Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Good Days and Bad Days

I have been working on Chapter 1 for a while now. If you're keeping count at home, I've been working on chapter 1 since January 2010. But applying for teaching jobs, interviewing, having a baby at the end of the spring semester, moving halfway across the country weeks after that, changing jobs, and the like will affect your productivity. I managed to hand in a draft last November. It was 23 pages long; yes, you read that right: the draft of chapter 1 was 23 PAGES LONG.

I was worn out from thinking about Willie Perdomo and Langston Hughes for over a year. Heck, I've been mulling around ideas about home and urban space for over three years now. Thinking about space and home seems like second-nature to me (but that probably had little to do with dissertation--more on that another day). So when my advisor asked me to revise chapter 1 over the winter, I tried but nothing came out. I really had nothing more to say. Hence, the 23 pages.

I knew the chapter couldn't stay like that. But even though I loved reading Perdomo and Hughes, I really couldn't face that chapter another day. So I started researching chap 2. When I told my advisor, she initially agreed. I dove into re-reading Piri Thomas's Down These Mean Streets, looking for ways into the text to talk about home. However, my advisor recently asked me recently to revise chap 1 once and for all so that I have a solid chapter before I move on. I agreed.

She is right, even if I pouted for a little bit. I was on a roll, thinking about comparisons between Piri Thomas and Ann Petry. I had already started reading criticism on Thomas. I had a few pages' worth of notes. But I knew she was right: it has to be done. So I took it upon myself to finish this chapter by the end of this month...even though I'd be taking care of my daughter all by myself while Radioguy (my boyfriend) traveled to Arizona for Spring Training.

Yes, this sounds like crazy talk. Finish revising a chapter while you take care of an 8-month old baby and work, with no family or friends to shoulder the load? Yup. But postponing the trip was not an option. This is his job, and he loves it. I love my job too, and I respect and admire that he is as passionate about sports as I am about teaching and writing. And I've known since day 1 that there would be days like this where I'd be by myself. I'd like to think I've learned to manage them pretty well. Sometimes I even looked forward to them (hey, gotta look at the bright side of things, right?): I can make a light dinner for one if I want. I can watch tv in bed until I fall asleep (a single behavior that comes out when he's out of town). I can focus on my reading and writing when Miss E is napping. I get a little ME time. I thought I could handle revising; after all, I'd have a little more time on my hands.

But then I have days like today, where things go haywire and I fall off my hinges and don't know what to do. Then I sit down and mumble about how I should have finished that chapter in Binghamton, how I should've been done with grading, how I can't believe I am not yet finished with my PhD.

So I was glad to talk with my tweeps this am and get some positive reinforcement. I'm not the only one who wonders when she'll be done or the only one who wonders if she is just thinking crazy thoughts. They reminded me that having a community matters, even if it is a virtual community. And Radioguy reminded me yesterday that last year is over and done with. No use crying over the time I spent on my "shitty first draft." Just gotta move on and get it done.

Sometimes I have bad days. But then they turn into good days.

Goal for this month: extend chapter to 40 pages, minimum. Incorporate discussion of Sidney Bremer's text into chapter on Hughes and Perdomo.


  1. I think "Radioguy" is absolutely right. I also lost a year between a move, back surgery, and 24/7 job. To quote a movie I'm sure Elena could get down with (Kungfu Panda): "yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the "present." You have your hands full with work and Miss E, so just tell yourself you'll do 1-2 pages a day. And when you think on a subject too long, I think it gets intimidating, but it also means you know more about it than most anyone! Mwah!

  2. Thanks for the support, girlfriend. I knew I had to get back into posting, so I could get out of my funk. :) My mantra now is "I can do this." Cliche, but true. Other people have done it, I'm sure we can too. Tomorrow there's gonna be some writing. I will come back to report!