23 July 2010

On Inaction

I'm happiest when I make quantifiable progress: So many pages written, so many miles covered (by foot or by bike), so many cats herded. That's why I think this reading phase bogs me down. I feel. so. inactive.

For my diss writing process, I started in the middle and spiraled out, writing the six core case study chapters before much of the intro or implications sections. I did this in part because I find the case study chapters to be more fun and in part because I knew I could knock them out and gain momentum. And I did. I'm something like 170 pages in. Good for me. That was hard work.

Because I've had a few classes in qualitative methods and read a slew of case studies, I felt comfortable writing those case study chapters with my four major domains in place (pedagogies, articulations of class, being of use, and connection to the land; they've since been absorbed into two major categories, but that's not important here). I have around 20ish pages of an intro and rough lit review and a couple, literally two, pages of implications (which are pretty sketch and are throwaway, I think).

So now that I feel the core of my diss is written, I'm compelled to review my literature (that I've been reading pretty steadily since January, by the way) and start note-taking to knock out that full intro and lit review, before moving on to the "implications" section where I talk about similarities between cases, meaningful differences, the application to the field, and blah blah blah. What that review of the lit review is forcing me to do is slowly read, slowly note, slowly absorb a LOT of different ideas. I'm wired for movement. This week has felt frustrating and wasted, though I know it can't be. I have 88 pages of notes. I didn't just sit around. I did something. But I have a hard time convincing myself that I've done anything that counts, since none of this prep work gets me quantifiably closer to my goal.

I know, it's faulty thinking and thinking that might rush me through a very important part of my project, which is why I'm writing about it. I hear about scholars who could dwell forever in the research phase, only to put off the writing phase. I'm the opposite. Give me 50 pages to write over 50 pages to read any day of the week and twice on Sundays. I enjoy reading, but I get impatient. I am proud to say that I am working on skills and patience necessary for the future, so this sitting still and just reading is good practice.


Rabid Ink said...

I feel the same about reading versus writing. While I love reading, when I am in the reading process necessary for writing, it does tend to *feel* like I am making less progress than when I am actually writing. So, I totally identify with that. As I haven't started on the diss journey yet, I am sure I will be in for a rude awakening when I get there. You have made a great deal of progress with 170+ pages. But, I get what you're saying about being compelled to read slowly -- it can be frustrating when you're someone who is used to a quicker pace.

em said...

170 pages in! Great work!