Reading: Piles of Books and Pages

Theoretically I’m in the last year (and hopefully few months) of my PhD.  For most people apparently this is known as the ‘writing up period’.  For me, apparently, it’s the ‘continue researching piles of books that you should have read ages ago’ period.  Oh yeah, I also agreed to do a book review, due in July (I think), so I should probably get around to reading that at some point.



Most of this month, when I haven’t been attending conferences or filling out job applications (see, I’m trying to plan ahead) I’ve been doing research.  Now, seeing as how I have a rough draft of most of what I want to say, even I’m wondering why I’m doing so much research still.  Now is the time I should be focusing on refining and revising (i.e. re-writing) my chapters, not finding more lovely material to add to already-bloated drafts.

But, on the advice of my supervisor, I’m trying to relate my fairly narrow chapters about music and musicians into wider historiographies.  Thus, my chapter about how ‘English’ were the Kinks is layered with the arguments of previous academics on concepts of ‘national identity’, and things like that.  I’ve spent most of the past few weeks reading about the Anglo-American ‘Special Relationship’ in an attempt to contextualise how the ‘British Invasion’ fits into other debates about American and British cultural relations.  You’d think I would have done this sort of stuff in my first year like a normal PhD student, then spent the second doing all the primary research and the third drafting and redrafting.  But no, I’ve never been one to do things the way everyone else has, so I’ve been writing since my first year.  I’m sure that first chapter about the ‘British Invasion’, now definitely needs a lot of work, seeing as how I wrote it two years ago.  I’m not sure I’ve even really read it since then.

Back to the books, though.  The one I’m currently reading is basically a history of my home area.  I recognise so many of the names and places, the descriptions of geography and things like that, but never quite put the names and history together.  It’s a very well-written and fascinating book, focusing nominally on the 1950s but actually flowing back and forth in time from roughly the 1850s to 1970s for a more broad explanation.  I’ve got a few more books I’m expecting to read this week, and just put in a request for a few more from my school library to get through inter-library loans.  I am wondering if I’m perhaps overdoing it, though, because a number of the books I read in my first year can lay the groundwork and be the historiography.

I think the real reason I’m continue to read, though, is that I’m afraid of revisions.  As this blog post mentions, having a draft is good, but merely the first step.  I’d like to think my first draft is good enough, though I know (logically) that it’s not.  I’m just having trouble motivating myself to hunker down and get to the next step, the revision.  Having books around that I ‘need’ to read is comforting in knowing that I ‘should’ be doing that instead of writing.  The same went for applying for post-docs and jobs; even though the applications weren’t due for weeks, completing them was a distraction from actually writing.  I have plenty of reasons not to write, but what I need to do is get into the mentality of need to write.  Then I can actually get done and (hopefully) start working on one of those post-doc or jobs for which I’ve applied.  But enough thinking about the future, it’s time to go write!


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