Two years

One year ago yesterday in this post, I speculated that the annual Georgia-Florida football game would likely serve to remind me of comps and a subsequent roadtrip to Jacksonville. And if the past two years are any indication, then I am fulfilling this prophecy. I find it somehow appropriate that during this year’s game (formerly known as The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party), I was in Nashville interviewing some (formerly of Chicago) folks for my research.

I interviewed two different individuals at two different East Nashville coffee shops on Saturday afternoon. For various reasons, I was a little nervous about both of these, but my anxiety was completely unfounded. Both individuals were incredibly nice, and remarkably, both had new and different perspectives about Bloodshot and Chicago music than most of the folks I’ve already spoken with. As I pulled out the lovely city of Nashville, I had the brief and passing thought that I may actually write a dissertation, and that it may actually be interesting (it was brief, and I’m not letting it go to my head, because then I remembered that this nearly three hours of audio adds on to the billions of hours of interviews I still haven’t transcribed).

Last year, I was a little disappointed that I hadn’t made a ton of academic/dissertation progress. Well, this year, I completed and defended the prospectus, presented at a bunch of conferences and traveled quite a bit, and am pretty close to wrapping up the interviews and ethnography for the dissertation. And it seems that I have a realistic timeline to write a dissertation and graduate (and no, it’s not exactly soon, cf. billions of hours of interviews). So while transcribing isn’t necessarily happening (it will, it will, it HAS to, sigh), progress is being made.

But what might be even more exciting than all of this? Georgia now has a two-game winning streak against Florida, and Kentucky basketball is showing up on my DVR. Go Dawgs and Go Cats!

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One Sentence Conquered!

It was down to One Sentence. And after waiting, and waiting, and busying myself with all kinds of Other Academic Tasks that are not necessarily related to obtaining a degree, I mastered that sentence. Or at least came up with a sentence that Advisor approved. Now, the Prospectus is en route to the Grad School (by way of the Grad Coordinator Assistant in the School of Music)!

Just in case my last post on this whole process didn’t convince you, I revised the Prospectus. A lot. Here’s a small sample of some (but not all) of the different versions of the prospectus:

As the Prospectus is in transit, apparently, I, too, am moving… into the “writing” stage. To be clear, I have no idea about all that and what it really means. But for now, I shall be glad that one more item is checked off the Trying to Get a PhD list. Rejoice amain!

Happy Friday, y’all!

Remember when…

Remember that one time I wrote my prosectus? Yeah, me too! Didn’t it seem like it took forever?!? I know, right? And I’m so glad is ov… but, er, well, I’m still not quite finished with that.

Last night I sent what *could* be the final draft of the prospectus to Advisor. It was down to One Sentence, and I’m hoping that One Sentence will do its job. This is, of course, a process that has lasted at least six months, and that’s only counting the part when I was attempting to type words into a word processing software.

This process is often hidden. While everyone knows writing a book (or book length project) takes time, few realize the process of such a project. Part of my assistantship is to go through all of the course evaluations completed by undergraduate students who have taken our writing courses. Overall, our numbers are overwhelmingly positive, and students greatly appreciate help with their writing.  But there are always a few that are negative, idiotic, or even shockingly hostile. I’ve done this for three semesters now, and my absolute favorite comments (from a second or third year undergrad, mind you) go something like this: “I already know how to write, so this class was a waste of my time,” or “I’m a pretty good writer and I don’t think [TA’s] feedback was helpful.” Really? Isn’t that precious?

To such comments, I reply:

Once upon a time, I struggled to start writing a prospectus. And then, I wrote a version of it, and revised it. And added to that and came up with a complete draft. And revised some more. And even more. And, well, you get the idea. Then, I sent it to my committee. And then, I even Defended the Prospectus! Hooray!!!

Oh, but wait. I then revised three sections again. And revised them again. And then revised two of them. And again. And then one of them yet again. And again. And then it came down to the One Sentence.

So, bless your heart, dear student, bless your heart. It’s possible you Really Do Know How to Write. I used to think that, too. But I have a feeling that we’re all just beginning to get the idea of Knowing How to Write.

What I know is that this six-month writing process has been Really Really Hard. And once I’m assured that One Sentence is serviceable, I will reflect on how this process has been so rewarding and satisfying, etc.

But until then, I think it is wise to not hold my breath.

A blog post to accompany an updated prospectus

Writing direct and clear academic prose can be quite difficult sometimes, ok, most of the time. I’ve had a terrible time adding changes to the prospectus. New content that I’ve tried to add only adds more confusion, rather than the intended (and required) clarity.

Advisor suggested I start with the chapter projections for major changes and updates, and I did. And it was challenging, to say the least. As I transition to thinking of this as a series of research essays that I will write rather than an abstract set of ideas, I’ve had to begin thinking of each chapter as at least somewhat thesis driven. This is, of course, something I should know about. Of course, the next step was to chunk the research questions, which affected the methodology, which… well, you get the idea.

