How To Drive Away Readers By Droves


Sunday it was “oh, dear, I need a break but I have a million things to do so I better keep on truckin’.”

Monday it was a case of the grumpy grumps.

Today it was all out overwhelm-ed-ness. (I added the hyphens because I want you to read the “ed” part like you would in the word beloved. It seems more overwhelmy that way, with the “ed,” doesn’t it?)

This is what happens when I work on my dissertation.

Did I tell you that I got that “fifteen minutes a day” book I mentioned last week or the week before or jeez people do you really expect me to go find a link to that post because it’s probably still in my “most recent posts” list over on the right over there and even if it’s not you can just go search “writing your dissertation in fifteen minutes a day” in my search bar and you’ll find it and I think you need to learn to do things for yourself and not expect me to spoonfeed you links.


I’m sorry Internet. Apparently I’m not just overwhelm-ed; I’m also Meany McHeadBiterOffer.

But so I got that book from the library and I’ve been reading it in manageable two-page snippets before bed and I really hate to ruin it for you but you can probably already guess: the point of the book is that you cannot write your dissertation in fifteen minutes a day. If I hadn’t gotten it at the library I think I’d be asking for my money back because holy false advertising batman!

So yeah, the point of the book is that you cannot write your dissertation in fifteen minutes a day but that you also cannot really write your dissertation without investing that first fifteen minutes a day which will, inevitably, get you rolling into fifteen hours a day.

For me, though, this is the problem. I promised myself I’d work fifteen minutes each day, and I followed through on the promise and kept it up for at least ten days, but I quickly discovered that fifteen minutes gets me about as far as no damn where and so I would work work work and the next thing I knew I’d have spent two hours after dinner working on my dissertation, or four hours on a Sunday, and still barely scratching the surface. Sounds great, sounds perfect. It’s a two-pound-a-week diet that actually makes you lose two pounds a week while eating pizza and chocolate and oh, how great except OH MY GOD I CANNOT HANDLE THIS.

Sunday morning I woke at five and cried. I mourned the loss of time with Brian. I mourned the loss of time for me. I mourned the loss of hobbies. I cried because if I want to stay devoted to this dissertation I can’t train for a race this summer or join the Monday night summer Ultimate Frisbee league or do anything except relish the days with Evan and then work like a dog at night. It’s not so bad but it’s just so bad.

I cried because my house is messy and I just felt like we’d finally gotten on top of it. I cried because I’m good at working on my dissertation but working on it isn’t good for me. I cried because I’ve been a graduate student in various programs for eight years and I need to not be one for awhile. I cried because I want to get this thing over with so I work really hard but then it backfires and sends me into three days of wickedness and then two months of ignoring the fact that the dissertation even exists.

I am frustrated because I cannot find a middle ground. I can’t find a way to make just a little bit of progress and go slowly.

I am totally suing that lady for her dumb book and her dumb title and her dumb rightness about how long it takes to write a dissertation and how you really need to be preoccupied by it at all times to the point that you write notes on the table while feeding your baby some carrots and string cheese.


OK. Rant over. For now.


11 Responses to “How To Drive Away Readers By Droves”

  1. 1 hub

    So… if you win the lawsuit you can just forget about writing the dissertation and you and Evan can just roll around in the money you won everyday instead.

  2. Sweet. That’ll be awesome. Do I have a legal leg to stand on?

    And as for the metaphor about the diet, I was thinking about it during my colloidal oatmeal therapy bath tonight (another post for another time, people) and there’s a much better metaphor out there but you have to come with me back to 1998.

    Yes, 1998, the year Olestra came out (or at least it was the year I remember it being in Doritos and stuff). Do you remember Olestra? It may still exist, I have no idea, but it was this food additive that was supposed to replace part of the fat in food with something that your body can’t digest. I don’t know, I’m not a food scientist. Anyway, I remember my college roommate being all into it and saying something about how it gives you diarrhea but at least your body’s not absorbing the fat.

    That’s a better metaphor. Working so hard on my dissertation and writing more in the last ten days than in the previous two months is good like Olestra was good: there are unfortunate and not-so-pleasant side effects. Some people, like my roommate Liz, may not mind, but others do. I’m one of the ones who minds.

