Sunday, April 29, 2007

Coffeehouse Life

A ginger-haired man stares off into space, his fingers twitching, his notebook open to a blank page in front of him, his mechanical pencil untouched. He hunches his shoulders, clearly beaten. He gets up and sits down. He leans back, his feet up. Occasionally he mouths words or a tune. He silently counts on his fingers. He puts his hands in front of him. Every day, I see him here, parked on the couch, wrangling silently with some muse.

Outside the coffeehouse is a bake sale for Save the Whales. In a landlocked state. Are they trying to create more land whales with their iced brownies? I know I ate one. The trash can is overflowing, garbage carried away on the wind.

Standing scant yards away from the girls and their bake sale table, a man stares. He sways back and forth, his tongue darting in and out of his mouth. When he moves inside, he sits on the couch reading a science fiction pulp novel, his tongue still darting every few seconds at the corners of his mouth, his knees wildly pumping in and out excitedly. Hard to think the best of human nature here on a Sunday at the Coffeehouse.

I'm grateful for the people with their laptops, papers sprawled out on the table around them, the teenager drawing, the professor who tells me it's not so bad that my ass has expanded in the dissertating process laboring over her student essays with her pen.

I'm so confused. This all started when I went over to WSF's at the appointed time and saw him getting into his car, laptop in hand. I can't deal with this. We're going to a park. I think I need to return to the relative sanity of my dissertation. This guy rocking back and forth and pumping his legs in and out is freaking me out.

Crazy Revision Plan

I'm sorry I'm so boring lately, so totally focused on the dissertation. I swear one of these days I'll come back up for air and complain about other things -- like packing up my apartment and the prospect of moving to a new place and teaching classes I haven't even been assigned yet! But for now, I am all about the dissertation all the time.

Most of this semester's work is over -- just some loose ends to tie up early next week. And I've created the craziest revision plan ever: I should have a complete second draft in about two weeks. The craziest part about it is that it seems almost possible. Moreover, it has to be done, because I need to send stuff to my readers pronto -- and May 15 is that fateful day. (Monday, I MUST do the difficult and boring work of writing to my committee members about the defense date. I must, I must, I must!)

So today I really hated everything and everyone and was sour to Witty Sardonic Friend and SO for hours longer than usual. Then finally SO got me talking about stuff remotely related to my dissertation and somehow I climbed up on my high horse and was able to penetrate (or perhaps transcend) the fog that had been between working on the intro and me. I told myself I only had to sit and stew for 90 minutes. 4-1/2 hours later, I was finished with everything but a few citations. I went over to WSF's and watched Spiderman 2 (nothing terribly exciting, but now that Peter and MJ have come to some kind of understanding, I sort of want the story to end there, with the myth that somehow Peter can have a life and be a hero), then came home, looked up the citations, ate chocolate, ended up getting chocolate all over my laptop, and here we are. Second draft of Intro done. A day early. HA!

No doubt, I'll end up wasting tomorrow. But if I could manage a mere ten minutes of washing dishes I swear it would really help the smell of my kitchen. (This is called blogging the shame, folks.) And really, there is no reason why someone whose ass has severely widened during the last year should be eating chocolate. Tomorrow, it would be a very good idea if I'd do even the slightest bit of yoga. After blueberry pancakes, of course. Ooh, and I must go and get DVDs so I can copy some DVDs that a student loaned me.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

RBoC Thursday

  • Sleep is a good thing. But staying up half the night watching gripping movies is better. The Good Shepherd. Ohmigod. What a movie. Perfect for Englishy types who appreciate ambiguity and coded language. This is not a movie that explains itself. I was also on the edge of my seat for all seemingly ten hours. The other half of the night I stayed up reading about poet-spy James Jesus Angleton. At Yale, he published a journal in which TS Eliot, WC Williams, and Ezra Pound appeared. Then he goes off to the OSS; in England his former English professor is in intelligence. There's a point in the movie where Edward Wilson (partly based on Angleton) says that he's a poetry student and not political. But look at these scholar-spies. English is a discipline to be reckoned with! It must be because we're so intense and earnest!
  • Had totally wretched dreams. When SO called this morning, I was so tired and traumatized by my own addled imagination, I thought instantly something terrible had happened. No. Thank goodness.
  • I'm a freak. See bullets above.
  • When I finally decided that I couldn't read all there was to know about scholarly Englishy types in counterintelligence (must be all that close reading!) in a couple hours, I went to bed and decided I would write out why I was so despairing about revising the diss. Important note to self: car rides are vital to productive thinking and imagining. (Took drive to Nearest Urban-Feeling City to take WPF to airport.) Important note to self 2: when in doubt, write through despair. Of course I came up with a way of thinking about the problem chapter that made an organization sort of fall into place in my head. Why didn't I write before? You'd think after a zillion notebooks and journals filled with my scrawls and whines, I'd have figured out that writing was a really productive way for me to think. Apparently, I'm very forgetful and dumb.
  • Meeting with Peppy Advisor today. Also last tutoring hours. Also must respond to projects by end of week.
  • Did I mention that Witty Sardonic Friend is back?????!!!!!!!!!!! Which is of course why after the long day that was (ha!) Wednesday, I had to go over to his house and watch said movie and chat.
  • Am so tired with that jittery feeling of lack of sleep.
  • Am also clearly procrastinating getting myself off when I have PA meeting about diss in an hour and must caffeinate.
  • Am supposed to go to movie after work hours with blog-goddess and co-conspirator Maude Lebowski. Can't even imagine it. Can't happen.
  • I must've forgotten. Did I already say I was a freak?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Wonder of Wonders, Miracle of Miracles

I'm up. I'm awake. I'm even showered, dressed, rapidly getting caffeinated (having gotten up, out, and back for a large overpriced coffee -- shout out to the SO who made that possible!) with my laundry in the washing machine. And it's still quite early in the day!

