I submitted my dissertation last Monday, the 29th, two days ahead of my self-imposed October 31 deadline. After several short back and forth email with my supervisor and some small adjustments I uploaded the 4MB PDF to the appointment website, entered some 'meta data' and clicked "submit." After a brief pause, the browser confirmed that the file uploaded successfully and I received an email from school telling me as much.
That was it. Wow. I expected a bigger rush of excitement, relief, or any feeling other than supreme indifference. Maybe it's not indifference, per se, but a definite feeling of being underwhelmed. The whole document existed entirely on screen and never in printed form. I think the sheer intangibility of the digital work made it seem unreal somehow. I heard stories over the years of the madness trying to get copies printed and delivered to the Graduate Office in time. This process was easy, almost too easy.
When I finished the whole thing I was visiting a friend in a town north of Toronto. I went for the quiet and solitude to do productive work without distraction. I anticipated more rounds of small revisions and corrections but it didn't turn out that way. So I had two days until I went back to downtown. Gosh, what to do with this sudden glut of 'free time.' Feedback on Twitter and Facebook told me to 'relax' and 'take it easy.' How does one do that after a year and a half of living with a dissertation? It's not just a project, it's a lifestyle and when it's gone the emptiness of your daily schedule is as oppressive as too much work.
In the intervening week I've been out with lots of people who want to help me celebrate this achievement. I think they're more excited about it than I am. From their perspective, maybe now I'll stop declining invitations to dinner/parties/coffee get-togethers for the sake of finishing a chapter. But I've also decided that I simply can't give up work. I've not opened the dissertation PDF since I sent it off, but I've been hard at work on a few other non-academic articles, drafting blog posts, catching up on leisure reading from a pile of books that comes waist-high.
I remember in undergrad talking to one of the music profs about the stress of writing. She confided that she didn't write a thing for a year after she finished her dissertation. She felt as if all words drained from her mind. The well went dry. I feel just the opposite right now. I feel a great energy and enthusiasm to do more writing after completing this 200+ page document. I've got a few irons in the fire that I'll detail in a future post.