Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Productivity in spurts

I'm out here searching the ether. Trying to make some connections to other people. Mostly, trying desperately to not feel so alone. That's a funny thing I realize, for someone who is happily married, and father of two wonderful (albeit exhausting) boys.

I just read "Quitting time" and the latest posting on The PhD Explosion. Yeah, others are dealing with similar things.

It strikes me how things do change. Getting older does that to us, and being in a relationship (for my part, being married), and now having children. God, 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep seems a distant memory.

But, we can be productive. I know how I work, and it's in spurts. Very, very productive spurts. It's just all that time in between, when I wonder what the point of it all is, when I feel like a leech on society. After I penned the first 100 pages of my dissertation, and sent it off to my committee for commentary, I was struck dumb by the response. Silence from three of the four. The fourth was not so kind. He wrote that I should put aside the "theoretical" stuff, do something substantial, then get back to them.

The blood rushed from my head. Here I was across the ocean, hoping to use my Fulbright year to finish the dissertation. And, I was shot down. But, he was right of course. I was spinning yarns, spouting off about my pet theories, and the prospects of my research, rather than doing the research at hand. So, I got dirty with the work, in my case archival work, looking through the notebooks and library marginalia of my protagonist.

I barely wrote a thing for about a year. I came home earlier than planned. I had a three-month extension on my Fulbright, but my father was dying, and I thought that took precedence. So, I returned to help take care of him. My second son was born a month after my father passed. Then, I got back to writing in earnest.

After spending about a year reading, and contemplating, I did my analysis, and wrote. The final 150 pages of the dissertation were written in about two weeks. The hard part was getting to the point when I felt like I really had something worthy to say, that I had sufficiently mastered the materials and the existing literature. Then, I just pulled it all together. I'm just waiting for the next spurt to come.

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