DAY 2: staking the claim (in a very temporary, temporal, non-commital-beyond-the-next-three-months sort of way)
February 11, 2014
So remember that Assignment 1 that I’ve been on and off agonizing about for oh…the past month? Yeah, it’s due no later than February 23. Today is February 11 (or almost February 12). Doing that math…the 23 is like only 11 days away from tomorrow. 11 days. EEK….
I’ve muddled and dawdled and procrastinated in the name of the research process long enough that I think it’s become time to face the harsh reality, namely that I’ve reached the point of diminishing returns regarding this whole dithering research question. This is a class. This isn’t the rest of my life. This is an assignment. This isn’t a marriage of deep + binding professional importance that will go on to define me far into the future. And perhaps most of all…I have what I need to be successful at this moment. Me expecting myself to produce fully actualized, professional, world-changing academic prose is just going to result in me being paralyzed and nothing will come of that. Rather, me just beginning and taking one little step and then another and another and another and at some point a conclusion might be faltering and might be amateur, but it will be actual words on pages and ideas in pages and honestly…the faulty realized project that is shared is always better than the perfect vision that lives nowhere and touches no one save the small mind that has conceived it.
Returning to the Olympic metaphors that seem to permeate these days, it’s like I’m at the top of the ski jump and I’m holding so so so tight to the bench that feels safe. And yet it’s not time to sit anymore and it’s not time to hold tight…it’s time to let go and trust myself. I may fall and I may scream like a maniac and any one of a number of untold tragedies may happen but equally…I may fly and it might be beautiful and it might be peaceful and it might be better than I ever could have imagined. So, with open hands…it is indeed time to begin this ever vulnerable, ever trying, yet ever satisfying task of writing.
February 10, 2014
What follows is some very timely wisdom from my most esteemed supervisor, Dr. Siemens, following yet another bout of dissertation ideas I sent off to him. “A dissertation is not ‘how to bake’ it is more like ‘how to use mandarin oranges in making small cupcakes for July 4th celebrations”. Best phrase ever…right up there with the idea of chipping away ice chunks to cool your drink not demolishing an entire cube. Now comes heeding this advice when all I really want to do is make an animated piece of typography out of it…or maybe eat a small cupcake. Focus Lisa. Focus.
Hi Lisa –
the biggest challenge you’ll face with your dissertation is scope. What you list in your four points is the equivalent of several dissertations :). My advice, and one that you will hear again and again, is to focus, focus, focus (oh, and focus). What ONE main idea is provocative and important enough for you to spend the next several years exploring? Once you have that clear, you can build sub questions around it. But it really does need to be precise. A dissertation is not “how to bake” it is more like “how to use mandarin oranges in making small cupcakes for July 4th celebrations”. precise. focused. You are not surveying a field – you are going deeply in an area where no one has gone before. When you are done, you will be the *world expert* in that one area.
February 9, 2014
Winter Olympic season is officially in full swing. My Twitter feed is abuzz with everyone’s reactions to wins and jumps and falls, I’m suddenly the biggest fan of people who I never even knew existed last week, and I’m not positive but I think I can almost tell the difference between a spin and a swizzle in figure skating. I love Olympics for the narrative and for the drama and most definitely for the fashion and pageantry. For two weeks it seems the world shrinks not because there’s massive genocide or natural disaster but because people are competing and you see how hard they try and you see their families and in some crazy way you connect across the distance.
Before these Olympics started I heard on NPR that they were going to be the most covered games ever. Literally, if it was happening at an Olympic venue and you have access to the internet, there was a way you could see it regardless of time zone or geography. (Granted, here in the States there are some huge paywalls set up so it’s not as idealistic as it might seem but still…in theory if it’s happening in Sochi, it can also be happening on say your iPad mini.) Good news is I am one of the chosen who has both subscription cable and high speed internet, so when I heard the news that every last event was going to be broadcast, I made a mental pledge to slack off in the all other areas of my life and consume Olympics like it was my job. Forget mindlessly viewing whatever the networks deemed, and edited, as Primetime content…this year I was going to hold my own Olympic fate, make my own choices, and it was going to be amazing.
