Now what?


  • Title page and copyright
  • Abstract
  • Chapter 1
  • Chapter 3
  • Appendix B
  • References

Waiting on Advisor comments:

  • Chapter 2
  • Appendix A

Waiting on complete compilation of thesis:

  • Table of Contents
  • List of Figures

Only thing left to write:

  • Acknowledgements (Note:  “acknowledgments” is correct for the wordpress spell check and “acknowledgEments” is correct for the MSWord spell check.  Both are correct according to the dictionary.)

Today, I spent a great deal of time on formatting.  I’ve got everything in one big document now except for the stuff that I’m waiting for Advisor to send me.  I figured out how to make MSWord automatically generate a Table of Contents and a List of Figures which took WAAAYYY longer than it should have.  Since the page  numbers won’t be right until I get every chapter and appendix in there, I’m waiting on those for the end.  Which means, there’s nothing I can do except write the acknowledg(e)ments.

I should feel good about this, but I’m just anxious about the stuff I haven’t gotten back from Advisor yet.

State of the Thesis 3/23

  • Title page–not started
  • Table of Contents–GRRRRRRRRR!
  • List of Figures–not started
  • Abstract–DONE
  • Chapter 1–still needs a figure
  • Chapter 3–need to make one wording change
  • Appendix A–Written, waiting to hear from Advisor
  • Appendix B–DONE
  • References–just need to go over them to make sure there’s no errors
  • Compiling it all into one document and formatting and shit–10% done

Still Alive

State of the Thesis

  • Abstract–95% complete, waiting for comments from Advisor
  • Chapter 1–95% complete, needs a figure and some formatting changes
  • Chapter 2–90% complete, still waiting to hear back from Advisor on this one, for some reason, it’s taking him a long time to get this chapter to me, probably because he’s looking at it as a journal article, not my thesis chapter
  • Chapter 3–98% complete, needs some formatting changes
  • Appendix A–50% complete, needs materials and methods section, and to be sent to Advisor for comments
  • Appendix B–90% complete, waiting for comments from Advisor
  • References–70% complete
  • Table of Contents–not started
  • List of Figures–not started
  • Acknowlegements–not started

I’m trying to get my defense scheduled for the last week in April.  That means I need to get my thesis to my committee by April 12 at the latest (departmental rules).  Since I’ll be shipping my thesis, my actual due date is a little earlier than that.  I’m still not sure how I’m going to get 4 copies of my thesis, my little inkjet would die if I tried to make it spit out that many pages.  Probably, I will go to Kinkos.  So, let’s say my due date is April 5.  I think I’m in pretty good shape as long as Advisor gets back to me relatively soon with the comments on the chapters I need.

State of the Mind

Improving.  I still get anxious and a little ill thinking about my defense.  My depression has been holding on for dear life and stubbornly refuses to go away, even with medication changes.  However, we did make one change recently that improved things somewhat.  Enough that I feel a noticeable difference.  But, I’m still not 100% better.  I spend a significant part of the day just laying down doing nothing, especially on days like today when it’s rainy all day.  As you can see from the State of the Thesis, I have been working on my thesis a little every day.  It’s not as much as I would like and for awhile I was really worried I wouldn’t make it to graduate this quarter (which I MUST do because I’m paying my own tuition and can’t afford another quarter).  But, recently I’ve been more optimistic about actually getting done.

The soul-crushing anxiety I was feeling before has gone away.  That’s not to say I feel no anxiety at all, just that it’s a small amount compared to what I was feeling before.  At least I can leave the house and I’m not spending time curled up into a ball crying because I’m scared of just about everything.  So, overall that’s a huge improvement.

I’m seeing a new psychiatrist this Monday.  It’s going to be interesting.  I’ve only had one psychiatrist and I started seeing her in 2001 so it’s going to be very strange to see someone else.  Also, I don’t want to give up my current doc.  So much has changed in my life over the last year, having the same doctor has really given me a sense of stability.  Also, she is fabulous.  I know I need someone here because phone appointments aren’t the best method of treatment.  But, that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Totally Random

Can anybody recommend a good CD of harpsichord music?  I’m wearing out the one that I have.

My advisor is NOT reading over my shoulder

Considering that my advisor is half a continent away, it would be difficult for him to be reading my thesis as I type it.  And, even if we were in the same place, I am certain that he has more important things to do than stand at my shoulder and make comments about every sentence that shows up on my computer screen.

