dissertation blues


I spent the day reading carefully and thoroughly through the (Ex)Advisor’s comments on those two chapters.

And I didn’t even cry. Go me!

Fortunately, there’s nothing too damaging in there. I agree with nearly all of his comments and critiques, and I can find a way to explain and counter the ones I don’t agree with. I took care of some of the minor editing problems, made a list of the additional literature he suggests I read and add, and made detailed notes in my drafts about the things he thinks I need to change.

Friends, can I just say: It’s a damn good thing that I have another year to write this fucker, because it looks like I’ll need every last week of that time.

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Okay, so I got the (Ex)Advisor’s comments on my chapters in the mail today.

I had to open them up and skim them right away, just to make sure that the last (or first) page didn’t say, “…and that’s why you should withdraw from the program immediately…”

Fortunately, I didn’t see that phrase anywhere in my quick skim.

I’ll say this for the (Ex)Advisor; the guy gives good comments. Five pages, single-spaced–PLUS annotated printouts of the chapters in question.

Good things, from my preliminary quick-skim:

  • He thinks I “write well” and that the chapters “read easily,” which is good, I guess (unless he’s calling me simple?).
  • At no point does he advise me to quit, or suggest that the whole project is a giant load of crap.
  • Despite dropping the ball often and failing me in certain ways, he’s a very nice guy. I appreciate that his comments are critical, but always constructive.
  • He’s such a good freaking writer that even his comments are interesting. (On the other hand, he’s *such* a good writer that I am frequently stunned into a temporary writing-silence when reading his work.)

Not-so-good things, from my preliminary quick-skim:

  • I sent him the third completed chapter a few weeks ago, but he’s only read and commented on the two I sent in December. I’m not sure if there’s a delicate way to ask if he’s read the third chapter and has comments on that, too–or if I should give it another month or so before I nudge him on that.
  • The revisions? They will be many, and large. They will, as I suspected, be rewrites, more than revisions.

So, now what do I do? Do I keep picking away at chapter 4, even though I have no idea what I’m doing there and no direction at all on it? Or do I start to address the revisions/rewrites of chapters 1 and 3 (the ones he’s commented on)? I suspect that some of the issues he’s seeing in these two chapters will be things I’ll need to address and change in chapter 4, as well, so maybe going back to those chapters first makes more sense? Honestly, I have no idea. I know a lot of y’all have dealt with/are dealing with this kind of thing…advice?

I was asleep by midnight.

I woke up at 8:30 am.

So far today, I’ve had a bowl of cereal, written about 250 words, and played some Scrabulous. I haven’t really left the bed.

I am So. Fucking. Tired.

I could easily nap right now, but I can’t help feeling a little pathetic about that. And I have a bunch of errands to run–prescriptions to pick up, groceries to buy, checks to deposit.

Ugh. So. Tired.

Napping before noon: yay or nay? I’ll check the results when I wake up.

(Because I haven’t done one of those in a while)

So, it’s no secret here that my dissertation research involved fieldwork with, um, people. Y’all heard me bitch enough about it while it was going on. But here’s something that is continuing to baffle me as I try to deal with writing this all down:

How the hell do people choose pseudonyms?

I have to use pseudonyms for everyone involved, especially (needless to say) any kids. I had a space on the consent form for people to choose their own pseudonym, if they wanted to, and a similar space for parents to choose on kids’ forms. Despite my particular research population being people who really, really like to play with names, very few people chose their own pseudonyms.

Which is okay, for the most part. In most cases, I look at lists of popular names, and choose pseudonyms that are close in popularity to people’s real names. (Clever, eh? I think so, but maybe I’m missing something.)

But what happens when the names aren’t on popular lists? For instance, I’m trying to write a long-ish piece that involves a kid with, let’s say, a distinctly Russian name. Kid’s parents aren’t Russian, but lived in Russia awhile back. I can’t decide whether to choose another, random Russian name, or to choose a totally different name with a similar meaning (I looked up the meaning, which I’m sure was significant to the parents), or what? And yes, this is the kind of thing that takes up hours of my time.

The problem, essentially, is that I think names are really, really important.  In fact (to complicate things), there’s a section in the chapter I’m trying to write where I’d like to talk about naming styles among this group of people…but how do I do that without compromising anyone’s identity?

This is the kind of thing where having an Actual Advisor would be useful. But I don’t have one. I have a blog, though. Any suggestions?

Well, I’m not sure if it could be called “productive” at all, but I wrote *something* today. On Maggiemay’s advice (that I just write *something*), I wrote the acknowledgements for my dissertation.

I looked at the acknowledgements from a bunch of other dissertations in my department, for inspiration. And I learned a few things.

  • I’ve made it through six years of this PhD program with virtually no academic friends. I have two, actually. My friend Margie (who isn’t blogging lately, sadly), who is actually in my field (and subfield) but at another school–we did our Masters’ together, and she was my only friend there. And my friend Super-Smart Israeli (let’s call her A., because I suck at pseudonyms lately), who has been my one friend in my department (and is, coincidentally, also pregnant and due two weeks before me).  But that’s it. There’s one or two other people in my department who I greet warmly when I see them and who, I think, actually like me. But otherwise? Not so much. (Did I tell y’all about getting wildly and overtly snubbed by the members of my subfield at my school’s reception at the Big Damn Conference? No? Yeah. I got seriously cold-shouldered. Brrrr.) Which is okay, but I see all these other people thanking dozens of their colleagues in their acknowledgements, and I just don’t see that so much.
  • I even have performance anxiety about writing my freaking acknowledgements. I have a problem.
  • I really haven’t worked with many faculty at my school. I thanked my committee. For faculty, that’s about it.
  • The easiest part, by far, was thanking friends and family for moral support. I could have gone on for pages.
  • I got all choked up and teary when I wrote the two sentences thanking GB. Hormones? Yeah, I got ’em.*

Yeah, so, like I said. Not sure if that was productive. But it was something. Maybe tomorrow I’ll actually write something….?

