What I learned in the process
Earlier this week the Malarkey Bin tweeted that Ouiser is putting together an annotated bibliography of advice for anyone considering graduate school. Given that Ouiser often articulates my darker feelings of this whole experience, I think this is an amazingly optimistic of her. I think I’ve crossed into a slightly more jaded realm.
Partly, it is just that in the push to get done I pushed down some serious irritation. Partly, it is that over the course of the last three years I’ve talked a couple different student through decisions about graduate school. While I’ve not actively tried to dissuade anyone, I have tried to be as honest as I can about my own experiences – including sharing the things I wish I’d known when I started -, and I don’t think in any case it has made an impact. However, among all the other powerful influences that lead a person to a position where they need to make a choice about graduate school there is a strong dose of of exceptionalism. I can almost guarantee that every person I talked to about graduate school left my office thinking, “yeah, but…” So, I guess my optimism about offering advice to someone thinking about graduate school has taken a hit.
Today, this came in the mail:
And my heart grew a couple sizes, so here are the two things I wish I’d known at the beginning of graduate school.
First, I wish someone had given me Paul Silva’s How to Write A Lot. During the dissertation process I am pretty sure I ready a million “how to write…” books, and really they all say the same things. For whatever reason, however, I find Silva’s book the most approachable. As someone who got through school on last minute writing, it wasn’t until I started the dissertation that I had to learn how to spend time with an idea, and how to do something besides binge write. I think reading this book earlier in my career might have helped me make something more significant out of my seminar papers.
My second piece of advice is perhaps a little more esoteric; get an Audible account. Audiobooks helped me stay sane in this process because I could listen while driving, doing chores, working out, walking the dogs. The only rule I had for my audible account was that nothing I listened to could have anything to do with my school work. Personally, I listened to fluff – the cheesier the better, detective novels, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, young adult novels. Nothing I listened to required serious thought on my part. The importance of all this listening is that it kept me linked to my love of reading without making me feel guilty for not doing my “work.”
These two thing boil down to – Mind your writing process, and stay connected to what you love.
I actually don’t think of it as optimistic at all– pragmatic, if anything. It’s a reaction to the advice I see from folks to “research” your decision before you go (and so, how the hell does one do that?). If anything, I hope it will keep people away from grad school, but I’m trying to give a balanced view.