Wacky Poet Friend and I went out for our last night out and stayed out until the bars closed, being earnest intense writer-types. (Of course, staying out until the bars close in Grad City means that I'm home with a couple hours to kill before my most recent bedtime.) Wacky Poet Friend is leaving town tomorrow to give a reading in Philly and then to take on the world. Witty Sardonic Friend called me from the road this morning asking if I was hungover (no, I'm not, though it's got to be that weird inverse hangover that got me out of bed so early), since there was some drunkcalling about preparing for the revolution at the end of the world. I told WSF that WPF and I need him to deflate our ridiculous and overweaning egos. WSF said such posturing was good for me. (Of course, he thinks that my getting drunk and making a fool of myself is good for me because it teaches me humility.) But the point is: WSF is coming! WSF is coming! And he'll be here for a matter of weeks! (Yes, it's true, moving out of his apartment. But still! A couple weeks! He's been gone for frigging ever.)

Other reasons for exclamation points: it's the last week of classes! Last week of tutoring! Penultimate meeting for Cool Class! Thank goodness, because I really need it to be over.

(My apartment is strangely loud and raucous today, with people listening to their TVs really loud and others going off to work. It says something about my deadasleepness that I usually sleep very peacefully through all the slammed doors and not-so-muffled voices. Could the rain outside actually be intensifying the sounds?)

So it seems perfectly obvious to me in my wide-awake-and-almost-reasonable state that I need to figure out how to approach the second draft of the diss. I can't just put the entire thing on the desk and say to myself: Earnest, revise. It is totally overwhelming. And I will spend whole hours doing what I did last night: ignoring all the totally obvious calls for massive revision in favor of researching on the internet a refutation to a comment PA made on page 115. (Not to mention the curling up on the floor examining the weave of the carpet and the flopping on my back staring at the light fixtures arms akimbo as if I'm hoping to be taken by some violent religious ecstasy -- or waiting for the mothership to come take me home -- amazing how those two things seem so similar to me.) OY! I need a plan. PA hasn't read Chapter 3 yet so it's hard to think of what to do now about the botched birth that is Chapter 2. (Okay, I agree that the oft-used-and-abused baby metaphor for the diss is problematic; on the other hand, what else explains my reaction to critique but that I feel like PA is telling me that my newborn looks like a conehead Yoda?) So there is only one totally reasonable answer: I should focus on Chapter 1, whose problems are pretty clear to me. But not yet. Having this realization counts as working on the diss, right? (Blogging as work, discuss.) Right now, I have to respond to student projects for Cool Class. And put the laundry in the dryer.

Who knew that a bit of Monday night drinking would bring me such a clearheaded and work-ready Tuesday? Clearly, this is why we have to celebrate our achievements like rock stars. (Also, this explains Monday Night Football; it jumpstarts Tuesday admirably.)

Monday, April 23, 2007

Your Oh-So-Cheery Report from Diss Tower

Similarly Hate Filled Dissertator and I are sitting here in our chairs, high up in the library, doing our work. She's reading and looking scholarly. I'm reading Peppy Advisor's comments and making notes, trying to take back the process by writing my own comments.

But when SHFD left the room, I curled up in the fetal position and told myself that PA's comments were making it a better book. Yes, I know they are. I even know how to address some of them. PA doesn't hate it or anything, though there are major problems. But re-entering some parts of this thing seems impossible. Makes me want to curl up in the fetal position. Makes the pattern of our white and grey carpet seem fascinating.

I think that this is because I had no time to really celebrate the fact that I finished the first draft. No week to spend lolling in bed. No time to spend drooling at the TV. (I did watch The Bourne Identity last night, staying up until 3. It was delicious.) Here we are at work again, like good little soldiers who are trying our damndest to graduate in August, dealing with our committees' pesky vacation schedules. (Yes, I think they should be able to go on vacation. Yes, I believe in the 9- or 10-month system. Yes, they're being wonderful to work with me like this. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know.)

Anyway, dear reader: do not try to graduate in August. It's just bad. Graduate in May like a normal person. Give yourself time to celebrate the drafts. Do as I say, not as I do. This sucks.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

It's Official!

I have finished the dastardly Chapter 3! Which means that I have completed the first draft of my dissertation! Woohoo! Now if only I didn't have a big folder with comments from Peppy Advisor already. I haven't even opened it because it's too scary. And I'm not going to do that today.

Instead I have some project drafts to look at that I should've done a week ago, but in my sick ickiness did not get done. So I'm sitting in a local coffeehouse blogging instead of doing my work. Yay blogging!

Also y'all, I've totally appreciated the comments about my being a crazy speed demon on this draft, but really I just have a weird process. I do a lot of freewriting up front. Then I dig out the research that's useful (that I've already done). Then I sort of slap all that together in a document and try to figure out ways to arrange it. Then I mope for a while, trying to figure out some kind of arrangement. Then I freewrite some more. So when I say crazy things like "I wrote eight pages," what I mean is that I turned notes into sentences for eight pages. It is amazing, at least I think it is, but it's not the same as doing brain work. (Must graduate in August is my mantra!) Also, with one chapter in particular I didn't even bother writing things in academic discourse. I just couldn't do it. Of course, that's the chapter that has to be totally revised. I don't mean just rewritten, but totally re-envisioned and likely back to square one on research. Well, we'll see.

