Confirmation in a Coffee Shop; or, When I Almost Hugged My Laptop

18 Mar

It’s no secret, at least on this blog, that I’ve been feeling stuck and a little dejected about my progress on my dissertation. Despite moments of real progress (several pages written!), I end up tempering them (they still need footnotes!) so I don’t really feel the joy fully. I know it’s a sign of burnout, or at least a sign of burnout for me. It’s long past time to reduce stress and anxiety and find a way to reenergize myself. While my stress load gets lower every month, my exhaustion with my sources doesn’t.

I’m going to be presenting an aspect of my research this week at a conference. It’s taking the article I wrote and advancing the argument. But the problem with the article was the small sample size I had to work with. I ended up doing a lot of extrapolation. I have realized the Marine Corps chapter either has to be smaller or requires more research – more varied source material. Now, I could find there’s no more source material (which I think is the case, actually), in which case I have to adjust my thesis accordingly. There’s a different rationale when the same 5-10 images are used over and over again, rather than dozens. Be that as it may, that’s a question for this summer.

The conference has pushed me to pick up the thesis of the article and push it. See where it gives, find the weak points, reinforce or restructure as needed. To do that, I’ve needed to both boost my theoretical understanding and use another batch of sources – bring another branch into the discussion. The theoretical aspect is bogged down because I’m spending a lot of energy elsewhere, so I needed to move on to the other sources.

Tonight, I opened the folder of Army posters I pulled from NARA the same time I got the Marine Corps images. I have 111 images (including duplicates, I still have over 100) of all kinds of Army specialties. I have several distinct campaigns directed at women that are different from those directed at men. And yet…then I looked into the Navy folder and it’s even clearer:

THE MESSAGES ARE THE SAME. It’s “You’ll become a MAN” versus “You’ll still be a WOMAN.”



It’s time to write the dissertation. For real.


4 responses to “Confirmation in a Coffee Shop; or, When I Almost Hugged My Laptop

  1. Lynn Beisner

    March 18, 2014 at 8:20 pm

    I love it! Rock on!

  2. emmaspeaks74

    March 18, 2014 at 9:06 pm

    Wow, Zayna. I feel like I just witnessed an epiphany. This is great! As a prospective graduate student you have given me hope. Still scared as shit, but I see now that I can do it. Great post. Loved it.

  3. emmaspeaks74

    March 18, 2014 at 9:13 pm

    Reblogged this on Emma's History Blog and commented:
    So, I had to reblog this because it gives me so much hope as I stumble along my own path to graduate school. I get anxious and dejected at times, too, but then I have those little flashes of brilliance that totally make up for that. And they always come after I’ve been stressed out the most. I guess the secret to success in the History field is hitting a wall… and then finding a loose brick.

  4. Heather

    April 4, 2014 at 9:03 am

    OH HOW I LOVE THOSE MOMENTS! Everything has plateaued, and you feel like you’re never going to be surprised again. You’ve said everything already, because you’ve read everything already. Everyone is quoting everyone else, and when you look, their quote came from the person who quoted them and you feel like the circle is just CLOSED.
    And then…
    You find something new. It leads to something different, and you start to think “wait…is this?” and you realize it is! It’s a SURPRISE! Something is surprising you, and you’re excited again and ready to move on.
    I love that. Thanks for sharing.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: