Thursday, February 8, 2007

Today was Pajama Day

This term I am experimenting with staying here on Tuesdays/Thursdays and working from my couch. I say "experimenting" because I've had trouble with my couch before. It knows my name. It whispers a sweet siren call, beckoning me to stretch out on it and "think through" a tough patch of argument or close my eyes to get "inspiration" for the perfect synonym. Then, before I know it, it has enfolded me in its soft fuzzy clutches and sucked away my entire afternoon.

I had known this before, but the problem didn't really hit home for me until the year I managed to snag a fellowship. No seminars, no research trips; all I had to do was write. It wasn't long into this wonderful opportunity that I discovered I was waking up at noon and needing a post-lunch nap by 2, and my roommates were bringing home their talkative selves around 4. Drastic action was needed to save the precious fellowship time and money.

Luckily, a friend in my department had had much the same problem in her fellowship year the year before (well, not lucky we hadn't figured it out a year earlier, but you know what I mean). Somehow we got the idea that we should form a "dissertation group" of some sort --- not to read each other's work, but to poke each other with a sharp stick if we tried to sleep. We soon learned that working at our homes and coffee shops tempted us to talk and people flocked to us like we had a homing signal if we were in the department, so we braved the library. The grad cubicles had a wait of at least a year once you were ABD (a saga I'll tell another time), so until we got something we had a daily ritual of scrounging one of the group study rooms. Whoever got there first would take the elevator to the topmost floor, and then circle the stacks, slowly wending her way, floor by floor downward, until she found an unoccupied room. You could tell what week it was by how many rooms we'd have to check. But this worked out well, and meant that we'd put in 2 hours of dissertation work first thing every morning (Diss Buddy was back to teaching by this time so we had to fit in her schedule). Unfortunately, I write --- and revise! --- very slowly, which is an additional problem to discuss in a later post.

We have kept up our "buddy system" remarkably regularly, revamping the system as each new term brings us new schedules and new workarounds, but overall our support group has been a great help. Now, since we both have no reason to be on campus T/Th (and the slow bus system giving us an incentive to stay home), we're trying working at home on those days. I will have to ask her if it's working for her, and can we work, after this long, without someone sitting right next to you as your external conscience and motivator?

So, how did it work for me today? I've been scraping away at the conference paper, moving things around, turning blobs into sentences. I had hoped to have it finished and reasonably polished today as I'm about to get midterms, and it's not, but I did put in a reasonable amount of both time and effort. I took a half hour nap 'round 2 and by 4 my editing efforts were pretty desultory, but I got way more done than I did back when I was first fighting my couch, and maybe more than I've gotten through lately at school. (The commute to the couch is fabulous!) Plus I love lying around in my schlobby pjs all day. The only downside is that I get sorta stir-crazy by the end of the day and really want to talk to people. I couldn't do this every day of the week ---- I'd be on the internet and phone more than I already am. Maybe this is one of the reasons I'm drawn to blogging. For the companionship, or for the poke with the pointy stick? Yes. Heh.

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