Tick Freaking Tock.

I’m sure that every dissertator (especially those Very Special Dissertators like myself who are on the, ahem, Longerish Path to completion) can relate to what I’m about to say.  OK, here it is: 

I absolutely hate this whole dissertation thing.   I totally hate my work.  What made me think this shit was interesting anyway?  I completely hate my job because it requires this dissertation.  I hate the writing. I hate the research. I hate the summer.  I hate the pressure.  I hate how terrible I am at this and how inadequate I am to the task.  I mean, if I was really good at this, wouldn’t I be done by now?  Hate. Hate. Hate.  And, by the way, uh oh.
Yep, just filled to the brim with a huge helping of self-loathing topped with a lovely misanthropic sauce, with a side order of bitchy sauteed in smelly fear over here in Stewgadland.  (looking back at that extended metaphor makes me think I must also be a bit hungry…)
Here’s the dealio –
I’ve got until September 1 (the day when classes resume) to finish my degree.  FINISH.  Not just finish the damned dissertation but finish the whole kit and kaboodle — have had a defense and have submitted the stupid thing to the graduate school.  Done.  Fini.  Complete.  
And unlike my other nice little deadlines of the past that I could generally ignore in the interest of mental health, course preparation, baby having… etc. this one is final.  Or else I lose my job. Period.  Which seems pretty explicit.  
Oh, and meanwhile, I have to finish an article THIS WEEK that I promised a bunch of folk I’d have done TWO YEARS ago.  
Yes.  I suck.  And the worst part is that I don’t really want to do it.  All I want to do is hang out with my kid.  Because she is the cutest damned thing ever.  And so much fun.  She shakes her little booty whenever she hears music.  She’s starting to get enough hair that it is curling. She eats Cheerios by the fistful.  During naps she whacks her binky along the bars of her crib like a little prisoner with a tin cup trying to annoy the jailers.  And she lights up when I walk into the room like I’m the second coming or maybe like I’m chocolate and springtime and dolphins and flowers and puppies all rolled into one.  How on earth could anything else compete? 
Nothing can, of course.  So let me tell you the only thing that is motivating me to finish. Seriously, this is the only thing.  I had this thought that if Spousal Unit kicks the big one and I’m stuck without him I have to support the Gadlet.  In that case, I’m going to need a job.  So, I might as well keep the one I’ve got, because I’m not going to find a better one anywhere.  So, there it is.  I’m going to finish so that I can keep my job for the just in case scenario where my husband dies and leaves me without a means of supporting my baby.  How’s that for twisted?
(In saner moments I remember that I actually love my job and that that is also a good motivator.) 
Where do I stand with this whole bunch of shit that I have to do?
Dissertation: 
Intro — Written, Approved by Advisor, Ready for Committee
Chapter 1 — Unwritten.  But the chapter is synthetic, not original, so requires no challenging research.
Chapter 2 — Partially written, needs revision.
Chapter 3 — Written, Revised, Approved by Advisor, Ready for Committee.
Chapter 4 — Written, Revised, needs 1-2 concluding paragraphs before being sent to advisor.
Chapter 5 — Written, needs revision. 
Conclusion — Unwritten
Article: 
25 pages of 35 written. 
Clean-up research partially done. 
No idea how to come up with the additional 10 pages. 
Well, that’s not true, really, I’ve got some ideas, but it needs work.  The only good news is that it is a component of chapter 5, so any work I do on it can be translated into revisions for the final chapter. 
I figure I’ll defend the third or fourth week in August, with the draft of the dissertation going to the committee the first week in August, so let’s make that August 1st.  Hm.  Maybe I better think about the timing of this whole thing…
It gives me: 8 weeks.  Which given that I only have 3 day care days a week plus weekends is 40 days.  Shitity shit.  40 days.  Gulp.  Double Gulp. 
OK here is a Schedule: 
Week 1: (this week) — Finish Chapter 4.  All that is left is a bloody paragraph or two for fuck’s sake.  Do that today.  Send to advisor.  Finish clean-up research, finish article.
Week 2:  Really finish article.  (hey, I know myself, ok?)   Apply changes to Chapter 5.
Week 3: Really finish Chapter 5.   Send to advisor on June 28th.
Week 4: Revise chapter 2. 
Week 5: Finish revising Chapter 2.  Start on Chapter 1.
Week 6: Finish chapter 1.  Write Introduction.
Week 7: Revise, revise.  Footnotes.  (Oy vey, they’re a mess.  When I started this fucking thing I was using a prehistoric version of Endnote.  Then I switched to a prehistoric version of bookends.  I need to choose one, fix it up.  Oh god.  I’m going to die doing this, aren’t I?
Week 8: Do all that other stuff that I thought I could do but didn’t until now. 
Well, I thought that would help.  Maybe it did.  Maybe it just made me more panicked than I was when I started this post.  But hey, panic drives away ennui, right?   In fact, I think I better stop blogging and get my sorry ass back to work.  I’ll resume daily update postings to keep myself honest and working during the days of the week that I have working time.  So, tune in for the next few parts where I drag my sorry ass across the finish line with my fingernails while the Gadlet dances on the sidelines.  
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14 responses to “Tick Freaking Tock.

  1. Yes, this post incited panic in me too. But I like this idea to post a panic-inducing list and then post as accomplishments are made. And made they will be. Good luck!

  2. This is doable. You can do this.

    A colleague was in a similar position last summer, and our very wise division head lent her a work study student as a research assistant. A good undergrad can do most of the formatting of footnotes and tables of content and all the weird spacing that grad schools insist on. Just wrangling with Microsoft Word takes a lot of time, and if you can afford to pay your most diligent student to do it for you, it will free up a lot of your pre- and post-defense time.

