Guess what I did tonight? OK, first let me back up and say that my approach to dissertation writing has been to use the power of recall to keep up with the books, articles, gov docs, oral histories, etc, I need for each chapter and rely upon the power of my brilliant writing to mask my lack of organization. I keep everything in baskets, on an overstuffed bookshelf, and haphazardly tossed over my computer desk. Oh, and when I type, I have the annoying habit of citing or sourcing materials, inserting a footnote and leaving it blank "until later." And while the previously mentioned power of recall usually allows me to plug it in later, I have sometimes forgotten where the hell I got something from.
In short, I have been woefully unprepared for the task of dissertation writing. And, while I sort of eased through the first three chapters, my attempts at writing two chapters this summer were horrible and still incomplete (my advisor is apparently not speaking to me, btw. Haven't heard from her since May. I am soooo scared). So, tonight, before I bled another word, I pulled out each and every loose piece of paper (be it article, document, review, census, map etc), separated them into 5 piles based on which chapter I primarily used it for, alphabetized the piles, put them into big binders, added a table of contents (okay, sis helped with typing those), labelled binder with chapter number and name, inserted most recent copy of each chapter along with the last copy advisor critiqued, and went back and filled in most of the missing footnotes. Along the way, I found sources I never used but meant to consult, a whole counter argument to points I make in the latest chapter, and some other good stuff. I should've done this as I was going along!
And I feel better, as if some things are at my fingertips instead of possibly in the basket in the closet or in the notebook on the shelf. I know, I know. To some it sounds like busy work, but if you had any idea of the disarray I was in, the fact that I literally could not find things I needed, you'd realize what a big deal this is. It also prompted me to keep writing. I'm happy to report that at least one of these chapters should be fit for submission to my advisor by next week.
That is, (ahem), if Quinn and others let me run it by them first.