I remember when I first started university, most people did not have a personal computer, institutional emails were newly assigned in my second semester, but I rarely had the time to go to the computer lab on campus to use it (and realistically, I only knew a handful of other people who used email at that time). My assignments were allowed to be handwritten (as long as it was legible) and professors preferred that students invest in a typewriter to submit ‘clean’ copies. I remember when I could afford a typewriter with a small screen that allowed me to type up to a certain amount of characters before it ‘printed’ onto the paper, which saved me a bit of paper since I could delete as I wrote. It still wasn’t perfect. While I did have an erase function (basically, liquid paper reservoir of sorts that hid the impressed ink), I remember having to throw out entire pages due to some formatting or structural error. So much paper (and ink cartridges) wasted (even if I did have pages and pages of handwritten drafts!).
As I am sitting here today, 17 years later, I realize that I really miss my mounds of yellow legal pads that had paragraphs, notes, brilliant sentences (or so I thought at the time) all organized into manila folders for reference as I tried to piece together my assigned paper. While a lot ‘cleaner’, the folders that are obsessively organized on my laptop are hidden, out of view – and more often than not – out of mind. So many times I have written a paragraph, realized that only half of it fits, so I cut and paste the rest of the phrase onto a new word doc to be saved and filed for later. Trouble is, lately it seems, that I can never seem to find that document with the one phrase on it, or I deleted it thinking it wasn’t useful only to be saddened by the fact that it’s gone when, two weeks later, I find the perfect spot for it…
The idea of digital drafts is a great one – easily manipulatable, cut and paste has revolutionalized the way I write papers, but I find myself losing the bits and pieces and having to start fresh again (adding to the hidden mountain of work). When I really want to know if a chapter works, I still need to print it out, and read it semi-aloud in order to ‘hear’ the flaws in the flow, grammar or structure. I still need to print off umpteen amounts of pages to see if what I am working on “works” – which has got me thinking as to whether or not I should simply print each stray phrase and paragraph and file them in a physical folder on my desk – while I might not save time in having to retype the words, it would surely balance the time lost looking through all my files and folders on my computer.
I am full force into the writing stage of my PhD – I am aiming for a March deadline for a full draft. My first bit of feedback was not quite what I was expecting, but I must remember that this writing thing is a two way street. One’s expectations might not quite match to that of the institution’s (or those who represent the institution). But that is hardly the real problem in all of this solitary writing experience. The real problem – at least for me – is that the more time I sit alone with my research – my notes and outlines, drafts and screenshots – is that I sometimes lose my point or start to doubt my purpose.
I used to be so driven and excited – I was out to prove something – to express what was trapped inside my head. These days, I feel like the words that propelled my writing have all but escaped me. My passion to demonstrate – to prove my point – has escaped me as well. I am sure it is just a phase. Surely a phase that many people go through while writing such a large document… I just need to find my way back to that passion that leads to the words flowing out of my fingertips onto the page so that I can have something to edit – to polish and make pretty.
On that note – I will open my the chapter in progress that has been haunting me for the last month and hope the sun shining through my office window will help illuminate my mind and get this done so I can move on to the fun bits (game analysis!!)
While puttering around the web, drinking my coffee, trying to avoid the heavy black words on the looming word doc that peers through my task bar, I stumbled upon this blog boasting an amazing photo-essay on North Brother Island in NYC.
Via Simon Dor‘s twitter (thank you btw) http://www.economist.com/node/17723223
The value question in the article is related to work / income and not necessarily intellectual enrichment – but there are some alarming stats and sad realities painted if you are – like me – hoping to make your life in academia after the PhD …
Thanks to my good friend over at Bug-eyed Bistro for this one – it is one of those things that are both comical and sad at the same time…
For the 7th time! Incredible to think that I started this blog during my bachelor’s degree, and here I am, in 2011, the year I am to graduate my PhD !! I am still stunned when I think about it. When I started this blog, I was muddling my way through academia – unsure of my future, hoping to simply complete a degree I had started several years prior. Amazingly, here I am. SSHRC funded, in the final year of my doctorate degree, with fingers crossed for postdoctoral funding in the fall….
That being said, the next few months will be hell. Self-inflicted, as 2010 seems to have escaped me with less written than I had anticipated, I am busting my butt to get a draft of my dissertation done for early March. In light of this, I am hoping to use my blog as a thought / writing outlet and a place to ease my angst when the going gets tough – and of course, for any distractions that I might find interesting enough to share . But I aim to keep my distractions minimal and at least related to my writing (for the next little while).
Hope the end of 2010 was well celebrated, and that 2011 brings you all that you hope for. I hope that I can finish my dissertation, and so, my tattoo!