And yet…I must think someone is standing at my shoulder while I type because I am having some difficulty getting the words to flow from my mind to the computer screen.  Somewhere (maybe in one of the comments here?) I read you need to give yourself permission to write a crappy first draft.  I thought I had done that, but it’s still tough going.  So, I’m going to do it here.

Mrs Whatsit, I give you permission to write a crappy first draft.  Your committee won’t see it.  Your advisor won’t see it.  The blog definitely will not see it (hard to stay anonymous when your thesis is out there for the world to see).  Your husband will not see it.  Your lab BFF will not see it.  Nobody will see it but you.  You can write as many awkward sentences as you need to in order to get the whole story on the computer.  It doesn’t have to be perfect now.   It doesn’t have to be close to perfect.  In fact, it could sound absolutely awful.  Just write.

Stir crazy

Today, I sat down to work on Chapter 1 of my thesis and, after staring at the computer screen for 45 minutes doing almost nothing, I thought, “I have got to get out of here!”

I do not think I am the type of person who can work from home.  After spending several hours a day in the study (our fancypants name for the second bedroom in our apt.) I have gone a little crazy.  Actually, I think it’s more the fact that I very rarely leave the apt. for any length of time.  I go to my knitting group twice a week and that’s pretty much the most time I spend outside of the apt.  I find myself running to the grocery store to pick up one item.  Or, going to Target to wander around for a half an hour or so.  Today, I knew that wasn’t going to cut it.  I went to the yarn store for awhile, then to the bookstore to buy a book, get a chai tea and read for awhile.  It felt really, really good.

I think this does not bode well for my idea that I would be a stay at home mom whenever it is that we manage to have children.  I really thought I would be just fine, but I think I have finally met my limit in terms of spending 23 hours in the same place every day for weeks on end.  It’s not even that I just didn’t want to work on my thesis (although there was probably some of that in there, too).  I tried sitting in the living room and knitting for awhile, thinking that might make me feel better and I could go back to work, but no such luck.

So, I need a new plan for writing.  A plan that includes a coffeeshop with free wi-fi.  I need access to pubmed.  I need lots of papers, too, and it will be a pain in the ass to carry them around with me, but I have to spend time outside the apt.  I haven’t worked at a coffeeshop yet because it’s hard for me to focus for more than 45 min. at a time, so I work for 45 min., take a short break, then start working again.  It seems like it will be a little harder to do that at the coffee shop (can’t get just get up and wander around for 10 minutes or so) but–and I can’t stress this enough–I have got to get out of here on a daily basis or I am going to go insane.

Paper draft: finished

My paper, aka Chapter 2 of the thesis, is complete from my perspective.  It has all of the sections it’s supposed to have, complete and ready for Advisor to comment on and edit.  I sent it to him yesterday and he said this was “outstanding” and he’ll get to it sometime after the ASCB Conference which is in early Dec.  Apparently, he is quite busy with another paper and the class he is teaching and doesn’t have the time to devote to my paper until after ASCB.  *sigh*

At any rate, the thing is out of my hands for now, so I am now tackling Chapter 1, the intro/lit. review.  Advisor said he would look over an outline of it which is great but that means I need to make an outline that makes some sense to people other than me.  At first, it seemed like a duplication of work, but in doing this, I can now see where the holes are in my outline and my knowledge.

MSWord rant:  Why doesn’t the autoformatting feature of Word put things into standard outline format?  I was taught that the format should go something like this:


Word does it in this order:  I.a.i.1.  It drives me nuts!  I can hear my typing teacher yelling about it in my ear.  It’s wrong, wrong, wrong and I just can’t get over it.  It’s like a dripping faucet or someone tapping their fingernails while you’re trying to work.  I could format it myself but that would be a lot of extra effort for a simple outline so I’m just going to leave it even if it does give me the heebie-jeebies.  Okay, end of rant.

I’ve also set a schedule for myself in terms of getting Chapter 1 finished.  I’m splitting it into sections and giving myself deadlines for each section.  Hopefully, this will make me a little more productive.

My research was totes important–discuss

So, I kinda need to work on the discussion section of my paper.  And, by that I mean that I need to put some words–any words at all–after the discussion heading in the draft.  I’m letting the thing intimidate me and I shouldn’t, really.  I know my research was important.  I know it contributed to the field.  I even know why it was important and how it contributes to my field.  And yet, there are currently no words after “Discussion.”

