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Dissertating Sucks!

Ok, real talk. Full-time dissertating sucks.

Sure, I have been working on my dissertation for years now, but it was in small chunks — a conference paper here, a blog post there, and lots of research and secondary reading to keep me busy.

Now, after years of preparation and build up, I have one job — write a book. It is an incredibly overwhelming feeling. Years of research, work, and expectations staring back at you on that blank computer screen. I was not prepared for just how difficult it would be to spend all day, every day writing.

When your only job is to write, it is completely maddening when you can’t. I was surprised that the words weren’t coming to me. How did I have nothing to say? I have thought of nothing else for years! And no matter what I did, I felt guilty. Guilty for staring at a blank screen and guilty if I did other things.

Day after day I pushed on and forced myself to write something, anything. Each day got a little easier and before I knew it I had 40 pages. I am not saying these 40 pages were great, but it was a start.

Unfortunately, full-time dissertating is a sad and lonely experience. Making any real progress means devoting large chunks of time and focusing on nothing else. Since returning home from Italy, there were many days (some in a row) when I didn’t get dressed or leave the house. I did make time to exercise and that has been a life saver.

Fortunately, after four weeks of dissertating alone in my apartment I left for California. It was just the change of scenery I needed. I have a residency at The Huntington Library and it is amazing here. It is like a dream come true for dissertators like me. A ridiculously stocked library, gorgeous grounds, and comfortable work spaces have already made me even more productive. I wish I could write my entire dissertation here!

It is still a long road ahead and I don’t foresee it sucking any less. Everyone I commiserate with says it does not get any better you just have to keep pushing!

Not the most uplifting the post today, but it is the truth. What ever you’re struggling with, just keep pushing!

Finally, if you have a friend or loved one dissertating, remember this is what not to ask them!