Writing things down really seems like work. They say work makes a man good and honest. Well, here’s a chance, at least. -Fyodor Dostoevsky (Notes from the Underground)

Time management has never been my strong suit. While I’m a person who gets things done, I often find myself completing tasks in the margins of time–when I should be sleeping or eating, or perhaps at the last possible moment. There are never enough hours in the day and, like most people,  I have a very full plate. This, however, is not the way a dissertation is written; it’s the kind of endeavor that defies margins and bubbles over into everything else. So, I recently began thinking that I would have to create some new category on the blog so as to be able to give it the attention it deserves, while also doing all the necessary things to complete my degree. What I’ve come up with is a nod to Dostoevsky and the text that set me on the path of Russian literature: Notes from the Underground. Of course, I’m not actively renouncing society like the Underground Man, but I suppose I must occasionally turn my back on the world so as to write (in fact, this is what most dissertation manuals advise you to do; unreasonable advice or not, they suggest that you limit contact with all distractions–friends, family, TV, literature–so as to finish graduate school in a timely fashion; they say you’ll get it all back when it’s over…However, I have my doubts about the rightness of this method, which is why I’m still blogging, talking to the people I love, etc.). In these moments, I will offer you some photos and inspiring links and, before you know it, I’ll be back with a recipe.

Inspiration 1: Pizza for dinner. Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Pizza Dough made with whole-wheat and bread flour (courtesy of Joy the Baker). See what you have in the fridge and be creative; pizza is nothing but forgiving. Beets, feta, rainbow chard and spring onions. Or the last of the tomatoes, ricotta, chard and zhough.

Inspiration 2: Cute puppies, instagrammed. With Elektra in the house, there’s never a dull moment. You might just find her hiding on the coffee table.

 Inspiration 3: Start the morning off right and have veggies for breakfast; Joy the Baker’s (must be a Joy the Baker kind of day) carrot cake pancakes, courtesy of Smitten Kitchen, are nothing but gloriously good.
Inspiration 4: Trips to the farmer’s market. Take them, enjoy them. Sample something you’ve never tried before, like jujubes (red dates). Buy yourself flowers.
Inspiration 5: Keep a good book on your nightstand. Currently, I’m devouring, albeit at the snail’s pace of 30 pages a night, the lovely food memoir by The Wednesday Chef: My Berlin Kitchen. Next up, Zadie Smith, or maybe Michael Chabon. How can one concentrate when there are so many good books to read? 
Frankly, I wasn’t meant for the Underground Life, but this is maybe just the way it has to be. For now. But I will be back soon with a cocktail recipe that is the epitome of fall!

6 thoughts on “Notes from the Underground: Week 1

  1. I feel inspired by these inspirations! No-knead pizza and My Berlin Kitchen for sure and maybe I can find a puppy to borrow… Bon weekend and “happy” writing!

  2. Yay! I love these inspirations, and the idea behind them! I officially disagree with the received dissertation wisdom too–I don't think that kind of tunnel vision does anyone, or your work, any favors. I'm glad you are finding ways to remain human in the process! 😉

  3. Thank you! Let's hope I remain human; I was on campus until 7 last night and back bright and early to teach this morning…All I really want is to make sure that, by the end of this process, I'm not as leathery and worn as most of the books in the Slavic library!

    If only we all got a bonus when we finished our dissertation, I might be able to take a trip to a spa.

  4. Clearly, Jess, you are a champion of the first order! I know we all (or a large majority of us) make it through despite numerous distractions, but I suppose you really can't believe finishing is possible until it's actually (finally) over.

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