining about the dissertation, I give you some bullets of any good that had come from working on my dissertation.

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There is such a thing as too much time

All week I am content with the little bit I can get written because I keep thinking I’ll make up for it over the weekend.  Then the weekend comes and goes, and I still haven’t gotten enough done.

Seriously, how does this happen?

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Cutting my losses …

This morning I finally finished the revisions to Chapter1 *mostly*, which will end up either Chapter 2 or 3.  It is way more than a day late, but hopefully not too short.

The *mostly* (should sound like Newt from Aliens) is because I am waiting on a primary source from the library.  When I get it I will have to go back to change one paragraph, but I’m pretty comfortable with that.

Today’s problem is that my brain, motivation, and body all decided that finishing that chapter was good enough.  I needed a two hour nap, and once I discovered the Luther marathon, well it really was all she wrote. Idris Elba people, Idris Elba.


So, right now I am trying really hard not to beat myself up about my productivity today.

All day I have been mulling where to go next.  Continue on to Chapter 2, where I can work through feed back, or go back to the Preface/Introduction/Chapter 1 type thing, where I need to actually produce new stuff.

In other news, apparently I watch bad television so you don’t have to.  This week I set the dvr to record the series premiere of Perception.  Apparently, both dvr settings were set to record, and there was nothing recorded he wanted to watch, so the DH ended up watching Perception first.  A few days later he mentioned how bad it was.

Foolish me, I chalked it up to his lack of love for the police procedural.  Last night, when my brain was completely fried from the week, I turned on Perception, thinking it might as well give it a try.  Ummm, wow, just wow.  I don’t remember the last thing I have seen that was such a jumble of cliches and really improbable situations.

  • Brilliant, but mentally ill / sick (we don’t know) college professor – he hallucinates, possibly schizophrenic, who’s specialty is “forensic neuropyschiatry”
  • Determines one suspects innocence by diagnosing rare neurological condition
  • “Consults” for the FBI in his spare time – because apparently he never has to prep for class and/or grade
  • Determines another suspect is lying by showing the tape to a mental patient who functions as a human lie detector.
  • FBI agent is former student, barely looks 22 but has already been promoted/demoted from the field office to Quantico and back.  Oh, and whoever this girl is – worst actress ever – really, it is not even worth looking up her name.

House meets Monk meets the Mentalist = worst television ever.

Normally, I am generous with a new show and give it the entire first season, but Perception has already been removed from the dvr settings.

Conspiracy and randomness

There are just some days when I swear the universe is conspiring against dissertation completion.  All I wanted to do today was write. 

In case you haven’t heard, and aren’t living in this vicinity, it is eleventy bazillion degrees here right now.  Trust me, in these parts we know from hot, and it is H. O. T. hot. Really, it is the time of year when I realize I have no business living in this region, because while I can tolerate the heat during the day, without air conditioning I wouldn’t be able to sleep from May until October.  So, it is record breakingly hot here right now, and last night at about 11:30pm when it was still well above sleeping temperatures, our power went out.  After figuring out that it was a general outage, and not just our breakers, I found a place where I could get a cross breeze, grabbed the cushions from the couch and made myself a bed, where I tossed and turned until the power came back on, bringing with it fans and air conditioning.  

Yesterday, a block from the relative safety of the parking deck at work I ran over a screw.  Not just a little nail, but a screw and washer big enough that I could see them in the back tire.  Fortunately, they wedged in their tightly enough to create a seal and keep the tire full all the way home.  But I knew that wouldn’t last long, so I had to spend a good portion of my day hanging out at the dealership waiting for my tire to be fixed. 

After not sleeping and hanging out at a car dealership (where I did get a little writing, and a little knitting done), I had to go grocery shopping, and put together dinner for tonight.  Did I mention it’s hot?  Dinner was some chicken salad that required a lot of chopping, and needed to be done early so it could chill.

Dinner was actually a fairly random collection of crap that proved amazingly filling for the small amount of it that we ate.  Chicken salad, bagel chips, a little brie, some chipotle cheddar cubes, chilled cherries and blueberries, corn on the cob, and watermelon.  Well, I told you it was random. 

Yes, I could be writing, right now this minute, but instead I am going to go read.  I did some good free writing at the dealership (just a sentence or two for nearly every paragraph to help me see the shape of the whole thing).  Now, I have to go figure out what sources are going to help me flesh that out. 

Anyway, I guess there is always tomorrow. Tomorrow.  I will be able to get up early and write my little heart out!

