Posted by: Elizabeth Anne Mitchell | March 18, 2012

March 18 check-in Facing the Future

Well, here we are at the tail end of the Round. I don’t feel like I accomplished what I wanted, but I did get some journalling and outlining done.

Day job: Although I have a lot of things to do in the job, I realize that I do know a lot about the work, and feel comfortable in the management position. 

New town:  I am definitely comfortable in the town. My husband and I walked to a little family bakery a little over a half-mile away this morning. It was so wonderful not to be dependent on jumping into the car for everything. I am heading out this afternoon to a coffee shop a few miles away to meet Shan Jeniah, continuing a very nice trend of meeting ROWers in person.

What I learned:  I had a strong and surprising reaction to a question from my academic writing group, which on the face of it was an innocent question: what is hard about writing?

My answer is that I don’t feel that what interests me is of interest to the scholarly community, which is not true. What is true is that my scholarship is in a field that is not highly prized by the discipline in which I am getting my Ph.D. I have spent far too much time to change disciplines, so I need to soldier on, but I was blindsided by how bereft and alone I feel about the situation.

Some of the difficulty is that I live several hundred miles from my dissertation advisor and committee, so that it is easy for them to forget me. I have not been as insistent as I should have been, only partly due to the constraints of my old day job. Unfortunately, it also plays into my “professional good girl” syndrome; after the love and praise I found in elementary school and college, I found myself set adrift in graduate school. I have had several professors tell me that it is not late-19th century Germany, and I have no place in 21st century scholarship. After getting well over halfway through my dissertation, I realized with horror that I really was in the wrong discipline.

The future: Although I haven’t set my goals for the next Round, I feel certain that my tackling the dissonance of the Ph.D. will be part of it. I know that I will have to bend more than I am comfortable to get the degree, and I know that I will have to work on my stubborn Irish soul about that.

I don’t yet know what place creative writing will have in the next Round, but I am determined not to give up the test mile. Buckle up, my friends, it may be a bumpy ride!

At this penultimate check-in, please make an effort to go encourage the ROWers here.

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Responses

  1. Always great to hear from you, and so glad you’re settling in with the new place 🙂

  2. Yay for getting out for more coffee visits!

    About the rest… well, I am not of the “scholarly mind” but given the social, cultural and institutional similarities that have been cropping up from the turn of the 19th to the 20th Century in our present society, I personally feel that we could afford to spend a little more time looking at the sins and glories of our fathers.

    That said, I fear that theses and academic works often get shuttled away into the groups that dissect them for critique and accolades without looking for the deeper purpose of making people aware. And if anything, there is a dearth of awareness in the world.

    BUT, oddly enough, fiction seems to reach into that dearth. Perhaps it is the artificial distance of fiction, but people seem to pay attention to fiction. And they seem to relate to the issues raised in it easier.

    I cannot say where your focus should be. Or where your passion will lie beyond your work, but I’m a willing ear, if you need one, and so are many of your fellow ROWers. But writing is writing is writing… use your test mile, and explore your passions.

    • Interesting points, Eden. I think you are right, that people are more willing to discuss the issues brought to the fore in fiction more than in academic writing. I appreciate your willing ear, too. I am very heartened by so many ROWers coming to offer a sounding board. With everyone’s help, I’m sure I’ll figure out some workable compromise.

      • I’m sure you will. And reading through the comments here, it’s clear that I’m not your only willing ear (and several seem far better suited than me perhaps). It’s good to see that the ROW community is what it is… Makes me love it even more.

  3. I’d love to meet some of my internet pals in person! So jealous of you…
    You raise an interesting point: we all need to re-evaluate our goals. I’ll focus on that before we start round 2.
    Have a great week!

    • Thanks for dropping by, Fabio. I am happy to have so many writers within visiting distance, so I understand your jealousy 😉 I hope you have a great week; have fun looking at your goals for Round 2.

  4. Hey, it’s ok to have a bumpy ride. It’s when you apply the brakes and sit still that you need to start worrying. 🙂

    • Excellent point, Lauralynn. You always have such a good outlook on things! I’m not planning to sit still–it’s not in my nature! 🙂 Have a lovely week!

  5. have to agree with Fabio; I wish I could meet you all in person. Think how lovely that would be!

