Ms. Mentor’s column in the CoHE was even more incisive than usual this week (or do I think that because it was about dissertating?)
If you can isolate yourself totally from the stream of yammering humanity, do it for the first draft. Lock yourself in your carrel. Hide out in mountain caves. Let beauty-school students practice pedicures on you while you scribble.
Encourage roommates to surprise you with treats, but only on Fridays after 5 p.m. Ignore their grumbling. Put your fingers in your ears and chant, “La la la la la.” True friends will understand.
Many people, of course, won’t, and the Dissertation Era (which Ms. Mentor hopes will not be a Dissertation Decade for you, as it sometimes is for unfortunate literary scholars who must work as adjuncts in three places and grade thousands of compositions while grinding out their great opuses) may mean giving up on those people who, well, aren’t into you.
If we take this premise as given, the question then is how to isolate oneself from everything and everyone detrimental to writing.
As many folks do, I’m trying to nurture a career as well as writing a diss–connecting with people, working with associations, writing grants for my museum and generally professionalizing it, writing articles (this is only theoretical at the moment)… But the work I want to do doesn’t at all require a PhD (maybe an MLS, really, if anything), and practical experience in the field might count more for future employment. I need to be doing other things as well as dissertating–but that doesn’t mean that a lot of the social can’t drop out.
It comes down to this: when I finish the diss., I won’t have to worry about it anymore. I can devote my energies to other things. That rosy image of my future, plus my mountain hermitage, should help spur me to finishing soon.