Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Joy of Conference Papers

As I sit here writing a conference paper that I'll deliver in two weeks, I am reminded how much I like writing and giving conference papers. And I think I'm starting to understand some reasons why this is the case:

  1. Writing such papers is way better than grading.
  2. Since I will read the paper aloud, I don't have to perfect my footnotes and bibliography in impeccable MLA/Chicago/MHRA style.
  3. The papers are short. 10 pages. It's like writing a poem. It's long enough to be a challenge, but short enough that that I can spend a lot of time tinkering with it and practicing it aloud so that it will sound just right. Also, it's not as unwieldy as a chapter or article. I don't feel like I'm wrangling a giant squid.
  4. I can be playful. Although I want my argument to have substance, I feel like my voice can (and should?) be more conversational and informal that it would be in an article or, certainly, in my dissertation. Therefore, the writing feels a bit more creative and experimental.
  5. I am isolated as I write my PhD thesis. My university is in the UK, and I am in California at a community college. I work in my own little bubble. As such, I really enjoy conferences (even though they intimidate me a bit) because I like to hear what other people are saying, and I like having the chance to throw my own words out into the world.
  6. As I write, I regularly envision myself at the conference, in the hotel. I love staying in hotels.

The paper I'm currently writing is especially fun because I likely won't be presenting to a room full of eighteenth-century specialists. As much as I love my fellow c18 people, I feel great inferiority regarding my own knowledge of the c18. I am not yet an expert even though I feel like I already should be, so presenting to other c18 people scares me. But this conference is not an c18 conference, so I am a bit more relaxed.

Tonight, my family is camping, and I have stayed behind to finish a solid draft of the paper and do a bit of grading. I am having a great time writing (and ignoring the grading). My enjoyment is enhanced by my the three-course dinner that I will consume over a span of several hours:

First course: strawberry-rhubarb pie paired with English Breakfast tea
Second course: boiled peanuts paired with beer
Third course: dark chocolate paired with port

Good brain food, I'd say.

What about you? Do you like writing conference papers as much as I do?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Stepping Lightly but with Purpose

I will go ahead and begin with a truism: It's been a long time since the last post. Frankly, I became a little disenchanted with blogging and the whole bloggity blog world. But around the same time I stopped blogging and participating in blog-related writing groups, my productivity towards my PhD thesis/dissertation* slowed. I'm not sure the two are related (what with correlation not implying causation and all that), but I'm thinking that maybe I should take a page out of Amstr's book (or blog, as it were) and use the blog as an dissertation account, of sorts. She has been blogging, and she has finished the PhD! (Not that one caused the other, of course.) And I send such a huge congratulations to her! Way. to. Go.

Nevertheless, I think I will step lightly back into this blog as a place to keep track of my thesis goals, once or twice a week. It will feel a little lonely without Amstr being on the same path, but I know she will be cheering me on from the finish line, which she has already crossed.

Currently, I'm writing a conference paper that I will give a the beginning of next month. Typically, I would be at the polishing stage by now, but, alas, I have barely started, so the paper is my current priority. From that paper, I will try to build a draft of Chapter 3 of the dissertation.

Between now and Sunday:

  1. Review a primary text that is central to the paper
  2. Read two articles or chapters related to the paper
  3. Craft a clear working thesis statement for the paper
  4. Write at least 500 words of the paper

*I am American, so I am used to referring to the PhD project as a dissertation. However, my PhD university is in the U.K., so I also will sometimes refer to it as my thesis. I'm not really consistent about this.