Notebook-style doodles

Why can’t I write?

One of the biggest reasons why I don’t like journaling is that it seems that I just spin my wheels. It feels like I’m just sort of talking into empty space. When I talk to people, I have the opportunity to actually engage in discourse. I think differently. I seek solutions and different ways to describe my thoughts. I ask questions and try to see the situation from another side. When I’m journaling, though, all I really seem to do is try to figure out how to say what I’m actually thinking in as few words as possible. I strive for clarity and concision. I don’t really strive for truth.

In a blog like this, however, the whole point is to get at the truth, this one truth that I just can’t seem to figure out on my own. Why can’t I write? Why is this dissertation so phenomenally difficult? What am I doing wrong? What could I be doing differently? How should I be approaching this problem so that I can get this thing done and I can move on to whatever retail or food service job awaits me after I’m finished?

I wish I knew. I understand that half of the purpose of the dissertation is to force scholar-students into some sort of wrestling match with themselves, where they must learn how to overcome their own demons and challenges. That’s what the “Dr.” title is really for, one might say: it denotes one who has fought with him- or herself and overcome, making a meaningful contribution to the study of a field while not going insane or being chased off. I’ve overcome quite a bit just to be here, for crying out loud; what’s just another little hurdle?

Well, apparently I don’t trust myself to say anything useful or to understand the meaning of something. I look at the arguments I’m trying to make and they all come out wrong or feeling petty or small or obvious. It’s like I have nothing to say, even though I know quite well that I’ve got an interesting core argument. Maybe it’s just that I don’t know how to go about supporting that argument in a way that seems like it’s good enough.

Well, it’s time to go back to the drawing board. I did this the last time I had trouble, and it taught me that I needed to use outlines. This time, I think I just need to learn that there are things that I must accept. I must accept that I’m going to be wrong in my initial formulation of my argument, that my dissertation director is going to poke holes in my case, and that it is not my job to get everything right on one go. It’s my job to patch holes and fix problems until no more holes show up when he starts poking.

It’s also my job to give up this romantic idea that I’m not a person who needs to go to bed early. I do. I need to get to bed early and get up at 5:00 AM. I need to get my walking in and get to writing before 7:00 so I have the greatest amount of energy put into my writing. I need to be the type of guy who takes a nap in the afternoon and then works in the evening a bit. I don’t know what I’ll be doing or if this will work, but the whole “Get up, walk, get into the department, and work” thing doesn’t seem to be leading me down a very constructive path.

New year, new ways of seeing ourselves, it seems. I have to get on this, though, if I want to have a chapter to my adviser before I leave for Exeter. Maybe that’s something else I need to give up: the idea that good scholars produce without deadlines. I think I need my deadlines. Gods, I hate that, but maybe it’s just true. If so, that may be the kind of truth I’m supposed to write in this journalblog…and no, I totally didn’t plan on that when I started writing this post. That might just be a good sign that this journal thing is working in some strange way, after all.

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