Monday, October 13, 2008

Worst & Best: dissertation blues and blessings

Does anybody talk about this stuff? There are some worst & best moments in the process of trying to do a dissertation. Here are some of mine (as all the committee members today finally have the whole enchilada to read for the first time):

worst: needing to take a couple days "vacation" days from work to encorporate the committee's good suggestions into the "final draft" before this due date.

best: getting lots of fun help from my girls on how to decorate the cover. (Hallie decided on the ring-binder color and how to make the images blue-tint sepia tones. Amelia got to appear in the cover, below--labeled for your convenience; can't get the sepia thing working for you here, sorry).

worst: 3 trips to FEDEX Kinkos (They messed up the margins once, and streaked it the second time, and you don't really see all this stuff until it's time to unpack the chapters into respective ring binders).

best: getting to garage sale with the fam & neighbors all day Saturday between trips to Kinkos; getting to go with friends to the Dallas / Toronto soccer match; getting to go out to lunch with the girls and my parents Sunday.

worst: noticing a serious typo in the first several pages, after the committee members have the thing. (If any one of them is reading this blog, I hope she / he won't see a thing. Maybe they'll be too busy reading the diss and all the other professorial stuff that they'll miss it. Why doesn't Bill Gates's MS Word team take more responsibility for my grammar? And did you ever notice that when you have Greek in an English document that runs more than 200 pages that the SpellCheck just goes on strike? As this paragraph shows, I'm not sure I can spel or write grammatically anymore.)

best: taking a bit of a writing break while the committee takes 4 to 6 weeks to read.

worst: having 4 to 6 weeks of thinking about that worst-case scenario in which they all decide "it's not 'defensible' yet."

best: looking forward to watching ER, the fav reality tv shows, and movies with Julie without guilt and the presidential debate without rationalization.

worst: needing to catch up at work after taking those "vacation" days. (and why does the boss and the employees have my email and phone numbers while I'm away--don't they understand "my crises" of disseration writing at home trumps theirs here at work?)

best: having parties at every stage of the process
(i.e., I wrote all the chapters -- PARTY;
the chair "passed" all the chapters-- PARTY;
the various committee members offered great, helpful suggestions -- personal party;
the committee agreed on a defense date IF... -- PARTY;
I got the thing into their hands today -- PARTY again tonight).

worst: having to answer, "What's the dissertation is about?" before the other person's eyes glaze over. Fortunately, Julie (who's overheard too much but not everything I know about it) has it down to two words. Wanna hear 'em? Her two words (the polite ones I mean) are "Aristotle exposed." I like that, but now I have to give you the dissertation on "Aristotle," and the other dissertation on "exposed."

best: friends and classmates who've been there and done that (like Moriah and Cassie whose disses are online) and friends who are right there and doing it right now (like Jason and Billie) make all the difference. Oh, and so does remembering that my committee members and all those other Ph.D.s out there got at least to this stage. "Bird by bird," says Anne Lamott--and she's become a good friend too; even though she isn't a dissertation writer she helped me through my qualifying exams, so I've asked her to give the speech at my graduation IF...


jvonehr said...

enjoy the break.

no parties for me yet ... i'm still a few stages behind you!

J. K. Gayle said...


keep plugging away...and keep us updated!


Jane said...

The best for Dr B was definitely leaving the library with the final copy just after 1am on the due date

The worst
footnotes ...

Well done enjoy this feeling!

J. K. Gayle said...

Thanks, Jane, for the encouragement and for sharing more best and worst!!

David Ker said...

Waytago. This means that I'll have your complete attention when I take you out for coffee in December.