Into the Groove

On Saturday afternoon, I sat down at my desk with a cup of coffee, intending to open up the file containing Chapter 1 of my dissertation, make a few adjustments to what I’d already written, add a conclusion, and send it off to my advisor (just under three weeks later than promised, which is practically on time in academia).

Sunday at 9:06pm, having written over 3,000 words in the past 24 hours, I finally hit “send” on the email that would deliver the (almost-)finished chapter draft to him.

What happened? In short, I discovered that I had a lot to say. Way more than I expected. The chapter is over 12,000 words long, making it without question the longest thing I’ve ever written—and I’m not actually done. I never did get to that conclusion (ran out of steam, and diet Pepsi), and this morning my advisor emailed me with a dozen ideas for things I should look up or read to add more depth to what I already have. I just spent a couple of hours placing Amazon orders and downloading articles from library databases, though I’m planning to take a break before I turn to those revisions.

Not a break from writing, of course. Actually, I woke up early this morning with my head full of ideas for Chapter 2, and before I even got out of bed I grabbed my laptop and spent almost an hour making notes for it. On the one hand, I’m pretty exhausted, and the fact that today’s weather is gray and cloudy doesn’t help. It’s not even 10am, and I’m already thinking that I could use a nap. Soon. On the other hand, I feel like I have finally built up the momentum that I’d been hoping for over the past several months. Finally, I know what I want to say and which sources I’ll need to say it. Finally, meeting my word-count target every day has ceased being so much of a struggle. Finally, I’ve started to believe that I will finish this thing. Those 3,000+ words I wrote on Saturday and Sunday? I won’t claim that they felt effortless, but it definitely came as a surprise when I looked at the final chapter word count and realized how much it had grown in just 24 hours. It didn’t feel like I had done that much writing.

I doubt this feeling will last as I move on to the next two chapters and revise the ones I already have drafted. Eventually—maybe tomorrow, maybe next month—the adrenaline will drop off, my pace will slow, and I’ll once again be struggling to get into a groove that will carry me over the finish line. I’m okay with that. Everyone I know compares writing dissertations to running marathons, and I definitely wouldn’t expect, or want, to keep going at the pace I set over the weekend. It might feel great at first, but eventually I’d hit a wall.

But for now, I’m happy to move along at this pace and I hope to continue drawing on the momentum of the past couple of weeks and set off on the right foot as I begin writing Chapter 2. I have ideas, I have notes, I have sources, I have a plan.

I am, for the time being, in the groove. Finally.

Bonus content: Classic Madonna dance music, because it’s Monday morning and everyone needs something to get them going.

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