Monday, May 21, 2012

The Napoleon chapter

I've reached the clichéd point in dissertation-writing, where I simply must sit down and force myself to do it. I understand that, according to legend, this stage should have come sooner, and that I'm lucky it took this long, lucky that I'm quite close to a full (if rough) draft. I still think my topic is just fascinating, but in that kind of cold, distant, objective sense, like how a man feels who's been dating a Victoria's Secret model for a while and kind of lost interest. I'd love to read it, but writing it, meh. The adrenaline-filled joy of paper-writing got me through the initial working-through of the questions I address in the project, but now it's the lab-report-like filling-in of chapters, making sure that it's clear I know French-Jewish History 101 (or haven't forgotten it - there were, of course, exams), trying to keep the overall prose at least a tenth as compelling as my average post here.

I think the answer at this point, with this second-to-last chapter, to just get it to a point where I can print it out and read it without any ADD HEREs interrupting the flow. If I pretend that I'm reading someone else's work, I can take the easy air of someone with no investment in it. Other solutions include not trying to write in settings such as: under a bust of Einstein, while being playfully clawed at by a hardly underexercised poodle, with an article about Facebook billionaires I went to high school with in another window. Better settings include: NJ Transit (with the most beautiful reward, New York, on the other side), the coffee shop in town with you-have-to-ask-and-I-don't Internet, and the ostensibly-poodle-free "study" in the apartment. Only the last of those is free, but investments in sanity - unlike investments in expensive handbags - I believe in.

And I like the Napoleon chapter. It's not as much a showcase for primary-source findings as the others, but it sets up the entire argument, the why-this-question, and shows where I diverge from established wisdom in the field. But I want it done.


Britta said...

I am at the stage where I need to come up with a well-formulated project, which is basically like clawing my eyes out. I've taken a multiple quarter break to fulfill my course requirements for my joint degree (so, back to weekly problem sets and in class midterms(!!) for me), but this summer I need to write a proposal and prepare for qualifying exams. I love talking about my project, and writing the analysis sections for my MA was fun, but somehow formulating my project feels like the last thing I want to do. What's weird is I have received multiple grants to do the research, and thus have written several iterations of my project at various lengths this past Autumn. When I read my grant applications though, I'm both simultaneously wowed at the seemingly coherent and interesting project they propose, but I also feel like it's not really my project. I'm hoping this summer when I write my department proposal I'll feel like it's 'really' mine.

Phoebe said...

Joint degree? With what?

I think having funding to do a specific project if anything can add to this type of anxiety - you then need to actually produce what you proposed. Not just in the sense of completing a project, but completing one at least as good as the one you had in your head when you set out.

Britta said...

With linguistics. A bit foolhardy considering my first linguistics class ever was in graduate school and it's generally considered a bit odd to get a PhD in something you've never studied before, but so far it's working out and I'm almost done with all my coursework, which (I've been told) is the hardest part.