The chapter that had become the bane of my (Ph.Ding) existence was (finally!) completed and submitted to my chair a little over a week ago. Needless to say celebrations and taking time off followed. I knew that I'd be relieved but I was surprised to find myself breathing easier. It's nice to have that weight lifted off my shoulder.

I've started working on one of the empirical chapters....so far most of it has been planning and reviewing of field notes that I jotted down in response to both interviews and other texts I'll be analyzing. There might even have been a specific epiphany. Stay tuned!


Seven Days, Six Nights: August 8-14

I thought I'd put this out there so that I can't back out of any of this stuff, specifically submitting the chapter I'm working on currently to my chair and the writing group of which I am a part.

Submission Deadline for chapter: August 10, actually August 9 but I might (might) need the extra day.
Friday, August 11: Start working on the syllabus for the class I'll be teaching in the fall. Catch up on other logistical stuff that I've let slide. Read to prep for the next chapter
Saturday, August 12: Continue working on the syllabus + review reading notes relevant to the chapter I've started working on. An evening event I committed to eons ago that I don't think I can get out of....even though I would strongly prefer to do anything else other than be surrounded by family friends with narrow minds (ouch!) who will either ask me why I'm "still not married?" or avoid the question altogether and simply make a viciously worded statement along lines that imply I'm a man-hating feminist who is opposed to the idea of marriage. Of course there will be one other woman, besides me, whom I know who is also single. However, the fact that she isn't pursuing a Ph.D., has had two broken engagements, and is making money rather than student-ing usually exempts her from all of this. (I probably forgot to mention that this is an event at this family friends' house that happens every year so it's kind of expected that we show up). I don't know if the whole "marriage" discussion is worse than the "well why don't you solve The Problem?" referring to The Problem (although I like to call it a puzzle) which my dissertation is about or its cousin "shouldn't you be a diplomat or journalist by now?".
Sunday, August 13: Reward self for surviving "The Event" and submitting chapter by going to the movies. There is a new Bollywood movie out that I h-a-v-e to watch. Nopes I don't think it could qualify for inclusion in the dissertation but it is sheer indulgence on my part to please the "pop culture addict" and the "girly-girl" in me who wouldn't mind meeting "Mr. Good-Enough-Is-Perfect" sometime soon and has been foregoing a much-needed haircut to continue working on her dissertation.
Monday, August 14: Work resumes again; going to try out the new schedule (see previous post) that combines regular reading + note-taking in the AM with writing in the PM as I officially begin writing the next chapter.

The Challenge These Days....

Now that I've developed a rhythm where I, at the very least, write during a pre-designated time on a daily basis, I've found that the biggest challenge I face everyday is opening the file for the chapter that I'm currently working on. I do feel restless if I haven't written on a particular day. Still, that doesn't make starting the task any easier. I think it also gets progressively intimidating the more time I've spent on a chapter. Or, to be more precise, this happens when I keep shifting deadlines for a particular chapter because I'm just not happy with the way it's turning out and know that something is missing but haven't quite gotten there yet.

There are days when I can just write the basic stuff that I know has to be in there. Other days I indulge the perfectionist in me and obsess like an ABD student possessed! Either way, it's a constant battle everyday to open the latest file in-progress.

Generally this is how a typical day is for me now that I've put myself on a social hiatus for the most part barring Sundays - yes I am doing the ABD to Ph.D. cave" thing 6 days a week + Sunday nights or mornings through the month of August:

Early morning to morning: wake up, eat breakfast, clean. Yes I try to get all distractions out of the way.
10ish am: sit in front of computer in an attempt to write but end up reading blogs and checking e-mail while mustering up the courage to open the file coded in red (Macs are cool like that) on my desktop - on some days I'll open the file and only manage a quick scan.
11:30 am circa: give up, go workout instead (yoga classes, gym, or if I'm pressed for time then treadmill time and a DVD it is!)
1 pm: shower, sit in front of the computer and re-check e-mail + respond, feel hungry, eat lunch while catching a re-run of a show I enjoy, quick prayer break.
2 pm: Back to work! Still can't open the file but manage to read an article or a book on most days to get myself in the groove. Or perhaps a quick phone chat with a colleague/friend to talk about chapter ideas or, if the day is going particularly horrendously, whine about PhDing.
4ish pm: Finally I muster the courage to open the file. Try to resist the urge to review what I have written if I already have an outline that will let me just plug in content. After another prayer break in between (5-10 minutes) I continue writing.
8ish pm: Since I've forgotten to consume so much as a glass of water for the last 4 hours I'm usually too thirsty and also ravenous to go any further. Call it a day even though I promised to start at 3 pm and end at 7 pm it's usually just after 8 pm that I tire myself out. Dinner with the family. Step outside to preserve my sanity; I'm glad it's summer btw! TV watching later to relax my brain plus catch up on the news.
11:30ish pm: Get ready to go to sleep.

And the cycle starts all over again the next day. What's the pattern here? That I can't seem to write before 4 pm no matter how hard I try.

Not that it isn't good that I've disciplined myself to write but I think I end up feeling somewhat scattered and overwhelmed for 2 reasons:
1. I keep trying to start earlier than I can which means I beat myself up the first half of the day.
2. There's no real systematic or regular time for planning built in. Okay sometimes in the 2 pm slot but that's not always the case. What happens then is that the referring to other books part of the deal happens in between writing - not that it's a bad thing but I think if I were to take some time out for planning and note-taking earlier in the morning rather than forcing myself to write in the mornings I'd be better off. How? I feel that reading helps jog "green points" aka good ideas/substantive points that I think of in response to an argument written by someone else. So instead of forcing myself to write during a time of day when I seem largely unable to perhaps reading at that time will help my writing tremendously by

a) Give me green points to incorporate into my writing when I do sit down in the afternoon. That'll probably add authority to my writing voice - not that I have a problem with that but it takes me a while to get there. Like all ABDs, I feel like I have to read everything to say something.
b) Currently, I tend to stop my writing in-between to refer to stuff. That can't be avoided completely but if I've read something relevant to the section(s) I plan to work on then perhaps the writing process will be smoother IMHO.
c) That I've read what I feel I need to will also minimize how overwhelmed I feel. Taking notes earlier in the day to prep for the section(s) I'll be writing will mean the stuff is fresh in my mind. Again, I won't be scrambling to find something I might have read months ago. I'll avoid feeling like I have to go into another cycle "re-reading" to be able to write and make claims which I think will probably save me a lot of time.
d) If I've read what I need to, more of those 4 hours that I write everyday will be devoted to putting down words on (virtual) paper. It sure would be nice to be done sooner than I anticipate :-).
e) If I feel prepared, perhaps opening that file won't feel quite as intimidating.

So, in that spirit, starting Monday morning (because today is a bit shot plus I didn't want to try to find a new rhythm to complete the chapter I'm working on currently which I think I'll be able to submit to my chair day after tomorrow if not tomorrow) when I begin working actively on the new chapter I'm going to commit to a schedule that incorporates regular reading/note-taking in the mornings and writing in the afternoons.

Now back to the dissertation.