There is supposed to be an order to the graduate student career. One comes in as a naive new student and spends the first semester feeling overwhelmed. A few semesters later, one gets used to being overwhelmed. After a year or two, one takes an exam or series of exams that allow one to progress. In some programs, one writes a masters thesis. One day, one finally finishes classes. Then one starts The Dissertation. This involves getting a committee, then writing a proposal, then getting the proposal passed. After some indeterminate amount of time, involving collecting data and writing things, one successfully defends the dissertation. The final step happens when one goes to graduation and realizes, "Damn! I should have gone somewhere where the regalia includes a sword!"
Somehow my chronology has become discombobulated. It's not really the delay in passing comps; I'm on schedule to defend a proposal when I had planned to. It's just that right now I'm working on all this stuff that feels like it ought to happen after the proposal. I'm applying for a grant (and I applied for another one last fall) for the dissertation. I'm filing an IRB form for my data collection.
And at this point, I don't have anything technically approved. Theoretically, my committee could say to me, "No, we don't like the direction you're going in. We'd like to see more of a focus on the role of the lemur in promoting intertextuality in antebellum Georgia." They won't, mind you: I've discussed the project with all of them and they're on board. That's a good thing, because I know precious little about lemurs.