My first year of dissertation writing consisted of trying to read or write in the evenings after the kids, then an infant and a toddler, went to bed. It took me months to get through Sidney’s Arcadia (which is decidedly long to begin with, and tortuously so when one can only get through about ten pages a night). I discovered (again) that I can do a lot in short chunks of time. But by the end of the year, I had little to show for my work other than a few ideas of what I might write about.
Fast forward to this year–four years later–and the dissertation has become a priority. This morning I got to settle in at the coffee shop to work. My younger was already at preschool, and the older one, home on a teacher in-service day, was ensconced in my office out back with the babysitter, having been ejected from the house by the housecleaner. I know I have it good. I’m in a situation where I don’t have to work for pay, and our family finances are such that I can pay for my writing time. Every day of writing is a luxury.
The change for me began when I really began to see my writing as a job, one that required uninterrupted amounts of time. I had to see it as something of value, even though I’m not getting paid to do it. I think even if I hadn’t been able to pay for time to write, the change in my attitude toward my dissertation would have resulted in other kinds of uninterrupted writing time. I read of one author (I can’t recall who) who dropped her children off at a church Sunday school every Sunday, and then sat in the car and wrote. A friend of mine always let her kids stay in the gym daycare as long as they were allowed and set up in the gym lounge to get some work time in. These women treated their work as something of value, something they would creatively make time for.It is possible to write a dissertation during regular evening hours, or even with small chunks of time here and there. With my particular writing temperament and habits, and at this stage in my dissertation writing, 16 daytime hours a week is about right (though I’ve done much work with much less time set aside). But it’s not possible to finish–whatever your time situation–if you don’t believe your work has value.