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    Sobriquet 62.18

    Sunday, January 31, 2010
    I haven't been having the most productive of stretches. I had hoped to finish rereading Coetzee's Youth a day or two ago, but I found it remarkably difficult to focus on reading. Part of this difficulty has no doubt been the result of readjusting myself mentally to the routine of a new semester, which can be challenging for an individual like myself, who eschews waking up early in the morning yet regularly ends up with early-morning classes...

    But school-adjustment (and its resulting fatigue) is only part of the problem. The other part is a mélange of extreme burnout, vocational anxiety, and a strange sense of unease with my current bit of writing. It's funny. What is arguably the easiest -- and according to some people -- the least important part of the dissertation, has turned out to be the most nerve-fraying part of the whole project. Perhaps this unpleasant emotion is simply the surfacing of all the negative feelings and worries I'd been able to ignore when the bulk of the project was unfinished, when the conclusion of grad school was still sitting at some as-yet unknown point in my future: I don't really know. Still, it has made working rather difficult at times.

    At any rate, I have done more socializing over the past couple of days than I have in quite a while, which took up most of my weekend. This included an epic two-hour chess match (epic in length, I should say; neither I nor my opponent are particularly good at the game), a few nice meals, a lot of wonderful conversation, a bunch of music, some movies, and more conversation. The socializing I have enjoyed these past couple of days, fortunately, seems to have invigorated me a little bit and I finally made some real headway in my reading this evening. I intend to continue reading for a while this evening before going to bed and, hopefully, I can start February off on a positive note.

    For tomorrow: Read, plan, and/or write.

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    Wednesday, January 27, 2010
    Since it is getting late (by school night standards, that is) and I have only done a little reading for my dissertation, I will not spend a whole lot of time writing tonight and, instead, try to read some more before going to sleep.

    For tomorrow: Read and/or write.

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    ____________________________________________
    Tuesday, January 26, 2010
    Naps are beautiful, beautiful things sometimes.

    One of the biggest worries I had coming into the semester has been a concern for how working five days a week would affect my dissertation schedule. For the past two years, I have worked very long (my days would often exceed fourteen hours) Tuesdays and Thursdays so that I could secure long weekends for writing. Sometimes this strategy worked wonderfully, giving me a regular pattern of school-free clusters during which I could research and write my dissertation. Other times, working fourteen hours and driving two hundred miles twice weekly would result in my sleeping through a significant portion of Wednesdays and Fridays. So it had its ups and its downs. This term, as I have mentioned, I am working five days each week, just like a normal person. Only my work days will involve no more than seven hours of my time, driving included.

    It's odd. I feel like I have less time because I have fewer "off" days, but I'm also unaccustomed to finishing work by, say, two in the afternoon, relaxing for a while at home, napping for a couple of hours, and waking up as fresh as the proverbial daisy, all ready to sit down and write. But that's exactly how today panned out for me. I ended up revising the paragraph I had written a couple of days ago and with which I had found so much fault yesterday. It is now two longer paragraphs with which I find significantly less fault, so I am closer to feeling satisfied with myself than I felt yesterday.

    Like I said, naps are beautiful, beautiful things sometimes.

    Still, now that I have elaborated this one particular sub-section, I feel the distinct need to expand the concluding bit of this mini-section of the chapter before moving on, so I may spend the next day or two preparing to do just that. Either way, I have made some progress and am, for better or worse, that much closer to being finished with this monstrosity of a dissertation!

    For tomorrow: Read and/or write.

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    ____________________________________________
    I'm going to be brief this evening because I really want to get a little bit of reading done before I go to bed. I am currently working on plotting out the next mini-section of my introduction, so my reading is largely a review of material with which I am already familiar. While this makes it easier to read, it also makes it more difficult for me to focus because I have a nagging sense of "I know this already!" drawing my attention away from the task at hand.

    One thing worth noting is that I have been quite uncomfortable with some of what I wrote yesterday and I may have to delete, rewrite, or otherwise heavily edit the offending bit of text before I can even feign satisfaction with the chapter. I hope to work on that tomorrow.

    For tomorrow: Prepare for the next mini-section and/or address the unsatisfactory passage.

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    ____________________________________________
    Monday, January 25, 2010
    I am thoroughly exhausted at the moment. It's 1:30 in the morning and I have been working, more or less constantly, for ten consecutive hours. The majority of the time went into designing the syllabi for the four courses I will be teaching this semester, though I did set aside a solid chunk of time to devote to writing my introduction. I have finished the first mini-section, which is nice, though each subsequent mini-section will be more difficult, so I do not feel particularly accomplished yet. The doubts about the quality of my writing have begun pestering me already, though.

    For tomorrow: Begin preparing for the next mini-section.

