Day 633: Getting Back in the Saddle

It’s been a little over 2 months since my last post, when I was in a dark place with my dissertation. I have more or less made my way out of the darkness since then, as I’m currently at 25 pages for my second chapter. This isn’t wonderful, but it’s also not nothing–it’s nearly the halfway point! I promised myself I’d be at the halfway point by June 6. Why June 6, you ask?

Well, there’s a nifty little program at my university called “Dissertation Bootcamp” that occurs 3 or 4 times a year. It’s a 2-week commitment, 9am-1pm, and you have to put down a $50 cash deposit as motivation to show up and work (which is returned at the end if you’re a good little dissertator). I’ve heard great things about it, so I’m hoping it will be as productive a time for me as it has been for others, especially because I’m teaching a fast-paced summer course right afterwards so I don’t envision having a lot of time to work on my DOS-D during that time. My official goal is to finish the chapter by the time I arrive in Germany mid-August (for a humanities institute).

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The Nicholas Brothers wearing cute crop tops for the “Cha Cha” number in the German film Bonjour Kathrin (1956)


Reflecting on the past 9 months and my very slow writing, I’d say my experience with this chapter overall has been something of a roller coaster; I go through spurts of productivity, confidence, and genuine excitement about my arguments…surrounded by long stretches of boredom, sluggishness, writer’s block, and lack of faith in its importance. I oddly didn’t experience this as much with my first chapter, though it’s objectively no more interesting or revolutionary. I wonder if the main problem is just burnout?

In the next week or so, I’ll be wrapping up my very last quarter as a teaching assistant–this is my 9th and final course as a TA and it’s coming at the end of my 5th year of graduate school. Just writing this makes me feel exhausted, so maybe it really is burnout. I am lucky to have been granted a 6th year of funding by my university, so I plan to complete the dissertation and defend in roughly one year’s time (without that funding, I’d have to seek other means of survival and thus it would take twice as long to finish). This timeline seems fairly reasonable to me; the first chapter took 6 months to create (conceive, research, outline) but only 3 months to write, and this second chapter is taking about 9 months but with consistent interruptions by other obligations like teaching etc. So, the third and final chapter can probably be completed by January 2017 (including one more Bootcamp), leaving me several months to write the intro & conclusion, revise, and defend before the filing deadline (May 5). Phew!

This is a lot to wrap my brain around, because it feels like it was just a few short months ago that I started my DOS-D (and this blog). But in reality, I’m going to be hitting the job market in the fall and telling all the search committees that I plan to defend in the spring (because it’s true!).

And so, in the immortal words of Yul Brynner as Pharaoh Ramses II in The Ten Commandments (1956): So let it be written; so let it be done.