Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Writing retreat, or "dissercation"

This last month was insane.  Teaching writing-intensive courses and advising students had gotten the best of me last month.  Not to mention my husband and son were overseas for two weeks, and I was home alone with my daughter.  Then, there was school vacation week and I got behind on grading.  Aahhh!!! Fast forward to this week-- it is Spring Break.  And, am I taking a break?  Um, not 100%.  I spent part of Monday grading, and then I drove to another destination to start my writing retreat, otherwise known as "dissercation."  First of all, it's weird being by myself for such an extended period of time, morning, noon, and night.  I can't remember the last time I did this.  Second, it's  not all that easy, either.  However, once I arrived 2 days ago, I was able to get a decent amount of work done.   Yesterday morning, I did some work, went for a swim, did some work, went for a drive by the ocean, came back, and did some more work.  However, in the tevening, I just couldn't do too much.  My back was hurting from sitting for so long in front of the computer, so I just decided to take a break and watch TV.  This morning, I did some work reviewing literature, went for a swim, talked on the phone with another friend who is doing the same type of thing this week, and then I decided to take a  decent break in the afternoon.  I was freaking out about all the literature I need to review to vamp up the lit review from my proposal.  I spent some time by the ocean-- a couple of times today, and that made my day.  After all, I need to take advantage of some of this quiet time, that I won't have when I travel back home tomorrow.

A "dissercation" is a good way to get some momentum back, but it's unrealistic to expect that you will be able to just sit and work on the dissertation non-stop all day.  I'm also at a point where I know what I need to do, but I'm feeling a bit stuck.  That's why I used some of the time to review literature, and even work on my bibliography (because I'm old school when it comes to that--  no Endnote for me!).  I also started a document for my notes, and I'm finding that I might have to add quite a bit to some of my other chapters as well.

Plus, I don't like to toot my own horn so to speak, but I want to give myself some credit.  I hardly looked at my dissertation in the last 2-3 weeks because of all the craziness, and thankfully, I was able to pick up momentum right after I arrived for this "retreat".  I admit that I kind of fizzled out today, but at least *something* got done even today.

Tomorrow morning, I plan to do some work, but I might try to fit in another swim before I leave.  Then, I plan to swing by another one of my favorite beaches before heading home.  I'm already planning to do another one of these in June or July, or who knows, maybe even before if I can squeeze it in.  Hopefully, at that point, I will be in a better place to just write the whole time.  Going into this, I had some uncertainties, but I'm glad I can say that it was worth it on many levels.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Just open the document!!!

There is so much going on in the world right now that saddens and angers me.  For that matter, there is also a great deal going on in my own life right now.  Regardless, I wanted to share this tidbit of advice that I received today (and I have to say that I've heard this before, but I felt more impetus to apply it on a regular, um, daily, basis):  just open the document!!! Open it every day.  Write a word.  write a phrase.  write a sentence.  It might turn into more, even on days when you're so exhausted at 9:30 p.m., yet you just feel too aggravated to even turn on the TV.  Days when the house is in chaos and you child had to stay home sick from school.  Days when your mind is numb from grading.  And, get some accountability.  I started one of these groups online, and I'm a member of another group.  Just posting my goals and feeling encouraged to press on because others are checking up on me.  I also talk with a couple of friends in my program on a regular basis.  Sometimes, it's just a brief Facebook message.  Other times, it's a Skype call.  It helps.  If even just to keep our sanity, it's a blessing.

Ok now, go open that document!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Another holiday bites the dust

It's Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  I spend a little bit of time reflecting on this in the morning, whilst preparing my kids to go out with my husband for the day. I'll let you in on a little secret-- I wanted to go with them.  Yes, I've been frustrated with some behavioral issues lately and needed the break (not to mention my son has no school tomorrow), and yes, I needed the time to get some writing done.  However, I'm starting to find out that I get more frustrated having these huge time blocks.  I know that sounds counterintuitive.  I have plenty of things I could be doing, even besides working on the dissertation.  However, I'm finding that too much time at once isn't always the best for me.   Sure, I spent about 2 hours this morning trying to submit an abstract and paper excerpts to a conference, and I had to get that done.  And yes, I did get about an hour's worth of writing done.  Nevertheless, here we are at almost 3 p.m., and I know I should try to do more, but I just keep thinking about how I'm missing out.  It's an odd time of year, too.  My weekday classes start on Thursday; I have a busy week ahead with class on Saturday among various other household obligations and appointments.  I'm just feeling somewhat stuck.  I keep thinking that if I just keep writing, I will feel less stuck.  I'm not 100% there yet, but I keep thinking about what my adviser said-- "just get things down on the paper", and you can rework it later.  That's definitely true; every little bit helps.  Now, maybe I should go to the store....:)

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Be kind to yourself, as my colleague says

I've drafted many posts in the past 2 weeks, but decided to keep them mostly as a personal journal.  The holidays were good, and I did end up taking a few days break here and there, but it also wasn't a complete break (even from dealing with students and ongoing assignments).  Of course, I worked on my dissertation, but I didn't end up achieving my goals.  I had already pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I was going to postpone my defense, but I still feel somewhat of a loss of morale.  I also feel like in the process, I lost a few days that I could have spent with my family.  I know that this comes with the package of trying to finish a dissertation, but at a time when I look forward to it, it pretty much stunk.

A couple things just keep standing out to me.  1) I have sought advice from many different people, blogs, websites,  etc.  Yes, much of it has been greatly helpful, but I have to keep one thing in mind (and you should, too).  I am a unique individual, and what works for other people might not work for me, and that is fine.  Some people might be able to write all weekend, but I have to teach on many weekends, and I often have other responsibilities.  Also, my husband is in academics, which makes certain times less flexible than it would for other people.  In addition, I struggle many times with anxiety (and lingering depression at other times), and although I would be considered very "high functioning", I still need to keep a check on myself.  Accordingly, I am trying to balance a new tenure-track position, with growing expectations (whereby many weeks I work 6 days), with writing this thing.  And, especially in reflecting on the difficulties I experienced just this morning-- kids.  Not everyone's kids are the same and go through the same things at the same time.  Some kids get sick constantly and need more care.  Other kids (like mine lately) have behavioral issues that can be draining at times.   These are just a few things that come to mind when I think of this point.  2) The world isn't going to come crashing down if *I* take a few extra months to finish and defend.  I finally broached this topic more pointedly with my husband who, understandably, just wants to see me finish for my own overall health.  I explained that I felt my overall health would suffer if I tried to push myself over the edge this semester. 

The bottom line is, we can be our own worst enemies sometimes, but we need to reflect on what is best for ourselves.  No one else can look inward as best as we can. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The clock keeps ticking....

I wrote the following post last Saturday night.  FWIW, after I drafted this post, I cranked out a page of my diss.  At 11 p.m.  I've decided that I really have to stop limiting myself to the 9-5 when my kids are in school/after school.  Of course, it doesn't help when one child or another won't go to bed at 8:30 and is sitting downstairs with me at 10 p.m., but that's an issue for another day and another blog. Also, maybe writing for this blog more often would be more helpful?!? In addition, I realized that I haven't included any writing updates in the last few posts.  I've pretty much drafted 2 full substantive chapters, and I've started on my third.  Not too bad, I guess, but I really need to crank it out over this holiday break.  If I don't, I don't think I'll be able to pull off an April defense, considering my teaching load and responsibilities for the Spring.  Let's see.


I sat there with my kids today watching a good Ole Disney movie.  It's been a weird week in a lot of ways.  Finals week; I got everything graded and just need to finalize and submit grades.  My son had a surgical procedure on Thursday.  I did very, very little dissertation work this week.  Today, we didn't do much like I said, but sometimes I wish I could stop time.  But, time just keeps going on.  I wish I could stop time and enjoy some of these moments, but at the same time, I wish I could speed through time and everything would get done in the process.  I feel constantly uneasy when I can't work on my dissertation for various reasons.   I'm annoyed when I can't get in the zone, but then again, my life is bigger than just my dissertation.

I've decided I'm going to be fine if I can't defend in April.  I am still aiming for it, though.  I would be disappointed to not be at the hooding ceremony with many people I know, many people with whom I struggled these last 8 years.  There were many times over these last 8 years when I felt the same about the clock-- I wish it could have stopped at some places, and I wish it could have moved faster in others.  But of course, the university never stopped my clock when I had 2 kids, and now the college where I teach is not stopping my tenure clock for me to get my dissertation done.  Everything is just moving so fast.

I was telling a colleague yesterday about my plan to crank out the dissy work over the break (which is very, very short for me).  She wisely told me to take a few days off.  I think I need it mentally and emotionally, but it's a double edged sword as I said earlier.  I look at my calendar and think of days when I will have a meeting here or an appointment there; I'll have to finalize a few more grades here; and I worry about my April goal slipping quickly away.  I feel isolated; I have no time to be collegial and read drafts of fellow students, but I don't know how to tell them no since I would really love any support right now.  Other fellow dissertators and recent PhDs have told me that I'm in a good place, but I just don't feel it.  I just don't see it; the light at the end of the tunnel is dimmed by cloudy skies.

But then I keep telling myself, I'll do it.  But, I have to be realistic with my other responsibilities.  I know I am just not the type of person who can get up at 5 a.m. and crank out 1500 words.  I never was, so I need to stop lying to myself.  And, I want to enjoy the holidays. I want to stop the clock when my daughter is in the school nativity.  I want to stop the clock on Christmas morning.  I'm excited after all the gifts I bought the kids, and I can't wait, yet I can.  Dang this clock.

Monday, November 21, 2016


"I can't even..." and, "I can"

I can't even about this election.  I'm tired about arguments about various related issues at home and on social media.  I'm tired of people who we thought were lifelong friends spewing rudeness and judgment.

I can't even about the fact that racism, sexism, and xenophobia still exist in this country and many people just want to swipe it under the rug.

I can't even when me, as the professor, cares more about a student's grade than they do themselves.  I can't even with all the excuses.

I can't even with trying to balance things sometimes.  As I've said over and over again in this blog, it feels like a tsunami with wave after wave coming in with no end in sight.

I can't even with my dissertation.  As a friend wisely said to me recently on Facebook, it's like I know what I want to say, but it's difficult to get it on paper.  It's like I can see the big picture, but no light at the end of the tunnel, and it can be stifling at times.

I can't even with my own feeling of regret and sometimes jealousy.  If I had only done something differently over the summer, if I had only thought more carefully about my schedule, if I were only more motivated, and the list goes on.  I'm happy for comrades who have recently finished, but I feel a pang that it could have been me, if only.

Now, to try and reverse things a bit.


I CAN take a stand for the right thing, even in small ways.

I CAN play a more active role in advocating for policies.

I CAN make this work.  I WILL make this work, even if it makes me uncomfortable.  I HAVE TO be more deliberate about my schedule.  I WILL block out distractions.

I CAN move forward even a little bit every day.  I won't get everything done in a day, a week, or even a month.  BUT, I CAN make progress, and I WILL.

I CAN finish this blasted thing.  I HAVE the ability to do it, even if I often feel otherwise and imposter syndrome creeps in constantly. 

I CAN overcome often crippling anxiety. 

I CAN do it.  I WILL.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Just trying to get everything done

I've seen more than a few posts on Facebook lately that people are just trying to keep their heads above water at this time in the semester.  Mountains of grading, course prep, etc. etc. just keep piling up. Not to mention, we all have lives outside of our jobs, and some of us are still wearing that grad student hat.  I've had a lot of internal conflict lately, and many a times I wanted to just sit down and write a post for this blog as a form of self-care.  I've had some medical issues which have impacted my mindset in the past month or so as well.  Not to mention, I need to check-in with my advisor this week, and frankly, I'm just going to be very honest that my original goals for this month were completely unrealistic.  However, all of that doesn't make me feel any better.

Today I'm supposed to be just focusing on writing for my dissertation, but as I write, I'm thinking about all of the analysis I should have done, not to mention the grading that sits there metaphorically on my to-do list yet is creeping around the corner, waiting to be done.  I also spent some unproductive time this morning envying stay at home moms, although I've done that role before and it ain't easy.  I just have a ball of anxiety in my stomach which seems to grow as the day goes on.

I have no advice to offer in this post, other than I'm just trying to keep my head above water and sometimes that's all we can do.  We can try to do our best at everything, but sometimes we have to be satisfied with just getting what we can done.  I'm at the point where I'm reassessing my writing goals, and just getting something done today (even if it's not finishing a chapter) might help to level out my anxiety even a little bit.