If I had a post …

For every time I have tried to post in the last couple of weeks – you would have a lot to read!

When I am at work, driving home, watching television anywhere I am not in front of the computer I have a million ideas for posts.  By the time I get to sit down to a computer, however, either I have no idea what to write, or every idea feels like it is going to take too much time/effort to write well.

You know, come to think of it, that describes all my writing perfectly. It takes too much time, and too much effort.

For now, I’m keeping a list of everything I want to write when I have the time.  I’m reading (listening to) some interesting stuff, watching some crappy television that will be fun to pick apart later, and doing a bunch of writing that only 5 people in the world will read —- if I am lucky.  The number is actually closer to 3 (the people on my committee).

At coffee with Dr. Phoenix today I realized one of my fears about the dissertation is that someone will actually read it.  I mean, if it ever gets to this point, once I turn it into the graduate school they are going to publish it.  People will actually be able to search for it in library databases.  It will be out there FOREVER!!!!!

{Excuse me while I go breathe slowly into a paper bag and take a xanax.}

Yes, I am well aware that, for a girl with a blog, being afraid that someone will actually read your work is more than a little absurd.  Knowing this fear is absurd doesn’t really make it any less stress inducing.

Besides, in my head at least, blogging doesn’t really count as sharing my writing. First, site stats aside, I generally operate under the assumption that no one anywhere is really reading this.  I might pretend to a broader audience, but really I just write for Ouiser because I assume she is my only reader.  Yes, I know Alisha stops by occasionally, but Ouiser is the voice in my head as I write.

Second, the last time I showed someone a piece of my writing it was 9th or 10th grade.  I’d started a cheesy teen romance over the summer, and I showed it to my friend Nifty-Neato Nina.  It wasn’t traumatic or anything. I think she was encouraging.  I just don’t generally show people my writing, but if I finish the dissertation, people will see my writing. Not just a book review, or training materials, they will also see my thinking, my ideas.  It terrifies me.


Just a quick note to say I am still alive. The dissertation is taking up all my time. ALL MY TIME. The good part is that hopefully I’ll be done with it this year. The bad part is I have had no time to write about the things that really interest me.

What I learned this week:

The last couple of weeks have been phenomenally busy at work, but it’s not like I didn’t know they would be.  Much like all my instructor friends know the last few weeks of the semester mean spending all their time in grading jail, I know the first couple weeks of the semester mean spending all my time doing the “Come to the Writing Center” dog and pony show.  The goal is that by the end of the 2nd and 3rd weeks of the semester someone (90% me) visits all the English 100 and 101 classes.  Yes, Virginia, at a school with an undergraduate population twice as big as that of your home town, that is A LOT! You know what else it is?  It is exhausting.

Yes, I do this every semester.  Yes, I know it is coming.  There just isn’t anyway to prepare for the amount of energy it takes to give a 10 minute monologue to different audiences 3 times an hour.  In a way it is like grading jail, just front loaded.

Surprisingly, this post isn’t really about complaining.  I know.  Shocker.  It’s about what I’ve come to realize, over the last two weeks.

  • If I ever have a nervous break down it is going to happen in the middle of one of these visits.  I’ll be in the middle of the “Here’s why you should use our service” spiel, and I’ll just throw up my hands and walk out.  I may or may not mutter obscenities under my breath.
  • This is the semester that the consultants put together a welcome video that we can shop around to hopefully lessen the number of human visits.  I’ve given them no choice, and a deadline of April 15th.
  • Oddly enough, when that happens I plan to use that time to start a classroom visit campaign to another set of classes.  Have we discussed my masochistic nature?  I’m pretty sure we have.
  • If I ever finish the dissertation, and get my ‘real’ degree, I’m going to have some serious soul searching to do about whether or not this is the place for me.
  • Also, I’m pretty sure you know you are a writer, when not writing/writing very little for two weeks gives you ulcers.

Really, all this week I’ve had stomach issues of one kind or another.  Today they culminated in dull pain every time I ate.  So, for the next week or so it is all bland food/and herbal tea for me.  The caffeine headache ought to kick in tomorrow afternoon in the middle of a writing binge fest.

Slogging Through …

Well, it is the point of no return.  I have to, absolutely, no room for error, must defend my dissertation in May.

All of that would mean that I have to you know, write my dissertation.  The writing is … going, and I guess that is good enough.  My momentum was really getting into swing, but then December hit.  Suddenly, I couldn’t avoid having lunch with colleagues, and so my lunch time writing fell apart.  On top of that, for various reasons, I have had to drive into work a little more often than normal, which means my bus writing has also been spotty.

