I came home from the field in time for last Christmas with no intention of beginning on my dissertation for a couple of months. It had been 2 years since I’d seen my family and friends, and on top of that I needed to prepare a syllabus for the first class I would be teaching on my own (as a lecturer rather than as a TA). Besides, I was advised to take a break before delving into writing.
So in the beginning I wasn’t worried, but as the weeks passed and I still hadn’t written anything I began to worry. The problem was I didn’t know what to write. It was the strangest thing. I spent over 2 years (close to 3) in the field and had a mountain of data, but I was so overwhelmed by it all that I couldn’t start.
169 days into being home the first words finally came to me.
It was nearing the end of the semester and a lot had changed for me during the last few months. I needed to get back on track. So for 1 week straight I went out every single night with coworkers and classmates. Now, this wasn’t actually on purpose, but I think it helped. Normally this wouldn’t even be possible, but it was the end of term and everyone was looking for any excuse not to work. It got me out of the house and talking shop and back to my normal night owl self. I had been trying to force myself into a more daylight oriented schedule, but I had to face it – I work better in the dark.
Seeing as I am in an anthropology department, after that week long awakening, almost everyone left town. So, I took to the streets. I drove up and down the lake or out into the country. I didn’t go anywhere, I just drove. It cleared my mind, my stress, and opened my senses. I didn’t think about my dissertation or work at all. I just drove and listened to a radio station with music I was completely unfamiliar with.
3 days later I went to my office and began to write. I started working on my dissertation first, but my mind was apparently too open to stop there. I switched to writing this post, then to writing a post for my other blog. I switched between the 3 writings over the next several hours with a sense of flow I don’t remember feeling in months (years?).
Too bad I can’t just do this on command – without spending all that money on gas!