I'm in the middle of trying to (unproductively) revise my prospectus, which for my program, is a 2-page, single-spaced document that outlines what I hope will be my dissertation, and covers the following sections:
While I have one draft ready, it's definitely a product of a 2AM, caffeine binge so I've been trying to redo the introduction. The process has been... trying... to. say. the. least. So, for inspiration, I decided to stray from academic reading and looked up (apparently) the "100 Best First Lines from Novels" from American Book Review. After perusing the first couple, some of which I recognized, I also realized that the "100 best" has a lot of people in the 19th and 20th centuries— particularly white males. The list was a sharp reminder about how best often means the most dominant group, and those with the most power. And while I can admit there are some great openers on the list, I think I'll be more selective about how I go about finding "the best" book openers because so much brilliance, especially with marginalized and minoritized voices, is unheard, unacknowledged, unread, and unseen. (Patricia Hill Collins, whose book, Black Feminist Thought (link), writes brilliantly about this btw.)
So if you have any recommendations and inspirations, please, send them my way.
Today was definitely a day full of wins. For context, the American Education Research Association (AERA) had their conference proposal deadline earlier at 11:59PM (PST) on Monday. And with that in mind, here are the wins I've had today:
ONE | The research team I am a part of was able to submit our proposal. That in it of itself is pretty sweet, but I think the added bonus was it being a really smooth process that was clearly delegated with a manageable timeline that we all worked really hard to stick with. As such, we turned it in a full 7 hours before its deadline. Hooray (because that def. didn't happen last time HAHAHAHAH~)
TWO | Last year, I wrote a paper for one of my classes that was probably one of the more controversial theorizations I have done-- I would even argue that it's less of a theoretical paper and more of a scathing indictment of what colleges and universities are performatively doing to deflect progress with campus activism. The professor I worked with was wonderful, supportive, and encouraged me to submit, but I sat on it instead. But today, I decided (last minute) to take it out, brush it off, and give it a go. The submission was less about me getting it done, and more about me, being okay with whatever feedback I'm going to get because while not all feedback is great, me resisting feedback because of fear might be worse.
THREE | My friend and I pulled a fast and furious and raced to the finish line— submitting a joint proposal at 11:55PM. I have been so excited for the work she is doing (preview: emotional labor and that's all I'll say as not to spoil it)~~ so we decided to try writing something together since I'd been tinkering with survey data that has some elements to her broader research questions in mind. It was exhilarating, stressful, and something we have both agreed not to do again (hahaha!) I am super proud of us because about three hours prior to, I think we both weren't sure if we could pull it off. But we did. Holy shit, we did it.
FOUR | I mentioned in an earlier post about the conference stuff I do, and today, I held the last of the three orientations with the group of conference organizers I'll get to work with. At the closing of it, I think it hit me that this is real— a feeling I keep getting at every milestone, and this is a big one for me because now the whole group is ready, on board, and about to get started. Woah.
And lastly, | FIVE | earlier today, I saw the proof of my solo-authored article I submitted for back in January. For those of you not in academia, a "proof" is essentially the final version of whatever you've submitted (article, book manuscript, etc.) that you see before it goes to print. I'm still stunned that I'm going to be published, and I'm also stunned at this 6-month timeline (because most timelines can be a year, upwards to 2 or even 3 years for an article to go from submission to acceptance to print.) And this ridiculous article is a testament to people believing in me when I didn't believe in myself and dragging me to this point while I doubted, cried, stressed, and cleaned my kitchen nonstop. Obviously, I cried in reviewing the proof because it still feels unreal and a very incredible, humbling win.
Also for |SIX| , I went to the gym which is always a win because I hate going, and frankly, every victory, no matter how small, is a win. What a wonderful day of wins~ And | SEVEN | I'm drinking a favorite glass of white wine while writing this and it tastes just as good as I remember.
On days that I'm not PhDing, I am part of a group that helps build out conferences for Koreans & Korean-Americans, and am lucky enough this year to be the chair. I'll be frank, it's scary to realize that I make a lot of the "final calls" and that the conference vision & execution is largely on me. Yet, as scary as it is, it's also equally reassuring— actually even more so reassuring to realize the support of the team I have and the people around me.
