Friday, February 2, 2007

Doing the numbers

One down, four to go!

It's true, I finished my draft of Chapter 3 and sent it off to my advisor, a few days early, even.

Now what? The next chapter, and the next, and so forth, until the end of March or until I'm done, whichever comes last. I made a little countdown calendar for the next chapter, due on the 14th, and it seems so far away. It's easy to gear myself up for a week of work, but two weeks, followed by (etc), seems to stretch into infinity so that the deadline pressure, the nervous energy that's driving me at this point, seems to disappear.

I'm having trouble getting outside the numbers. I count down the days and the hours, I refer to my chapters by their numbers (though I gave them all extremely clever titles), I take word counts as a measure of my progress, and then I divide them by 250 to tell me how many Platonic 'pages' I have. There's a discussion on the Chronicle forums right now: "How big is your diss?" I'm having trouble thinking of other ways to think about my progress or even congratulate myself because of those numbers: "you finished chapter 3, and it went well, but you have four more to do, and only eight weeks to do them in, and they might be much more difficult, and you might not write as many words, and..."

So, my question to the Boot Camp is how can I get beyond these numbers and appreciate the work I do and the fact that I'm working hard?


chris said...

by finishing. j/k. the nature of this beastly profession is that gratification is oh so delayed.

when prepping for comps i could hardly get past the numbers: "Okay, 5 more weeks till test day; i need to read and/or review 15 more texts. That equals..." Derek, over at, was even worse than me. dude was a quantifyin fool with graphs and charts and formulas and all kinds of craziness.

i'm not sure what to tell you about appreciating the work that you do and the fact you're working hard... perhaps you can daydream about the fact that upon completion you will be part of the less than 1% of the population that gets to wear a fancy, multi-colored robe every May and December... that's all i've got for now... :)

Abby said...

I'm not sure you can get past the numbers -- or at least not sure that I could. But maybe that's not the solution. Maybe it needs to be about page count and word count and chapter count at this point because it's too hard to conceive of 1) the actual mental workt that you're doing and/or 2) the project as a whole and what that means to you not only for the profession but for you personally, to have accomplished this massive goal.

Instead of trying to get away from the numbers, maybe you can also try to focus on the act of writing itself, and take pride not only in how much you wrote, but that you wrote at all. That you got your butt in the chair and wrote something. That you are creating knowledge. So few really get to do that, or can. What an amazing accomplishment. Honestly, good for you.

And if nothing else, know that I'm super jealous of your numbers.

Meagan said...

I'm jealous of you too-- you've gotten a lot done, and it sounds like you're in a good writing groove.

I don't have any specific advice, but I think that the fact that you are aware that you have accomplished so much work is important.

You can do this. Really.

elle said...

go suzanne! i have a chapter due friday--one of the reasons for my absence :-(

Suzanne said...

Thanks, folks! I have another chapter due on the 14th, but I'm trying to get it done by the 10th. I just hope I can sustain this pace and motivation.