Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Hard on the heels of triumph, despair.

First of all, thanks to all who congratulated me on hitting the halfway mark. I can only hope that today's post doesn’t make me seem ungrateful for the support. But here goes:

Sometimes I wonder whatever made me think that revising the dissertation into a book was going to be a straightforward process.

Here's what I told people: Since completing the dissertation, I had figured out what the analytical framework tying it together should have been, and I'd done a bit more research in the archives, adding substantially to the data. My revision work would involve four things: 1) Rearranging the extant material into a new chapter framework that foregrounded the Big New Idea; 2) Incorporating the new materials; 3) Smoothing out the chapters to make sure that Big New Idea was threaded through all of them; and 4) Writing one chapter from scratch that went in depth into Big New Idea. Seemed pretty straightforward.

Except that it hasn't been. The chapters have been blocking me at every turn, being balky, and far from the "easy rewrite" I had assumed. If I don't keep a close eye on them, they wander far, far away from Big New Idea, and then I have to spend time herding them up again. Material that I spent months gathering for the dissertation is completely out the window (though I'm saving it in a "potential articles" file), and I keep waiting for the easy part to begin.

I know for a fact that nobody writes effortlessly. But does it really have to be this fucking hard?

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm sure you'll do famously! I don't know if it translates into what you're doing, but Rochelle's two professors were working on a text for their profession and spent a few years on it without completing it. One of them had already written his textbook years before too. I don't mean to discourage you, just to point out that the struggle is probably par for the course. By the way, the word verification for me this time is "eanfsh" which is frighteningly close to "earn fish." Is this some secret vegitarian code?

Anonymous said...

In my experience, yes. Revising the diss. is a terrible, soul-crushing, exhausting and largely unrewarding process -- and then, suddenly (or, in my case, after many, many years of labor), it's over and you've magically arrived at a book. I hope you get there quicker and with less agony than me -- but I think that's part of the process.

Belle said...

Maybe the secret is to let go of the angst and investment of the original structure, and that way it's a total rewrite, not a revision?

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