    Sending very productive work vibes your way!

  3. You can do this. You can. Do you need a writing group? I’ll be your writing group: my tenure deadlines are approaching and I have a lot of writing to do to be where I need to be. Seriously. I did a Gina Hiatt support group thing and it helped me. We could be a cheap two person writing group. Write me.

    You can do this. I know your panic. It’s totally doable though, and do, you will.

  4. Wow – I can’t relate to the dissertation thing, as it’s sorta a far-off dream, but I can relate to the self-loathing. And I know how debilitating it can be.

    It happens to me when I go jogging and can’t keep up with my partner. And once I start feeling just an ounce of self-loathing, it usually takes over and becomes the biggest obstacle to what I’m trying to accomplish. I tell myself all sorts of things like, “You can’t do this” or “You suck at this and you’ll never get there.” And often times, those things I say to myself allow me to justify giving up. It helps to tell myself that I’m just running and it’s just something that I’m doing. That removes any kind of value and emotion from the act.

    So, you’re just writing your dissertation. That’s all. It’s just something you’re doing.

    You can do it…I mean, you had a baby. I’m pretty sure that means you can do just about anything 🙂

  5. I totally relate to that whole second paragraph, still, even though I quit. But you can totally, totally do this. The absolute deadline might be the best thing for you. I hope your committee knows that you’ve got a job and that this simply has to be done or you lose it, and that wherever you are as of August 1 should just be good enough. Any chance you can just jettison chapter 1?

  6. Support!Support! I once said that you are my hero, and that is still so. Of course you can do this. I am in a similar position, only slightly less immediate. I have to finish the hell-child that is my thesis even though I hate it with every fibre in my body and soon,and in addition become fluent in crazy difficult modern language that I study the ancient portion of, before february or else I cannot apply for the permanent position that I am in temporary position of. Considering that jobs in my field are as frequent as blue strawberries, I have this chance, and this chance only. I am right where I want to be, doing exactly what I want to do, and in order to stay in paradise I have to give birth to thesis from hell. One reason why you are my hero is because you write what I feel. And that makes my life and my struggling with (censored curses)-thesis bearable. It just helps feeling less alone, and less crazy, and less hopeless.
    You can do this, and so can I. And you are not alone, cause I am here, cheering for you.

    Love and support, Kicki

  7. You can do this. I would recommend picking Bookends over Endnote, getting started now on that process, and trying to get help with the footnotes and formatting. If you can’t get a dedicated undergrad from your dept, how about hiring one on your own? It might be well worth the money.

    Talk to your advisor and feel them out — maybe they can run interference for you on the actual defense. My advisor told everyone there was an employment pressure and “asked” them to offer revisions suggestions that could be accomplished in a day or two.

    True story — I took roughly a year to write the first chapter in a history diss. The last chapters, written while I had to juggle two new preps, came out in a couple of weeks each. They were not as good, but they were done. You can do this too. Just get them done.

    Give yourself a firm deadline on the article — no more than X days on it. Then just move on — the diss is the only priority — and remember, you only have to finish it. This is your last piece of student work, not the first piece of your professional work. It need not be brilliant, or perfectly copyedited, it need only be done.

  8. The end is in sight! I know that is one scary schedule you’ve given yourself, but there’s also something exciting about the possibility of being done, of not having this albatross around your neck anymore. You can do this!

  9. This sounds like a post I could write, if I had as much of my dissertation done as you already do. I was wasting time yesterday, mentally drafting my acknowledgments section. But not in the typical, “Without the support and inspiration of many people blah, blah, blah..” No, mine will be something like this: “The whole process of writing this dissertation truly sucked!”

    That said, you can do this! I wish I was as far along as you. And having that firm deadline may be a blessing in disguise. My advice (take this with a grain of salt, because you do have more done than I do), after you finish Chapter 4, is to prioritize the unwritten stuff and then work on the rest of the revisions after all the chapters are at least drafted. For me work takes as much time as deadlines allow, so I’d rather be scrambling at the end to make existing chapters better than having to pull a whole new one out of my ass at the 11th hour. Hang in there, I’m rooting for you. I don’t know you, but I can completely relate.

  10. I could have written this post except for the deadlines and status of each chapter plus my dissertation has 8 (yes what the hell was I thinking?)

    I think it’s totally doable…and you’ll get it done. Sometimes the longerish path means you actually took time to smell the roses. Hang in there.

  11. Pingback: Pretty Hard, Dammit

  12. Oh my god, I could have written this post. Are you done by now? I am in exactly the same position except I have two little ones. Must finish in 4 months or lose my job. Major hate on.

  13. I feel your pain! I am in this process, too. Sometimes, I write and have know idea what I just wrote 10 pages later. It seems like we just keep repeating the same thing in the next chapter. It’s totally unbearable at times.
    I had a review come back and had a minor meltdown and said, I am at a loss for words to my advisor. This whole process is like, “sticking bamboo shoots under your finger nails.” I keep telling myself, I can do this! On that note, I could totally relate to your blog.

  14. Breathing as hard as I can

    I found this site by typing in “i hate my dissertation” in Google. I can totally relate as I am also under the gun to finish by the first week of Sept. And yet…I am procrastinating like there is no more procrastination left in the world. The only thing that helps me is to say “only do one step at a time.” Don’t think of the whole overwhelming picture. Breathe. One step at a time.
    You can do it! On that note…

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