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    Sobriquet 48.21

    Sunday, November 30, 2008
    Well, I appear to have finished transcribing the first half of my notes on Disgrace. Again, the process is taking an excruciatingly long time, but my conviction remains that one's success in dissertation-writing emerges out of his or her ability to defer gratification. To me, a dissertation must be approached as an open-ended project. Sure, deadlines and such help an individual complete his or her given responsibilities within a reasonable timeframe, but the real trick, I find, is adjusting one's life to accommodate an approach to academic life that is similar to that of new exercisers and dieters. What I mean to say is this: just as an obese dieter or exerciser may ultimately want to drastically alter the appearance of his or her body, the dissertation-writer ultimately wants to finish his or her dissertation. The difficulty, of course, is that few people can achieve the results they want in a short period of time and, frustratingly, most people want the results immediately. The trick I alluded to earlier is in recognizing that you cannot really see much progress on a day-to-day basis and taking on faith the idea that such a chain of miniscule changes will, at some point in the future, amount to a significant change.

    That's where I am today: I see how small a step I have made and I have to look back to, say, May, in order to feel like I have made any progress.

    For tomorrow: More of the same.

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    Saturday, November 29, 2008
    Although I felt extremely stiff this morning when I woke up and while I did feel more than a little discombobulated for the first few minutes of the day, I did set aside some time to work on the dissertation. I transcribed a few more pages of notes and such and, while I would have like to have made a bit more progress, I am satisfied with the fact that I have continued making headway despite my recent setback.

    As the one year anniversary of this blog project looms on my horizon, I find myself a bit chagrined that I am still working on Disgrace, which was initially supposed to be the focus of the chapter I planned to finish by the end of this past February. Granted, I did write eighty-odd pages on the two novels preceding Disgrace, so the illusion of stagnation is not all that convincing. Nevertheless, I would like to finish the chapter on the novel soon . . . I think it will be a significant mental boost for me, a psychological milepost on what has been a peculiar intellectual journey. Strangely rewarding, all things considered, but one whose conclusion I welcome wholeheartedly.

    For tomorrow: Even more of the same.

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    ____________________________________________
    Thursday, November 27, 2008
    I spent most of Thanksgiving in bed, though I did manage to get up and walk around the house a bit. So far, the pain from the injuries I got in last night's accident has been quite a bit less severe than the doctors had implied it would be. I did not feel the need to take the Vicodin that the trauma center doctor prescribed for me so, despite having taken a bit of a knock to the noggin, I was clear-headed enough this afternoon and evening to attempt to work a little bit. Although sitting in the office chair at my desk was not the most comfortable of situations, I did transcribe a few more pages of notes on Disgrace, which was nice. If anything, showing myself that I can get a modicum of work done even under circumstances as unpleasant as those with which I am currently dealing is something of a morale booster. I mean, I don't think that I have fully processed the incident, but it is nice to know that I do have the ability to move on and persevere despite the rather strong urge to wallow in self-pity. As an added bonus, I suppose, the next time a student asks for an extension, citing some frivolous excuse or another, I can pull one of those "Well, I really can't sympathize with your plight because I once worked on a paper while strapped to a stretcher in between CAT scans!" Of course, that'd be stupid, but I do find that having a sense of humor helps one readjust to life in a time like this. Seriously, I find it funny that I worked on the dissertation when I may very well have narrowly escaped death. In fact, the humor in the situation was probably the major motivating factor. I can caricaturize myself now as some sort of zealously-dedicated workaholic, which is kind of amusing. (To me, at the very least). I mean, how utterly absurd. And that's really the truth of dissertation-writing: it is the absurd task par excellance. But you do it anyway because, really, you have to push the rock up the mountain lest it roll back on you, you know?

    For tomorrow: Try to get a bit of reading or transcription done.

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    ____________________________________________
    You know how I frequently begin my blog entries with things like "today sucked" or "today was a really difficult day"? Well, today really did suck.

    After driving into a solid wall of two-foot thick concrete at fifty-five miles an hour, I find myself sitting in my hospital bed in Scranton, Pennsylvania attempting to write about my dissertation. Here's the weird part, though: I really did work on my dissertation. Despite the neck brace and the CAT scans, despite the severely restricted movement and the constant tests, despite answering questions posed by state troopers, nurses, doctors, EMTs, and friends, I actually did work on my dissertation. And, yes, I did the work after I totalled my car. Admittedly, I needed help. For instance, I had to ask a nurse to dig in my backpack because -- being bound to a hard, flat surface and having my neck in a brace -- I couldn't reach The Rights of Desire myself. Later, when my CAT scan revealed that I could move, I dug out my laptop and did a bit of transcription. Not much, mind you, but I think the combination of shock, whiplash, depression, and excess adrenalin coursing through my veins is enough of an excuse not to do too, too much work.