The problem, mostly, is the same problem I had with every other section, I don’t know how to say what I want to say.  See, I am most comfortable with an informal style of writing (you don’t say?) and a paper is really not informal.  If I had to write a series of informal blog posts about my research, the whole thing would be done and I could go defend and pick up my doctorate.  So, what happens is that I sit in front of the computer and wait to feel inspired.  I write a sentence.  I delete the sentence.  I write a new sentence.  I delete it.  It’s really quite painful.

Well, this approach is getting me nowhere fast so I’ve decided to try something different.  I opened a new document and am writing the discussion as though it was for the blog.  I figure, at least I get something written down and I can clean up the language and make it sound all professional and smart later.  So far, it is working.  We’ll see how it goes when I try to translate it into professional-speak.

Alone time and distractions

I have yet to reach 10 hours of thesis writing time and that has been for two reasons.  First, today is the first time I’ve been alone in the apt.  I can’t write with my husband around.  He gets offended when I say things like, “Do not talk to me unless the apartment is burning down.”  In our old apartment the desk and all of my stuff for writing were in the living room.  So, if he was home, he would either have to stay in the bedroom and not come out, or sit in the living room and not talk and not walk around and basically not do anything in order for me to be able to concentrate.  Need I say that was essentially an impossibility?

Now, we are in our new, two bedroom apt. and the second bedroom is set up as an office.  You’d think I’d be home free, right?  You’d be wrong.  The office is the least complete of all of the rooms in the apt.  First of all, it has the boxes of books that go in the living room.  Those boxes can’t be unpacked until Husband takes his work stuff into his new job (Thurs. is his first official day) because the work stuff is blocking the living room bookcases.  In the living room boxes of books is a lot of my thesis stuff so I really need to unpack at least one of those boxes.

Second of all, in addition to the boxes, everything else that doesn’t currently have a home in the apt. is in the office.  And, there is no space on the desk due to a large collection of computer wires that Husband says he’s going to organize.  There’s no space to put your legs under the desk because a little file cabinet is there because there is currently  no other place to put it because there are unpacked boxes in there, boxes which contain my thesis stuff.  Argh!

So, not a lot of thesis writing going on.

So, my goal for the week is to get a work area set up in the office and find my thesis stuff.  If I can sneak in an hour of writing, that would be great, too, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

Blog Block

I’ve been suffering a little writer’s block lately when it comes to the blog.  As you might imagine, not being in lab eliminates most of the previous blog fodder.  So, I need to find other things to talk about, I suppose.  The thing is, this blog mostly has an identity as a “disgruntled grad student” blog.  Now that I’m not so much disgruntled (does that make me gruntled?) I’m not sure where this blog fits in my life and the blogging community at large.

This is almost certainly related to the fact that I don’t know where I fit in society anymore.  I don’t have a job.  I’m still technically a grad student but I’m not in classes or in lab or even on campus.  I’m writing my thesis, but slowly so as not to overwhelm myself and what does that really mean anyway?  I mean, I have a really bad feeling that if I got all gung ho and tried to work on my thesis more for than an hour on any one day, I might collapse into a depression.  Am I just paranoid or is this really a valid concern?  I don’t know.

So, posting may be light while I try to get a handle on things.  Maybe I should try something simple like twitter.  Surely, I could manage 140 characters or less on a semi-regular basis?

Back to the writing

Having found an apartment we could live with (or, rather, in) Husband and I headed back to the LA-area yesterday.  So, today I got back to the business of writing.  Right now I’m writing twice a day for half an hour.  So far, I’ve written a total of 6 hours since I started keeping track and have earned myself a sundae from Cold Stone Creamery.  Next reward comes at 10 hours when I get a new hardcover or two trade paperbacks or four mass-market paperbacks.

Having a couple of problems with registration and insurance at Grad School has reinforced my desire to get this damn thing done.  I don’t want to have to deal with the stupid university any more!  Who knows how many ways they can find to make my life complicated?  Best to graduate and be done with Grad School forever (except of course, from the annoying phone calls I’m sure to get from the alumni association).  It’s not the best reason in the world for getting my degree but I’ll take whatever gets me to sit down in front of the computer.