Thursday, April 24, 2008


Just trying to remain accountable here as my deadline creeps closer. This is just a comment about my progress, so feel free to skip it.

Although I do want to say that while it's not a scary dissertation photo, I can tell you about the very vivid and horrible nightmare I had a week or two ago. It's very Anne Lamott. In it, I had to turn in the rough draft of my dissertation and that's what I had to defend. My rough drafts tend to be freewrites and chapter 3, in particular, is an absolute disaster, but for some reason that's all I had, so that's what I gave to my committee. It was awful. In part because it was so completely plausbile.

On a more positive note, my friend Kelly (whose not on this blog, but still) successfully defended her dissertation in comp / rhet yesterday. It can be done!

As for me, I talked over chapter 4 with my chair and she doesn't seem to think it's as much of a mess as I think/thought it is/was. I need to rewrite the last section and expand on that, condense and reorganize a good chunk, be more consistent in my terminology, and work on organization. I'm planning to revise it and send it back to her by May 1st.

And then I'm planning to panic because we'll be into May and my diss is due on the 21st.

Yep, there's that rising feeling of panic again. Dissertating cannot be good for one's health.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Scary (Dissertation) Bootcamp Pictures

I don't typically look at the site meter that's attached to this blog . . . who's got the time? But I did recently, and I find that the search terms to get here can be quite amusing. The funniest of late? "Scary bootcamp pictures."

I wonder what that might look like for us?

  • A photo of someone screaming in horror at her adviser's red pen comments on her A photo of someone in the grad carrels, crying and gnashing her teeth over her books (or the books she can't get through Interlibrary Loan)?
  • A photo of someone screaming in horror at her adviser's red pen comments on her dissertation?
  • A photo of someone wasting away to nothing as he types and types and types while muttering, "i must finish. . . i must . . . fin...." Then he passes out from exhaustion.
  • A photo of someone at his diss defense, as he begins to answer the last question and having to stop mid-sentence . . . the financial aid director comes in and says, "There's been a mistake. None of your financial aid these 10 years was valid. You owe the university $183,735 ... payable before you can finish this defense."
What would be a scary bootcamp photo for you?

Cross-posted at Parts-n-Pieces

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

What is this "schedule" of which you speak?

5:00-6:00?! In the morning?!!! Yikes! Exclamation points!!!

I'm more of a late morning, afternoon sort of person. I only see 5 or 6 in the morning if I need to catch a plane.

As for my writing schedule, there's my intended schedule and my actual schedule. I always intend to get up around 7 or 8, get to the grad carrels by 8 or 9, and write until 11:30 or 12 (for lunch or a meeting). The rest of the day depends on the day, as I work in the writing center on Wednesdays from 1-2 and have meetings every other week. But generally I'm back in the grad carrels by 2:30 on meeting days, by 1:30 on non-meeting days, and I write until about 4:30-5.

That's the idea, at least.

In practice, it goes a little more like this: I get up around 8:30 - 9:30, get to the grad carrels by 10, screw around for a half an hour checking email and playing scramble on facebook, write for an hour and a half or so, then go to lunch and/or meetings. I get back to the grad carrels by 2 and write for a few hours.

then feel guilty for the rest of the evening because I'm not writing enough.

SO, I'm really trying this week to be more focused when I'm in the grad carrels, and to work after dinner (which is particularly difficult since my significant other doesn't have to bring work home with him). So tonight I'm reading over chapter 2 and trying to make a few changes so I can send it to my chair. If I could do that tonight, she'd have my intro and first two revised chapters. And I'd feel pretty good about that.

Which means I should go back to work.

Writing Schedule

Hello. My name is Billie, and I'm a binge writer.

I like writing binges. I can get a dozen pages drafted out in a binge session. I binge write, then I edit (purge?). It's a system that has worked for me. But as time moves on, I'm finding that I don't have the larger blocks of time that I like . . . it's rare to have them, actually. Especially now at the end of a semester, there just aren't big blocks of time that I can devote to any one activity. So, what's happening is that since I don't have the huge blocks of time to write, I don't write.

And this isn't getting me anywhere.

So, I have decided . . . and I've resisted this decision for some time as I really don't like to keep my time structured . . . to construct a writing schedule. This may just keep me on task. (All the literature says this is a good method to producing text consistently.) As time moves on, I'm also becoming more and more ready for this ordeal to be over. I need to write in order to finish, I need to finish in order to defend, I need to defend before I can move on to the next stage of my life. And I'm ready to move.

So the schedule. I'm thinking I'll get up early each morning (starting tomorrow morning), and allow an hour each day, from 5:00 to 6:00 for example, to be my sacred hour. If I can write more in any given day, I will, but I will dedicate that one hour to the dissertation.

Do any of you have a writing schedule you keep? Care to share your experiences with this tool?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

My Update, Too

OK, I left this in a comment to Abby below, but since you guys are doing it, I'm going to post my own, too.

