Mr. Cloudy's Shelter
A Place to Listen and be Heard
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2006-03-07 8:47 AM
a mini-dissertation on doctoral work
Here's a long story, probably not a very interesting read, but it details a big part of my adult life:
I don't know if I've said much about this, but in the early 90's I enrolled in a PhD program in Religious Studies (I already had a Masters in theology). My focus of study was the early Christian church. This attempted journey was fraught with peril, and I spent a great deal of it depressed. I don't know if I would have spent as much time depressed no matter where I was/what I was doing or not, of course, but ...
I came to a point wherein I didn't believe it was possible for me to finish, and I gave up working on it for a few years. Then, about 2 years ago, I suddenly had the feeling I might at least be able to finish writing the dissertation and turn it in. (The process overall was one year of basic coursework, qualifying exams, three more years of coursework, and then comprehensive exams, and then the dissertation -- turn it in, get feedback and revise, have it reveiwed by two other professors, revise, and have an oral defense.) Well, I did finally turn in that first draft, but my advisor was in his last year and he didn't get to reading it before he retired. But he did take it with him, and in early February I received word from him that he had read it and thought we could salvage it and possibly have me still earn my degree by December this year.
So, feeling quite a bit rusty and not entirely ready to try to be so disciplined as this requires, I'm trying to get myself back into the academic groove. So far I've rather enjoyed doing some of the reading, but I haven't yet totally buckled down into real discipline. But the time is at hand to start making this happen, if it is going to happen.
I've reminded myself lately of two phrases that helped me to finally complete my first draft. These phrases helped me to somehow feel free to do the work. It has generally never worked for me to just grit my teeth and make myself do it -- ends up bringing in a lot of counterproductive stuff for some reason.
"Your job is the quantity, God's job is the quality." -- from the book "The Artist's Way" by Cameron
I also got hold of a personal coach to try to exorcise a few figurative demons along the way that had a knack for bringning my work to a halt. She asked me what it would feel like to take on this phrase:
"Become willing to let the dissertation write itself."
Now if you ask me to verify that there is a God or that I believe in a God who is like the first phrase implies, I don't know if I can. And if you ask me to make total sense out of the second phrase, I don't know if I can either. How does a dissertation write itself? But somehow the rhetoric of these phrases had a persistent beneficial effect on my doing the work.
Anyway, although I'm not a fiction writer as many of you are, writing has been a very important part of my life, and so have my studies. Although I wouldn't expect anything career-wise to come out of completing this work, there would be a strong sense of closure, and a strong sense of having become willing to stare down some inner gremlins. And maybe a small sense of contributing something to the field as well.
So, I may post the occasional observation about the process here. And for those who've read this far, perhaps this peels off yet another layer of the onion that is Mr. Cloudy.
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