Welcome to the Winter Writing Workshop! Most of you have a clear goal that sounds reachable in 4-6 weeks’ steady work. Some of you may still be doing triage: what absolutely has to be done, now? How much distraction will there be from holiday shopping and parties, or from job market angst and conference-going? How much time do we need for getting back to a good exercise routine, or for excavating the laundry pile, or any other necessary real-life activities?

So let me urge you to Pick One. We all have lists. Give yours the hairy eyeball.

But first, think about your time. How many weeks do you actually have? Where will you be during that time? How much time must you spend on non-work activities? How understanding is your family about your need to work during “vacation”? Winter breaks can be hard to work in, because they’re short, they involve holiday stress, they come at what for most of us is a cold, dark, depressing time of year (Zcat, can all of us with SAD come and visit you down under?), and our libraries and universities may close to save money during at least part of them.

So, can you schedule two hours a day in a coffee shop? Can you put in four hours a day at home? Do you reliably have one hour in the evening, and other less predictable time here and there? Add up that time first; then look at your list again, and figure out which item you can do in that amount of time.

Consider, as well, your longer-term goals and term-time work habits. Will you be better served by getting an ugly rough draft of something that is now only notes, so you can revise it when you go back to teaching? Or would you prefer to get something almost-ready revised and out the door before you go back?

Make a plan, and post a comment about it. And again, welcome. Turn on your broad-spectrum lamps, crank up the space heaters, pour yourself a drink and stick a little paper umbrella in it, and we’ll all pretend we’re writing around the pool at some tropical resort. (If you actually like winter, carry on, but don’t tell me about it.)

My goal is to read/write at least 2 hours a day. Four will be ideal. But if I do two, that’s enough. Because, you know, the gym, the excavation, and so on. I’d like to turn this into a game, and see how many days and weeks I can get up to four.

The current participants:

Another Damned Medievalist (hereafter ADM): finish revisions

Contingent Cassandra: finish article

Digger: finish project

Good Enough Woman (hereafter GEW): not come to a standstill

Elizabeth Anne Mitchell (hereafter EAM): lit review

Highly Eccentric (Naked Philologist): either atoning for sins or committing more; I can’t tell.

Ink: fiction?

Matilda: finish draft of paper

nicoleandmaggie: finish draft?

Sapience: article due 15 Jan.

Sisyphus: finish article

Theologoumenathon: hang onto groove

Trapped in Canadia: finish book chapter

Zcat: Finish article

Updated to add:
Luo Lin: finish article

Profacero: resubmit one article (that might be two combined, or two separate)

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25 thoughts on “Time is not infinitely elastic

  1. OK:- review 1 book- resubmit at least 1 if not 2 mss., or put them together into 1 and submit- rework departmental and own websites- seriously prepare all classes- visit bookstores- rifle through current print journals at at least 1 major library- do annual report- reorganize computer filesI think that's all I can fit in. More stuff to do would involve going through files and books and stuff in house and office, so as to really get ready to work.

  2. Hi, all, Currently I have 4 projects. Two are text-type writing which I have been asked to do long before and I want to finish as soon as possible. I have taken too much time for them. Other two are my own projects: revision of a rough paper into a journal-publishable article, and starting Leeds paper nearly from scratch. My plans are: working regularly on my own revision project, finishing the text-type projects, starting collecting materials and reading sources for my Leeds paper. Do you think I am too ambitious? Maybe, so. I think I have two hours for my work at midnight. I don't have time in daytime, for my kids stay home while their nursery is on holydays. I also want to re-construct my writing habit. It has gone somewhere for a while. Thank you for hosting this!Matilda

  3. Ok — I'm thinking about what I actually need to do, and how much time there isn't. There are about 26 calendar days between grades in and classes starting again. In that time, I need to do a lot of work on the new prep (including watching a lot of films), revise two other preps, and write a book review. I also am giving myself a few days just to rest and clean the house and write Christmas cards. Plus holidays. So say about 20 actual work days, max, to be shared with prep work. First priority is to write the book review. Then I can start revisions & prep. I think I will begin with weekly goals, if that's ok — some health/life oriented, some writing-related. This week's goal is to finish the revisions of the paper due today, and then to get down to wading through piles of papers and finals until they are finished.

