On the Incredible Importance of Keeping a Notebook By the Bed

As predicted, the fall semester fell like a tidal wave and I’m dog paddling as fast as I can. The good news is dissertation data collection is going great. My participants are wonderful and I can already tell that they are giving me solid gold as far as data goes. The other good news is that I now have a son, one of the coolest kids I’ve ever met (no bias here!). Ok, I’ll admit that his night-time needs are a bit challenging, and I could use a bit more sleep (notice I’m using my diplomatic tone here, and not going into too much detail about the torture of sleep deprivation).

But speaking of waking in the middle of the night, I had a frustrating experience I want to warn other dissertators against. A couple nights ago I was nursing Coleman around 4am. As we sat in the dark I thought about one of the dissertation interviews I had completed the day before, and as I was reflecting on what my participant told me, I had an idea about how I could approach my analysis. If you’ve ever had an intellectual or creative epiphany, you know what this feels like. It was like a sudden serenity, and all the mush in my brain suddenly was organized into clear, gleaming categories. It’s so obvious, so perfect, that all I could do is laugh. I was thrilled. I thought, Should I write this down? Then, Nah, my hands are full and this is such a great and obvious idea, I’ll surely remember it in the morning.

Next morning it was gone.

I remember the wonderful feeling of the idea dawning on me. But the idea itself is as lost as all those precious hours of sleep. Friends, keep a notepad– or if you’re nursing an infant, a voice-activated audio recorder!– by the bed.