I remember hearing something (from somewhere), about how powerful it is when you ask someone, "can you help me" and the person replies back with "yes" as the first response. In those moments, the person's affirmative is happening without asking what you need help on, what needs to get done, what is the time commitment, etc. The answer is solely: I am here to help you (with the implicit of, in whatever you need me to do.) Over this past week, including today's series of conference calls & meetings, I've been given this response multiple times, and in reflecting tonight, how precious of a gift this is.
Of course, having boundaries and establishing expectations is important— critical truly— when it comes to self care, self preservation, and surviving. I don't want to minimize that in reflecting on what is mean it means to be supported, because I think it's a both and rather than how one is "better than" the other (which it is not.) Instead, I'll end my reflection with how I feel very warm and fuzzy and very very supported, and how grateful I am for the community with me in all of this conference planning~
I was talking to a friend last week about how behind I felt. After all, the month changed to July and here were all these plans I had made— due dates I had planned out— and it was already JULY. The guilt crept in and I was, admittedly, beating myself up over it. She then reminded me that we (our school/program) our classes and finals had finished only two weeks ago, which I often forget since my brain is so wired to think of semesters (which meant I would have been done a full month earlier.)
But that got me thinking... even if I was on the semester system where I had "finished" in May and it was now July, is it really that terrible that I hadn't met any of my (self-imposed) deadlines? While summer is definitely the time to grind (*cough ahem: dissertation proposal that I'm currently ignoring...), summer is also a time to rest and recharge, which is hard to do if I'm feeling guilty about resting and recharging, or feeling as though I need to earn my rest. All that to say, the status of my dissertation proposal is that it is not. Haha! :D
I don't quite have writer's block. But it feels as though, instead of one gigantic mental block that's preventing me from my work, it's a bunch of smaller lego pieces that are preventing me from moving to point A to point B (where point B is me finishing my dissertation proposal.)
Luckily, I went to a writer's bootcamp workshop series where we talked about our various legos and tips/tricks to push past these blocks. (As a side note, I was comforted to realize that many of my peers and I use the same tactic of cleaning our kitchens and bathrooms when we are trying to avoid writing.) Part of pushing past the blocks was recognizing our productivity habits, our routines, and also how we measure success with our writing (i.e. by page limit, by word count, by section, etc.)
And for me, I realized that I have been socialized to only write when I have a deadline— specifically, when the deadline is imposed by a conference proposal/paper due date, or a class assignment. If that is the case (which it is), I actually don't really know how I measure success with my writing (which is probably a larger indication of how I do not know how to measure success within academia...) So while this bootcamp is a way for me to create artificial deadlines (and not solve the problem), I think it'll also help deconstruct some habits with my writing and help me put away some of the lego blocks?
I realize that part of the reason why I've been having trouble writing is because I'm not reading.
I am not reading because (1) I am lazy, and more importantly (2) I have been struggling with the mountains of readings I should be doing— whether that be for my dissertation, neglected manuscripts, or even personal growth.
Last week, I finally kicked myself into gear and picked up Black Feminist Thought, by Patricia Hill Collins. The book is a classic (and foundation) when thinking about race, racism, intersectionality, and structural inequities by centering on the experiences of Black women. I've read sections of it prior to but this is the first time I'm reading it beginning to end.
One of the things that strikes me about the book is how relatable and accessible the reading is. Despite it covering a wealth of theories, frameworks, and concepts, it is an "easy" read, where easy is not about the complexity of topics, but rather about the clearness in delivery. It's the type of writing that is digestible and thought-provoking and also something I don't feel scared to pick up or confused after I finish a sentence. More often than not, I find myself taking notes of sentences I like and passages I know I will quote later.
So yes, for better writing, I need to be reading, and maybe what will help is choosing books like these so that the mountain doesn't seem like such an impasse.
Like all great procrastinators, I am always most interested in refocusing on my blog when I have things due, and unfortunately for me, I have many things due this summer. Yet, one thing I realized is that in the midst of due dates (both externally and internally enforced), I rarely spend time writing. As such, my resolve is to use this platform as a space for me to write.
In a year, I read somewhere around 100-200 books. I don't have a TV and I use reading as a form of escape, and I especially like reading outside of academia. It also helps with improving my writing :)
When I'm trying to concentrate, I like having background music that's super dramatic. For some reason, instrumental music is instrumental (pun!) in helping me concentrate. Most of the songs are Korean-drama OSTs (original sound tracks), w/ a few classical music scores in the mix!
I don't categorize anything other than my "random round-ups" because it takes too much work (insert laughing emoji).