    • I think a regional ROW reunion would be a wonderful thing to do. It would be lovely! Thanks for coming by, Janet. Have a wonderful week!

  6. I’m sorry to hear the downs about your school work. I wish we could have coffee and you could pour your heart out. You are walking on a rough road and the blisters hurt. I hate that for you but one thing is for sure. Your feet will get tougher the longer you walk. Keep your chin up and enjoy that bakery that you can walk to. See you next round.

    • Thank you for the encouragement, Ali. I will get tougher, and it will get better, I’m sure. As for the bakery, I had breakfast there again this morning–very yummy! Have a wonderful week, and I look forward to seeing you next round.

  7. Wow! Your words remind me of my master’s thesis issues, effectively ending any desire I had to pursue my PhD. I am aware of the considerable difference between the two but it does not sound as if the halls of ivy have gained any growth. As all the rest have offered, do know I, too, will help in any way I can. My undergrad is European history; my master’s a traditional M.A. in English.

    Best!
    Karen

    • Thank you for the support and the offer of help, Karen. I had several friends who decided that an M.A. was more than enough pain and suffering in the salt mines of academia. I may call on you when I need to vent. Have a lovely week!

  8. Wow… this sounds intense… >>> tackling the dissonance of the Ph.D.<<< I'll be here next round to read & support this venture.

    Your new town sounds fantastic. Keep enjoying!

    • Thank you, Julie. I appreciate your support and hope to keep you entertained about the process 🙂

      I’m still enjoying the town a lot; although it has gotten a lot colder than I’m used to in Florida! I’ll adjust, though. Have a wonderful week!

  9. Ah, ROWsis, you have done SO MUCH this round — packing, moving, transitioning into the new job, and countless other things as well. I understand all too well the dissonance with your personal goals and interests, and the interests of The Academy (or The Discipline, or whatever other yucky behemoth is dictating your direction). It’s one of those times when you have to “cut a deal,” as one of my favorite profs and committee members likes to say. It sucks, and it requires so much more energy than it would if you were able to do exactly what you wanted, but I will cross my fingers that you will find a way to make it work. Sometimes it boils down to doing whatever it is you need to do in order to just get done.

    Echoing everyone else, and sending along hugs! I’m always here if you want to talk. But in the meantime, enjoy settling into the new town and the new job.

    • I agree with LC: sometimes ROW progress can be measured in “life units,” and you banked a lot of those this round.

      I have a close friend who is also chasing a PhD, and from what she tells me… academia is brutal! Sure some disciplines are better than others, but in general, just brutal. When its beating her down, I keep reminding her: A degree (any degree) does not define you or your intellect. Achieving the doctorate is a laudable goal, but letters do not a scholar make. That is part of who you already are (and who you are working to become).

      On the other hand, you’re jumping through all the hoops and doing all the work anyway. You may as well snag the letters and be recognized for it! Best wishes as you continue to navigate this. I’ll be lurking and cheering.

      Sometimes, I think the 19th century was better than today. Or at least a damn bit more interesting. Then, someone inevitably reminds me of medical and social advances and I must eat my words… by candlelight.

      In fact, it was in 1835 when James Lindsay demonstrated a constant electric light at a public meeting in Scotland stating that he could, “read a book at a distance of one and a half feet.” (Yeah, I wiki’ed the lightbulb.) I’m not sure that I’ve ever tried to read a book at one and a half feet, but I’ll bet it’s wicked awesome (if you’re used to candlelight at least.)

      • Matt, I so appreciate your point that the letters don’t make the scholar. It ends up being reinforcement of an already extant trait. I also have to agree with your friend–the old saying is that the fighting in academia is so brutal because the stakes are so small.

        I have a dear friend who says I should have run a Paris salon in the 19th century, so I get the attraction to the time. I do worry about antibiotics, and I sometimes shudder at the thought of reading by firelight. I bet the one and half foot distance was stunning at the time.

        Thanks for coming by with encouragement and good suggestions. I hope you have a great week.

    • Thanks for the excellent advice, ROWsis! I also appreciate your pointing out what I have accomplished. I know youAs for cutting a deal, I suspect that is what I’m going to have to do, as you say, just to get done. Thank you for the offer to talk when I need to vent; I may well need that.

      I hope you have a lovely break!


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