Thursday, November 10, 2011


I completed a dissertation chapter today!

I use the term "completed" loosely. By "completed" I mean that I wrote what I feel is a complete chapter. I covered all of the information I outlined to cover in the chapter, I formatted it according to the university's requirements, I footnoted all of my sources.  The next step is to give it to my advisor to get feedback.  I'm afraid he'll tear it to shreds and I'll have to do significant rewrites or, worse, scrap the whole thing. Still, for now I feel good to have one chapter out of the way. The crazy thing is I completed the chapter in just a week once I actually sat down to write it!  It took significantly longer than that to collect all of the info I needed to write the chapter--months of research--but still, the actual writing went pretty quickly.
If only I could keep up this writing pace I could be finished with the dissertation by Christmas. Unfortunately, that won't happen. Other chapters are going to be more challenging to write because I've laid less groundwork and will probably have to do more reading as I go along to flesh out my arguments.  Still, I'm finally making some tangible progress.  I feel like I've been conducting interviews and reading sources and taking and organizing notes for ages and yet none of those things ever make me feel like I'm making serious progress. Having a completed chapter makes me feel like there's a chance I may actually finish this thing someday.  I plan to have a second chapter completed by the end of this month, which seems feasible.

Plan A is to complete the dissertation in late January, give it to my advisor, get feedback, do (minor, hopefully) rewrites, get it to my committee, and defend it during the last full week of February.  Obviously, this plan is contingent on many factors: the cooperation of my advisor in getting me prompt feedback through the winter, my ability to stick to a pretty grueling writing pace, and, oh yeah, the baby staying put in my uterus until my mid-March due date.  "They" say first babies come late, but I was my mom's first and I was born three weeks early, so it may be asking too much for him to actually wait until March to make his debut.

Plan B is to complete the dissertation by late February, let my advisor and committee read it while I'm busy with a newborn, then do any necessary rewrites and the defense in April at basically the last possible moment I can defend and still graduate in May.  I don't like this plan as much as Plan A because it involves preparing for a defense when I'll have a 4 or 5 week old baby. I have no idea how I would even do that, honestly, but I keep it on the table as an option because...maybe?

Plan C involves finishing up the bulk of the writing by late February, then picking up the project again and finishing it for real when the baby is about 6 weeks old and defending it right before the faculty go off contract at the end of May, when the baby will be 2 1/2 months old.  This seems slightly more feasible than Plan B, although it would mean that technically I wouldn't graduate until August and I would have to pay tuition for one summer session in order to graduate.

Plan D involves paying for the fall semester out-of-pocket and not graduating until December.  Obviously, this is the least appealing option since I'd still have an infant to contend with AND I'd have to pay money to the university.

Note that all of the plans involve finishing eventually, one way or another.  So I have to soldier through and get this project done. I'm just hoping that this second trimester boost of energy lasts a little bit longer.

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