You sit in the driver’s seat. You’ve pulled off to the shoulder. The passenger door is open and Doubt has left the car and sits cross-legged in the dirt, arms folded.
Hey Doubt. I’m sorry I ignored you, I’m ready to listen to you now.
It’s about time, GAWD! Okay, listen: I don’t even know why we’re still going. You’re going to fail at this thing. It’s going to happen.
Okay. That’s harsh.
Well, sorry to say, it’s the truth, I’m just trying to prepare you.
What good does that do?
Give up! Then it’s like ripping off a bandaid. You’ll show everyone that you’re really not that great and well, once everyone knows that, you can go on without worrying that people might find you out. Don’t tell them you suck, just show them already. GET. IT. OVER-WITH!
Hmm, you know what Doubt? I hear you. But, if it’s so inevitable, why don’t we just keep going and see what happens.
But you’re going to fail.
So. I’ll either fail now or fail later. If I’m destined to fail, I’m not ready to stop just yet. I don’t want to sit with you in that ditch, waiting to die. We’ll get to the inevitable failure soon. In the meantime, let’s just keep going for a while.
Doubt stands up, dusts herself off -
All right, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Noted. Now just get in the fucking car already so we can go.
Disclaimer: Apologies to those of you who are not Doctor Who fans. If you have love for British science fiction that runs the gamut of cheesy to OMG!AWESOME! you should check out the latest reboot(s) of Doctor Who. It’s on Netflix and at your local public library.
So my increasingly opinionated, stubborn, and wonderful 2.5 year old daughter is sleeping erratically. Some days she takes her regularly scheduled “epic nap” of 3.5 hours, and other days she doesn’t nap at all. This, my friends, is a big problem. I do ALLOFMYWORK when she sleeps. Her naps equal time. No time means no work. No work means I don’t finish my dissertation. Not finishing means I wasted the past 7.5 years on a caffeine– and whiskey-filled dante-esque descent into madness without payoff. So it’s time to shake up my routine and squeeze more time out of my day, which is not easy when writing a dissertation, taking care of a toddler, and managing my brain so I can keep an even keel through all of it.
The only real remedy to this new time crisis — besides getting my own TARDIS — is to chip some time out of the rest of my day. For many of us, this can seem impossible. So I’ve developed a strategy. I’m not sure how it’s going to pan out, but I have to do something and if you have any further advice, please share.
Here’s my strategy so far:
1. I work one weekend day. My workweek, prior to Nap Breakdown 2012, was pretty regular. Up by 7, at the gym by 9:30, work for a few hours, then spend time with family. My evenings and weekends were free from dissertation work and I felt like I had a pretty good balance. Now that my work time during the week is out of whack, I feel like I’m cheating on my dissertation when I’m doing other stuff. This is not good. It makes me anxious and irritable when I’m not working and hurried and disappointed when I do finally get to work. So the week is now my collecting time for my weekend day. I write when I can, read when I can, and collect enough stuff so my Saturday or Sunday has all of the ingredients for a productive writing day.
2. YMCA Childwatch.I’ve mentioned the YMCA before, but let me just extol it’s virtues here again. I was a member of the Brooklyn Y and their Childwatch program was fantastic. They gave you two hours of free babysitting while you worked out, or, like I did somedays, read quietly in a corner. The Downtown Berkeley YMCA unfortunately charges for their child watch, but it’s still SO worth it! The staff are highly trained, incredibly nice, and there are plenty of them. My kid has a blast every time she goes. Three days a week, I workout, two days a week, I sit on the sofa in the lobby to work. That’s an extra four hours of work in my week, and if the kid actually naps that day, I’m way ahead of the game.