  4. So, two lit reviews (EAM and Theo), and three book reviews (ADM, Profacero, and Trapped): you can cheer each other on in small groups. Matilda, it sounds like you're working in adverse conditions. I know it's hard to concentrate on a single thing when several things seem important. But especially if you're on kid duty during the day and trying to write late at night, it seems to me you would do well to pick something that would make you feel really good to complete, and that isn't too draining. I'm not sure what you mean by "text-type writing": for classroom use? Encyclopedia entries? Since that work, whatever it is, seems to be making you feel guilty, it might be good just to get it done. What do the rest of you advise?I've been working on the MMP on & off today, in between wiping my nose and thinking up new hot drinks (hot water with a splash of creme de cassis is pretty good). Judging by the progress of Sir John's cold, I have another day or two of feeling rotten before I'm going to expect much of myself.

  5. Is it too late to join? I just found out that I technically only have 2 weeks off (don't even get me started on how 2 weeks is not enough with 2 back-to-back 17 week semesters). Those two weeks include the holidays. I need some motivation to not get depressed about my short time off, and still meet my goals: I have 44 hand-written pages (small journal sized pages) that need to be typed up and then I need to compile it with what I already have written and see where my (fiction) project is going. I originally had more goals than that, but….2 freaking weeks.

  6. Like some sort of crazy woman I've signed up for a 3 credit course over the 5 week break. Other than that, there is lots to do… but for the purposes of writing, I need to finish the Why Wheels chapter. I'd also *like* to get the State Sponsored Wheels chapter written, but I'll know better once the class starts what my time will look like.In the mean time, nothing is getting done on anything except finishing my schoolwork. Drop dead last thing in: Dec 20.

  7. Can't join because this is head exploding month and everything is on hold while I write stuff for MLA, but I'll be lurking. Oh, yes. I'll be lurking and watching all the writing inspiration.

  8. You're all welcome Downunder! I'll just pop down and open the gate.I think this time I can actually finish this article. It's been (I think I mentioned) brewing for a while. Yesterday, I sat down and typed 450 words without too much sweat. (Though there was a fair bit of swearing from the cat, when she realised I was trying to type over the top of her. We're having a bit of a fight over the ownership of my lap!)So, goal for week one is to write 500 words a day.

  9. Dame Eleanor Hull, Thank you for your comment. As you suggested, it may be better to concentrate on one project. I mean Encyclopedia entries by 'text-type writings'. Worth doing, I admit, but not really what I want to do…Well, anyway, this is what I have to do, so, ok, get it done. You have just detected my hidden procrastination! I am going to devote my precious two hours a day to a tangible work. It would make me feel good to finish something after several weeks. Thank you for helping me to decide.

  10. Sorry, I didn't ever put a goal…missed that part. But here's mine: revise previous novel chapters, write two new chapters. The biggest challenge will be balancing it with the kids off of school for three weeks.BUT I hope to carve out two hours minimum every day, and I hope to take advantage of any unexpected time, too (e.g., children go outside to play in snow).

  11. Righto! I am going to finish this article. YES. (that's me making a firm commitment to myself.)This week is finals week and grading and I leave for parents' house on Friday. My to do list this week includes getting all the grading done and submitted and finding/collecting everything I need for the article and packing it. And refreshing my article to-do list.Onward! Anybody wanna grade some very bad final papers for me?

  12. Sis: for the papers, I'll lend you Basement Cat. He'll shred them for you. Ink: get your kids Arthur Ransome's _Winter Holiday_ and encourage them to discover the North Pole!Matilda: I know all about overdue tasks getting larger and larger in imagination and thus leading to procrastination. Get the suckers done and you will have so much more energy.Zcat: Congratulations on your 450 words! You set a good example for us all.Welcome, Digger and Rented Life! Typing up 44 pages sounds like the sort of finite task you can manage even with limited time; also, it can be done mindlessly if necessary but might also lead to new insight about the project. Good luck with the school stuff, Digger, & see you after the 20th.Apart from my time resolve, I didn't put a goal for this week in the main post, so here it is: 3 x 500 words on "directed free-writing" topics that I have listed. I'm trying to work out the big picture framework for the MMP, though I'm not very good at big pictures.

