As I am working through the writing part of my dissertation (as opposed to the reading, note taking and game playing), I am finding it hard to stay on task. I have always been a last minute drama-panic type of writer, and up until this point, it has always worked for me (managed to get my MA done that way…). As I have been gearing up for writing, I realize that the “last minute” style might not work on a document of this magnitude (in depth and length), and have been trying (that is the operative word in all of this) to get a little bit done every day. However, I find myself writing a lot less that I would normally, and seem to be spending an unbalanced amount of time editing and tweaking the little bits I have done instead of working on the bulk of the writing.
Every time I sit down to write, I find myself facing a wall of mental block. Not that I don’t know what I am supposed to be writing, what I have been planning on writing, but every sentence I type, I tend to cut and paste into a “save for later” document, which always ends up getting deleted within a few hours… I know that I have something to say – something worth saying… but when I have in-depth conversations with people about my work, and they start asking me questions that I cannot answer, instead of being inspired to break through, I get discouraged and stare at my document in-progress. I have been actively working on the same research question (in various degrees of depth and scope) since 2004 – I love my research and feel that if it comes together, can be a valuable contribution (something I’m told grad students tell themselves to get them through the painful writing process), but I am hitting a wall where I am afraid what I am writing is bad. That it’s all be said before, or worse, it hasn’t been said yet, but nobody cares. That I am using the wrong references, quoting the wrong people and getting the little things wrong. I know this is all part of the stress and anxiety of writing your dissertation, but I find it debilitating, and quite honestly, I have not left myself that much time to get lost in the mud.
I have spent the last 2 weeks working on something that should have been done in one (based on my perception of my own abilities). Some days I think it’s fabulous and polished, other days I just want to hit delete on the whole thing. Why is knowing that this is ‘normal’ and ‘part of the process’ not helping me break through and just ‘get’er done’!?
On that note, I will alt-tab back to my open document that has been sitting there patiently, waiting for more pages to join them, and get back to writing either a masterpiece or an intellectual train wreck.