Sobriquet 37.1: A New Beginning?

I am not going to deceive myself pretending that this weblog has a large audience, but I would like to address any readers I may have because I am changing the direction--at least temporarily--of Sobriquet Magazine: my weblog will chronicle my journey from A.B.D. to Ph.D.

For anyone interested in knowing who I am or why I write what I do, I am a 29 year-old doctoral candidate in English literature, struggling to write a dissertation. I know that the I am at the point in my studies where a higher percentage of budding scholars hit a wall than at any other stage higher education, and I do not want to add my name to that list.

The primary reason I will blog about the experience is because I believe having to report my progress to a theoretical reader will light a proverbial match under my not-so-proverbial rear end, giving me the tiny bit of motivation I may need to read that extra fifty pages or type those next five pages.

Secondly, I hope that my plight will both inspire other budding scholars to push through the Slough of Despond that is the terminal phase of a terminal degree as well as encourage sympathetic readers to share their experiences with me and foster a positive, motivational sort of discourse that will contradict the often negative attitudes one tends to encounter when among graduate students. To an extent, then, I am trying to create something of a dissertation support group. I hope it works.

Having thought a bit about this project, I feel I should state a few of my core beliefs at the outset:

1. I am lucky. Above all, I need to remember that I am fortunate to have the opportunity to study literature at such an advanced level. With so many people around the world unable to obtain even the most rudimentary of educations, I must be thankful for the situation I find myself in. Whenever I begin to feel sorry for myself, I have to remind myself that others work much harder, in considerably worse circumstances, on significantly less pleasant tasks, for much less money or prestige.

2. What I do is not vital. Although there is much to be said about the benefits of intellectual discussion and inquiry, I am not teaching students basic skills they will need to survive nor am I studying the sort of material that will enable me to save lives the way a cardiologist might. I am not necessary in the same way; I am a luxury. In other words, I should exude humility rather than the complacent air some scholars seem to give off.

3. That said, it isn't an easy life. I am not a wealthy person, so I need to work while studying. It's all right to feel stressed and frustrated, even if I am lucky.

Furthermore, I want to set a few ground rules for myself:

1. Be positive. The blog is my way to escape from the negativity that I feel may pull me down and prevent me from completing my studies.

2. Be reasonable. I should not expect to complete my dissertation overnight.

3. Be strict. Set a goal and work towards it.

4. Accept failure as part of success. I will not finish every assignment I set for myself in the time I expect to do so. That's fine.

5. Blogging about procrastination is fine; procrastinating by blogging is not. Again, I should use this space as a positive part of the writing process. If, for instance, I really want to write something here, use it as a motivation to complete the work I need to finish first.

6. Write about other things in moderation. The focal point of this blog is working on my dissertation, not how poorly the Bengals are playing this year.

All right, then. Here I go.
-Erik Grayson

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