I really should get to these overdue drafts. Everywhere around Grad City are students with laptops or giant textbooks open, trying to make up the work of weeks and weeks. (Isn't that what I'm doing?) Don't they know that I've written a first draft of my dissertation and for at least an hour nothing can possibly be the same? Then again, things are the same. And these drafts aren't going to respond to themselves. Too bad really.

In a Valiant Effort to Not Go Insane. . .

I'm losing my mind. I worked pretty much all day, until finally I forgot that I was a person. So then I went and watched Children of Men and have now come back to assess what I have done. In order to keep me sane, I'm going back to blogging my progress, New Kid style.

1. How many minutes did you write/edit today?
Dear lord. Uh, I think from 11-2, then 4-8? I don't know. Way too many minutes!

2. How many pages/paragraphs did you write?
I wrote 2,000 words.

3.What do you feel good about?
I'm on page 20.

4. What challenges and problems do you have?
I just want to be frigging done. I'm also not sure if I'm really saying anything in the next section. I mean I'm just drawing parallels. Is it enough to draw parallels between two totally separate disciplines? Well, that's what I'm going to do.

I have to figure out a way to not feel like a dissertation drone tomorrow. In some version of reality, I'm also supposed to write something for Cool Class, but I can't even imagine it. How would that even be possible at this point? Not to mention I've got some drafts to read. Please put me out of my misery.

6. What are your specific goals for tomorrow?
I really want to finish the damn chapter tomorrow. So what does that really mean? I need to go ahead and really write probably five pages, then add to and sharpen the remaining pages. I just need to get this puppy out the door. I can't stand it any longer. I already have the damn comments from the Intro and Chapters 1, 2, and 4 in a big scary folder, waiting for me to hack and slash. Oh I can't even think about it. Can I also just mention that I finally got the contract and extensive paperwork for Adventure U? I can't even begin to sink into it. Must, must, must finish Chapter 3. My other goal for tomorrow is to feel good about finishing Chapter 3.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Still Dissertating, Still Kvetching

Have I mentioned lately how much I hate this? My day has been mostly working on the wretched Chapter 3 interspersed with moments where I stare blankly at the wall while curled in the fetal position. My stomach has hurt for -- oh about four or five hours now. I'm probably nursing an ulcer as we speak.

Also, people have been flaking left and right in my life. Only two people seem to be reliable: Witty Sardonic Friend, who is coming into town next week (YAY!) and wonderful SO. Everyone else pretty much sucks. I think I should commit to spending more time in the blogoverse, where at least people show up.

I'm grouchy and whiney. Still sick. In fact, I can't go on because I just can't stand it. Suffice it to say, everything sucks. But you knew that. I'm dissertating. Over and out.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Sick and Musing

I'm sick again. Really icky, first dry coughing-up-my-lungs losing-my-voice sick and now gross snotty sick. Between that and hanging out with Wacky Poet Friend, I have not gotten Chapter 3 done. In spite of the fact that I have written so much on this subject, it's been coming very slowly. Sadly, I wanted to turn it in today -- and that's just not going to happen.

Money troubles. Internet troubles. Two bomb threats to area buildings (one on campus) this week.

What does it mean when a senior English major kills over thirty people? Are unstable people drawn to English? Does postmodern groundlessness finally not provide the footing that people need? I had two seniors in one of my courses last semester who said that basically there was no meaning to anything, that "nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so." I asked if we in English did that. What about morals? Ethics? Anything to help people make meaning in their lives? Does it all have to be, finally, play? What about all of us drawn to English because we found that books that we weren't so alone, that literature could be "equipment for living," as Burke maintained?

In the school newspaper, there was an article interviewing the head of counseling services as well as the chair of English. They focused on how instructors were responsible for reporting students who seemed to be dangerous to counseling services. And through what do we police our students? Through their writing. How many people write about wanting to blow up the school or that they are so mortified or stressed they could just want to kill themselves and end the agony or how they would like to hit some idiot over the head with a shovel? But most of us don't do it. In fact, writing about it, expressing it in this way, is what keeps a lot of us sane and responsible. Is writing always a warning sign? Or can it actually be a way of blowing off steam, like the pillow-hitting that my mother always advocated? (Pillow-hitting never made me feel better, by the way.)

I don't have any answers. Certainly, I have had students whose writing has caused me great concern. I have advocated that some students get help before and will again. But it troubles me for teachers to be responsible for recognizing dangerous students through their writing and thought-policing in this way. I don't know what to think. Is that student just late to class or is s/he going to open fire? It's foolish to think that anywhere is safe. But I must've thought it. Must be why we all have to constantly remind ourselves that our classrooms are not private spaces.

Anyway, just musing. I plan to post my own reviews of Blood Diamond and Notes on a Scandal. But first, dissertating.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

I'm Home!

Because I've been working my ass off and out with Wacky Poet Friend, I haven't spent much time at home lately. This morning I had to stay home in order to do laundry. (All of my clothes are smokey smoke smoke because, of course, I'm smoking too much with WPF. Of course.) And it was nice to putter a bit around the house. So I rented a movie and came home after my work session with Similarly Hate-Filled Dissertator, who was much more on task than I was because I both felt good and was tired -- and kind of all aflutter because it had really been a while since I had those great intense conversations until dawn that make you feel like you're a really cool person with a life. But, really, let's face it. It's a distraction. I will one day have a life. But right now I need to be a Dissertating Machine. Sigh.