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    ____________________________________________
    Sunday, January 24, 2010
    I began writing my introduction late this afternoon. One of the challenges I face in writing this introductory piece is that, fundamentally, an introduction is quite a bit different from a regular dissertation chapter. I'm not used to writing about that which I have already written, for instance, and I am totally unaccustomed to the comparatively superficial type of commentary an introduction requires. Thus, when it suddenly struck me that I was basically prepared to begin the first section of the intro -- that after a very brief bit of prewriting, I was ready to hit the keyboard -- I was kinda dumbfounded. I mean, I had expected to do some more reading, some more review, some more prewriting. And I will, for each subsequent mini-section. But this first one? I'm good to go. So I went.

    For tomorrow: Try to write a bit more in between the preparatory work for the immanent semester. Or, at the very least, read up a bit for a later mini-section.

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    ____________________________________________
    Saturday, January 23, 2010
    I got a bit of reading done today, which was nice, but my real progress came when I sat down and wrote up a preliminary outline for the introduction. While I fully intend to expand upon what is, at this point, still a very basic outline, it is a huge step in the right direction to have finally, decisively taken a real step towards beginning the writing process.

    For tomorrow: Read and/or begin fleshing out the first section of the outline.

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    ____________________________________________
    Friday, January 22, 2010
    Although it took me a while to settle into my reading this afternoon, I eventually made some progress. I'm still struggling to focus on my task, which I suspect owes as much to burnout as it does to the fact that, for all intents and purposes, I already know -- and in some cases have already read -- the material I am looking over. There's certainly a deep restlessness, an anticipatory eagerness that makes jumping the gun and just starting to write without having finished all my preparatory measures seem really appealling. I recognize the presence of this jumpiness and hope that I can, by writing about it here, channel my energy into more productive behavior. So, I will try to read a tiny bit more before bed tonight and, after running a few errands, try to pick up tomorrow where I leave off this evening.

    For tomorrow: Read.

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    ____________________________________________
    Thursday, January 21, 2010
    I'm going to keep tonight's post very, very short and just say that, after a day of really struggling to focus on my reading, I finally managed to review a little bit of critical material before bed. I'm not too pleased with my progress but, having just spent a week working at a dramatically more intense level than that to which I have grown accostomed, I reckon my body and mind pulled a very natural, though admittedly frustrating, revolt. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day.

    For tomorrow: Read...and try to read more than I read today.

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    ____________________________________________
    Wednesday, January 20, 2010
    Well, I did hunt down a few hundred pages of critical material on Coetzee that I want to (re-)read prior to beginning the introduction. Fortunately, I am familiar with the vast majority of the literature, the only significant exceptions being studies that have been published in the short time between when I finished my chapter on Disgrace and now.

    Since it is late, I will keep this entry very brief and just say that I will try to do a little reading before bed.

    For tomorrow: Read.

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    ____________________________________________
    Tuesday, January 19, 2010
    I finished transcribing the notes on and quotes from the philosophy I spent the better part of a month reading earlier this evening. All told, I typed fifty-three single-spaced pages over the past couple of days, so I am, needless to say, pretty tired of looking at my computer. Still, I want to look at this glowing rectangle a bit longer, so that I can at least make a brief entry tonight, if only to to acknowledge that, had it not been for my desire to complete the task I assigned myself here last night, I probably would not have finished tonight. So, yeah. Once again, my blog project has helped me work my way through a tough spot.

    On a nice note, the frustration I have been feeling lately as a result of spending so much time transcribing stuff seems to have had at least one postive effect: I have turned to exercise as a means of stress reduction.

    For tomorrow: Read and/or hunt down the remaining bit of critical literature I need to review.

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    ____________________________________________
    Monday, January 18, 2010
    One of the most frustrating things about transcription is that the activity can become almost unbearably tedious if you're at it for a prolonged period of time. Today, for instance, was one of my "difficult" days, and I really got struck with what I can only describe as transciption-induced cabin fever. I mean, I did manage to type up what I'd hoped to get done today, but there were a few moments of pure nuh-uh! where I had to wrestle with myself in order to continue. All I can say is that sometimes taking a stroll in the rain can really take the edge off, which is exactly what I did in order to center myself a bit. And it worked splendidly.

    For tomorrow: Try to finish the transcription and/or read.

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    Sunday, January 17, 2010
    Although it took me quite a bit longer than I had hoped, I did manage to finish transcribing the nearly thirty pages of notes I took from the several hundred photocopied pages of critical and theoretical material I'd been working with this week. This means that I have another batch of notes to transcribe from the nearly six hundred pages of philosophy I'd spent much of December reading, a few days' worth of reading over Coetzee criticism, and then it'll just be a bit of review, some outlining, and writing.

    But, damn, this stuff is wearing me out.

    For tomorrow: Transcribe and/or collect and review criticism.