*Speaking of hormones and weepiness: I’ve been listening lately (because I am pregnant, hormonal, depressed, and weepy) to the mix that GB made me for my birthday last year. It’s a sappy weeper, I’ll tell ya. But this one song, by Iron and Wine, “Naked As We Came“? Holy crap. “One of us will die inside these arms…” Goddamn. I can’t even listen to it. I am so sappy lately.

  • The chapter is off to The Advisor (who needs a better pseudonym…Margie, you know him–got any suggestions?). I think it is a giant steaming piece of crap, but it’s now out of my hands. I’m not sure I feel better about that, but I feel a tiny sense of accomplishment.
  • Next up: two fellowship applications for next year. One is tantalizing (in that it would put me, for a year, at my All-Time-Top-Oh-My-God-I-Want-to-Work-There school. Which is, ironically, the school I turned down attending so that I could go to Fancypants U. Ah, life), but would require me to actually work next year (and to move, but that would be pretty nice, actually–it’s only a 2 hour move, closer to GB’s family). The other is an internal one at my school and would require nothing but finishing. Both sound nice.
  • From what I understand, the internal one is “virtually assured” if I complete the requirements–i.e., if The Advisor agrees that the drafts are even remotely acceptable. Fingers crossed on that.
  • It’s overcast and rainy today. This makes me very happy, but also extremely unmotivated to go run the errands I should have run. I do need to go to the grocery store (and to get out of the house–my daily goal), which I think I’ll make myself do in a minute.
  • I did, finally, get one of those hand-cart things for my groceries. Making my life a million times easier, that little contraption is. I feel slightly dorky walking down the sidewalk with it, but whatever. It helps.
  • I feel a little funky today. Tired and lazy, but also kind of weird. I swear I can feel my uterus growing. I don’t know if the li’l parasite is having some kind of giant growth spurt or what, but everything in there just feels…weird. Of course, being me, I’m convinced something is wrong, but I think I’m probably just overreacting (and spending too much time alone, with only the cats and my neuroses to keep me company). Right? Overreacting?
  • One thing I can tell for sure: my belly is getting bigger Every. Single. Day. It’s really freaking weird.
  • GB will find out today if his contract is being extended until mid-January. Which would kick ass, for the money (we haven’t caught up with the bills at all yet, despite him working 11+ hours a day, every freaking day, for weeks). But I really want to go to his parents’ for Christmas, and I really want him to come to our next doctor’s appointment on the 27th, and I am getting tired of seeing him for, literally, two hours a day (while we watch Oz and eat dinner). I know. Gift horse, let me see your teeth.
  • I’ve been revisiting baby names, now that we know we need to narrow down the boys’ names. We have a short list (about 7 or 8 names) that I feel good about. So far, our top choice has been met with happy support by the few people I’ve told it to. I like that. But it’s still early, and I have no idea when we’ll actually pin a name down…
  • The whole boy-baby thing? Kind of freaking me out, for lots of reasons. I mean, what the hell do I know about raising boys, for starters? And yes, I know–and firmly believe–that it is vitally important that cool, queer and/or queer-friendly (despite the marriage and all, GB and I still firmly count ourselves in the “queer” camp), feminist people raise boys. But damn. It seems a little daunting.  But there is a large group of utterly fabulous women in my hometown who are currently raising an amazing group of boys that give me hope for the next generation of men…and getting to join them? Sounds all right.
  • My One School Friend (my only friend from my department, really, from my entire time at Fancypants U.) is also pregnant, about 2 weeks ahead of us, and just found out she’s having a boy too.  I have another friend from SF who I don’t talk to often enough (hi M., if you’re reading!) who is also pregnant, due in June too. I think Addy N. is right about there being something in the water. (Or maybe it just has to do with being of Advanced Maternal Age…)
  • Damn, I am doing a great job of not leaving the house today. Must buy stuff for dinner, if nothing else. Okay. If you see me on Facebook in the next hour, feel free to throw things at me (I know, you do anyway).

Seriously, how do people edit their own drafts? I know I’ve done it before, obviously, but damn…I’ve been staring at this chapter all day, off and on, and it’s making me sick. I mean literally–I read about two sentences, get totally nauseous, and have to stop. It’s really, really bad. It’s atrociously bad. I’m always super hard on my own work, but jeebus, I honestly don’t think I can even read this through.

I was hoping to send a rough (though at least proofread and edited, a bit) draft of this to The Advisor this week (ideally, by Wednesday). I need to get it to him soon because I need to write this fellowship application, and he needs to approve these drafts before the application goes to my department. But really, how rough of a draft can I send? And how the hell do I keep slogging through reading this crap?

Grr. This is not making me happy.

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