    Now, beset by neck pain and assorted other aches, I think I am going to call it a night and attempt to take it easy until my awesome friend drives the three hours it will take to come and fetch me this early Thanksgiving morning.

    For tomorrow: Given that the doctor told me that I will be in a lot of pain tomorrow and given the very distinct possibility that I will be drugged on some sort of opiate, I do not know how realistic it will be for me to sit at a desk and transcribe anything. If I cannot do that, I will try to read a bit more of The Rights of Desire.

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    ____________________________________________
    Tuesday, November 25, 2008
    Well, I have been on campus all day today, meeting with students, discussing research papers I'll be grading next week and independent studies I'll be directing next semester. It's been a long few days but I did manage to keep up with the dissertation work. Even today, in between meetings with students, I got some transcription done on an old laptop, so I feel a teensy bit accomplished...

    For today: Ha! I already did some work; For tomorrow: transcribe a bit more.

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    ____________________________________________
    Thursday, November 20, 2008
    Although I spent much of the past couple of days taking care of the various chores I had been neglecting over the past few days, weeks and, in some cases, months, I have continued working on the dissertation each day. Yesterday, I made a bit of progress in my transcription work and I read a bit more of The Rights of Desire on Sunday. Unfortunately, it is that time of the semester . . . and finding the time and the energy I need to get much done has become considerably more difficult than I would have anticipated. I do think the bleak gloom of another Southern Tier autumn and winter has begun taking its toll on me and, emotionally, I lack a bit of the spark that was so present in the sunnier, happier summer months. Still, this is nothing new. But I am perhaps looking forward to a respite with more intensity than I would care to admit.

    For today, tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday: Read The Rights of Desire or transcribe.

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    ____________________________________________
    Monday, November 17, 2008
    Although I skipped posting anything last night, I did get some more transcription done, which was nice. I have to admit, I have hit that point in the semester where all the early mornings and late nights have begun taking a considerable toll on my spirits. Coupled with the ever-shortening days, the cumulative effects of long work days, class obligations, and administrative duties make working on the dissertation very, very difficult. Indeed, I am really, really looking forward to the semester's end. This isn't to say that I cannot wait for my classes to end, of course, because I have been loving this semester. My classes are wonderful, full of bright, eager students . . . it's simply the other stuff that is wiping me out. At any rate, I will try to read a bit of The Rights of Desire before bed tonight.

    For tomorrow: Read or transcribe.

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    ____________________________________________
    Sunday, November 16, 2008
    There really isn't a whole lot one can say about the tedious process of copying notes and highlighted passages, so I won't say much tonight. In fact, this is all I will say.

    For tomorrow: More.

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    Saturday, November 15, 2008
    I really did not think I would get much done today, but I did. This is at least partially due to the fact that Minxy got me out of the house for the afternoon and into the sunlight. Evidentially sunshine perks one up and inspires one to transcribe all evening.

    For tomorrow: More of the same.

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    Friday, November 14, 2008
    Whew. Today has been an exceedingly long day; I have been awake for a few too many hours now and, accordingly, I doubt I will write much of value this evening. Despite the fatigue, however, I did get a tiny bit of transcription taken care of, so I feel a bit closer to the writing stage than I did earlier in the day. Not much closer, mind you, but closer nonetheless.

    For tomorrow: More of the same.

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    ____________________________________________
    Thursday, November 13, 2008
    Today has been a terrible day for me. A variety of factors -- ranging from the accumulated fatigue of 3/4 of a semester's worth of work to a recent deluge of work and chores -- have combined to make me tired and cranky, two traits that, when combined, rarely result in a particularly productive day.

    Basically, the more work I realized I had to complete before day's end, the more I started moaning like a cartoon dental patient. Either that or, especially when reading, I'd fall asleep, allowing what could have been some solid hours of work, to slip away.

    Not surprisingly, I am still working despite wanting desperately to call it a night and will continue working for quite some time. Hopefully, by the time I reach for The Rights of Desire, I won't be too, too zonked . . .

    For tomorrow: Read or transcribe.

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    Wednesday, November 12, 2008
    There's really nothing I can write at the moment other than that I am very sleepy and still have some reading in The Rights of Desire that I would like to get to before hitting the hay.

    For tomorrow: Read or write.

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    Monday, November 10, 2008
    Having spent a good many hours preparing for classes and grading papers, I really haven't a whole lot of energy to write this evening. All I will say, then, is that I intend to read a bit more of The Rights of Desire before bed.

    For tomorrow: Same.

