The power of shitty first drafts

I think Anne Lammott gets the credit for establishing the power of “shitty first drafts.”  She says as long as you sit down and write something, anything, you have the chance at editing something terrible, into something good, into something terrific.  But if you have nothing in front of you, you have nothing to cultivate, and that’s not a good feeling. Until the beginning of this summer, I was lost in that uncultivated place.  I had been told so many times, both blatantly and insidiously, that was I stupid, that my values were misplaced, and that my project was unimportant, that I couldn’t hear the voices telling me I was good at my work. As a consequence, I developed a bit of rust.  Not engineless-tractor-in-the-cow-shed kind of rust, but a layer just deep enough to make each attempt to restart my project a slog.  Given my depleted confidence, I interpreted that slog as incompetence. But eventually, with enough distance from

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Dissertation voice: curricula

I’ve mentioned in another post that I tend to write in a question-driven manner.  I like to explore issues, controversies, and weirdnesses, and figure out what makes them tick and how they move. But, of course, that raises the problem of shape.  What does a cohesive project look like if it’s not moving from point A to B?   I went back to my method books to look for the answer, and I found it in John Law’s Aircraft Stories. Aircraft Stories is a collection of tightly related stories/essays about a miltary project that was cancelled back in the 60s.  It covers decision-making procedures, the aesthetics of science, the culture of construction, and the way by which a single object, like an aircraft, takes on multiple meanings.  So, it’s a lot of stories grown “alongside one another” as Law says, as though he tacked them all up on a wall, stood back, and wrote about the coolest stuff he saw. In

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Central research questions

When most people think of history, they think of a story.  They think of time passing, people acting, events happening, and the record of such things. Certainly, that is part of what history is–the narrative.  And certainly you can write this sort of history, filling in gaps in the timeline, discussing new archival materials, and broadening scope. But, to be perfectly honest, I usually find this kind of history rather boring.  Unless I’m already keenly interested in a time period or a person, reading a basic narrative doesn’t hold my attention.  And it definitely won’t win my attention if the subject is new to me. For that, I have to see that the author is answering a unique question, trying a new method of analysis, or issuing a challenge.  Whether or not it’s narrative doesn’t really matter to me–I like a collection of stories or unexpected asides as much as I can dig on a strong central story. And so,

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The Holloway Project

Yes, this project is technically my dissertation.  I’ll continue to tag it as such on the website so that it links to prior posts on my theory and research.  And I intend to defend it and complete the graduate journey I started. But I also have plans for this piece that move it outside of the realm of the typical dissertation. Namely, I want to make this a compassionate project, for me, for readers, for those directly affected by my research. Here’s what I mean… Self-compassion: Over the past year, I realized that I don’t really want tenure.  I don’t want committee appointments, where I have to turn brilliant people down for funding.  I don’t want high-pressure research projects that divorce me from my students.  I don’t want to communicate in code.  And I am six kinds of over all the rambling conference presentations. I recognize that some people feel empowered by these codes and systems.  I do not.  If

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Traveling internationally for the U.S. humanities grad: planning

Over the past seven years of graduate school, I’ve earned the funding to travel overseas on four occasions–once for my MA and three times for my dissertation. Research trip #1 was almost diverted by a freak snowstorm that hit London and threw everyone into such a tizzy that Heathrow closed its runway and the London Times printed a front page story about people helping each other cross the treacherous streets in the “spirit of the blitz.”  It was like…six inches of snow, guys. The day I flew out for research trip #2, VISA cancelled both my debit and credit card in a company wide fraud protection scheme, leaving with me a bare minimum of cash.  My roommate at the time had to mail me my replacement cards, which was a total fiasco I had forcefully forgotten until just now.  That’s worth a post on it’s own. Anyway, research trip #3 went off alright, aside from the horrid customs officer, but

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British customs hates me and probably a lot of other people

Now that I have successfully navigated the gut-punch that is international travel, and I find myself safely tucked away in Oregon for a few weeks before school starts, I thought I would get my lingering animosities out of my system.  Namely, an enormous middle finger goes to British customs. British customs can suck it. Here’s the thing.  This was my fourth time through customs at Heathrow.  The first time I was so ill-prepared it was laughable.  They dinged me as a terrorist because I didn’t have a full address for the dorm I was visiting, and they frisked me and went through my stuff three days later when I left the country. Sure, my fault. But I learned my lesson, and now I travel with a document folder that contains just about anything they could possibly ask for.  Proof of address in the states, full itineraries for travel, all locations I’m housing at, letters of introduction from my university, proof

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