Because I was so flighty today (one person asked me if I had had too much sugar) and didn't get much done -- and that just can't be said for the weekend -- I thought I would blog the to-do list, so tomorrow morning I'll drag myself to the 'puter and peer at it:

  1. Dissertate.
  2. Read lots of read-for-hire mss.
  3. Redo editing job because somehow I was so tired I edited the wrong thing! (So embarrassing. How could I not have noticed that I'd edited that section before? I kind of can't believe that I did that -- I think it must've been different.)
  4. Taxes. (I know, I know)
  5. Read for Cool Class.
  6. Email Fabulous Visiting Scholar and tell her I'm not worthy.
  7. Consider responding to student essays but really wait until Monday because I can.
Now I'm going to watch Blood Diamond.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Enough Already!

I just wanted to move that bitchy post down the page. I've just finished my long-day tutoring stint -- and managed to free-write only a bit today for Chapter 3. But that's okay. It feels so nice to get back to some free-writing, to be back in the imagining process again. And this is the last chapter. Once I'm done with this, I'll have a complete first draft! I also ran into Peppy Advisor, and she said she was excited that I got her Chapter 4 -- before she even got her comments to me about the Intro and Chapters 1 and 2! So I'm still sailing along on that one for a while.

I just feel so unhealthy, sprinting to the finish line like this. I need healthy light spring food, light spring weather (did I just overhear someone saying it's supposed to snow on Friday?), exercise, sunshine, about thirty pounds to shimmy off me onto the floor, detox from the allergy and cold medicines I've been taking, and about twenty hours of sleep. And then I'll be fine.

Though actually I feel remarkably decent right now. Probably mostly because this longest workday for me is over, which means the rest of the week is much much better. Also, WSF's Poet Friend, who is now my Poet Friend, came in last night. We hung out and got drunk. I'm not as young as I used to be, because I did not feel my best today. We've been talking literature and other fun stuff. So instead of wanting to work all the time, I want to hang out and have fun. That's the Earnest English I remember!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Sharpening My Claws

Dear lord, I am just exhausted. All that work last night. I think if we're going to work from noon to 11pm, we should get overtime. What's more, Mr. Tabby decided to go ape-shit this morning, meowing and being really demanding when I wanted to sleep. Finally, after two or three hours of getting up on the dresser (bad kitty!) and meowing and freaking out and even biting me, when it was time for me to get up, he had worn himself out and was happily curled up next to me dozing. Clearly, we are on opposite timetables. When I was all ready to go this morning, of course, he woke up and came to the computer, as he usually does, and made me feel bad for leaving him alone all day. OY! I am a bad mother. That's all there is to it. But it's hard to type on the laptop when he stretches out on my arms!

So now I'm at the bagel shop. Every person who served me today was infinitely more awake than I was -- to the point it was painful to look at their sprightly selves and delighted faces. I told the last one to take it down a notch. So he did his best zombie impression and asked me what I wanted. I could almost deal with him in zombie mode. Thank god I can now type in my sleep or you'd not be getting this totally riveting post. What can I say? Do I have anything to say?

It's a rainy day when I should be in bed, and instead I'm going to be dealing with fuckwits. New proclamation: track changes and comments as a classroom response strategy to writing is evil. You, dear reader, would never do such a thing. A student in Cool Class sent me back my draft with his ideas for cuts in track changes. I protest! It just seems disrespectful to use a program that actually puts a line through my words! Though, really, if I'm totally honest, this guy couldn't do anything right -- I don't much like him. He sort of epitomizes what I hated about people in my backburner field, the one I still love but left because I didn't want to have to teach assholes like him. Maybe I'm just grumpy. Maybe I'm just reeling still from the realization that this Really Awful Person who is the Absolute Epitome of Everything I Hate (AEEIH) in my backburner field, and also in the academy more generally, is coming back to campus to speak at something I already said I'd participate in and so can't get out of without looking bad. My fellow blog goddess (blog-ess?) Maude Lebowski calls her, simply, The Bitch. (I admit, it has a nicer ring to it than AEEIH.)

Now, I know I've railed against comparing ourselves unfavorably with others who seem infinitely more productive than we are. But it's quite a different thing when those people who are more productive are also just awful people. Users of others. People whose actions demonstrate that they care little about the actual intellectual and creative work that we do in favor of publication, publication, publication. Stealing people's words. Sucking up to people to get ahead.

Okay, here's the story I trot out when I want to explain how awful she is. There's this well-published friend of mine who I see only every couple years. So she and I were IMing, and she asked if I got her note. What note? And then she proceeded to tell me how she had been at this conference and this woman from my institution came up to her and was very friendly. Knowing that I was at that institution, my friend sent a note to me through her. (The "friendly" part threw me off for a while, but then I remembered: she would be sucking up to my well-published and otherwise fabulous friend, hoping to get something out of it. And when I first met AEEIH, I thought she was friendly too.) So when I figured out that it must be AEEIH, I sent her an email, asking her about the note from the conference she had been back a month from. She replied that she lost it. Okay, maybe I just want to believe the worst about her, but if you, dear reader, were to pass a note to someone, even if you didn't like the person you were passing it to, wouldn't you at least tell them? I mean, even if you lost it, wouldn't you say something, if for no other reason because you're eventually going to be found out? (I suspect she threw it away, never having any intention of passing it to me. Fuck, how hard could it have been to slip it into my box???)

