I want to thank Trapped in Canadia for introducing me to Jen Dziura’s column Bullish, which has been encouraging me to think about both my job and my career in ways that are already making me more efficient and happier.  One of the things I like best about her is that she is very rational and analytical.  She believes in planning rather than hoping, rationality rather than cockeyed optimism, doing the numbers rather than trusting that things will work out.

For various reasons, including being older and settled into a career whose parameters are basically dictated by someone else, I am not her target audience.  All the same, when I consider my values and my abilities, it becomes clear that certain things are easy for me to control, while others are not, and I would do better to maximize the easy ones.  One example: while I can act as if I’m a warmer, kinder person in the classroom, performing such a persona takes a vast amount of energy I don’t really have.  However, I can warn students that I am a brisk, coastal-style person . . . and then grade their assignments efficiently and usefully, so that papers come back quickly and with helpful comments.  So I’m less lovable, but I don’t care about being loved.  I care about being useful.  Rationally maximizing my time/energy output makes sense here.

Why, then, am I also so fond of Julia Cameron, whose writing advice embraces the woo-woo?  The Universe wants you to be happy and creative!  Make your life what you want it to be!  Trust your dreams!  Find joy and satisfaction in your life by doing things that make you happy!  Write affirmations that say you are capable, confident, deserving, and you will become those things!  This sounds like the sort of thing Dziura describes as “impenetrably blithe.”

Well, sometimes in order to get where your rational self wants to be, you need a little woo-woo.  Of course you know the odds against you: will your novel even find a publisher, let alone become a best-seller that will let you move to New Mexico and write full-time?  Ha ha.  Will your academic book really change the face of the discipline?  Uh-huh.  Will your dissertation even get you a job?  Um . . . .

But an unwritten novel is guaranteed not to be published; the unwritten academic tome doesn’t stand a chance of changing anything; the unfinished dissertation will most certainly not get you the job that requires dissertation in hand.  You can’t ensure your own success, that is true.  But you can most certainly ensure failure.  So you have to at least meet the bar of finishing whatever it is.

And so it’s time for the woo-woo that will let you shut off the voices and the doubts and get on with it. Do your affirmations: “I am a prolific and insightful writer.”  If you are too aware of past failures, try the Carolyn See approach: “Up until now, I had trouble with conclusions, but now I write strong and interesting conclusions!”  Embody the voices, shrink them down, and squash the bugs.  If visualizing yourself giving the keynote at the major conference in your field seems too unrealistic (and thus gets the voices going again), visualize yourself at your desk, working contentedly and productively for half an hour a day, every day.  If that’s too tame, imagine a chorus line of drag queens in 6-inch silver heels, feather headdresses, and not much else, singing “You’re the tops!”  It’s your fantasy life: let it be rich, productive, and comforting.  Whatever keeps you doing the work, moving the project forward every day, taking baby steps if that’s what you’re able to do.

Roll call:

ComradePhysioProf: write another fucken grant proposal due in 3 weeks.
Contingent Cassandra: continue to add to the P article/paper/outline-in-progress, with the goal of moving toward a more formal outline for the article, and a sense of which pieces will be fleshed out in the conference paper.  Take care of remaining urgent ancillary task.
DEH: schedule 5 hours on the MMP. Do the next two research-analysis tasks on my list. Maybe do some focused free-writing about a topic my RL writing group identified as being relevant.
EAM: Pack, move, stay sane.
FeMOMhist: Set up some sort of automatic reminder to keep project in forefront of my mind.  500 words for next week.
thefrogprincess: Do the outline. Maybe get some rewriting done?
GEW: Find and procure a book review for a theory text that I find difficult. Read a methods chapter. Write one page.
Ink: Write two more pages.
JaneB: a) Smooth out the rest of the lumps into a rough draft. b) type all my notes into the outline of the Unexpected Paper that started last week.
JLiedl: Finish grant application: really! Identify and start acquiring outstanding sources for conference paper/article.
kiwimedievalist: missing in action.
Luo Lin: four solid hours of work. Specifically, my next tasks are to read through my newly-organized draft, write and delete as necessary, incorporate some sources, and put the paper back together.
Matilda: finish the rest of the project; write at least 15 minutes a day.
Nancy Warren: keep on truckin’ with the chapter / conference paper draft; try to identify more clearly which bits actually ARE the paper and organize them as such.
profgrrrl: Finish both chapters and get them sent out (because I don’t want that book stuff hanging over my head during spring break). Finish conference paper revisions by Monday. And if I have any steam left, I’ll work on a conference proposal (it’s a brief one).
Rented Life: start the damn book! seriously. Also either begin writing the scene that’s in my head or begin reviewing previous writings that have been left alone for a month and a half.
Sapience: start revisions on chapter 5.  If I can read at least two articles or book chapters every day (10-12 total?) I’ll count that a win. If I can start actually writing the revisions, that would be a bonus.

