Most people think of the new year as a beginning, but for northern-hemisphere academics it’s the middle of the year, which really begins in September (Zcat, of course, gets to have all the new beginnings at once). Similarly, this first meeting of the Winter Writing Workshop in 2012 is also our mid-point, or at least my mid-point, though for some of you it’s the point at which you can finally get down to something, and for others, you’re about to be back in the classroom.
My plan to work 9-1 last week worked out very well, except on Friday, when the Shakespearean Heroine had an early vet appointment that couldn’t be switched around; after that, I didn’t settle into a proper work routine, but I did read a whole Renaissance play that had to be read, so that was something. As for writing, my focused free-writing on topics I hope will lead to a good, big-picture framework for the MMP is up to about 3500 words. I really need to produce an outline. I have plenty of words, but they need to be in the right order. I also need to re-analyze some of my manuscript data, and to do this, at least to do it really comfortably, I’d like to acquire a larger monitor instead of squinting at my laptop. So, goals for this week: outline, continue scheduled routine, invest in a monitor, outline, fiddle with data. Outline. And try to do some other work, like write up the syllabus for my spring classes, without letting that distract me from outlining the MMP.
Last week, Contingent Cassandra wrote, “I’m not as good as I need to be at switching from writing and research early in the morning (6/7-9 a.m.) to other work for the rest of the morning (9-12/1).” This sort of transition is hard for me, too, especially if I’m not going elsewhere (say, to campus) to do whatever the next thing is. Once I get settled in with a task, I like to keep at it. It can help to move around, to break the attachment to the desk and the particular task: walk around the block, or just make a cup of tea. But really, if you have the discipline to get up and do either of those things, then you don’t have a big problem with transitions.
So far, I haven’t worried too much about this. On some days, I set a timer for 25-minute stretches, and if I feel like continuing rather than taking a break, I just re-set it at once. Other days, I forget about the timer and submerge myself in work till I have to come up for air. If I feel stuck on a task, I look at my list (my hideously long list) of things that need to get done and just do something, anything, because they all need to get done so anything I feel like is fine.
But with two weeks till classes start, I feel like I should get a bit more methodical, and that is going to mean more attention to breaks and transitions, to doing a certain amount on one thing and then moving to another. So that’s the topic for the week: how are you with shifting focus? If it’s easy, why is that, and what do you do that other people might copy? If it’s hard, what have you tried, and how has that worked for you?
And, of course, what are your writing goals for this week?