My writing has slowed over the past month or so. A lot. I'm waiting on feedback from a number of people on a couple of chapters and I can't seem to get it together to write without knowing where I am (in terms of where they think I am). I hate being dependent like that . . . but there you go. I did talk with advisor the other day, and he has agreed that my initial diss plan was waaaaaaaay too ambitious given the constraints of a dissertation. We have agreed to trim the work back to something manageable and finishable . . . and I could not be happier about that decision. I was drowning in data. The data, however, can be used elsewhere . . . and that's the second part of our plan.

I'm still unsure exactly how to proceed now without that feedback, but my writing plan is to start tomorrow on the "findings and analysis" chapter and just base that work on the case studies. Ultimately that work will be useful even if it doesn't appear in that kind of chapter. We'll see.

So, similar to how Meagan describes her writing process, I am a writer who has to dump the words all over the page (or the Anne Lamott's phrasing, I have to "vomit" all over the page), then I go back and clean it up. Now isn't that a lovely image? ;-)


I'm slowly but surely working and writing. I'm working on the first data chapter (which I'm also writing with the goal of sending out for publication). I'm consistently getting a few pages down a day. They're rough, but that's how I roll. I'm meeting with my director later this week, so I'm hoping to have something more coherent by then. It could happen.


Just a quick update: I finished the revision of my lit review yesterday. I'm trying to work on my introduction today (I'm on page 8 of, I'm guessing, 12-15 -- brief intro) but I'm burnt. I'll keep trucking for a bit, but then have to go to the grocery store and do that other-life kind of stuff. That weird other realm that's NOT related to my dissertation, but includes things like dishes, grocery shopping, taking out the trash, lunch, and meetings.

How's everyone else doing?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


I'm not good at revising. I never have been. I've always been a one-draft kind of woman. But that doesn't work for this process. So I'm revising. I've basically got a full draft of my dissertation (I'm saving the brief conclusion for the end, appropriately enough) and have a chapter revised (chapter 2). I'm working on revising chapter 1 -- my lit review -- this week. And last week, actually. I need it done by Friday so I can send it to my writing group. My deadline (May 2oth, I think) is fast approaching, but my motivation level is incredibly low. I am just soooo beyond done with all of this. 

But it has to get done, so here I sit in the grad carrels in the library with my bag of almonds, my piece of string cheese, and my Odwalla Strawberry C Monster, trying to face the day of meetings and writing. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping these are magic inspirational and motivational almonds. Tony Robbins almonds. Here's hoping.

Monday, April 7, 2008

If only there were a pill.....

Greetings, bootcampers. I found this YouTube video through a new blog, Thirty-Thirty. Take a look at the clip. It's a riot. (The blog is pretty good, too.) I only wish writing a dissertation were so easy..... ;-)

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Checking in (again and again)

Hey, folks-- It's been a while since I've posted, but I think about you all (and this blog) just about everyday. I just returned from a conference in New Orleans where I was fortunate enough to meet Chris, Meagan, Jason (ok, I already knew Jason), K8, Tamika, and a whole host of other dissertation writers. It was so nice to meet others who are in the same boat. While I haven't written here as much as I would have liked (and I'm about to change that), I am so glad to know you all. I appreciate what you are experiencing, and I appreciate that you appreciate what I'm experiencing.

Right before New Orleans, I chatted with my advisor who was very supportive of my work thus far, and while in New Orleans, I was able to meet with one member of my committee. She, too, was supportive. I'm not exactly sure that I'll be able to pull it off, but our plan is for me to finish this summer. It's a huge task, but it just might be doable . . . doable now that I have reconfigured the dissertation.

Now, that sounds uncomfortable. I'm not really changing as much as I am limiting. And given that I'm working with sports, basic writing, and collegiate-level athletics, limiting the work has become an important activity. What I have produced thus far are methodology and case study chapters. The next chapter was to be about "alternative pedagogy" and alternative assignments, but I've decided to wait on that and let the data and that informs this chapter become other potentially publishable work. What I'll do now is take what I have and focus on how the fairly traditional assignments I have highlighted in the case study chapter were taught in with "alternative pedagogy." I hope that made sense.

But the point is to focus and finish. Focus and Finish. That's my new mantra.

While finishing and focusing on the dissertation is first and foremost (what's with all the "fs"?) on my schedule, I do have a few other writing projects bubbling to the surface. Chris and I are working on a collaborative article on student athletes and surveillance, and I'm finishing another collaborative piece with a local colleague on reflexive photography. I'm also drafting an article that is not dissertation related, but is related to my current full-time job: dissertation-writing groups in a writing center.

OK, I have about 3.5 months to finish my dissertation work. I think I can do it, but it'll be hard. I do have a tendency to be a bit soft emotionally . . . and I anticipate that to be a challenge, but I'll get this done. I'll get it done if I focus and finish. Expect me to post here quite often.

Oh, and I've been using an analogy for writing the dissertation for about a year: wrestling an alligator. I now have a picture. A real alligator. I've already kicked its ass so hard, it's color is gone. (Pic taken at the New Orleans Aquarium.)

Friday, April 4, 2008


Well, it's finally "done." There are holes in the chapter and the end falls apart, for sure, but I sent it to my chair for some overarching comments. My brain is pure pudding so I'm taking a few days off to do things like laundry, dishes, grocery shopping, and spending time with friends.

On Monday, I'm going to start revising my lit review. Wish me luck.