The Dissertation Push: An open letter to the readers of my blog.

dissertation books

Dear friends of SeanMunger.com:

As most of you know, I am an academic. I’ve been pursuing my Ph.D. in American history since before this blog was created, and everything you’ve ever read on this site has been written while I’ve been working on first a thesis and now a dissertation, tentatively titled Ten Years of Winter. It’s now September (2015) and as summertime transitions into fall we’re headed into another academic year. This one, however, is going to be a little different than the previous years, as I expect it will be the final year of my Ph.D. The time has come to buckle down and push through to the end of my research project. A substantial portion of Ten Years of Winter now exists in draft form, but it’s become clear to me in the past few weeks, since my return from Boston, that the “final battle” is now rapidly approaching–I need to finish the dissertation once and for all.

This blog has become a huge, and a very dear, part of my life. I’ve said before that I’ve deliberately never tried to keep track of the amount of hours I put in on this site every week, because it would scare the hell out of me. Suffice it to say it’s a lot. But at least part of these many hours I need to be putting toward my dissertation. Even an hour a day will make a huge difference in progress, I think.

What does this mean for all of you? Well, hopefully, not that much, because I do intend to keep this site going and to keep writing and sharing with you articles on the numerous subjects I cover here that all of you have read, liked, shared, commented upon and enjoyed for the past two years (or more). However, I might not be able to do it quite as often–or as regularly–as I have in the past. Since the summer of 2013 I’ve tried to keep to a pretty rigorous schedule on this blog: a “small” article in the morning, a larger and more in-depth one that appears in the evening. Traditionally Saturdays are lighter because I don’t usually work, at least on electronic devices, on the Sabbath. I leave Sunday mornings usually for reblogs of wonderful material from other sites I hope you’ve come to love as much as I have, such as Robert Horvat’s history site, the RockinRed wine blog, ThorNews, Ephemeral New York, Padre Steve, etc. My guess is that in the next few months I won’t be able to observe this schedule as faithfully.

monticello darkdays

The environmental misfortunes of Thomas Jefferson, which I wrote about here and here, are one aspect of my academic research into environmental history of the early 19th century.

I’m going to continue to do what I can. Working on this blog is a great stress relief for me, which is one reason why I do it. And I love–I absolutely do love–the comments, the discussion, and the connections I’ve formed with those of you (and you know exactly who you are) who visit this site literally every single day. I’ve come to call many of you my friends, and because of the connections I’ve formed as a result of this site and those of you who are friends of it, I feel like I would be welcome to drop in for a glass of wine from Australia to Dallas to Brooklyn to Bergen. I want that to continue, and it will, but if I disappear now and again (without my usual “hiatus” declarations) or I’m just too tired to delve into that next Choose Your Own Adventure book, bear with me…I’ll be back eventually.

I’ve been referring to the dissertation as “the final battle” because it really is sort of like planning a military campaign on paper. The many sources I’ve gone to various places to collect, from the Huntington Library in Pasadena to Boston, are the foot soldiers of my army. It’s up to me to put them together in a coherent, realistic plan, and to deploy them, in a strategy likely to lead to victory–in this case a doctorate in history. Like every commander, I wish I had more troops, more supplies, more time and more favorable circumstances. But sometimes you have to commit to battle and just get it done. That’s where I’m at.

wilsons creek

History teaches us that sometimes you have to stop preparing and just give the order to charge.

My dissertation is not my only project, either. I have a new horror novel, The Rats of Midnight, coming out in December. I’m still trying to find a publication home for my science fiction book The Valley of Forever, and, perhaps ill-advisedly, I’m working on still yet another book, a collaboration with another author on a novel about World War II in the Pacific which is a project mostly for weekends and free time. People sometimes ask me how I find time to do all the things I do, and honestly I have no idea. This is just what I do.

Here is what I would ask of you, the readers and friends of this site: bear with me. Keep coming by, checking in, reading, sharing and commenting. There will continue to be new content posted as regularly as I can manage, but there are already over 1,500 articles on this site so there’s plenty to read. Those of you whose blogs I also read, I’ll continue doing that as often as I can. And wish me luck on this journey. Someday–in perhaps a few years’ time–Ten Years of Winter will come out as a book, and hopefully you’ll see where all this effort has led.

In the meantime, thank you all for reading and sharing. Have a wonderful weekend, and Shabbat Shalom!

The header image in this article was a photo taken by me, all rights reserved. All others are public domain.
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11 Comments

  1. Best of luck Sean. I will be here as a faithful reader as you are able to publish. Take your time to do what you have to do to ROCK your dissertation! I am quite sure it will be fantastic.

  2. The most important thing you can do is just get it done. Yes, you want it to be good or even brilliant, but you can always edit it later. Right now remember it does not have to be “good” it only has to be “good enough.” Get it done, and move on–that approach was what finally got me over the hump with my dissertation.

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