Monday, August 27, 2007

What Is Progress?

This isn't an esoteric rant on the nature of progress as an ideological concept. I'm really wondering what I can consider progress in terms of work on the dissertation.

Is 1000 words a day progress? Lately I've been finding the actual writing -- not the brainstorming or text-pulling -- exhausting. One page makes me feel like I've scaled a mountain. But that's really not enough. I really wanted to have a draft of this chapter done by the end of August. I'm really working towards it, but it's not going to happen. I may have a draft by the end of next week, so that's my new goal. But I need to write more that won't end up on the cutting room floor. I need to get to the typing and editing stage. I need to feel like I'm making headway and not feel like I need a nap after every bloody page.

Luckily I've stopped taking out new books. I have now limited myself to what is currently on my office shelves, and only articles and book reviews are allowable extras, and then ONLY to flesh out an already-begun argument. It's so easy to fall into the "oooh, I need that specific book before I can do anything else" -- and that's crap. I know what I want to say, so I should just say it! The last time I just plain wrote, the final product was a very fun and very well-received conference paper, so this trick apparently does work.

And on that note, I'm going to stop writing in my silly blog and get back to the diss. But please, leave a comment on what you consider actual progress -- word counts are welcome.
doctor T 4:01 PM

3 Comments:

hmmm...

i can't properly comment on what the average progress is, or the appropriate progress, or even my progress, since i'm nowhere near writing my dissertation anyway.

what i can offer is a suggestion that you just roll with it. progress is progress. and your current 1000 words per day is definite forward movement. i was talking to my wise and helpful supervisor a while back about preparing for my comps, saying i hadn't made any progress and i'd only read a, b, and c. his response was "then why are saying you haven't made any progress? it sounds like you've read a, b, and c."

for whatever it's worth.
Sometimes progress is as simple as letting your brain mull over an idea while you go about your daily tasks. I do remember all too well the sense of frustration you are feeling, but with a project this large there are going to be days when you feel you are getting lots done (things crossed off your list, your document is getting visibly longer) and days where it doesn't really feel like you are getting anywhere quickly. On those days, my suggestion would be to freewrite for a few minutes, focusing on the "bigger picture" of the dissertation.
1000 words a day is brilliant progress, IMO. Heck, I was thrilled with 300 a day. However, little Ms. Seven-Years'-PhD might not be the best advice-giver on such matters.

If you can, keep it up! It's exhausting, I know, but it sounds like you are doing great.

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