Despite all her publications and success, I wouldn't want to be her. But I wouldn't mind if her winning streak ended either. I wouldn't mind if that good luck descended on me and my friends. (The goddess Chance has been favoring me today with parking spaces and such things. Case in point: what song is playing in the bagel shop right now? That's right. You're So Vain. You probably think this blog is about you. It's not, Bitch. It's about me.)

Don't worry. I'll be polite and professional. But I won't like it. I wish I didn't know she'd be there. Now I have all week to grump about it.

In good news, my friend in my backburner field is on a campus visit. Her success makes me feel like shit sometimes too. But I don't hate her or wish bad things on her. I just keep hoping her blessedness will rub off on me.

Is it so bad that I feel better about going into this meeting with The Bitch knowing that I have this interesting two-year post-doc to lean on? Professional jealousy sucks.

***Update 9:05pm***

My, my, I was testy this morning. Sorry all. I probably should take down this post, but. . .hell, I'm dissertating. And I think it's probably good in a sort of artifactual way to show how crazy I can get when I lose perspective. Part of the reason why I am so annoyed and really threatened (I admit it) by AEEIH is because she's so successful, yet really just generally a user. And sometimes I think maybe that's what it takes to get ahead. But I don't want to be a part of that game. I don't even want to go there. But setting up "success" that way is a mindgame. AEEIH gets ahead at what exactly? Being published? Having people think she's the cat's meow? Investing so much energy in being angry at such a thing is a waste.

I also see I was mean in the post above to the student in Cool Class who sent me my writing with cuts in track changes. Now, I still think that this is not the best way to respond to writing. On the other hand, he was trying to be useful, responding to stuff I gave him. But I was totally unfair when I said that I didn't like him much. The fact is: I don't know him. I've been at Grad City U for so long, there are a lot of people I don't know. I'm no longer on the cutting edge of a department I used to be passionately involved with. In fact, I've sort of become a grande dame for a couple new people who ask me advice. But I'm on the way out, one foot out the door.

I turned in Chapter 4. One more chapter to go. And I have half of it already. I just need to explode the draft I have (which I used as shitty shite-shite writing sample), expand it, and be done with it. In 10 days.

One thing hasn't changed since this morning: I am totally exhausted. (Probably also that I'm totally boring.) But I can't go home yet. I have to pick up WSF's Poet Friend from the bus station. No, I won't hit him over the head with a shovel and then bury him. But only because I've decided that I'm not a user.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Today I Will Crank Out Chapter 4!

I will, I will, I will.

WSF called me when I was still lounging in bed with Mr. Tabby, saying: are you up yet? It's time to get up and finish Chapter 4. By this time, Mr. Tabby had also wanted me to get up, having climbed up on the dresser, where he is not supposed to be, not once but twice, and meowing at me. But I hadn't responded to such tactics, except to tell him to get down. Then I curled up back in bed. But WSF made me promise that I'd get up. So I'm up. WSF is very good to me, hinting to me that if I just get myself to the computer, there will be something amusing for me to read (in this case, his dream that he had during the one hour of sleep he got last night). But you know, sleep is so wonderful. I can't believe I don't spend all my free time sleeping. Or at least nuzzling with a warm feline.

It's too early for me to be witty or entertaining, so here's what I've got lined up for the day:

11am: Pick up Mr. Tabby's ear-paste. (Note: I had some ear-paste left from Saturday for last night, but when I looked for it last night, it had disappeared. I think Mr. Tabby hid it, because he doesn't like that stuff massaged into his ear. I've got to watch him.)

12pm-1pm: Tutoring meeting

1pm-3pm: Work on diss? Go get more caffeine?

3pm-5pm: Tutor poor unsuspecting tutees.

5:30-forever: Meet Hate-Filled Dissertator for work session. Pound out the rest of Chapter 4.

***Update 5:48pm***

So here I am in our stuffy office, high up in the library. Where are you Hate-Filled Dissertator? (And amazingly as if I had called her into being, she comes in. Woohoo!)

So folks, here I am, ready to pump out Chapter 4. Oy. Expect updates. Full of woe. Or maybe full of jubilation. Who knows? Now I'm just babbling in order to avoid work. Get to it! The sooner we finish, the sooner we can go home!

***Update 11:22pm***

I am done. It's 40 pages. It even sort of goes back to the beginning of the dissertation and makes a sort of arc out of the whole thing. Let's face it. I am a goddess. Let's face another fact: I am going to be dead tired tomorrow.

Fabulous Hate-Filled Dissertator left a couple hours ago, and it's pretty quiet up here. (All the other dissertators on this floor are probably just silently screaming.) I wish I could just plant my head right down on this desk and sleep. But I think if I don't go home, Mr. Tabby will kick my ass. Goodnight bloggers!

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Just Stop

That's enough of that mopey whining. When WSF and I talked earlier and I started to ask why I was writing a dissertation instead of just writing, he said a clear and inspired just stop. So that's what I'm doing. Let's just move that puppy down the page.

I took a long nap where I had dreams that I was filling out employment forms for my new job and hanging out with Hate-Filled Dissertator. We were both sporting new do's. Mine was dark red with a patch of bright blue. It was awesome. I can't wait to tell her tomorrow when we get together to work. I think I've also figured out that I'm somewhat sick again, and with all this frenetic working, that's not surprising.

If you ever needed inspiration to break out into song, go over to Faux Real's. It's just awesome.

So I'm taking a page out of New Kid's book and am going to blog my progress.

I'm going to try to moan and whine and have bloggy tantrums less, but I make no promises.

