Saturday, June 18, 2011

One chapter ends, another begins

Dear readers:

Last Monday I submitted a draft of Chapter 2 to my advisor. I have to say, this went better than when I submitted a revised version of Chapter 1 earlier this year. There was no crying (but crying is ok), there was no hurrying to write at the last minute (although adding stuff at the last minute is ok too), there was no frustration about the finished product (ok, maybe a little, but not nearly as bad as with the last chapter). Although Chapter 2 still needs some work, I think it was a more articulate attempt at a dissertation chapter. I felt good about the finished product, even though I knew I still had work to do. I said what I needed to say, whereas with Chapter 1 there was so much I didn't do but wanted to do.

What made this chapter different? For starters, I wrote a lot during the whole process. I didn't write every day but I wrote almost every day. I didn't just write to put down my ideas on paper: I wrote to vent, I wrote to flesh out ideas, I wrote to figure things out. In the end, the focus of this chapter were my ideas. I wasn't overwhelmed by all the reading I did. In fact, I think I spent more time writing my ideas than reading criticism. This is something I want to adjust slightly for Chapter 3, but only slightly. Whereas before (when I started on my dissertation), I felt unsure because I thought I hadn't read enough, I was somewhat comfortable with not reading all of the PDFs in my Dropbox. Does this happen to any other dissertators?

The other thing that made this chapter different was I took time to edit. Two of my tweeps offered to read my very rough draft two weeks before my deadline. This gave me time to go through the chapter and tidy it up too. Their feedback was very helpful. it was also great to hear that, despite how rough it was, they were able to read it and understand what my big argument was. Pats on the back for me. :)

This week has been a break of sorts. I did take some time to do some freewriting and clean out my desk, but I haven't really done much. The past two days I haven't done anything about the dissertation, and I only cleaned out my desk today. I vowed I would keep up my routine and do something dissertation-related every day, but I think I really needed the mental break. However, I'm having trouble getting started again. I know I'm writing on West Side Story and Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun, but other than that I am stuck. With Chapter 2 it was easier to get started because I had already done some work when I ended Chapter 1. But here I am starting fresh. (I did write a conference paper on West Side Story for the Puerto Rican Studies Association conference a few years back, so that might be where this chapter starts.)

So instead of beating myself up about my so-called laziness, I am tossing the question out there: how do you start a new chapter? where do you begin?