Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Just Perfect

A friend of mine once told me when I was finishing up my master's thesis that there were two kinds of theses: good ones and finished ones.

My defense taught me many valuable lessons. First and foremost, it taught me how to let go and realize that it is ok to give up the idea of perfection. Many academics talk about the dissertation defense and the PhD as a sort of "plumber's license." It allows you to go forward in your career, to do what you want to do. It doesn't matter how you do on the licensing test, just so long as you pass it. This is both true and untrue. Nobody reads dissertations -- they are much more interested in the book that will come out of it (or, of course, the next book that you can write without the pressures of a committee and the trappings of dissertation-style writing). But the people who do read it are people on job search committees. Crap.

I'm now finished with the dissertation. I was content with it. I wouldn't say I loved it. I found the discussion during the defense about possible changes for publication both exhilerating and distressing. Exhilerating because there were all these fantastic directions I could go in to make this a real, live book! Distressing because after working on this for the better part of six years, there is still so much to do to make it serviceable to any audience beyond those that were in the room during the defense.

I hope to someday have a book to be proud of. Will it be perfect? Of course not. I hope I can remember that when I face that reality again.

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Blogger elle said...

i've been meaning to ask... you wrote this for me din'tcha?

8:59 PM  

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