Yesterday was a pretty good day. I finished the goal I had set for Friday, which means I finished the literature review section of this chapter — something I had been struggling with for about 2 months, if not longer. And, let me tell you — that felt great. Literature review sections are so daunting, because how on earth are you ever going to read everything ever written on the subject? It is impossible. So you always feel like they are incomplete, inadequate, and that they are leaving something vitally important and completely obvious out that will prompt a Committee Member in the Defense, to say something like, “Why did you not cite Seminal Work X here in this section? What does Important Historian say about your subject?” And then you have that deer-in-the-headlights moment where you just freeze and hope that the oncoming tractor trailer truck doesn’t actually see you standing there in the middle of the road waiting to be hit. I’ve been hoping to avoid moments like that in my Defense. But, at some point you just have to cross your fingers and hope that you’ve hit all of the biggies, and that you didn’t neglect any of the things that either your Committee Members wrote, or that their Advisors (who I like to call the Grandvisors to clarify their relationships to me) wrote.
I now have a couple of days to make up for if I’m going to stick to my schedule for this chapter — which I am quite determined to do. Today’s goal is to get most of the way through the trimming and shaping of the section of the chapter where two Congressmen go at it exchanging insults for days, finally culminating in a mild thrashing of one during a rainstorm in Washington. It’s pretty much the funnest part of my dissertation. I’ve got some good stuff already in that section, probably the strongest in the chapter so far — but it is tediously repetitive and excessively long. So it should be kind of interesting to hack away at it today. Like whittling. If I actually whittled. (What a weird word, whittling…) Where you start with this big block of nothingness and chip away at it until you’ve got a pipe or an eagle or a dog or something. Boy, doesn’t that reveal my cultural referents that I think of whittling first, rather than, hello, SCULPTING? I guess where I’m from more people chip away a hunks of wood than blocks of marble. Anyway, I hope that today I don’t chip away all day and then look down and find a pipe, but rather, a workable section of this chapter.