Thursday, August 06, 2009

On Writing

I started writing my dissertation this week. It sounds very grand, at least in my own mind, but I've written 6 pages so far, and even though three of them or more are cribbed from an earlier essay, they've been a struggle, every word.

I can't tell if there's a problem with my process or if it's just one of those things. I know that there's certainly much to feel uneasy about: I start writing late in the day, around 2 p.m., and I make myself sit at the computer for at least four hours. Unfortunately, not all of those hours are spent staring at the blue-and-white calm of the Word screen. I check Twitter, order articles from ILL, read gossip sites, check fellowship opportunities, order more tea, decide to update a defunct blog of my own, etc., etc., etc., ad nauseam. Not all of those activities are without merit, but none of them is writing.

I fantasize that my would be easier if I would start earlier, at 8 a.m., after a workout, a healthy breakfast, and a session of centering meditation. I fantasize that I will suddenly develop a new, stronger work ethic that will keep me at my computer for 8 hours, doing nothing but turning out brilliant prose. I will be eager to return every morning. I will not have to disguise my late starts, lack of motivation, and shoddy output from other, more diligent colleagues. I will never make this happen, is more like it.

Logically, I know that things are not that bad. I'm working on what my advisor and Anne Lamott like to call "a shitty first draft," so it doesn't have to be good. I can't get over wanting it to be, though, and I can't stop comparing myself to those more diligent. Of course, there are people who are seven years in and yet to choose a topic, let alone produce content, and I am making at least a little progress every day. Unfortunately, a little every day doesn't seem to be enough.

I don't know that there's any solution to this. Certainly it's not a unique problem, especially for dissertating graduate students. But it sucks and I needed to say so, before I go back to typing something slightly more on-task.

I need

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