***Update: 6:04PM***

I told WSF that I was going to get to page 20 today. That is so clearly not going to happen. But I do have some time tomorrow to work even before my meet-up with Hate-Filled Dissertator in the evening (can I also say that the second half of this chapter is much more written than the first?). That is, I'll have at least an hour between my weekly meeting and tutoring. So maybe I can get something done then too. And though I have to pick up more ear-paste for Mr. Tabby across town, I also have some time before the meeting. So if I'm good, I could manage at least an hour then too. If I go to bed at a reasonable hour. So that's good for a page or two, no? So I don't have to feel desperately awful that I am nowhere CLOSE to page 20, right? I'm on a very academic page 3. That's not right. I'll keep truckin', but I'm not working past 9. No matter what. I'll keep ya posted.

***Update 10:45PM***

I lied. I just finished working. I was totally convinced that there was no way in hell that I would get to page 20, so I said that if I just completed two sections (of four), then I would be happy. But then I got to page 20 before I finished the second section and decided to forget it. I can start tomorrow knowing exactly what I've got to do. That's always nice. And if Hemingway said it was good to stop when you knew the next word, well, who am I to argue?

So I had wanted to copy New Kid's fabulous idea on Learn by Going, so I'm going to. Maybe it's the most boring thing on earth for others to read. Sorry. Think of it as a Writing Meme:
  1. How many minutes did you write/edit today?
  2. I edited a bit in the morning before my nap. But then I really got going around, I don't know, 3:30? 5:00? I'm not sure. But it's 10:45 now. And I know I took maybe one blogging hour. So at least four hours, if not more.

  3. How many pages/paragraphs did you write?
  4. Well, mostly I was editing from all the free-writing crap I had already done, not to mention cutting and pasting from earlier research and switching things from single-spaced to double-spaced, which always makes the pages fly by. All that said: 20 pages.

  5. What do you feel good about?
  6. 20 pages.

  7. What challenges and problems do you have?
  8. The fact that I didn't eat dinner seems like it's a problem. Also, this chapter is just really odd. It's an intradisciplinary chapter, so I'm basically analyzing texts from a field in a way that no one does in any kind of accepted genre. So I don't know if it works. Of course, I also don't really care, because pages is pages. Also, I didn't do any of my read-for-hire stuff and that's going to be a problem soon.

  10. I'm tired. And grumpy. And am not going to be happy this week having worked my ass off on Sunday. But maybe I'll be happy on Tuesday if I can really turn this baby in.

  11. What are your specific goals for tomorrow?

    My specific goals for tomorrow are to pick up where I left off editing and working. I'll need to draw from two additional sources tomorrow, so it would be a good idea if I made sure I had those quotes on me when I leave in the morning. Otherwise, I just want to make it to the end of the day without yelling or crying.

He May Be Risen, But I Just Want to Go Back to Sleep

Hi there. If you want a dignified post about life in academia, leave here now. If you want chipperish happy spring and egg day, keep on clicking. I am a Dissertating Beast. I do not do chipper. I don't celebrate Easter. I don't have chocolate and the people out there were mean and I don't want to go out there again to get said chocolate even though a Cadbury Cream Egg is probably exactly the right level of sugar and goo for me right now.

I woke up all early and chipperish. Mr. Tabby did his silly cute thing where he hid completely under the covers next to me. Then I got up and read some blogs and, due to reliving my childhood via Center of Gravitas, I was in a fine mood pretending I was Wonder Woman. I honestly have no idea what happened to turn me back into the bitch that I am now. Yes, some people were making rude gestures at me when I was in my car and didn't see that they were waiting for me to back out of my spot. But it must've started before then. There's something about sitting in that big green familiar chair at the Caffeine Corporation and working on Big D that is making me loony. My energy just drops. I end up curling myself into a mock-fetal position. In public. What little sense of decorum I have has evaporated. Whatever else I once was has burned away.

WSF and I spent the last hour organizing my life (which means work schedule) via silliness with the Google calendar. He would write things like kick that bitch out the door. Rude? Yes. Even a bit on the misogynist side? Absolutely. I don't care. I totally miss him and I totally do not want to work on this piece of shit anymore and a few minutes ago I was almost teary and I think that having a temper tantrum on the bed, complete with wailing and flailing limbs may be what's called for -- just so I can get it all out of the way so I can, alas, get needed work done. But frankly, I don't have the energy for such things. I'm sapped.

I need to fix up a draft of Chapter 4 by Tuesday, which means half today and half tomorrow. Which would be completely doable if I could actually feel good and motivated instead of like a whining fucked up mess. I'm considering lying down for a while and moaning. See how long it takes me to get bored of it.

If you made it this far, I sincerely thank you. Either you've written a dissertation before, you're impossibly supportive and kind, or you're masochistic. I don't want to be around me right now.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Dissertations Suck

All right all you academic bloggers. You're really not helping. So I wake up late (that is, at the usual time of 11AM) with a post-Tylenol PM stabbing pain in my head, and I log on to the internets in order to find bulleted lists of impending productivity and plans for revisions, conference papers, syllabi. And what do I find? Most of you haven't posted anything since yesterday! Gah!

Really, this is a very good sign. I have ranted in other places (like Dr. Crazy's comments) about how we live in an over-productive imbalanced country and work in an academic culture where productivity is so revered we think we should be working all the time and feel guilty when we have lives that take us away from academia for more than an hour at a time. This imbalance leads to what we think is massive procrastination, but is actually our minds and bodies demanding a bit of balance. If we want to draw from the well, we have to refill it regularly. And refilling means rest, relaxation, doing things because we like them.

