- it feels like you are making no progress at all, because it is incremental progress, which contributes to the feeling of rolling a rock up a hill every day
- it is easy to slip from the "even a little work every day" into not working on it at all for several days, which combines the worst of the incremental method (see point 1) with the worst of the binge-and-rest writing method. Writing in binges is not so great for large projects (at least according to scholars of productivity like Boice) but when you pull an all-nighter of writing, you usually have some pages of material afterwards. Slipping off the incremental method means you're working on the rest-and-rest method, which is quite pleasant unless you think about the fact that you are making absolutely no progress at all.
(I do that with diets too ---- or at least I did until I figured this pattern out: I will think so hard about dieting that first day that I will feel all tired and worn out and reward myself for what feels like years of not eating by having some sort of fattening special treat. Yes, I can gain wait on diets. My solution, once I found this self-sabotaging pattern of mine, has been to give up on diets and just not care anymore. So far it's working.)
But I'm not giving up on the dissertation, of course, which means I can't count imaginary progress as progress (I'm so smart for having figured that out finally). So I have to keep reminding myself that I need to write first --- first thing in the day as my brain is luxuriating in the coffee, before I have procrastinated the entire day away, before reading blogs or wearing myself out with students. Write first. Write! (note to self, there. Readers are in no way obligated to stop reading and start writing now. Carry on!)
I've also tried something new with this chapter: working up an extensive outline first. I have, probably, about 6 or 7 pages of an outline right now --- although some of those spots look pretty fleshed out and others I dumped some quotes in, so it's not at all 7 pages of bullets.
I'm not sure this method works for me --- I am figuring out some ideas, and I hope that this will help me carry themes across larger chunks of the chapter, rather than try to splice two chapter chunks together near the end and discover that they are not facing the right direction --- but the outlining is making that feeling of no progress feel even worse this time around, and I also have a hard time figuring out when I can stop. In places, it has basically become a draft of at least a few paragraphs long, whereas in others it is a very colloquial series of bullets and questions for myself. I'm back to my problem of not being able to cross my diss work off my to do list, because I can't tell if I'm "done" with my item. Meh.
Even worse, I write to discover things, I think, and so the first "puke everything onto the page" step of drafting is fastest and probably the most fun for me. Revision is slow, partly because it's slow, and partly because I've already figured out the fun stuff I want to say and don't want to bother tying up the loose ends and boring details. I'm having troubles actually transferring from the outline to a draft because I've figured out what my points are and how these themes will carry across the chapter. I'm so screwed. If I ever actually force myself to finish this thing (hmm --- would my committee sign off on an outline? Intriguing...) I don't think I'll use this method again.
So, there you have it: I'm somewhere between an outline and a draft, and am not sure how long it will take me to get from the one point to the other. Of course, I have a little more than a month to get my chapters to my whole committee per our earlier agreement, so that's the amount of time it's gonna get, regardless of how long it wants to take. Too bad that I have two sets of papers coming due in that time, a conference paper to write and give, and my departmental-favor commitments I wrote about a while ago are coming back around as well.
And now I'm going to go have some chocolate. Or maybe ice cream. All that hard work of thinking, you know: I need some sort of reward.