I just sent Advisor the updated draft, and it took much longer than I expected or desired to get it to a “send-able” state. Despite what inexperienced academic writers (sometimes known as undergrads, but not always) would have you believe, churning out a “paper” at 2 a.m. the evening/morning before it’s due is not, in fact, writing (really, I should know, I mastered this practice in the earlier parts of my academic career). Instead, writing is a process, at times grueling and painful, and at times highly rewarding and satisfying. These things are not mutually exclusive.

But it’s always messy at some point. Drafting/revising/drafting/revising is not neat, and often needs to be a mess before anything meaningful can come of it. It would be hyperbole to say that this most recent part of the process was “grueling,” but it was incredibly messy.

Now, we wait and see what happens in the phone date tomorrow!

Wait, you actually expect me to…

The Prospectus was almost adequately defended last Friday. I say “almost” because, of course, there are some changes that need to be made; “adequately” because all committee members signed the form that will eventually get turned into the Grad School, even if Advisor is currently holding it hostage.

I thought the defense was quite stressful and difficult, more so than I was expecting. There were a couple of really hard moments, but overall, the discussion was good and helpful, along with a lot of great feedback. And now I have to incorporate those into my document.

But here’s what I can’t get over. There were moments in the discussion when I realized that we weren’t just talking about some document. We/they were, in fact, discussing a project that someone was going to do... someone, as in ME. No, seriously. This is my dissertation project.

Yes, I know. That was and has been the point of this whole ordeal. But this reality came upon me suddenly (ok, as suddenly as it could, I suppose) and in subsequent waves. As my committee discussed the project, I kept having these thoughts of, “Ah, yes. If one were actually doing this thing, then that would be a very valid concern,” or, “Oh right, yes, someone doing this project would very much need to figure that out…,” which inevitably led to, “OH CRAP. That’s me. I’m going to do this.”

So, yeah. Uh, now, I’m supposed to revise the Prospectus, taking into account the fact that I’m expected to actually conduct this research and write this massive document. And I still think that’s all a bunch of crazy talk.

Crazier…

I started this week with a post entitled “Crazy.” As it’s a fitting descriptor for my mental state this week, I’m following up today with “Crazier.” I can provide a very reasonable explanation as to why I shouldn’t feel so crazy, but that reasonable explanation and my reality haven’t been talking much this week. This “crazy” has not exhibited itself through any sort of histrionics nor physical symptoms, really. Instead, it’s been all in my head (wait, maybe there’s another word for this…).

In my journey toward “comma PhD,” there have been hurdles (figurative), sleepless nights (literal), procrastinating (lots), stress, undergraduate papers and grading, loads of reading and writing, grad school paperwork, happy hours, frustration, and meetings upon meetings upon meetings. In retrospect, I am certain that I was much better at the first four years of PhD grad school than the past year of stuff. As it should be, I suppose, since those first four years were a matter of doing Things I Had Done Before, just a harder, more onerous, more taxing version of those things (i.e., school). I have come to learn that I am quite good at Being Busy and Getting Stuff Done.

This past year and half has turned all of that on its head, so to speak. I have had to do Things I’ve Never Done Before, like become an expert on a particular field of study for comps, interact with Scholars, envision a large-scale research project, and also explain in painful detail how to carry that project through.

And now, as I am facing something else altogether new and different, such as say, writing a dissertation, I am simultaneously horrified and terribly excited.* The prospectus defense stands as the culmination of this craziness. It is the doorway to the next part of this journey. It is a challenge to explain myself to a room full of very smart and accomplished people. It is another hoop through which the grad school will have me jump.

It’s what I’ll be doing this afternoon.

Happy Friday, y’all!

Crazy

I feel crazy today. Crazier than usual, at least. Perhaps it’s because I didn’t do a ton of work this weekend and now it’s Monday. Or simply because I’m out of practice when it comes to doing work (cf. Christmas break). Or it might be that this is the 90th post here and it’s supposed to be CRAZY, yo. Or uh, maybe it’s because the Next Big PhD Hoop to Jump Through appears this Friday (more on that later).

It’s also possible the crazy is residual from yesterday. At one point prior to the beginning of the 9:30 service, I looked at the countdown timer and it read 28 minutes and change, and I thought, “Sweet! Plenty of time to take care of [insert long list of Stuff].” Of course, I was wrong. It wasn’t plenty of time at all.

At 1:40 and counting, I was running (unfortunately, literally) to put something on the stage and running back to the booth as we were under 30 seconds, and I still had not gotten to a couple of things that didn’t need to get done, but that I wanted to get done. If I thought we were rusty last week, yesterday felt a bit like a foot race leading up to 0:00.

Next week. Next week will be the not-rusty, not-crazy, just another week of Doing the Same Thing. Except that beginning next Sunday, we’re starting up something new for the entire church. One of these days 🙂

In the mean time, in order to feel a little less crazy, here’s Patsy Cline singing the song: