ABD: You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat | Francesca Lyn

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The title of this blog refers to one of the most epic lines ever spoken in cinematic history. I love Jaws and try my very best to apply this movie in my every day life. If you aren’t familiar with this significant cultural product please watch the clip below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gciFoEbOA8

In my last column I wrote about how grad school was actually starting to make me crazy. In general I am doing a lot better. I am really happy to report that I am well on my way to being back on track mentally, physically, emotionally and academically. In fact, I am proud to share that I am officially ABD. ABD stands for “all but dissertation”. This means that I am done with all of my coursework and have achieved degree candidacy for my PhD.

It is equal parts exhilarating and exhausting. It seems like this moment came so slowly and also all at once. I am proud of myself but also very tired.

I passed my bibliography exam. I passed my prospectus defense. Now what? Mostly, I just want to eat carbs and go into major hibernation. It is a weird time.

Theoretically all I have to do is finish writing my dissertation and pass my dissertation defense. It sounds simple. I’m also thankful that I have funding this year.

But this stage has also brought it’s own concerns. What’s next? Where will I live next year? What will I do for a job? And, most importantly, how the heck am I going to write a dissertation?

It has also proved to be a bit of an anti-climactic moment. I’m done but I am not done. Getting started has proven to be a challenge. Truthfully, I feel a little bit burnt out. Spending time at my parents’ home in Florida helped. Still I feel a little bit like Left Shark.

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Writing a dissertation can also be an isolating and lonely experience. After two years of coursework and being on campus all the time it’s a bit strange to be at home writing. Netflix has also proven to be quite a seductive distraction. Do you know that they have every episode of Gilmore Girls? It’s pretty amazing, but also horrible and terrifying.

It’s strange but in all of the preparation to write a dissertation I never really thought about the actual act of writing the dissertation. It seems like a daunting task. I realized that if I was going to attack this project I needed to get a bigger boat. I needed to figure out what skills I needed to succeed and what is missing in my research.

Seeking out resources has been really helpful and important. I have been referred to really great books about writing dissertations and tackling other larger academic projects.

The first book I got was recommended to me by my mentor and dissertation adviser Dr. Kimberly N. Brown. Titled Writing in 12 weeks, it devises a plan to finishing your writing in manageable chunks. While this book is geared towards completing journal articles is also applicable to finishing a dissertation chapter.

The second book is Joan Bolker’s Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day: A Guide to Starting, Revising, and Finishing Your Doctoral Thesis.  I just happened pick this book up while browsing Amazon. It’s pretty concise, short book.  It’s been reassuring to read. The last book is Patricia Goodson’s Becoming an Academic Writer: 50 Exercises for Paced, Productive, and Powerful Writing.

Some scholars relish the time alone spent working in quiet and solitude. I have come to realize that too much working alone makes me feel like I am becoming Bartleby the Scrivener. I need to talk about my problems and ideas with others in order to feel like I am moving forward. It has become really important to connect with my fellow classmates and peers. We have begun meeting weekly to discuss the status of our dissertation projects. It’s part support group and part social break.

We are trying to set small, achievable goals and hold each other accountable. Though our research interests have limited overlap it is really nice to meet up with others who are going through similar challenges. Hearing others talk through problems has been really helpful.

Finally, it is important for me to try and have fun. While I am relearning how to have fun with some aspects of the writing process, I have found that I need to do things other than writing in order to feel like a functional human being.

One of the best decisions I have ever made in my life is to take improv classes at a local comedy theatre.

My improv group keeps me sane and grounded. It is nice to know that I have a little space and time carved out in my schedule to be silly and have fun with my friends.

I’m ready.

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