Saturday, January 19, 2008

If pushing one rock is back-breakingly impossible, maybe rolling two at once won't be so bad?

I may be crazy; please someone stop me if so. Rather than work to close the deal on chapter 4, today I started brainstorming stuff for chapter 5. Heaven help me. I think I may be committing a grave stupidity. I have a negative model for this, after all ---- Prof. Nonsequitor, who had three books 80 % written when s/he went up for tenure and had a huge tussle of a tenure bid. There are good reasons to focus down on one thing at a time and get stuff signed off right away. (Oh, Prof N. came here from somewhere else on the tt and had a book and an edition already, so all turned out well ---- don't worry that tenure standards are being lowered and people are tenured based on phantom books at our fine institution.)

This means I have personally seen what it is like to create crazy, ambitious, all-over-the board projects or to start too many projects and then try to get through the various hoops of academia. But still, I'm feeling a little stuck on my Ch. 4 draft, and very very blah about it. I went back to it and solved one of my problems ---- with some distance and perspective I could see that I needed to cut a huge chunk anyway and that resolved the way my argument wasn't quite consistent ---- but now it's about 30 pages and I'll need to expand things and flesh stuff out (hopefully not funyunize) and I Just. Really. Don't. Want. To. Look. At. It. Gah.

So I've been beginning the brainstorming process on Chapter 5. If I get really stuck, I hope that it will just send me back to finishing Chapter 4 with renewed vigor. Maybe I can trade off between them and work faster that way. I'm just hoping I don't become one of those wild-eyed grad students skulking through the library for years in subjugation to their architectonic masterpiece but never showing anything written or finished to anyone until the very end (if there is a very end).

(why are there no pictures of Quasimodo in the bell tower on the internet? Come on, people!)

Anyways, warn me if I'm about to do something stupid. Or better yet, volunteer to finish Ch. 4. It's pretty much all mapped out already --- all you have to do is clean it up for me.


Musey_Me said...

I wrote my last chapter in the middle of writing my other chapters. I don't think it's a mistake. A mistake would be to take time off or to start on a publishable article or similar without making progress. You are okay. My feeling is that if you are more inspired to work on 5, then why not (unless you don't have enough done for four to actually do the work for five - but it sounds like you do)

Fretful Porpentine said...

I've often thought that there should be a conclusion-writing exchange, where you hand off your current academic writing project to someone else and they finish it for you. I have no idea why it's so hard to write the ends of things.

Oh, and my dissertation was written in the following order, for what it's worth:

1/2 of Chapter 6
2/3 of Chapter 2
Chapter 3
1/2 of Chapter 1
Chapter 4
The rest of Chapter 2
The rest of Chapter 6
Chapter 5
Chapter 3 (revised)
The rest of Chapter 1

withneedle said...


Slightly off-topic, but have you seen the Sisyphus watch? I noticed an ad for it in the New Yorker and thought of you.


Maude Lebowski said...

uh, i've basically started doing the same thing. i think whatever makes you productive and consistently writing is a good thing.

Dr. Brainiac said...

Progress is progress is progress. I started with a very general outline and fleshed it out from there - in no particular order, except for the results section (math...*shudder*). I made a point of doing something dissertation-related every day - even if it was just changing phrasing or punctuation here & there. Thinking ahead and using that momentum to pull me along was probably the most helpful, especially when I thought about being finished with the damn thing. It's weird not having that albatross hanging around my neck. I'm still not used to it, but I recommend it highly. It doesn't matter how you get there, just get there. They'll still have to call you "Doctor" when you're done.

Belle said...

Brainiac is right: "Progress is progress is progress." i wrote my intro after my conclusion, and had a couple of chapter sections going simultaneously. What works, works. You're just parking rock 4 and kicking 5 around. 4's not going anywhere until you get back to it.

Progress is progress is progress!

Sisyphus said...

Uh... I am working on both chapters simultaneously; I was thinking of working on the one in the mornings and the other in the afternoons. That's why I was afraid I was crazy.

I'm up for Fretful Porpentine's round-robin dissertation exchange if anybody else is!

And thanks, Withneedle, for the link to the sisyphus watch and Unemployed Philosopher's Guild! There are cute things there that I want (great, I can spend more money on silly things!). Welcome to the comments, btw --- same goes for Dr. Brainiac!

I admit I am indeed looking forward to being called "Dr. Cog." Or some variation thereof.

Hee! (suddenly does little dance of joy)