God, I know, I know! It’s been like a ghost town around here lately. What can I say? Depression and lack of dissertational progress make for exceedingly light blogging. This fucker is just not getting written. OK, let’s take out that passive construction and own it: I AM NOT WRITING. This last week I finally called in reinforcements in the person of my mother, who a) has directed many dissertations (though not in my discipline), b) knows my tricks, and c) is an excellent writing mentor. Because despite my having repeatedly told my own director that it would really be helpful to me to have him set some deadlines for me and/or have regular phone conferences, he steadfastly refuses to do so. “Just send me revisions when you have them” he says, and until I do I will not hear word one from him. He just doesn’t consider that kind of checking in to be a part of his job. And of course, from a purely objective standpoint, it’s not: his job is to give me comments on my writing and confer with my committee and decide when the dissertation is done. But I call bullshit on that, y’all. I don’t know offhand what the percentage is of PhD students who actually complete their degrees, but I know it’s fucking small. And dammit, dissertation directors are supposed to be mentors, as well, and shouldn’t a mentor be a little more available to assist a struggling student in getting their degree done? It’s not like I’m asking him to write it for me, for christ’s sake. I’m asking him to set some dates, or maybe shoot me an email once every month or so. That should not be beneath him!
But it is, so I called my mom, and she kindly agreed to take on the role of taskmaster. I’ll tell you what, at 36 going on 37, it’s fucking embarrassing to have to call your mother to help you get your homework done. But I am so damn stuck right now, I didn’t know what else to do. It’s not like I don’t know how I’m supposed to approach this. I’ve read all the books – shit, I have entire passages of How to Write Your Dissertation in 15 Minutes a Day memorized – and everyone keeps saying, just break it up into manageable bits, don’t try to do too much at once, think small, etc. But when I go up to my study and turn on my computer and start even thinking about writing something, I feel exactly as though I’m standing at the edge of swirling black waters, and if I stick in even so much as a toe I’ll be sucked into the abyss and drown. I know that sounds melodramatic, but I swear to God that’s exactly how it feels. I started crying just talking to my mother on the phone about it. I don’t know why it’s so scary; I’ve never had this kind of response before, even when I was writing my master’s thesis. I’m not even sure what it is, exactly, that I’m scared of, but whatever it is, it’s nightmare level. So you tell me, how the hell do you break an abyss into tiny, manageable pieces? I’ll be damned if I know. But I’ve got to do something to break through this block, and I’m hoping – desperately – that being accountable to someone else and having an externally imposed timeline will help me do it. I’m supposed to get four pages done before I have a phone conference with my mom tomorrow. I’m not there yet, but I’m going to stay at this damn coffee shop until I get there, if it kills me. Encouraging words are welcome.