I can literally count the days until the full draft of my dissertation is due. I’ve been disciplined so far, if exceedingly slow. I think my writing process, which used to be quite voluminous, slowed considerably after I taught in the university’s writing program for a year or two. Now I am exceedingly self-conscious about my prose and its quirks. (Have you noticed yet that I love hyphens?)
I am going to try very hard to maintain a minimal level of activity here on the blog, too. Not only do I need a pressure valve to avoid getting lost in my own work over the next 8 weeks, but I need to stay in the writing flow. I find the relative freedom of prose on the blog here helps me move myself along from the grips of personal critical paralysis in the dissertation.
I already have a steady non-academic release–my triathlon training. Exercise is a known de-stresser. It also helps give you more energy, improves quality of sleep, and structures my otherwise endless hours at my desk. I hope that my bicycle, which is at the shop having a pedal repaired, will soon be back so I can pedal my way to the finish line. Literally. I’ll be submitting the draft just a couple days before my triathlon, which if all goes to plan will be both competitive success and miniature vacation. (It’s in Hawaii after all).
In all of this I feel badly about two things. First, my neighbors. I like to listen to music–all kinds of music–while I write and edit and read. It’s probably not the greatest habit, but it works for me. Since my wife and I both work at home it is also necessary to, uh, drown out her non-stop telephone conferences. So as I get set to spend even twice as much time as I have been attached to my desk, my neighbors will get twice the musical goodness. I imagine some things aren’t such a terrible burden. Fleet Foxes, the Shins, and most of the folksy music I listen to probably doesn’t carry much into the adjacent apartments. Neither will quite a bit of the rock and pop I listen to. Or the jazz or classical music. I’m not worried about any of those. Nope. It’s the Skrillex, Deadmau5, Eminem, Kanye, Jay-Z, Macklemore, and Blackalicious. Well, let’s just say I might have to turn down my subwoofer. Sure, I have some excellent headphones somewhere. But I find that it is harder to work with them on. They get in the way of my typing and the rotating pile of books. The pressure from the headphones can also give me headaches. Woe to the academic music lover, eh? I wonder what folks in the music program do when they have to listen to hours and hours of music.
Second, my wife. Bless her heart, she tries very, very hard to keep me on schedule with the triathlon training. She’s already a triathlete and she’s now training for an ironman, but dealing with me as I slowly am enveloped by a very, very, very fixed deadline for this draft doesn’t bode too well for her. I’m sure my meals will get even more erratic as I self-caffeinite all day to keep my energy up. Who knows when I’ll find time for 20 mile bike rides or mile-long swims or six mile runs. Since it is winter and the sun sets at roughly 5pm my night owlish temperament doesn’t help me get out the door for 6am workouts. Not to mention the local pool is outdoors. And unheated. Only in California, right? At least if I go out midday it’s 65 and sunny all the time. It’ll be a sad day for us both weather-wise when we leave sunny southern California.
This is probably not the last time I’ll mention managing the stress of the final stretch of the project, but it may be the only time I personalize it in this way. If you like it and want more, you might let me know. Otherwise it’ll be back to academic posts, and you’ll forgive me if they are a bit shorter than I usually like to make them. Priorities and deadlines.