Emergency! Emergency!

. . . is the title of one of my favorite Promise Ring songs. But it’s also the state in which many of us get the most work done.

You can’t exactly maintain a sense of urgency for eight years. At the same time, watching The Future Doctor Anderson revise each chapter in 48 hours in the final push to finish her dissertation was completely awe-inspiring. And then I, who took 3 full months to revise my first chapter, revised Chapter 4 in less than two weeks. When graduation gets near, you can do amazing things!

But wouldn’t it have been great if we could have been that fast earlier? How can that be accomplished?

  • Some people apply to conferences with yet-to-be-written papers. If they get in, this forces them to get a solid draft of something by the time they give their talk.
  • For me, what kicked me into high gear even more than graduation was the thought of my upcoming four-day stay in a luxurious-looking hotel in Napa Valley. We’re going there for a wedding. I’ve never been, and the thought of the restaurants (French Laundry! I’ve been dreaming of you!) and the wineries just makes me want to have accomplished something. I cannot work in Villagio Palacio Hotel of Grandeur, or whatever it’s called. I need to be treating myself to a hot rock massage in celebration of my dissertating accomplishments! I need to be telling other wedding guests that I’ve finished my dissertation as I sip (okay, guzzle) local wine. Whee!
  • My husband has two busy seasons in his work. His business has a seemingly natural flow to it, heating up for September, slowing down for the holidays, getting crazy in March and then relaxing through summer. Maybe it’s possible to arbitrarily designate two busy months of the year, when you’re going to knock something out or die trying. Especially if you follow that busy period with a small break–perhaps a holiday, or just a couple weeks of taking it easier.
  • Sometimes a big life change (pregnancy, the start of a new job, funding running out) can be used as motivation to finish up quickly. Or maybe even a particular birthday looming ominously.
  • A writing group deadline, where you have one or two chances per semester to turn in work, could be very helpful. If your date to share is not flexible, you’ll probably crank something out just to avoid looking like a fool in front of your colleagues.

It’s hard to have a sense of urgency, though, when you really don’t know how long things are going to take. You don’t want to punish yourself for taking longer to write a book than you expected–hey, you’ve never done it before. That sense of urgency can quickly turn into a sense of failure if one isn’t careful. My therapist used to ask me what would happen if I took a semester longer to graduate. I guess she was trying to give me perspective, and show me that 3 months here or there wasn’t the end of the world. But it’s all too easy to get used to that lack of urgency, and be unproductive because of it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s