Day 870: The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Well readers, I finally did it: I finished drafting the body chapters of the DOS-D. At around 3am on day 868.

The Elvis chapter ended up a little over 86 pages long (before notes), including 75 figures. I still believe there are too many images, but I’m going to deal with that later, when I start revising the chapter. For now, I’m grateful to have (barely) made it through. That last day was very rough; I had promised the chapter to my chair by January 18 but kept hitting walls when it came to dealing with Viva Las Vegas and beyond, let alone concluding the chapter. So, I spent January 18 not eating but working constantly, which meant that I only missed the deadline by about 3 hours.


Elvis dancing for Ann-Margret in Viva Las Vegas (1964), for which I struggled to find a good angle of analysis.

It took me a few days to recuperate, but here I am on the other side of it. Now it’s time to switch mental gears and shape the project as a whole: revisions. Luckily for me, all three members of my committee have read through and given me detailed feedback on each chapter as I’ve written them, so I will have a lot of guidance through my revision process. I know that I need to do more secondary reading/citation for the “cultural context” parts of the chapters, and clarify my central argument. This means more sign-posting and better conclusions to my major examples and sections. I anticipate needing to print out the full chapters for myself, spread them out on the floor, and edit by hand. I need to be able to see the flow of the thing. My apologies in advance to the trees who had to die for me to achieve this; I promise to recycle it all when I’m done. Speaking of promises…

I have promised a draft of my Introduction alongside revised versions of Chapters 1 & 2 to my chair by February 22. Thus, I gave myself mini-deadlines to reach that goal:

  • Complete Ch. 1 revisions (Nicholas Brothers) by Jan. 30
  • Complete Ch. 2 revisions (Gene Kelly) by Feb 8
  • Use the 2 weeks between Feb 8 & Feb 22 to write the Intro

I expect to receive feedback on Elvis around Feb 22, and feedback on the Intro + revisions by St. Patrick’s day. I am due to submit the entire manuscript to my committee on March 29.

AHHHHH, it’s all so much. But I’m told this is just how the ‘final push’ tends to go. It’s a lot, but I can do it—I have to. March 29 really isn’t so far away…less than 10 weeks. Just 67 days. I have a lot of ground to cover, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

This might mean that I check in here more often or less often; I’m not sure yet. But for now, the end is in sight and I just have to put my blinders on and charge forth!

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

I admit: sometimes progress is slow not because you don’t have enough time to write but because you don’t have enough confidence to write.

My latest chapter is currently about 8 pages long, and it’s been stuck there for well over a week now. The winter term is over and my students haven’t yet turned in their final projects so I’m trying to take advantage of the blissful gap between the two. I’ve sat down and tried to write, gotten stuck, made outlines and lists of topics to cover, jotted down small ideas to incorporate later, scoured the web for more primary materials, conducted an email exchange with the NYPL, and found a research travel grant to apply for. But I’m still stuck.

My problem, I think, is fear. I’m once again in that dark space where I imagine most writers land at one point or another: writer’s block. I know generally what I want to say, and if pushed I could even articulate what my intervention is. But I just can’t make it happen! Part of the problem is that good old trifecta I wrote about back in November of 2014: the fear of my work being Obvious, Unimportant, Unoriginal. I am referring more to other scholars for this chapter, and one in particular has said some very similar things about the Nicholas Brothers. In fact, the more I re-read her work, the more it begins to feel like all of my major claims are entirely unoriginal! They have begun to sound like only slight rearrangements of what this other scholar has already made quite clear! And when I do find small claims of my own that I can’t find proof of elsewhere, they sound so obvious or unimportant compared to the bigger claims that feel unoriginal! So it is here that I have trapped myself.


I’m not even a Spongebob fan, but this is definitely me right now.


I know in my heart of hearts that even if this chapter does say roughly the same thing this other scholar said, I am probably paying more attention to medium specificity than her because she is a dance scholar and I am theoretically a scholar of “screens”…and I am putting this analysis in conversation with my other case studies, whereas her entire monograph is an academic biography of just the Nicholases…but that feels dissatisfying. One of my mentors described my current state as a case of “the blahs,” and that definitely registers as accurate. She suggested sitting with them and in them in order to work through and past them but oh how unproductive this makes me feel!

Right now, this dissertation seems interminable…and I’m not even half done yet. A year and a half into the process and not even half done?!? Yeeeesh.