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    ____________________________________________
    Friday, January 15, 2010
    I transcribed about eighteen single-spaced pages of notes today, and it looks like I will have a couple more days of transcription ahead of me before I am through with the massive pile of notes and quotes I pored over on Wednesday and Thursday. As usual, everything seems to take me much longer than I would like it to take, which is frustrating. From some perspectives, I am probably making this project more difficult than I need to make it, but I really cannot imagine doing this in any other way than exactly the way I have been doing it all along -- which is to say, as comprehensively and exhaustively as I can. And I am making progress. Just not as quickly as I would like.

    I also read and reviewed some material on Coetzee criticism, refreshing my memory in preparation for the introduction which is, despite my lamentations, not too far in the future.

    For tomorrow: transcribe and/or read.

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    Thursday, January 14, 2010
    Whereas I was pleased with my ability to plow through a couple hundred pages of photocopied material yesterday, I spent a good chunk of today irritated at myself for procrastinating. In the end, though, I finished my review of the massive pile of photocopied literary criticism I'd set before myself and, while I still have a few days' worth of research and review left ahead of me, I can finally begin the process of transcribing notes and quotations that heralds the beginning of the pre-writing phase. Most of my remaining reading, furthermore, will actually be a general review of material with which I am already more than cursorily familiar, so it should not be as time-consuming as it might otherwise be. I sincerely hope that I can make some serious headway on both fronts in the next couple of days. For now, though, my brain needs a break and I think I will hit the hay a bit earlier than usual for precisely that reason.

    For tomorrow: Transcribe and/or read.

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    ____________________________________________
    Wednesday, January 13, 2010
    I had a hugely successful day today, plowing through the majority of the remaining theoretical material I'd set aside for myself. Still, with the semester fast approaching, I can't help but feel a good deal of stress as I try to position myself to begin writing the introduction sometime in the next fortnight.

    For tomorrow: Try to get through the remainder of the theoretical material.

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    ____________________________________________
    Saturday, January 9, 2010
    Cincinnati, OH

    Part 1: Somewhere Outside of Akron

    I am writing this on a bus en route to Cincinnati, where I will be attending tomorrow evening's AFC wild card game between the Bengals and Jets. Besides the obvious draw of the football game, I had hoped to use the bus trip to get some work done for my dissertation, reasoning that a dozen hours on board a bus would provide me with a relatively quiet, distraction-free stretch of time during which I could get in some serious reading. And, while I have been able to get some reading done, I have been struggling to focus because the bus driver for the longest leg of the trip -- Buffalo to Cincinnati via Erie, Akron, and Columbus -- has been screening movies the entire time. Now, I appreciate his genuine attempt at making a long bus ride more enjoyable for his passengers, but I wish listening to (if not watching) Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Night at the Museum II, and Casino Royale (so far) were not mandatory. I mean, we're constantly told that we should keep cell phone conversations to a minimum and to "make sure that the volume on any personal electronic devices should be kept low enough to ensure that no one other than the user will be disturbed" by hearing it. And, for the most part, people follow these rules. This was, in fact, a tendency I was hoping to make use of on my bus trips in order to get work done away from the distractions of my home that have, in recent weeks, slowed my dissertation progress considerably. Needless to say, the irony of an employee and the company disregarding an institutional policy is not lost on me. So, I will continue trying to read just as some of my fellow passengers attempt to sleep with explosions and assorted other special effects rumbling in the background and predictable dialogues wash over, through, and into our respective consciousnesses. Perhaps I will write a bit more later on. Hopefully, I'll be able to report having made a bit more progress despite the difficulties I am having focusing with Judy Dench's voice shouting in my ears...

    Part 2: Columbus

    Well, the bus driver kindly turned the volume down on the in-cabin stereo system, so it has been a bit easier for me to read. Now, if only the old guy smoking pot in the bus's bathroom could've waited a couple of hours and didn't stink up the entire cabin, this could've actually turned out to be a halfway decent place to get some work done. Seriously, that shit stinks something fierce.

    Casino Royale has just ended. I dread the next film... I spied a few possibilities in the driver's collection that could be really, really painful.

    And, thanks to a vote among other passengers (I abstained), Airforce One is slated to blare from here to the Queen City. For what it's worth, we'll be spared Wild, Wild West . . .

    Part 3: Cincinnati

    Since there's hardly any wifi at the hotel, I'll keep this brief and just say that, while I did not get quite as much reading done as I had hoped, I did make some significant progress and will read a bit more before bed.

    The Queen City, by the way, is beautiful.

    For tomorrow: Read.

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    ____________________________________________
    Friday, January 8, 2010
    The reason I've not written anything here since late December is because I have been doing exactly the same thing every day. I'm still reading the huge pile of theoretical material I want to get through before writing the introduction to my dissertation and, while I have made some real progress, there's not been a whole lot to say. If anything, I have been rather frustrated with the slow pace I have been on and the anxiety I feel to make some real headway before the beginning of the semester has been a constant stressor. Still, I am getting where I need to go, but excruciatingly slowly.

    For tomorrow: Read. A lot.

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