Unbelievably there is a silver lining to all of this!  The Cajun Princess, and Tech Oracle also plan to defend in May, so we are all in this boat together.  The plan is to use this time to keep each other going.

To get back on the writing horse my plan has been to write lightly this weekend, which I’ve done, with the knowledge that starting tomorrow there is no looking back.  I’ve two days left at work and then I am out until January 2nd.  The plan is to write my fingers into bloody little stumps in that time.  No goals about the number of pages, or chapters, just to write until I can’t write anymore.  When I set goals that have to do with word counts/page numbers, or the like it’s too easy for me to feel derailed.  As in, “Well, I’m never going to make 15 pages, so why bother at all?!”  The other thing is I know that when I get back to work in January I’ll be busy for at least a month, and more like 6 weeks.  I need to have enough done that getting busy at work won’t stop my progress.

There are no promises about what will happen in this space over the next few weeks.  Sometimes when I write like this my posting actually increases, because I need an outlet.  Other times I just need to walk away from all writing for a while.

Writing Updates …

Someday I will write about something other than writing, I promise.  Unfortunately, I don’t anticipate that day happening with any regularity any time soon.

Recognizing my need for some help getting my butt in the seat and actually writing, I decided to build writing into my schedule.  Not wanting to overwhelm myself, I started with just one week at a time, and I built into the schedule the writing I was already doing.  Since I was already writing on the bus, and I knew there was no way I’d be getting up any earlier than 6:00am, the next time I could work writing into my schedule was at lunch.  So, I started putting my lunch/writing on my schedule at work. Initially, I was going to work at the library, which would have the added benefit of getting me to walk across campus another couple of times during the day.  The reality is that it’s getting to be winter, which around here means rainy and cold – walking across campus is not necessarily going to motivate me to get writing.  Just outside of my office there are several cubicles used from math/science tutoring, so now I just check the tutoring schedule to see which one is open, and I take the little netbook in a cubicle and write for an hour.  Surprisingly, I really love it.  I don’t waste time getting anywhere, and it still feels like a ‘new’ space, and since it is a cubicle I can really focus.

At the start, I’d also put some evening writing time in the schedule, from 7pm – 9pm.  Yeah, um, that didn’t work.  My brain is pretty much drained by that time, and I want some time to spend with the DH.  Sure, we might spend all that time sitting on the couch playing Scrabble on my phone, but it’s still together time.  Ok, and sometimes, when the stars align, we have sex.  The point is that no good writing happens, not even shitty first draft writing.  Not keeping the appointment was diminishing the success I felt at writing everyday in other situations, so I took it off the schedule.

So, this is what my writing schedule looks like.  Early morning bus time, an hour at lunch, and full mornings on the weekends.  This might not help me meet the crazy goals I’ve set for myself, but, most importantly, I think it is a sustainable schedule.  (I’m silly like this, so I made sure the appointments show up in my calendar as a color I like.)  Time for my weekend writing to start.

On Writing

Writing the dissertation has been a project in trying to figure out what works best for me as a writer.  It’s not like I didn’t already have a writing process, but that process was built around fulfilling a certain number of pages for an assignment.

The dissertaion is the first project I’ve attempted that didn’t come with an assignment. Well, I suppose “write a book about a scholarly topic” is a kind of assignment.  The problem with this particular kind of assignment is that if I wanted to write a book it might not be fiction, but it might not be about a scholarly topic.  Okay, enough about the dissertation as a project, this post isn’t supposed to be a diatribe about graduate education.

It’s about figuring out what I need as a writer, and really coming to own that title.  I might not be a writer in the way Tana French or John Connoly are writers, but I am a writer nonetheless, and I am a writer in need of a method.

Consequently a good part of the dissertation process has been trying to find a writing method that works for me. This week I’m giving scheduling a try.  Instead of just knowing when I need to write and telling myself to do it.  I’ve actually put it in my calendar.  To make myself feel like I’ve accomplished something I’ve made some times that I’m already writing into appointments on my calendar, and then added some new ones as well.  It’s an ambitious calendar, and while I don’t want to give myself an out before I start, there are some appointments I anticipate dropping already.

In addition to the calendar, I’ve set up a spread sheet to keep track of my word counts.  I think that if I stick with this long enough it will work for me.  My problem with word counts, however, is that they don’t really do to well for revisions, and since that is where a lot of my work is currently, I suspect I’m going to get frustrated when my word counts aren’t that good because in addition to writing that day, I deleted a lot of crap.