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.


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