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More of the Same

I see my last post was the last submission of a Manuscript to my advisor last February. Well, that one was good, but not great. We decided in April that I’d take another shot at the project. I got to work again in the fall. I now have a structure and two solid chapter drafts. I’m working on a third, which has turned into 2 chapters. I have two more body chapters after this pair, then I turn it all into a cohesive whole.

The good news is that this is doable. I have done this before. I can do it again. The bad news is I’ve done this three times already and I am tired of this. But it’s better than what I wrote before, even before I’ve polished it.

So right now I need to get unstuck in the writing process. I’m working on a chapter, I have the structure, I have the puzzle at the beginning, I’ve laid out what the problem is and I think I’ve laid out how I’m going to solve it, now I have to put in the primary source analysis. It’s something I just have to grind out, but I’m spinning my wheels right now.

The other problem is that I am severely distracted by politics right now. I am having a lot of trouble focusing when I want to be out fighting the horrible developments. I keep telling myself that there are other people who are fighting, too, and the way for me to best fight this anti-intellectual, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQIA+, anti-science, anti-human decency administration is to finish my dissertation, graduate, and raise some hell in classrooms.

I guess I’m taking the long view.

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Posted by on January 31, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

The Little Engine That Could…Write a Dissertation

The dissertation draft has been submitted. Again. But this time…this time it’s done. Formatted, a bibliography, an appendix of images…it’s done. I sent it to my advisor on February 29. I feel like it’s time for a bit of reflection.

(I think I can, I think I can…)

This took eight years of my life. Eight years of classes, research, depression, financial stress, health disasters…and victories, accolades, and real breakthroughs. I don’t think I redefined the field – I think I helped create a brand new one. I started out wanting a PhD for myself, to understand more, to get training and education, to become a college professor. I’ve done all of that, and I don’t yet have my PhD. But I still want the document – the credential. Because it will affirm publicly all the work I’ve already done. Right now, I have a certain reputation among people who’ve seen, heard, or read my work, and I don’t need the PhD to impress them.

(I think I can, I think I can.)

There’s another reason I need a PhD. To do the job I want to do, full time, with health insurance, I need it. I won’t get the job with benefits without it. That sucks.

(I think I can, I think I can.)

That tiny bit of reality aside…this has been the hardest, most amazing, most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. All the stress and heartbreak included. The victory would be no less sweet, but much less profound without it. I saw a meme, on Tumblr, I think: I’m not smarter than you, I’m just unreasonably persistent. I wanted to quit. A lot. And I wanted to quit more and more as time went on. Because it was so hard and I couldn’t see a viable reward at the end. But the payoff is here, and a bigger payoff is coming. Life’s not great yet, but it will be. And I’ll look back at these past 8 years and remind myself – that was the hardest thing I ever did, and I did it.

(I think I can, I think I can.)

I’m glad I did this. I’m glad I wrote a dissertation. I’m glad I’m on the way to finishing. I’m waiting to hear back on the draft – there will probably be revisions, but I don’t think anything major. Then, once he approves the draft, I send it to the rest of my committee, and once they approve it, I can apply to graduate and defend it. There’s a ways yet to go, but I’ve crested the mountain.

(I thought I could, I thought I could.)

 

update on the dissertation monster

The draft I sent out in October was pretty good. But not good enough. Advisor found a hole, and sent me back to the archives. I have lots more information, need to write a new chapter, but I should have a new draft out by the end of this month. So I’m at it again, hoping that the actual finish date is right around the corner. We’ll see what the next few weeks have in store.

 

 
 

Twitter Backup

I need some ideas, please.

I have my students Tweet for credit in all my classes. I find it enhances classroom discussion by giving a platform to those who don’t want to speak in class. It also lets me see how my students think about history, and how it changes over the semester. However, now Twitter is rolling out a new format soon – the dreaded algorithm. Instead of a straight chronological timeline, Twitter will start working more like Facebook, boosting perceived “popular” posts to the top of the timeline. There’s a damn good reason I don’t use Facebook – it takes a lot of work to see all the posts. I would lose my quieter online students much more quickly with a Facebook-style algorithm.

So what’s a professor to do? I want my students to work in the digital realm. Twitter gives them an easy way to engage with digital history and digital humanists. It lets people speak in new and different ways. It lets them express their interests more clearly. Most importantly, it shows them that history is TRULY about everything. I like social media precisely for the social aspect – they end up talking to people they never would have otherwise. I have students in conversation with my students in other classes, and undergrads, graduate students, and even professors at other schools. They connect with people running themed Twitter feeds and get an inside view of living history and public history. The experiences are invaluable. And, I fear, unique to Twitter as it is now.

