Monday, February 7, 2011


Last week I cleaned out the library study carrel with its dim north-facing window overlooking an uninspired set of campus buildings and returned the key to the professor who had kindly loaned it to me for more years than he probably expected. I guess I should shutter this little blog-space too, but I'm reluctant to because I don't want it to foretell a life outside the "writing room"; that is, a life without writing. I hope that I can continue to include writing in my life, just in a less angsty way. Unfortunately, this dissertation started to feel like it wasn't part of my real life, that it was something I needed to get through in order to start my real life. And then it started to feel like a dead end. It didn't help that I had decided that being an English professor wasn't the best fit for me for a multitude of reasons. Was it all for nothing, then? "You'll always be a PhD," someone I barely knew told me once, of her own non-academic trajectory. "No one can take that away from you."

So in hopes of a more integrated life, from now on I'll add content—writing-related or otherwise—at my everything-except-the-dissertation blog, Flossie at Home. There will be other writing rooms, I hope—but just with more of a view than this one.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Sorry to leave y'all hanging as to whether I ever got those dissertation revisions turned in. As I was in the midst of doing them, a new project appeared in my life, a little earlier than expected. But luckily, I was able to do a rush job on the revisions, make the final deposit deadline, and even walk in graduation. It's a good thing, too, because this new project promises to be quite time-consuming. What becomes of the writing room? I hope to be in it again sometime, though not literally in the library study carrel, which I wish I could ritualistically burn down. Instead I started cleaning it out, returning all the books I had checked out for my dissertation. That felt good.

Friday, November 26, 2010


I had my defense last Friday. I was extremely nervous and prepared lots of notes, but I ended up barely looking at them at all. The tone of the meeting was friendly: in retrospect, I'm glad I packed my committee with people who like me, and I'm glad I ended up with the time slot I did—3:00 p.m. on the Friday before Thanksgiving. Everyone seemed to be in a festive, and somewhat tired, mood—perfect for my purposes.

Now I just have to enter some minor revisions and formatting changes and submit it to the Graduate College. I can't believe I'm this close to not being a student anymore—a very welcome closure of a too-long chapter in my life.

The peeled-off stars above represent all the days I spent at least some time working on the dissertation since August 2008: 347 in all.

Since I'm not in search of an academic job, there's no immediate pressure to make the introduction into a book proposal or send out articles. So I plan to take a break from the library and try to spend my free time in ways less angst-filled and more enjoyable.

I think there's going to be some emotional fallout at some point—"What was it all for, why did I torture myself for so long, etc."—but for now it's worth it to have finished just to have proved to myself that I could to it, that I could get a PhD.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Turning It In

So, I turned in my dissertation to my committee at the beginning of the month and successfully completed the hoop-jumping exercise known as first deposit. I wish I could say I have been out walking on air these last couple of weeks, but I won't really feel relieved until after the defense on Friday. Or, really, until I make revisions, turn in the final deposit (deadline December 8), and it is accepted.

Having turned it in has made this difference in my life already, however: for the first time in two years, it is no longer my default plan to go to the library and work on the dissertation in the evenings and on weekends. I can make plans to go to a friend's house for Sunday brunch or attend an after-work yoga class or drive to Madison for the weekend without feeling guilty that I'm not doing what I'm "supposed" to be doing.

I really don't know how to prepare for the defense. I'm going to take the day before off work and read through it again. My advisor said to send her any questions I want her to ask, and she'll try to ask them. That way there will be some questions for which I have answers prepared in advance.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Sign

A couple of weeks ago, I opened a random literary magazine and the first piece was a collection of aphorisms. The first aphorism was, "If you can't take the first step, take the second step." I took that as a sign that I should go ahead and schedule my defense even though my dissertation isn't, strictly speaking, done yet.

Now the defense is scheduled—for November 19—and I'm busily finishing up the World's Shortest Conclusion and trying to educate myself on all the university's formatting requirements.

Every time I get another step closer to being done, I feel amazing! A nice change from despair—much more motivating.

The only thing I foresee being a problem (well, not the only thing, but a major thing) is that I still don't like my dissertation. I hate to be negative,'s really the last thing in the world I would want to "defend." Some faking of confidence might be in order.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Tiny High-Five

I've been given the go-ahead to schedule my defense, even though my advisor confessed to not having had time to read my whole dissertation (she read the intro). Which means that there will be vast swaths of the diss that no one on my committee has read. This makes me somewhat nervous. On the other hand, she also assured me that no one ever fails one's defense. The worst that can happen is two hours of unpleasantness, followed by a demand for revisions. At this point, I say, "Bring it on!"

Sunday, September 12, 2010


After another big push in August, I turned in a draft of my dissertation, sans conclusion, at the beginning of September, and have not yet heard back from my advisor. I fear she has bad news—i.e., that it's in no shape to defend anytime soon. Or maybe she just hasn't read all 186 pages yet—can't blame her for that.

I meant to spend the time waiting working on my conclusion, but somehow I've limited my dissertation work to checking my e-mail frequently to see if she's written.