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!


k8 said...

I'm with you as far as the productivity-obsession goes.

For me, anyway, part of it is explaining to those outside of academia (say, the family) that when I say I am reading, it probably doesn't mean I'm reading for pleasure. It also doesn't mean that I can be interrupted to do activity x (the assumption being that what I'm doing isn't really all that important). A lot of those outside of the university have trouble seeing what we do as 'work' which leads me to want to prove I'm working/being productive all of the time.

That was a little ranty - clearly I have some issues to work through.

BrightStar (B*) said...

This post cracked me up. I did not work today. I shopped and lazed around.

medieval woman said...

Hee, hee - I haven't worked in 3 days and the only thing I ever do anymore is grade frickin' papers. I haven't even thought about my book project for months.

Yesterday we drove an hour and a half to the nearest IKEA and bought two lamps...

gwoertendyke said...

all of the above: you rock. don't hate you because you rock, just think you rock.

keep up the lists....they somehow make me feel better.

Unknown said...

Blogs are so informative where we get lots of information on any topic. Nice job keep it up!!

Dissertation Proposal

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