Thursday, April 3, 2014

I ran out of words

After a long winter, I completed my dissertation revisions on March 16, 2013 and began to steel myself for my defense (April 26, 2013). I didn't get a sense of finality after my revisions and wondered why. I even went through the motions of post-defense, pre-final-submission revisions. I was remarkably detached from that process. The dissertation wasn't a living document, but just a large pile of paper with lots of words.

My graduation went on a month and a half later and even then felt no relief.

In the months between June 2013 and February 2014 I didn't write anything substantial. I completed a few article outlines, conference abstracts, and a few pithy blog posts but that was it. The one project I hoped would buoy my spirits and renew my interest in writing (Cookie Monster McLuhan) never really took off. I completed four lengthy articles with several others in the planning or outline phase. I felt, and continue to feel, so tired of writing. I lack(ed) focus and an inability to get back on that writing horse. Sure, I have great intentions and lots of great (or what I consider to be great) ideas but lack the motivation to actually do the work.

A prof in undergrad confessed that she didn't write anything for almost two years after she finished her dissertation. She felt as if she "ran out of words." I don't remember my reaction then, but her statement resonated with me throughout my dissertation writing and, secretly, I scoffed. No, I would continue my productive writing streak long into the future. I never tired of the writing or the revisions after long meetings with my supervisor, and I never asked "how long will this continue? When will this be over?" But now I empathize with that prof and understand how it's possible to run out of words.

I recently attended a conference for which I adapted a portion of my dissertation. I worked for three weeks to massage that paper into something useful. Of course, I'm also working a full-time, non-academic job. After working a full day, spending time at the library isn't actually conducive to productive writing and maintaining focus. Even still, the act of writing was painful and laboured. I hoped that the nearly year-long writing hiatus would have replenished my word reserve.

Something needs to happen soon. Conferences loom in the very near future, article deadlines approach, and guest lectures hang over me. At least my Facebook feed has a healthy dose of fresh content.

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