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69 thoughts on “Writing group, week 4: rationally woo-woo

  1. 1. Last goal: schedule 5 hours on the MMP. Do the next two research-analysis tasks on my list. Maybe do some focused free-writing about a topic my RL writing group identified as being relevant.

    2. Achieved: didn’t actually schedule things, just worked as I found time. Put in about 3 hours on Wednesday and finished one scheduled analysis task; wrote just shy of 400 words in the focused free-writing on another day; managed a bit of library time on Thursday. Still have to do some writing today, but I know what I am going to write about.

    3. Analysis: I was still re-jiggering my schedule after all the “extras” that were so wearing in February. Writing in the morning is best. Sometimes I can do a little at night, if I have a clear topic to write about. “Thinking” tasks need a clear brain and are best done in the morning or at least on a non-teaching day. Moving forward, I have a new batch of grading to deal with, but I’m also energized knowing that after this coming week, I have spring break; and early next week, I need to give the RL group a draft of the MMP, so this weekend I’m trying to juggle grading and writing.

    4. New goal: do 3 more research tasks and cobble together a nasty dirty rough draft so my RL group can tell me what to do with it.

    1. Today’s achievement: 840 words that is going to have to be boiled down to a footnote that basically says “I don’t know, but here are the possibilities.”

      1. “Thinking” tasks need a clear brain and are best done in the morning or at least on a non-teaching day.”

        I am so the same and very very worried about next year when I teach 4 days a week first thing. Two of those days I’m done at 9:30 but by the time I drive home it will be 10:30 at the earliest before I start. I know even from this year’s sabbatical that something like pilates from 9-10 can throw me of for “real writing.” I’m not ever good at writing in my office, but I’m wondering if I might need to give that another go, maybe with earplugs in or something, door shut, and ignoring one and all

      2. Trying to reply to FeMOMhist but couldn’t work out how to get this in the right order…

        Have you thought of finding a writing space other than your office, and nearer than your home, that you could go into for an hour of thinking straight after teaching before going home? Public libraries can be good, I find coffee shops too full of people-watching and fattening but oh so tasty goodies, but others seem to have a lot of success there.

      3. I agree about non-teaching days (or for me, at least easy teaching days) but I’ve never done my best work in the morning. If I can clear my head as I’m leaving work, I do much better writing in the afternoon/evening. Problem is, they keep scheduling me for classes then. I can’t get anythign done at the office because everyone is so loud and my office mate flips out if I shut the door.

      4. “didn’t actually schedule things, just worked as I found time”

        I think this is a good strategy. I don’t want to abandon my “mindful inflexibility time,” but sometimes I think I would be served to make more use of the little in between times.

        Sounds like a pretty good week!

  2. Last week’s goal: start revisions on chapter 5. If I can read at least two articles or book chapters every day (10-12 total?) I’ll count that a win. If I can start actually writing the revisions, that would be a bonus.

    Accomplished: well, I did not do that much reading. At all. I read maybe 4 articles. However, I did start writing the revisions, and got about 1000-1500 words done (all today, but it was hard to count because I also cut a lot of material from the old draft). I also started working on one of the long term goals for this writing group that I had kinda forgotten about when we had our last check in, revising one chapter down into a conference paper: I made a lot of progress on the conference paper, and even got started making the powerpoint presentation that will go with it.

    Analysis: The reading was pretty clearly not going anywhere, at least in part because I wasn’t sure what I was reading for–I do a lot better with reading if I have specific questions in mind. I ended up going and talking with my advisor about the problems I was having conceptualizing what I was trying to do. I ❤ meeting with my advisor. As always, he really helped me figure out what I needed to do to expand this chapter out. And they weren't really things that needed a ton of new reading so much as going back through old notes and articles with an eye for specific detail. Once I got started with the writing this morning, I made a lot of progress identifying what else needs to happen in this article into a chapter. Revising the conference paper was hard because I have to provide the text of the paper to a respondent, and I'm normally more of an informal presenter, with a more conversational approach, so I'm trying to deal with that difference between a reading and an aural audience.