  3. 3 Genevieve

    Wow. I’m just trying to figure out how not to go crazy reading student drafts. I went to the doctor this week and she told me I was not allowed to eat and study at the same time; I have to actually stop and eat a meal and then return to studying. I don’t see how I’m possibly going to make the time to not study during every single meal. Although I suppose that’s the point.

  4. Oy. You’ve got your hands full. (Ok that was pretty freaking obvious!)

    Ok. Dissertations officially scare the hell out of me. How do people get through it? Because it sounds pretty emotionally and intellectually consuming. And so not very fun.

    But when its behind you, you will feel like the 800 pound gorilla is finally off your back!

  5. Genevieve, one of the hardest things I had to learn in grad school was how to not get everything done and be OK with that. How to figure out what to do and what to skip.

    UGH. Why do we do this to ourselves? It’s not even like at the end we get to go save lives or anything.

    As for how people get through the dissertation… I think it’s just like anything else. I always wonder how my sister-in-law handles twin toddlers. I’m sure she wonders how her friend handles twin toddlers and a baby. And I’m sure that woman wonders how someone handles a kid and a job. You know?

  6. 6 Genevieve

    Why do we do this to ourselves indeed! Something I’ve been thinking about recently is how the same degree from different places is very not equal. And, yes, I suppose job prospects aren’t quite equal either, but the disparity between what people are asked to accomplish from institution to institution (unless my friends are lying, which is possible) seems to differ significantly, more so than the disparity in job prospects when one goes on the market.

    I tend to be a pretty laid back person willing to skip what’s not important. The problem right now seems to be that too many things seem important: I want to be a good teacher–I want to see my students improve, I want to read the theory in my area that’s going to change how I see and do things, I want to enjoy time with friends and make time for long distance visits (although thankfully the distance between my partner and I is going to go from 16 hours to 2 hours in a matter of weeks), I want to call my mom every week, I want to make time for racquetball and tennis…sheesh. Well, I think you’re in the same dilemma; I suppose we’re all in the same dilemma: you aren’t in academe unless you enjoy research or teaching or both.

    It looks like we’re going to get some sun today so maybe there will be time for all of us to be outside today!

  7. 7 Toni

    Uhm, yeah I can totally relate. I was so overwhelm-ed this morning what with sleeping in, drinking coffee and stamping some Mother’s Day cards that I almost completely forgot the children had a playdate today.

    Okay, so this college dropout can’t really relate but I sympathize. Some things are just hard but you can do it. And you will be so pleased with yourself when you do.

  8. Toni. All I have for you is this: BEE-YOTCH. So take that and think it over while your kids are at a playdate and you’re drinking coffee, beyotch.

  9. You still believe you can “stay on top of” your house? Dang, girl. No wonder you’re stressed. And over-whelm-ed. You can, for this brief time, hire a cleaning person. Even if it seems unnecessary – remove what you don’t HAVE to think about. Ya know? Hire out what you can. This is *one* summer you can’t train or Frisbee – but it will be there the rest of your life. The rest of your life where you’ll be done with your dissertation. 1) Connect with loved ones, especially Evan because his childhood will pass so quickly it will scare you and 2) Write your dissertation. Don’t forget to breathe.

    Uh, yeah – Olestra. I never, ever tried it because of the side effect of “anal leakage”. Not something I’m willing to experience, ever. I hope there’s nothing about a dissertation that’s similar to anal leakage.

  10. Oops – sorry that was so advice-givery.

  11. Overwhelmed? What’s that?

    I didn’t think that book was serious. I mean, in 15 minutes, I might just be getting into a thought process, but then have to stop and lose all my momentum. That’s why writing can be hard for me – for days, it’ll be nothing, and then suddenly a flood of writing comes to me.

    I understand the feelings. I go through the same feelings about school, too. If only I wasn’t in school, I could spend more time with my girls, do more blogging, have a chance to clean the house, etc. But getting my degree and becoming a nurse will result in more time with my family, so it all works out in the end. (Three 12 hr. days a week, versus the usual 8-5 M-F with any job I’d qualify for based on my BA in History.)

    I now realize that I’ve been so overwhelmed this weekend that I’m barely making sense in this comment. I’m stopping while I’m ahead.

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