Sobriquet 38.10: Ya Gotta Start Somewhere

I woke up this morning with a tremendous amount of anxiety. I mean, usually, when I wake up it takes me a few minutes to assess the situation. There are those first few moments when, in that liminal not-quite-awake, not-quite-asleep state, I basically look at the time and try to figure out whether or not I can go back to sleep. Usually the only anxiety I feel at that point stems from the occasional realization of "oh, shit, I need to get dressed and off to work!" Today, though, the anxiety was already approaching the high water mark when my lead-heavy lids reluctantly admitted daylight. "Shit," I thought to myself, "I've got to start writing the dissertation today."

And I did.


First, though, I sat in front of the computer screen, paging through notes, trying to figure out where, exactly, I should begin. It took me a few hours to finally produce a first paragraph, writing and rewriting the same sentences over and over, trying vainly to find an arrangement with which I felt comfortable. When I finished, capitalizing on the teensy-weensy bit of confidence the completion of a paragraph fleetingly provides, I called loved ones and asked if hey, would'ja mind if I read somethin' to ya?

By the time I finished the second paragraph, I realized that I was tired, but in a better position than I had been in earlier in the day. I mean, there it was: the beginning, the first three-hundredth or so of my doctoral dissertation. So I decided to call the day a success, having pushed through the wall and put some words on paper (or, more properly, pressing a bunch of keys that resulted in binary code being stored on my hard drive which, through the miracle of modern-day technology, could be translated into a little over a page of 12-point Times New Roman text).

I used to have the somewhat arbitrary goal of writing five pages a day which, I think, stems from the fact that I would routinely write roughly that much in a day while I was an undergraduate. Having found that I rarely wrote more than seven pages in a given day, five struck me as a reasonable daily target throughout grad school but, as I progressed further in my studies, I found that I often wrote less. I don't know if it is the sense of having burnt myself out or if I have somehow developed a style of critical writing that requires more time to produce, but I was pretty wiped after that page-plus today. So I stopped, happy that the first step, even if it turns out to be a false one, has been taken.

I spent the rest of the day watching Seinfeld and knitting the scarf I have been working on. As with the candle-making, I have attempted to pick up knitting so that, after I finish my dissertation, I can have something other than a sprawling pile of academic writing to show for my time. Plus, it relaxes me. And may well result in something that will keep my pretty little neck warm...

I also read a few chapters of The Master of Petersburg. Since I did not write as many pages as I would ideally have written, I thought I could be productive by reading the novel, which, of course, is really interesting. So far, I like it a good deal more than Age of Iron and, depending on where the story takes me, I would not be surprised if it ends up standing beside Disgrace, Elizabeth Costello, and Slow Man as one of my favorite Coetzee novels. We'll see.

For tomorrow: A few more steps. Read another twenty pages of The Master of Petersburg, if I can.


minxy said…
Yes!!! The writing has begun! That's so awesome. I have a feeling that once you get going today, you won't have any problem writing more pages than yesterday. The geek in me is so excited that you got started and I'm really proud of you. YAY!!!!!!!!
literarychica said…
dude, congrats on the first page! what an accomplishment. i think about the dissertation and my brain freezes, so the fact that you are actually there, writing, and that i am here, reading about it, makes me feel like it's something a human being can actually accomplish.

in regard to writing and page limits: i do that too, but only when i have to write a paper. it's usually something like one page (if i have the time to take it slow), and it can go up to five (if the deadline is looming over my head like a death sentence). i should probably start doing it on a regular basis though, see where that takes me. thought i'd share.

keep it up, my friend. page by page, you'll soon be done.

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