    Next week's goals: 1) write application letter for a summer job; 2) research and write at least one of the expansions for chapter 5; and 3) finish the conference paper revisions and power point presentation.

    1. The reading was pretty clearly not going anywhere, at least in part because I wasn’t sure what I was reading for–I do a lot better with reading if I have specific questions in mind

      yes! While I love reading in my subject area, I am one of those people who could read forever and never write. I learned a trick back in the day which is that I force myself to write at least a paragraph about each article I read. Keeps me focused and “producing” something. I still go back to things I’ve read and written about years ago and work them into stuff I’m doing now

      1. My husband does something similar when reading in his field. He says he also helps him identify when he stopped really paying attention to what he was reading. (He does the summary for every page or something, rather than every article.) I do the every article thing, because it also makes me check in with myself that I actually understood what Iw as reading.

    2. Sounds like a very productive week, on the whole. I’m finding that, with this whole dissertation thing, reading is really the thing that takes sooooooo long, and I often find myself getting sucked down various rabbit holes of reading. I used to write a response to every article. I need to start doing that again. It was very helpful when it came time to write, especially since I often forget what I’ve read.

  3. Sorry I was missing last week! I had a twenty-minute window to post in, between a rushed (but enjoyable) weekend, and then dial-up decided to play up.

    My goal had been to write for half an hour to an hour for at least five days.

    It happened the week before last – though much of the writing was fiddling with previous work, rather than adding to word count. I was also working on some editing, which provided a nice change from trying to figure out how to extend my own notes into sentences.

    Nothing much happened this last week, but I got through the week, which means that I am now FREE of ESL, and will have two-three days of writing per week this semester, between teaching (income is not great, but I think it’ll balance out nicely).

    So this week I can start setting bigger goals. Mondays and Thursdays will be totally focused on writing (in various forms), which involves first finishing the editing: I need this done by the end of the week. That sounds like a good goal.

  4. 1. goal 500 more words, set up auto reminder

    2. 659 words (total words 3135!), although about half are quotes. These are “snippets” as I think of them that will need to be woven into a coherent narrative, but since I have a strong picture of what this piece looks like, I feel like that shouldn’t be too difficult. No reminder set up, but none needed.

    3. This week I realized I’d come to a stopping point on sabbatical project about 20-30 minutes before fMhgirl’s bus arrived. Normally I’d waste that time, but cognizant that I hadn’t worked on my side project at all, I quickly opened up the word doc and pulled up some source material and wrote wrote wrote until I heard the bus pulling up.

    4. 500 more words!

    1. feMOMhist? Good for finding a way to use those little blocks of time. It’s a great feeling to make some key progress, even if it’s small-scale, rather than be frustrated by what you can’t do!

    2. That’s really great that you didn’t waste that time but worked on the side project instead. Such a good reminder that every minute really does (or can) count.

    3. Yay for getting the words down! And double yay for using those 20 minutes. I just made a comment to DEH, saying that I needed to do a better job of that. Nicely done.

  5. Welcome back, KiwiMedievalist! Congrats on finishing with ESL and having time and brain free for writing again.
    feMOMhist, about next year, could you pack up what you need for one session’s writing, and go to a cafe after teaching, maybe stop off on the way home? I know you like having your stuff around you, and it does take a shift in how you think about writing. But if you can work out “assignments” for each day, it can be very effective.
    Sapience, it sounds like you have a great advisor. Nobody ever told me what to read for! I still have trouble reading other than by submerging into the book. That difference between informal presentation and formal written work is one reason I’m thinking that I should stop doing conference papers: revision is such a major undertaking that I think I’d rather just write an article in the first place. Good luck with your revisions.

    1. I haven’t done this with writing, but I have (as I suspect many have) with exercise: many people go to the gym on the way home; I have, on occasion, gotten into a pattern of going on a long walk. It’s a lot easier than getting myself out the door when I’m home. Writing requires somewhat different conditions, of course, but I think the principle may be similar.

      And yes, as I wrote last week, exercise is on the things that one is often urged to do (and, to be realistic, does work well) in exactly the same time slots that work well for writing.

      And, indeed, hurrah for using little blocks of time well.

  6. 1. Goals were to finish the grant application and start on the article prep.

    2. What happened? Grant application has not progressed. Article preparation is done. I’m sure I’ll need to identify some more sources, but I have enough to start and that’s what’s important. I reviewed the conference paper material that I’m cannibalizing and that’s got me all excited to dive back into research and writing!