Academic culture asks us to be so imbalanced that we idolize those who seem to work all the time. (Can we even recognize a well-balanced person?) But of course everyone pays for it somewhere. But all we see from the outside is someone with an impressive list of publications. Because of this inferiority complex that most of us carry around with us (from comparing ourselves with some kind of false standard), professors overwork and expect grad students to overwork, making grad school into a hazing pit, and we all overwork our undergraduate students, who are usually taking a massive five courses per semester while carrying part-time or full-time jobs. This is not healthy for anyone and must stop.

When my colleagues start talking about pulling all nighters, I climb up this particular soap box and start preaching. But right now I am trying to convince myself that actually it makes total sense that I spent last night watching Impromptu for the thousandth time and then plunking on the internets trying to find websites that described George Sand as not really such a terrible lay or mother. (Come on people. She basically took care of Chopin for ten years. I realize it was something of a rocky relationship, but no wild woman puts up with an ailing man with a bad temper for ten years without loving him. I just can't stand it! If nothing else, let me abide with my delusions, please!) Do I need to say that my dissertation has nothing to do with George Sand, rocky relationships, romance, movies, or ailing musicians?

That's right. Yesterday, I managed to knock out two of the four items on my list before noon, then ran some errands and crashed until 7PM. Despite promising myself I would work on the diss, I fixated on George Sand, because she is just fucking fabulous. Around 1AM, I gave up on myself, figuring I would take a couple sleeping pills and wake up bright and early and get to it. Instead, I woke up at the usual time and was looking around for worky inspiration. At least if I'm going to spend my day in Dissertation Crunch mode, I'd like to know that there are others who are also working -- so that around the country, we're all working together and not missing out on anything good.

Instead, you're all out having a good time, sleeping in with fabulous others, rolling out of bed and shuffling to get to coffee and the paper and then going back to bed where you'll stay there for the next couple hours not even thinking about me and my needs or working or looking on the internet. May that be me very very soon. You give me hope. You also totally suck.

While you slowly wake up to a day filled with fun and relaxation and pad around in your homes full of sleepy kisses (you lucky people make me sick), I have got to get the hell out of here. Even though it's 30 degrees and windy and I got food enough for the weekend and don't have money to spend, I can't work in here. I've got to get out. With people. Who will look at me if I'm crazy if I talk to myself or scream or throw my head back and howl. (This is why I go to coffeehouses rather than my office.) So here is my plan:
  1. Take shower.
  2. Print out the one piece of mail I want to get out.
  3. Get dressed.
  4. Get the hell out of the house and to a coffeehouse.
  5. Get caffeinated beverage.
  6. Do not moon around thinking about all the happy people who are not dissertating.
  7. Clean up Chapter 4.
  8. Do read-for-hire work.

Do not hate me because I'm working. I'm not doing this because I'm virtuous. And no, you should not be working. You should be proving that you are a balanced fabulous person. I'm only working because I want to graduate in August and get the hell out of Dodge!

Friday, April 6, 2007

Dissertation Crunch Disease

You know you're writing a dissertation when it seems that the most important thing you can do when you wake up is to catalogue your symptoms.

I know I've alluded before to digestive changes. But how's this for craziness? Right after I was done at school for the day, I met up with Similarly-Neurotic Fun Friend at a coffeehouse and worked. Okay, really I putzed around because I felt these unbelievable waves of distraction and sleepiness. It was weird. I couldn't concentrate. But then I talked through some of the problems I've been having with Chapter 4 with SNFF and then we left the coffeehouse and went our separate ways. I was going to go home, when I had the unbelievably wonderful idea of getting an apple cider. Then I went home and did something inconceivable. I worked. It was already 10pm! I worked until 11:45, then turned off the light and went to bed. (Okay, you've got to understand that up until two nights ago, I never did this before. Normally, when not afflicted with Dissertation Crunch Disease, I watch movies. I don't work after 9pm. I'm near-fanatical in my defiance of normalcy which says that you shouldn't start a movie after 10 if you ever want to get up in the morning. Mostly, because I don't want to wake up in the morning. I like to show up to the day a bit late, sauntering in like I own the place.)

So what I'm saying is that the past two nights I've been in bed by midnight, no movie. Sick. I don't even want to watch a movie.

But then there's the worst part. (I know, how could anything be worse than a film buff like me ignoring Blockbuster Tuesday Release night!) I woke up at 2am.

Yes, you can take a minute to register the shock. I took two-and-a-half hours of lying in bed trying not to disturb the cat, who was adorably sleeping on the pillow I was using. (We shared. It was a Kodak moment.) So I've had two hours of sleep. I'm awake, but altogether stupid if this blogpost is any indication.

(Can I just say that Mr. Tabby did nothing but whine and grump (the verb form this time) when I turned on the light? Now he's protesting the light, curled up with his paws crossed in front of his eyes, wheezing because his paws are also over his nose.)

I realize this insomnia and virtual craziness (no movies! come on!) are merely symptoms of the stress of DCD, but this isn't good. I was invited out to a bowling night tonight with Hate-Filled Dissertator and a bunch of her Amazing Friends, but I can't get myself to commit to going. What will I talk about from inside the deep of Chapter 4?

So here's what I need to do today:
  • Print out Chapter 4 and start going through it to see main themes and maybe hotspot underdeveloped points.

  • Do editing job I said I'd have done today which I was despairing of until I woke up at 2am and now realize I'll have plenty of time.

  • Start read-for-hire work I said I'd do before Dissertation Crunch started, but which pays and therefore must be done.

