Finally…I have returned. It’s good to be back!
This Saturday I submitted Chapter 3 of my dissertation. I actually emailed it to my advisor late in the afternoon, and having it done way before midnight is such a great feeling. After weeks of freaking out over how I was going to finish this chapter in time, after tossing out of the window my weekly schedule and forcing myself to just sit down and write, I finally finished.The chapter is done, and I can breathe.
As I pulled out on Saturday morning my copy of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (I still rely on the Handbook instead of the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing, goes to show you how old school I am), a familiar feeling washed over me: “I am almost done.” Taking out the manual to format my citations and Works Cited list is not just part of the process of scholarly writing; it is a ritual. It is the last step of my writing. Although I am seriously considering using reference management software for my next two chapters (I think I might give Zotero a shot), the MLA Handbook will always be there at that last step.
Before I could pull out my MLA Handbook though, there was a lot of chaos that led up to that moment. My daughter was diagnosed with bronchitis. My laptop went into a coma. I developed a head cold. It seemed like the universe was conspiring against me, pleading me to tae a break, slow things down. Eventually I had to. Once I finished the rough draft last Monday, I had to take a day to rest and relax because I was starting to feel like I was fraying at the edges. Although I knew I would submit the chapter on time, I wondered how I would get it done.
So I had the weekend to chill out. However, the clock is ticking, and I need to get back to work pronto. You see, I spoke to my advisor over a week ago, and she gave me a deadline for finishing the body of the dissertation (chapters). My deadline is November 27. So, when November 27 rolls around, I will have written five (!) dissertation chapters. It took me a year to finally sit down to write my first five dissertation-worthy pages. (I know I wrote five pages because my mentor told me I needed to sit down, write five pages, and stop stalling.) It took me a year to write something that looked like a first chapter. (During that year I had a baby, packed up my apartment to move to Kansas City, started a new job, and took care of a newborn.) In less than a year I will have written four.
Now, how will I write two chapters in three months? I don’t know. All I know is: a) it has been done before by others before me b) it must be done. See, I have been a graduate student for seven years going on eight. But it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I reached my breaking point with grad school life when I had to deal with some paperwork drama. So Frazzled Me told my advisor I needed to finish by next Spring because if not I’d walk away from school. My advisor suggested I finish the draft soon so I can revise and defend next semester. That’s where the November deadline came about.
So, starting today, I’m working on chapter 4, a chapter on photography. This is actually a new chapter, something I didn’t have in mind when I first put together my prospectus. I recently read about Frank Espada, a photographer of the Puerto Rican Diaspora. Duke University recently received the photographer’s collection, so now I’m on the lookout for more info about Espada. My mentor suggested I look at Espada in comparison with Roy DeCarava. I have a feeling that my approach to this chapter will be different from the other chapters if only because I am less familiar with the subjects of this chapter than I was with the other three. It will be truly a process of discovery, and I’m actually looking forward to it.
At times like this, a song from Cracker comes to mind: “I see the light at the end of the tunnel now. Someone please tell me it’s not a train.” I need more Cracker in my life, seriously.