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    Sobriquet 40.19

    Thursday, March 20, 2008
    Although I'd wanted to write a bit more tonight, I really haven't a whole lot of time to devote to blogging this evening. At any rate, I did begin the pre-writing phase of the chapter on The Master of Petersburg this evening. Surprisingly, I found the process considerably less painful than I had anticipated and I even found myself marveling at the number of directions the chapter could take. I doubt that this will match the length of my first chapter, though it seems there will be more than enough material to make this section at least long enough. Still, it is a nerve-wracking procedure.

    For me, the pre-writing phase has always been the most tedious of ordeals. I find that the closer I get to writing, the less I want to arrange notes and plot things out. In the past, I have had quite a bit of success simply arranging my papers mentally but, of course, those were briefer essays that required less extensive planning in the first place. One of the biggest lessons I learned while writing my Master's thesis several years ago is that while what worked in the past on shorter, less complex papers may continue to work on the longer, more intricate pieces required by graduate departments, it is much easier to write when one has taken his or her time preparing extensively. Now, for me, the biggest obstacle preventing such preparations had always been the rather brief windows of time I had to work on a given paper. See, the shorter the time in which I had to work, the more tedious prep work I'd have to fit into a short time span, which can be maddening. I am learning now that one of the luxuries of having a relatively open-ended project like a dissertation is that the boring busywork I had eschewed in the past as too time-consuming and mind-numbing to squeeze into a few days can now be spread out into weeks and broken up into a series of short, bearable sessions. After all, the study skills gurus always said that working in brief bursts rather than long marathon stretches enables students to retain more information and produce higher quality work. It's the same thing here. It's like having 100 miles to run. No one can sprint it but if a sprinter runs a series of 100-yard dashes, he or she would likely make the 100 miles in less time (minus the breaks, obviously) than if an ultramarathon runner ran straight through.

    I also began rereading Waiting for the Barbarians this afternoon and am enjoying it a good deal. Prior to Disgrace, Barbarians was Coetzee's most famous book, the one most likely to end up on university syllabi--and I am beginning to see why. It is immensely readable, immediately assessable, and chock full of the themes Coetzee is known for.

    For tomorrow: More of the same.

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