Nothing To It But To Do It

Between completing years of coursework and conducting the dissertation research project, I think we can all agree that earning a doctorate is hard work.  I wonder, though, if sometimes we (read: I) make it harder than it has to be.

I spent the better part of May & June collecting survey and interview data for my research, and in early July took a much-needed weeklong vacation with my wife and kids.  Unfortunately, instead of relaxing and recharging, I spent the better part of the week stressing about the dissertation work I’d need to do when I got back.  When we got home last Friday I had a stack of papers with means and p-values and standard deviations all over them waiting for me, and I found myself experiencing a paralysis very similar to what I experienced this past December.  Thankfully, I was able to snap myself out of it this evening, and after sitting down with a cup of coffee and background music courtesy of Weezer (on repeat several times), I not only organized a good chunk of the statistical data, I also made a little headway on the organization and interpretation for my Chapter Four.  It wasn’t much, but it was enough to break my funk and get me rolling again.  The looming monster I had built up in my mind over my vacation was vanquished easily enough; all I had to do was just get off my ass and start working.  It wasn’t the work itself that was difficult, it was overcoming the mental block that was intimidating me.  Then again, that’s been the story throughout much of the process.  Thinking about the work is always – ALWAYS – much worse than sitting down and actually doing it.

Sometimes we are our own worst enemies, until we decide not to be.


  • “Once begun, half done” is easy to say but much more difficult to execute when we’re in the throes of anxiety over mounds of things to get done. This is great, Almost Dr. Damian!

  • My friends who have pursued a doctorate in the past all tell me the same thing. The process is a grind with many barriers along the way. Those who push through those obstacles succeed. Keep up the great work!

  • In my humble opinion, a dissertation should be a learning experience for everyone involved, and you my friend, demonstrate that premise so well. Chris is learning so much working with you. Thanks for taking a chance on working with an ASD kid.

    Now, do you want to guess why no one has convinced me to pursue a Ph.D? No surprise, it was writing the dissertation. My MA thesis was bad enough. I have watched enough of my friends go through the process that I cringe at the thought of doing it myself (even though I have my own statistician in residence. I had a friend try to convince me once that I should pursue a doctorate just because I had a statistician. Not persuasive. At all.). Just let me be a life long learner without the paper.

    You are a better person than I for tackling this ultimate academic credential. Best wishes for a peaceful and easy writing time.

    Signing off from my fifth Eastern Michigan Writing Project Summer Institute (that I still haven’t taken for credit.)

  • Thanks for your kind words of support, folks. Karen is right; this has definitely been a learning experience above and beyond the academic piece. And as Rick & Pam mention, overcoming the external factors are sometimes half the battle. It’s doing that while balancing all the academic stuff simultaneously that can wear a person down. That light at the end of the tunnel is definitely starting to come into focus, though. I will sleep well after this dissertation is defended, that much I can tell you.

  • […] task little by little every day has helped me to stave off the feelings of self-doubt and paralysis I’ve written about previously.  With deadlines fast approaching (I need to have Chapter […]

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