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    ____________________________________________
    Sunday, November 9, 2008
    I got a bit of transcribing done this afternoon. As boring and thoroughly tedious as the process can be, it does have some advantages. For instance, since transcription requires less intense concentration than either reading or writing, I can usually listen to music while mindlessly copying text from the page in front of me to the digital warehouse of my hard drive. Thus, although I did spend some quality time with J. M. Coetzee, I also enjoyed the company of, among others, T.S.O.L., 7 Seconds, and the Minutemen.

    For tomorrow: Read or transcribe.

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    ____________________________________________
    I did it. I finally finished all the criticism I had set aside to read to prepare for my chapter on Disgrace. When Raimond Gaita's quirkily insightful The Philosopher's Dog arrived in the mail this afternoon, I immediately set out to read what he had to say about Coetzee. When I had finished, I did one of those double eye blinks, let out a deep breath, slapped the book covers shut, and sat for a second. Finally.

    Finally.

    That was a long, long process and, as I have said, I am not looking forward to the long string of days to be spent transcribing notes and highlighting, but I am one very big step closer to the next very big step.

    Yesterday, though I did not write anything, was not lost. I continued reading The Rights of Desire, which is fast becoming one of my favorite books on the shelf of stuff I've read this year.

    For tomorrow: Read or, better yet, transcribe.

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    Thursday, November 6, 2008
    Well, although it's not yet half past eleven in the evening, I am going to have to call it a night. I'll probably read a bit of The Rights of Desire before the lights go out, but I am wiped.

    For tomorrow: Read or transcribe.

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    ____________________________________________
    Another long day, another short post. I am so tired of this chapter right now. Seriously, reading so much criticism has pretty much wiped me out and drained most of my energy for the chapter before I even begin writing. Ugh. Today, as a result of this exhaustion, has been a Thank God For Andre Brink day, meaning that I will just read a bit more of The Rights of Desire before bed.

    For tomorrow: Read or prewrite.

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    ____________________________________________
    Wednesday, November 5, 2008
    Well, today has been another long day, but I did manage to get a bit of transcription done this evening. I can sense that this stage of the chapter is going to be pretty tedious because of the sheer amount of time I will have to spend typing up the notes I have been making and the passages I have highlighted or underlined, but I suppose it is progress...right?

    At the moment, I find myself a bit overwhelmed by the many obligations I have. In addition to the dissertation work, I have a rather heavy pile of papers to grade, a messy home to clean, and lectures to prepare. Stress has, not surprisingly, become a factor for me and I find it difficult to focus on any one task because I cannot ignore the nagging feeling that I am not doing what I should be doing. And this is not a particularly pleasant feeling to have while copying notes. But, as always, I will push my way through. Ergo...

    For tomorrow: Read or transcribe.

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    ____________________________________________
    Tuesday, November 4, 2008
    I skipped last night's post because, as has been the case all too frequently lately, I could not get any work done until very, very late at night. I ended up reading another chapter in The Rights of Desire as well as a few sections of White Writing that may prove to be relevant to my dissertation. I did the same thing today, though I had the pleasure of skimming over a good deal of information in White Writing that was not pertinent to my own research. Still, I hate how much trouble I have been having getting any reading done. It seems that the last few essays are, by far, the most difficult for me to get through. With the end in sight, it sometimes feels like I haven't the energy to finish the run, so I hobble to the end. I should be there in a day or two, depending on when I receive the last reading that I ordered . . .

    Of course, I have been extremely distracted by the election that will be taking place today, so some of my difficulty can be attributed to the fact that I am in the middle of a grand debate about the future of the country.

    For tomorrow (i.e. today): Try to read or get some prewriting done in between voting and watching election coverage on television.

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    Sunday, November 2, 2008
    It seems that the closer I get to finally finishing the critical reading I have been doing in preparation for my dissertation chapter on Disgrace, the harder it is for me to focus. I suppose that, like Sisyphus, I feel the weight of my task more heavily as I approach the final push, but this has been awful. Still, I did read another essay on Disgrace and, actually, since I am still waiting for The Philosopher's Dog to arrive in the mail, the only reading I have left is a bit of Coetzee's own criticism in White Writing. So that, I guess, is a good thing . . .

    The procrastination with which I have been wrestling, though, has been of a particularly bothersome variety. Granted, I am glad that I took the time to study fractal geometry this evening, but I wish I could have gotten my reading done before three . . . and that's with the extra hour I gain by setting the clock back.

    For tomorrow: Read or prewrite.

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    ____________________________________________
    Saturday, November 1, 2008
    Well, it took me until half past three this All Saints Day morning to finish what I set out to do on Hallowe'en, but I did it. But, as it approaches four in the morning, I will have to put off writing about today (i.e. yesterday) until tomorrow (i.e. later today)...

    For tomorrow/later today: Same as today/yesterday.

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