3. Getting up earlier. This is the craziest habit I’m trying to form. Waking up two hours early. That’s right, I’ve been waking up at 5am all week. Now there are a few of you who do this and I used to think you had a metabolic imbalance or you were witches or something. Needless to say: I get it now. Waking up before the world is the best Cheat Code out there. The only problem? Actually getting your ass out of bed. My “Just go back to sleep voice” — who I suspect is my little hater in disguise, is a persistent bastard. “You don’t have to do this,” it says, “You’re so tired. Just sleep a little longer.” So my conscious voice has to scream, “SITUP! WASHYOURFACE! HAVESOMECOFFEE!” and it’s worked so far. I feel accomplished before the day starts giving me freedom to not think about my dissertation when doing all of life’s other stuff.
This is a oldie, but oh-so-relevant goodie. Jay Smooth — one of my favorite video bloggers and founder of WBAI’s Underground Railroad, the longest running hip hop show in New York — breaks down the Little Hater.
The Little Hater is the voice of doubt in your head and there’s something about his parsing the logic of the Little Hater that weakens it for me and gives me an out from the hater spiral.
Since I moved to California, I haven’t blogged at all and my work on my dissertation has fallen off a bit. Needless to say, my Little Hater was in overdrive. Here it is in a nutshell:
It tells me that my ideas aren’t worth anything.
That all praise received in the past was a product of tricking said praisers into thinking I was more talented than I am. (Never mind that pulling off that kind of trickery would make me a witch in possession of magical powers that should enable me to finish my dissertation. #AccioDissertation!)
And lastly, My Little Hater is a revisionist mofo. It goes back to sparks of insight and tells me “that was a dumb idea, what were you thinking?” I literally have to write notes to myself that say, “This is still a good idea, stick with it” just to shut my Little Hater up.
So I’m taking a stand with my Little Hater and saying, “Not today.” How about you? What’s your little hater like?
Note: If you like this video, Jay Smooth started posting Ill Doctrine again with regularity for AnimalNewYork.com.
I started writing this post in an empty apartment. My husband got a job in California and so the last few weeks were busy with preparations, both material and emotional, for the “big move” West. Moving takes up emotional space: when you’re not filling out change of address forms and canceling utilities, you’re running “the list” through your head and expectedly, my dissertation has slowed to a crawl. Big life changes are always a challenge when working on a thesis or dissertation, but they don’t have to be fatal for your project.
Here are some steps to keep up with your dissertation during major life events:
1) Don’t overpromise. We went to Oakland to house-hunt and when I returned I thought three weeks was sufficient time to complete my next chapter. This, in a nutshell, was wildly optimistic. We had movers and packers come and having never experienced this before, I thought my job was done — that whatever we had to do in the three weeks before our move was marginal, leaving plenty of time for writing. Ridiculous! I barely scraped together a 4 page outline for my final writing group meeting. Lesson? Don’t do this. If you’re moving, give yourself a month before and a month after to get back into the swing of things, and if you can help it, don’t promise ANYTHING.
2) Check in. When going through a move, you don’t have to abandon your work, at least, not altogether. It helps me to check in with my work, as a reminder. I make it a point to write a 200 word abstract on my current chapter as a writing exercise. I keep that abstract in it’s own scrivener page and check in to read it as often as I can. When I do read the abstract, I jot down a few notes and questions in the same document so I have a record of my thoughts. This counteracts a major hindrance to writing: momentum loss. If I’m away from work too long, I forget what I was working on. And when I forget, I grow increasingly anxious about where to go next because I don’t remember where I was going when I started. Checking in keeps your head in the game.
3) Meet with your committee and/or writing group. I met with two committee members before I left New York and they gave great feedback for next steps. I also presented a 4-page outline to my writing group for feedback on next steps, clarity, and organization. I recorded all meetings and once we’re settled, first thing on my “To-Do List” is to transcribe those meeting notes. I will then form those notes into a to-do list that I will use to get started again.
4) Be easy on yourself. If you’re anything like me, you’re scared to death of taking too much time away from your dissertation, for fear of losing “it.” But listen, a move is a BFD and incredibly stressful, so get a new shower curtain and welcome mat, the work will always be there.