I’ve been testing other social media for several months now as rumblings of the changes started. SnapChat is, frankly, useless for any educational purpose (though I did have a student send me a snap of their visit to the doctor, with a time stamp, instead of a doctor’s note). Pinterest is too cluttered, Tumblr is too porny*, Reddit is a cesspool, and Facebook is…Facebook. I have found some good sites for them to review, but there’s little interaction. For instance, Parlio.com has some amazing discussions, is well moderated, and is populated by people who really want substantive discussion. However, I believe it would be intimidating for a beginning freshman – hell, it’s sometimes intimidating for ME.

My other problem is that while I’m familiar with a lot of digital history, I’m at a loss for finding a place where they can have an uncurated conversation. I don’t want to send them to Blackboard Discussion Boards for this kind of activity. It’s in official “school” space, there’s the possibility of grading content instead of activity, and it’s Blackboard, which inevitably crashes whenever you need to work on something there.

So I’m asking for your help. What’s a good way to get social interaction online for college students? I want to see what they’re interested in, intrigued by, and what they think is important. I want them to connect with people outside of our classroom who are also historians. I want them to feel free to explore the vastness of the Internet without directing them somewhere unsafe or inappropriate.

*To use Tumblr for these purposes, they must turn off safe mode. This will give them access to images of death, and, yes, porn of all kinds. NOT. HAPPENING.

 
 

psst…

I think I just finished the last of my original research chapters for my dissertation. All that’s left is the conclusion.

I think I may be a week or so from finishing my dissertation.

um…

wow.

 
 

Reset

I submitted my first chapter to my adviser at the end of February. Yay me! I got good feedback, good inspiration and motivation to work – but I have a problem. Plot bunnies. Or rather, Dissertation Bunnies. Usually I chase the plot bunny and produce something short and quick, get it out of my system. But a dissertation bunny leads me to work on a different chapter than the one I have planned. So instead of finishing my Army chapter, I have half an Army chapter, half of my methodology and lit review, and 3 pages in my Navy chapter…and NONE of them are done. ARGH.

I don’t work in a linear fashion, I’ve accepted that. I have to recognize that page-wise, and idea-wise, I’m producing more right now that I would have had I forced myself to work on my Army chapter only. But I also feel the Army chapter would be very close to done right now if I had. Though I think it would be taking me a lot longer. Losing all of March to sickness really didn’t help, neither did my adviser’s revelation that he’s going away and will not be able to review my draft on my timeline – he wants it a month EARLIER to make a December graduation.

On the positive side, I have serious interest from presses – enough that abstracts and proposals have been solicited. So that’s something else to add into the mix. And while I’m still teaching, the semester is almost over and I don’t have very many students, so grading is much less onerous than I’m used to. And I left Quantico. I could not focus on writing a new chapter from scratch while working 2 jobs.

The semester is over for me in 13 days. That’s when I need to buckle down and get shit done. I’m hoping to be close to done on SOMETHING soon, though. I don’t want the bulk of the dissertation hanging over me during the 3 weeks I have off from teaching before summer sessions begin.

 

28 Weeks

*taps mic* testing…testing…is this thing on?

My last posts were months ago, barely even thought out – my backup file’s last post is from May 2014. I had one job over the summer, but we moved again in July. I started teaching for the first time this fall, and continued at MCB Quantico. I just got through the holiday season in fairly good shape. I start teaching again next week. On top of all of this, I want to have a completed draft of my dissertation by the middle of July, with an eye to defending in the fall.

I realized in the middle of September I needed to prioritize. The blog was one of the first things to go – I just don’t have the time to make this a regular thing, it had to go back to being a sandbox and think-out-loud space. I’m much more active on Twitter, since I’m requiring it for class. I took the time to make some gifts for the holidays and that down time was really helpful.

So, what have I learned? I need structure. Deadlines, really. Having a long-term deadline is only so helpful, so I need to break it down. I also need planned down time – 80 hour weeks are not possible. I don’t think they ever were, I just pushed into reserves to get through them. I’m not willing to spend the reservoir when proper planning can take care of a lot of the issues. To-do lists and schedules are important.

That being said – I don’t work linearly. That’s something else I’ve learned. So I’m not setting deadlines to have x pages written in y chapter by z day. Instead, I’m setting weekly goals, with daily to-do lists. The daily lists have concrete actions that will get me to the more nebulous weekly goal. Eventually, I’ll have a five chapter dissertation. And when I say eventually – I mean by 15 July 2015. 28 weeks.

Week 1: review the drafts I have, figure out how done they are, what they need to be more done, find the resources to get them more done.