  13. Had never heard of that author before, DEH–looks great! Thanks for the suggestion.And thanks for hosting this, too!

  14. Okay, I should probably get more specific than "not come to a complete standstill." It's going to tricky to get much finished. I'm still knee-deep in meetings and finals until the end of this week (with a sick kid, to boot), and we're leaving on Sunday for a three week trip, so there are lots of travel preparations to deal with. I know I won't be able to commit to a couple of hours a day as some others are doing. I will be staying at other people's houses during much of the trip, which requires me to "visit" in the evenings, and during the days I will have a lot of kid duty. But still. I do not want four weeks to slip by with no progress.For now, I'll tentatively plan to have the first half of my chapter drafted by January 20th. I know it sounds modest (even paltry, I'm sure), but I want to be realistic. And this is a chapter that I've been working on from scratch, so it's been slow going (The primary texts and the methodology are new to me).This week, I'd like to read 30 pages of primary text and and freewrite for 15 minutes at least four times during the rest of the week. In addition, I will decide which texts to take with me on my trip (space is limited!).Thanks, DEH for hosting and moderating!

  15. Hah, I'd better check in with an actual goal, huh!I'm endeavouring to finish a chapter by Jan 3. I'm about 1/4 of the way through it so far. I will accept be happy with getting 3/4 of the way through, though, if things don't pan out that way. Mostly that means putting in at least 1/2 a day every day except for the four-day trip I'm taking with my parents. *sadface*- Highlyeccentric

  16. I've been traveling the last two days, hence my delay in posting! My goal for the next week is to finish re-reading my primary texts (14 novels total, 10 to go) and outlining the rest of my argument. I also need to be doing some job market prep, while spending time with family…

  17. Ooh, Dame, I would like to join, mostly because my winter work time is being shot through to ribbons because my son has to change Montessori schools. (I'm so infuriated at his current teacher, who is kicking him out, that I don't want him to go back there and so he's home and been home.) We're starting him somewhere on Monday, but where? Still looking. ACK! But with all this and the holidays (which means my son will be home a lot of the time anyway), I want to get some work done since I really need to hit the ground running for winter quarter, when I have, not one, but TWO articles due to editors. So my goal is to work just a couple hours a week until MLK day, when winter quarter starts. But a couple hours is an amorphous goal. Hmmm. How about expand what I've got by three pages? That's a page a week. A small goal, but considering that Toby will be home most of the time and I've got Xmas shopping to do even when he goes to school, I think this may be the most realistic goal I've set for myself in a long time.All this to say, can I join too?

  18. While I've got an overall goal (and a secondary one — a revised article that also needs to be done by 2/1/12, which is a little after classes start, but before things get crazy), I'm afraid I'm still too much in end-of-semester overwhelmed-by-grading mode to create an overall game plan. So, for this week and next (handing grades in is going to happen *very* close to Christmas), I'm in "make at least a little progress" mode, and am, in fact, making a bit of progress, despite some setbacks/OBE earlier this week(some school-related, some related to a church committee on which I serve, which had a very long evening meeting to deal with a minor emergency — a combination which threw off my plans to get on a regular schedule that allows for early morning writing). However, I managed to write for c. 1.5-2 hours/200+ words this morning, and have also lifted weights/done calisthenics twice this week (but haven't yet gotten in a walk, thanks to the very early hour at which the sun sets — this is the hardest part of winter for me, since late afternoon is generally a good walking time), and have made some progress on household chores and gift shopping. I'll be happy if I can get in two more similar writing sessions tomorrow and Saturday, fit three writing sessions in next week, and also fit in 2-3 more weightlifting/calisthenics sessions and a couple of walks. Finishing the grading, buying presents for a few key people, pulling some decorations out of storage (enough to make me happy, which fortunately isn't a whole lot, but storage is packed and not on-site, so that's a somewhat time-consuming task), and spending considerable time at church are also on the docket. There's also some laundry and cooking and chaos-reduction in my very small living space to be accomplished somewhere in there (with laundry begun today). Serious planning for the c. 4 weeks I have off will have to wait until the 26th or 27th. So, for the next 10 days the plan is: grade a lot; write regularly; exercise regularly; sleep regularly; go to church (for worship or rehearsal) with considerable frequency; cook/clean/shop/decorate a bit. I'll try to check in with a progress report at least once during that time, and will post a more detailed vacation plan c. the 26th or 27th.

  19. Greetings, DEH and everyone else! Time may not be infinitely elastic, but you all are infinitely inspiring. I've heard that this is a wonderful–and wonderfully productive and encouraging–group. Is it too late to join your winter session? I'm working on an academic book proposal due in January and would love to set some real goals with you all.In any case: happy writing to each of you!

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