Saturday, June 23, 2012

Summer 2012 Dissertation Boot Camp - DAY 1

This summer’s dissertation boot camp is a 7-day camp, and held at the wonderfully-conducive-to-writing Grove House at Pitzer College. As one dissertator said after breakfast and orientation under the natural canopy of the outdoor classroom, “It’s like a vacation…”. Of course, this was BEFORE he had begun confronting his writing! But really, the broad porch, the outdoor classroom, and the old, comfortable-lived-in rooms in the house are great spaces for focusing on writing. It’s totally like a retreat from the whirlwind we call life, into a calm haven that supports writing and the building of good writing habits. 

If you’re curious about this amazing community house, check out this online project about it that was done as a senior thesis by Pitzer student, Leah Wellman Quayle.

DAY ONE: Dissertating at the Grove House
Early arrivals. Not too many got lost. So we got started early and ended up with time for a 2 hour first block of writing in the morning instead of one. YAY!!!
Everyone has a table, covered in the white butcher paper that has become almost iconically connected with dissertation boot camps. Some are in the three little rooms at the back of the house, and the rest upstairs in the poetry room overlooking the front, and the gallery space. But this is early summer in Southern California and we anticipate most people taking their laptops down to the living room and outdoor areas to write. 
...which they totally did! 
First order of business was breakfast and getting to know each other in the outdoor classroom … “just like going to summer camp!” And then to the accompaniment of the sound of planes from the flying school at nearby Cable Airport, we went over introductions, boot camp best practices and rules, and the week’s schedule.

Writing goals for Day 1

We spent some time on group work to share and discover niggling challenges that get in the way of dissertating, and ideas we have for over-coming these challenges, best practices to keep dissertation writing moving smoothly forward.

Overheard: "Wow! We have great strategies ... pity we're not so good at using them ..."

And that's the foundational goal at our week long boot camp - learning to put strategies into practice. This is the week to discover how we work best, and find ways to sustain writing when we're not at boot camp.
I found a nice image in the aeroplane interruptions that I will remember. At first I was a little bothered about having to constantly pause in discussion to wait for the sound to ebb as the plane passed. But then I realized it reminded me of when I write – without pause – and get so lost in detail and thinking with the writing that I run out of steam or ideas or both. Periodically waiting to pause … and breathe ...  creates moments of stillness that refocus the mind. (The extra burst of oxygen doesn’t hurt either).
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