The Very Big Bells are playing outside the library right now. I swear, they’ll drive a woman to drink. These Very Big Bells are something that Alums of Very Important Research University hold dear, remember fondly, and sometimes listen to live on the internet. I hate them. The are situated WAY too close to the Quiet Research Library that houses the Cage, and let me tell you, hearing things like “the Muppet Show” theme song, “Ring of Fire,” “Hey, Jude,” and “Edelweiss” bellowed out at top volume three times a day is enough to put anyone off of the quaint, old-fashioned nature of Very Big Bells. GRUMP. (Excessive grumpiness at things WAY beyond one’s control is a common trait of graduate students. We can’t really control our own fortunes, so we shake our fists at the sky over things like Very Big Bells.)
Progress yesterday: Smashing. I thought at first that I was in trouble, after the first 3 hours of doing NOTHING — oh no, wait, make that 1 hour at least of solitaire, 1 hour of blogging/surfing and 1 hour of agonizing) So, I did what any good student did, I wandered around the library compulsively picking up books until I had far more than I could reasonably carry (prompting my physical therapist to scold me mightily this morning — word to the wise: watch your posture or you’ll develop very nasty muscle issues and have to be hooked up to vibrating electrodes for 20 minutes at a time twice a week in order to relieve the pain) and squirreling them away in the Cage like, well, like a squirrel. Then I sat there overwhelmed at this huge pile of things that I knew I ABSOLUTELY must read every word of before I write anything, because otherwise whatever I would write would be stupid, meaningless drivel (cue the Radio Station KFKD … see Anne Lamott, Bird By Bird, p. 116 ) because I hadn’t consulted the clear Authorities on the subject. Then, a small miracle happened. You may think I’m exaggerating, but I fully believe in small moments of grace that arrive unexpectedly. Sometimes, they even happen when you really need them. Mine was that yesterday I just started writing. I opened one book and there in the middle of it was a whole chapter that did exactly what I wanted to do in the section I was working on, so I read it, and followed a few paths to other books and articles, and suddenly before I really knew what was happening, words were pouring out of me like water.
I could hardly write them down quickly enough – I had thoughts about what to say in the second sentence while I was still writing the first sentence, and I had to write down little prompts in the margin so that I didn’t forget. Yes, I’m using — gasp — pen and ink. For some reason, composition is working really well for me the old fashioned way. Then, I can do the first round of editing and polishing as I type it into the beloved iBook. (Uh-Oh, feeling a moment of Apple Evangelism coming on… deep breath … OK. It’s passed. That was close). Anyway, it was so weird. It was like I was channeling the dissertation — it was out there and it just needed a conduit to get out onto the page. I was that conduit. Then, at times when I’d pause and get up to go to the bathroom I had to stop to write down the sentence that just occurred to me while walking down the hall. After the first two trips where this happened, I learned to take paper and pen with me. I wrote for 5 hours solid, almost non stop. Huzzah! Then Spousal Unit picked me up, we met Cleis, and had sushi for dinner.
But, I didn’t meet my daily goal. Not a biggie –I so didn’t care! But for today, I have 2 more parts of the manhood and citizenship section. Then, I get to start hacking away at the chapter that already exists, paring down and polishing, making sure that the old stuff fits into the new conceptual framework I’ve been working on. I kind of hope it just happens nicely, that there isn’t going to be a lot of tweaking required to shove this old stuff into the new box. We’ll see.