I am in the 4th year of my PhD and still has no paper published. I am working on my first ... but it has taken a long time because I had not been very satisfied with that piece of work and had been making modifications here and there. I have a second piece of work expecting to be published, but that one needs considerable improvement, too. My advisor is very grumpy about this, and he is now anxious to get me enough publications to send me off. Things are a tangled mess and I have no idea how to get out of this.
One, during the past three years, I had been working on something totally different from the main interest of my advisor. He is now sending me bits of pieces to work on in his main field. But I have little background knowledge, while still having to spend time writing that poor old paper and RA-ing on another project that supplies funding. I would never graduate in time were I to work on the new topic. I have not even identified a reasonable topic yet! On the other hand, if I were to incorporate some of the previous work into my dissertation work, it is different from my advisor's interest, and I fear another two unproductive years.
A second difficulty adding to the first one is, I find myself unable to discuss work with my advisor. The meetings are just like: I told him what I had, he made some comments, and then told me what to do next. Things never lasted more than 20 minutes. I feel lacking the big picture or a research objective. Sometimes I wish he could help me look at this piece of source code or that, but then in the meeting just failed to show it. Also, I am not a methodical or precise thinker, but my advisor is and he is very quick and sharp. I can make things clear on paper, but am terrible at taking facts from memory. This probably does not help him form any good impression. He also keeps mentioning I need more publications which are terrible blows to my psychology.
Finally, I have to graduate in two years, because funding is definitely running out by that time. In fact he is not even paying me at this time.
Seriously I want to quit, except to quit almost means the end of academic career. If I do not quit, what can I do to remedy the situation?