February 6, 2014
“If you don’t fail regularly you are not trying hard enough things. The trouble, of course, is that it is emotionally much harder to restart after a failure because the risks seem clearer. This may be why the energy and enthusiasm of youth are so important in research and in new businesses.”
Fabulous advice from Ivan Sutherland’s address, Technology and Courage given to Carnegie Mellon students in 1982. As courage was one of my main mantras of 2013 and I’ve recently been put into a place where it seems that failing lots is the way I’m actually going to learn stuff, this quote is indeed quite heartening. The learning process—always so messy, yet always so so good. May all of our hearts never grow too discouraged to risk it all once more and trust that even though it’s scary, maybe this new move/idea/conversation act might be the very thing that can bring a bit more good to the world and amazingly enough, we get to be part of it.
February 4, 2014
So, there are several things I don’t particularly want to think about tonight as I put together this post and one thing in particular that has been spinning in my mind all day. regarding the most unusual process of obtaining a doctoral degree. The things I don’t want to think about I’ll just list in boring old bullets because if I don’t, they’ll just keep trying to come out as I write.
- losing another cohort member
- creating the course schedule aka my first massive task as a sr. AD
- upcoming AIGA conference where once more I feel like I’ll be coming out about DE to a group of very entrenched face-to-face-studio-only educators…all of whom I’m totally intimidated
- assignment 1 and those ridiculous research questions that have now reached epic fear status in my own head
- the fact that I didn’t practice piano enough this week and have a lesson in less then 24 hours
Whew….glad that’s out of my mind. And I can safely thrust those worries to the anonymous void that is the internet and see what happens.
So the one thing that has kept on coming back to my mind all day today which has to do with a doctoral journey on a macro level is this idea of “becoming.” When I tell people that I’m working on my doctorate and have just been promoted into a senior associate dean role, it seems that they inevitably are impressed and then immediately ask me how I manage to juggle my time and get it all done because clearly it must take a ton of time to lead a team and read intellectual stuff and write papers and do all the nebulous things that people think of when they’re just peering into your context and not actually there.
February 3, 2014
February 2, 2014
So today I was out doing my usual fetch session with Ruby in the park across from my house. I love being outdoors because it clears my head and also gives Ruby a chance to spend some of her boundless energy. As we were playing today in snow that was definitely almost deeper than she is tall, it occurred to me (probably because I’m almost becoming borderline obsessive on the subject…yeah, not a total bad thing that I have to go back to work tomorrow and not spend 24/7 on these ideas) that playing fetch in deep snow is a lot like the research stuff I’ve been doing for the past several days. Seriously.
I’ve got my mini tennis ball, like my supervisor holds much of the “deep resources” I’m trying to untangle at the moment. When I fling it, I always can see where it is, how it’s connected to the wider world of the park, when Ruby is getting close to it, when she’s totally off base, etc. She sees the ball for a split second and then it’s gone and all she knows is a kind of vague, general direction of places to search for it. She runs as best she can then flings herself all around and about 2/3 of the time actually recovers the tennis ball. The other times, she gets distracted, goes down other paths, and then comes back to me where we recalibrate, find the tennis ball together, and give it another go. Brilliant, right? : )
I know there will come a time when I’ll be better about being self directed and eventually become way more brainy than my supervisor on my own topic but for now…yeah, not so much. So…here’s to the fetching journey of research!
February 1, 2014
It’s Saturday, a day that I don’t generally post because it’s the weekend and I want at least the illusion of having some boundaries and unplugged balance in my life, but well, I’ve been a total slacker this week on blog-tastic updates and I’ve also been almost totally research consumed today so it seems that this post should indeed happen. So…new ideas are indeed abounding!
On Tuesday night I emailed a rough version of all I’ve been considering to my supervisor just to get out of my own personal universe and see if my ideas had any merit in the larger light of the system and…it was helpful. Not so much unadulterated praise for my own brilliance and witty prose and earth-shattering research area but gentle rebuke surrounding the lack of structure under my multi-syllable words, a suggestion of a new book to read, new academic to begin internet stalking or rather following, and an overall evaluation of “interesting and important research question though these ideas are rabbit holes thus you need to be clear about what ‘tacit’ means in your context.” Hahaa…clear about tacit, yeah that’ll be a breeze to pull off because every one knows tacit means….well….