(This is Stop #19 in the Texas A&M Building Writing Tour, my attempt to motivate myself on my dissertation by writing in every campus building before I graduate.)
What an amazing week. For four days, the University Writing Center staff locked us in a beautiful window-lined room in Evans library, so we could write, write, write.
We each had our own big table, where we could spread out our books, research articles, and chocolate. Each day, our Writing Center friends treated us to an excellent lunch. They said that if we left to eat, we probably wouldn’t come back. As one camper said, “they took care of us so we wouldn’t have to take care of ourselves.” They even fed us afternoon snacks—writing is hungry work.
Each day, we each had a 45-minute private coaching session with the same two Writing Center experts. Thanks to Nancy and Skully, my fantastic coaches, my Introduction and Methods sections are a thousand times better than they were the weekend before. (For the first three days, I spelled Skully’s name as Scully when I sent her my papers. I eventually got it right. Apparently she is an anthropologist who likes to play with skulls.)
Due to a hectic data collection semester last fall, along with some non-dissertation-related setbacks over Christmas break, my rate of progress had slowed nearly to zero in the six weeks prior to boot camp. I badly needed some momentum.
I found it.
In the past two years, I have become a believer in the power of a daily writing habit. In fact, oddly enough, my writing streak (writing 30 minutes every single day, no matter what) began on January 7, 2012, exactly one year before the first day of the 2013 Dissertation Boot Camp. I have made considerable progress by squeezing one-hour writing sessions into the end of tiring days, but that’s not enough. If I want to finish this thing, I need some 4-6 hour work sessions, long enough to wrestle with organizational issues and data analysis without constantly looking at the clock. (Short breaks are okay; I’m not crazy enough to write 6 hours nonstop.)
I don’t think I could write 9-5 for more than 4 days though. By Thursday afternoon of boot camp, I was exhausted and my brain was fried. I couldn’t write a coherent sentence no matter how hard I tried. I’m pretty sure my fellow campers felt the same.
But as tired as we were, we knew we had accomplished a lot in those four days. Three of us resolved to do our own unofficial boot camp, beginning the next Monday in Evans Library. Getting up at 7:30 a.m. is never easy for me, but I can do it if I know someone is expecting me.
Boot camp ended on January 10, and so did the free lunches, snacks, and private writing coaches. But that’s okay, because the boot camp organizers gave me a very special gift, a gift I can keep: Cheerleaders. Whenever I walk through the second floor of Evans library and see someone from the Writing Center, I can count on receiving a pat on the back and a kind word about my writing. To a graduate student, especially one in the dissertation-writing stage, words of encouragement are like gold. (They gave me a T-shirt too, but I value the cheerleaders more.)
Over the last two years, I’ve written many times in Evans Library, usually staring at the wall of a small closet known as an individual study room. I’m very glad I waited until Dissertation Boot Camp to put Evans in my blog. Thank you, TAMU Writing Center!
|Me at my writing table. It looks dark outside because it is. |
It rained most of the week, so nobody wanted to go outside anyway.