Monday, July 6, 2009

Only the lonely

Dissertation writing is hard work. I'm sure you knew that or at least guessed. Quite often it is difficult to get things written when you know you need to write but you have nothing to say. That has happened to me quite frequently. There have been several times when I have thought about giving up, but then I thought I am so close to being done that such a decision would be really foolish. The dissertation and comprehensive exams are important parts of academia. They provide a qualifier that someone with a Ph.D. has been judged by their mentors and their peers in the field to be of a certain level of expertise (unless you get your Ph.D. from a diploma mill--and it is sad that such places exist). It is also important that on the days that I get stuck that I remind myself how much I love teaching and how much I want to teach as my vocation. But writing the dissertation (or "paper" as my parents infuriatingly call it when they ask "are you done with your paper yet?") or taking comprehensive exams is such a separating experience. Obviously it separates you from your non-academic family members, both in terms of time and effort but than also the material you are trying to assimilate. Jenn could care less about how we should construct the colonial religous scape and how important Puritans should or should not be to that narrative--to be fair, I couldn't care less about the Medicare guidelines that consume her workday either. She is very supportive in other ways. Particularly when she asks, "Shouldn't you be writing instead of blogging?" But comps and the dissertation also separates you from your academic colleagues as well. So the end part of the academic qualification period can be a very lonely time--despite a system that stresses collegiality and the importance of scholarly engagement. It also becomes difficult in trying to explain what you are doing when people ask. "Oh, you are a graduate student?" "Yes, I'm working on my dissertation." "What are you doing it on?" "The importance of sentimental expressions of piety in evangelicalism and how prevalent such expressions are in evangelical religious practice." "I'm writing about Max Lucado." "Oh, I've read one of his books."

Plus out here in Oklahoma (read previous post), it is even lonelier. But at least I'm almost done. And I should probably get back to writing.

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