Enough time has elapsed since I've talked about my dissertation that some of you have probably begun to wonder . . . has she quit? or is she stuck in the quicksand that threatens every doctoral student who is "ABD"?
ABD technically indicates that a student has completed "All But Dissertation." Perhaps "Anything But Dissertation" is more accurate for most of us. It's a strange season in academic life that requires a tremendous amount of self-motivation. Many enter it . . . and far fewer emerge with a degree in hand. It's so easy to let all sorts of other things crowd out productivity in research and writing (um, like this blog post, which is interrupting dissertation work. sigh.).
I've done all sorts of things since moving to Oregon that might be interpreted as an avoidance strategy. I bought a grain mill, studied and experimented with breads and grains, started making my own yogurt and chicken broth, and signed up for a class at the local community college entitled "Backyard Chickens" (really!). I've planted trees and painted trim, hemmed curtains and played with my children. We've camped and hiked and driven to the beach. None of these activities appear on the list of what one must do if one is to succeed in academia. But academics are real people, too (at least some of us try to be!). This has been an important season of slowing down, settling into our new home, and developing healthier eating habits.
Meanwhile, I have continued to work on my dissertation. It started off slowly over the summer, but since the kids started school this fall I've been carefully reading a 300-page German monograph on my topic, diagramming a dozen chapters of Exodus in Hebrew, and reading up on cognitive metaphor theory. I sit at my desk (or at Multnomah's library) working at least 6 hours every day. Since you can't see me sitting here, I thought I'd reassure you ... I haven't quit. It's just a long process. And I trust the end product will be worth the wait (and all the hard work).
Tomorrow I'm heading to San Diego to reconnect with colleagues and meet with my advisers. As usual, the annual conferences of the Evangelical Theological Society, the Institute of Biblical Research, and the Society of Biblical Literature are being held back-to-back in the same city. Thousands of professors and students of the Bible from across the country and around the world meet under one roof every November to reconnect and learn from each other. Academically speaking, these conferences are always the highlight of my year. This conference will be especially significant since I have been working remotely. My days will be packed with one-on-one meetings, attending sessions, networking, and browsing book tables. When I arrive home next week my brain will be so full it hurts. It happens every year. But I can't think of a better way to invigorate my research and writing than to spend 6 days with a community devoted to the study and teaching of God's Word.
When the shelves of my fridge are filled with leftover turkey and stuffing, you'll find me back at my desk cranking away on the biggest project I've ever attempted. With God's help, one day those three letters - ABD - will become PhD.