  • Read for Cool Class and post on BB.
I wonder if I'll even be awake by the time bowling comes around.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Coming Back Slowly to Our Regularly Scheduled Program

So I'm back in Grad City, bleary-eyed with the shock of eight hours of sleep. My time in Urban Home City was chaos, punctuated by snarky comments or just plain grump (I've decided grump should be a noun) from me whenever I felt I hadn't worked enough. There was one particular day where I went from The Fam's house to Favorite-Person-in-the-World's back to The Fam's. I walked in and my father said he'd expected us earlier, a fact that was unbeknownst to me. But this drew out some inner fourteen year old: Dad, there's this thing called a cell phone. You could call. The look he gave me afterward must have been dumb-foundedness. He did not say: Earnest, aren't you a little old to talk like a snarky teenager? Isn't that gray hair I see on your head? Though I was particularly amused the next day when someone was trying to hustle Littlest Sister to do something after just returning home and she looked at them totally nonplussed and said: I just walked in.

My answer to the chaos while I was channeling my snarky teenager was to do what every teenager does: drink too much wine and smoke someone else's cigarettes. There was a particularly memorable moment when SO put my Fancy Cigarettes in my backpack, saying: As much as I don't like you smoking, I'd much rather you smoke your Fancy Natural Cigarettes than Marlboros. When family members asked about the cigarettes, I said: I'm allowed. I'm writing a dissertation.

The extended family were all curious about SO and gossiped in the kitchen about him with my father, who I now realize is the biggest gossip ever (except me) because the entire family already knew about Adventure U and asked me about it. I think I actually became a person with some of the extended fam instead of just My Father's Daughter #1 because one of Dad's cousins starting asking me about what I did, what I write, was I published, how I started writing, etc. It was as if he could suddenly see me as something more than just a person who he used to watch walk under the table. (I'll bet this has to do with the fact that his own children are teenagers. I'm in my thirties for god's sake. I'm much older than any of the cousins' kids, some of whom are teenagers and a couple of whom, like my sister and brother, are in their twenties. But I guess it takes time.)

If I suddenly go MIA, it may be because I have stolen children and am on the run. Now, I have long wanted to steal my niece -- to the point that occasionally she torments me by squealing steal me! steal me! when I really want to do just that. I wanted her to come out to Grad City and go camping with WSF (more on him later) and me, though Sisterpalooza and I couldn't quite get it together (read: cash) to manage it. But now my Fave Person's child faces similar danger. He is a mere four years old (I think) and the cutest little human ever. But I may have to steal him because he climbed into a box and said he was going to ship himself to Adventure City. Tape me in, he instructed, and don't April fool me. So I (Scotch) taped him in and wrote my name and Adventure City on the box. (Also handle with care and this way up.) Then he decided that since it was going to take some time to be shipped there that he needed tissues and sunscreen. Then he needed a place to put the tissues, so he put his little garbage can in there. Then he needed shoes. And he couldn't go without his play swords. By the time he was done packing, he couldn't close the flap of the box. You understand -- he stayed in the box, waiting to be picked up by UPS until he realized that they'd probably have to pick him up the next day. He only came out of the box when it was time for dinner and he figured out that I wasn't in Adventure City yet -- and he'd get there before me and that wasn't right. OH! SO CUTE! (For shits and giggles, contrast this story with this other recent story about children and me. I'm nothing if not conflicted.)

But now we're back to the regularly scheduled program of dissertation working, tutoring hours on end, dissertation working. When I was gone, a fellow tutor asked if I would take some of her hours. What could I say? (I've been told that if you put your tongue a little behind your upper teeth, vocalize, and then shape your mouth into a circle, duties and responsibilities magically disappear, but I haven't developed the right reflex action yet.) So I did six hours of tutoring, though blessedly no one came in for three and a half of them! So that's when I got to work on Big D. Since I need to have Chapters 3 and 4 to Peppy Advisor by April 20, I had decided that what that really meant was five days of free-writing crap and five days of revising and shaping for each chapter. (Insane. Totally f***ing insane.) So today will be my last day of happy crap-writing. Tomorrow I'm actually going to have to do something terrible, like read and do something with the crap I've written.

I emailed all of my committee members last week, telling them about my timeline. Since I'm frantic to graduate in August, of course this means that everyone has different schedules and timelines and that I'm going to have to set time aside just to map all their different responses about turn-in times and defense dates. (Don't you people understand? I have things to do. Like, uh, write the dissertation!) Life lesson: do not try to graduate in the summer. You, dear reader, would not do this.

In news of uckiness, Witty Sardonic Friend may be staying in North Dakota. I actually think it's the best thing because he's much more likely there to have the perfect combination of work and time to write/study that will allow him to come back to the academy sooner than the job he's up for here in Grad City. There's a whole long story about his derailment from the academy that if I wrote here I'd immediately have to go on the lam and never see WSF again, the second of which I find utterly insupportable because I'm having a hard enough time without him already. Suffice it to say, life derailed him. He did nothing wrong. He got screwed.

WSF's wacky Poet Friend is coming out here on Tuesday. I've never met him. He's a wonderful talented poet who just wrote a book. Do you think anyone would notice if he just, uh, disappeared?

The semester will be over in a few weeks. Of course, by then I will have had to give Peppy Advisor a revised draft of the whole damn thing. OY! But at least it's only 10:30am. Am I the only one who can't manage to work on the diss in the morning, caffeine or no caffeine? I can mark papers in the morning, but academic writing is a complete no go. Why?