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It’s official. I’ve written for 200 days in a row on That’s the longest streak and I’m extremely proud of it. It really is amazing how this simple act of staring at a blank screen every day for 200 days and managing to write something (anything, really), has helped me avoid writer’s block and get 3 chapters of my dissertation written. Of course, there’s more to successful writing than just, but I do credit it with helping me get through these last months.

In other dissertation writing news, I would also say that Demystifying Dissertation Writing is also a great resource for anyone who is either starting or in the process of writing a dissertation. This is especially true if you’re like me and prefer a systematic approach to writing. I really like her writing chart in which you chart the time that you write in short blocks (15-20 minutes) and the process from interactive note taking –> focus statement –> short outline –> long outline –> draft. Her tips make a lot of sense, she incorporates real classroom anecdotes, and the book is available at at reasonable price.

Two other things that have helped over the last few months are: (1) my dissertation writing group and (2) the Pomodoro technique. My dissertation writing group started at the beginning of the spring semester and we meet twice a week. We set goals together, chart progress, hash out frustrations, and do fun exercises from books like Stylish Academic Writing. We’re going to start experimenting with a help-line through Google Hangout because sometimes it’s just easier to work while you know someone else is (virtually) with you.

Whenever I can’t seem to get started working, I just start a Pomodoro (25 minute block of time). I use the Promodoro! App, which I really like, though there are plenty others to choose from. After 25 minutes of working, I take a 5 minute break for stretching or checking email. After 4 rounds of 25 minutes, the app gives you a 15 minute break. In the morning, I usually get through about 4 pomodoros easily, and stretch it to 6 if I’m really on a roll.

a decolonial approach to visual culture talk

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Last week, I gave a talk as part of the Visual Studies Research Initiative at USC. I was really nervous because I was sharing my ideas about decolonial approaches to visual culture with my colleagues and professors, and I had been preparing for months. I envisioned creating a different kind of space for knowledge exchange and production, so I came up with the idea of a dinner party — which was also timely considering it was the end of the year and a good moment for celebrating this year’s accomplishments. The talk turned out better than expected and people responded well to the Devil Wears Prada clip and the three artists who I presented on. I was worried that audience members might have negative reactions to decoloniality, but it was quite the opposite, as I found most of my colleagues genuinely wanted to learn more about the decolonial project. They offered some great comments and questions at the end and I received many congratulatory hugs. Now I just have to figure out how to spend the $250 gift certificate to the USC bookstore that I received as an honorarium!

rebecca’s coffee shop

One essential component to grad school success is having a local coffee shop with an extensive selection of tea, good food, and free & reliable wifi. Even though I have a designated room as an office at home complete with an ergonomic chair, scanner / printer combo, and lap cat, it’s really hard for me to do serious writing there. Reading is fine, and it’s good for busy work too. But there’s something about being in a coffee shop surrounded by other people on their laptops that begs you to be productive. I have a habit of falling in love with one coffee shop at a time — lately, it’s been Rebecca’s in South Park. I maintain a monogamous relationship with said coffee shop until the chairs get a bit stiff and the clientele too familiar, and then it’s off to another.

late november

It’s that time of year when students & professors go into stress-mode. That special time between Thanksgiving and Christmas when you’re realizing that you only have a few weeks before the end of the semester. Which is great, but at the same time, extremely frightening. As an ABD student, I don’t often work along the same time frame, since I’m neither teaching nor in coursework. And I live about 100 miles from campus. But like some sort of persistent muscle memory, I still have the feeling like I’m supposed be busy and on deadline — and in some ways I am. I scheduled two talks late into the semester — one at the USC Fisher Museum of Art (above) and one next week on “A Decolonial Approach to Visual Culture.” These talks are not only a good way to disseminate my work to my fellow USC colleagues, but also function as built-in deadlines. Kind of like conference papers or fellowship deadlines.

The next major goal is to write Chapter 2 by the time I’m getting ready to leave for Vietnam. I have about 16 days to get this done, which seems kind of impossible. But I’m talking a draft — nothing perfect. The polishing can be done later. I just feel like if I don’t get all of my thoughts down before my trip, then I’ll forget them and lose some of the momentum that I’ve had over this last semester. Plus, my goal is to finish a draft of the entire dissertation by August 2013, so I have to stay on schedule. Let’s see how that goes!