    3. My analysis? Don’t do work that depends too much on others who don’t care. I got frustrated over no word on the grant application form or deadline. It’s internal, so they can afford to be more relaxed on it, yet I have to get this done and in. My biggest block to these goals was two editorial tasks that ended up back in my lap over the past week. I don’t want to count how many hours I’ve poured into those. I might cry.

    For the foreseeable future, I’m shelving the grant application. When the administration office actually releases forms and deadlines for this year’s competition, then I’ll pick it back up again. No use in killing myself for something that’s subject to change. When it’s released, I’ll be ready.

    4. Goal for this week? Outline the article and write 500 words on it.

  7. goals: a) Smooth out the rest of the lumps into a rough draft. b) type all my notes into the outline of the Unexpected Paper that started last week.

    what happened? I was at work a lot, worked a lot (no day off, even though I work four days a week officially), went to meetings, met students, graded stuff, prepared classes, wrote references… and didn’t get to either of my goals. However, I did finish off (by getting a final figure approved and rewriting the abstract and checking all the formatting) and submit another paper that came back from my co-authors unexpectedly quickly, so I didn’t completely ignore writing.

    my analysis? I let myself get pulled into the ‘urgent/not important’ quadrant again. My involvement with the class that is taking a lot of prep and grading time finishes in two weeks’ time (we team-teach), so it’s tempting to put off all writing tasks until then, but I know something else will fill the space! So I need to do a bit better at finding spaces in the day which are suitable for writing, rather than letting myself be too busy. I know that even half an hour of ‘important not urgent’ work makes me feel so much more satisfied at the end of the day, I just need to put that into practice…

    goals: unchanged: a) Smooth out the rest of the lumps into a rough draft. b) type all my notes into the outline of the Unexpected Paper that started last week.

    1. It is so easy to get pulled into that quadrant! But you got a paper submitted and that’s really awesome!

      I’d recommend making appointments with yourself in the next week or two so you can write and don’t let anyone take up your time. After all, if you had a class or a meeting with a colleague scheduled you wouldn’t reschedule those if something came up. Part of the trick, I think, is to schedule the writing time in well in advance.

      1. I spend a lot of time in that quadrant too. profgrrrl’s suggesting has been working (when I remember to follow my planner), but it’s a process.

    2. It seems as if a lot of us are focusing on what we might make of those little spaces in the day, rather than waiting until *just this one big thing* or *the other big thing* are behind us.

  8. Last Week’s Goal:
    Finish both chapters and get them sent out (because I don’t want that book stuff hanging over my head during spring break). Finish conference paper revisions by Monday. And if I have any steam left, I’ll work on a conference proposal (it’s a brief one).

    What Actually Got Done:
    One chapter — done. The other — very close to done BUT then co-author and I decided (a) it didn’t have to go in the book and could fit in a top journal and (b) it needed one more bit of data analysis done if we planned to do that. So, rather than finish it I did the analysis.
    Conference paper revisions — done.
    Conference proposal — I didn’t do one of my own (solo) but got drawn into and contributed to three others.
    Editing for book — got through 15 chapters.

    Analysis:
    Slow and steady wins the race? I guess I’m not working that slowly, but at the same time I’m not binging. I just keep coming back to the work and not procrastinating. By not going overboard on any one day and not allowing myself to get too stressed out, I’m not in need of recovery days (or weeks). This is all quite new to me, but it seems to be working. Not sure I trust it yet (is it all a dream?), but I’m glad that I am enjoying my scholarship so much.

    it also helps that I’m just not being as flexible/available for everyone else. And, for the record, I’m a wee bit behind on grading.

    Next Goals:
    Spring break week and we’re traveling abroad.
    Before we leave (Sunday afternoon) all book stuff will be sent off to the publisher (copy editing and tidying right now).
    As time permits, while I travel I really need to work on an encyclopedia entry, a book proposal, and the chapter that has become an article. If I can polish off those first two tasks, all the better.

    1. Wow! That many chapters edited in a week? My hat’s off to you because some chapters go quickly but others are zombies that keep coming back for my braaaaaaainz! (Of course, it doesn’t help that I have two sets of publishers’ editors before they go to copy editors on this one. Too many cooks. . . .)

      Good on not being utterly flexible. I’m possibly being too flexible for one committee but we’ve been trying to schedule meetings since December and people are waiting for tenure & promotion. Doesn’t help that one member lives four hours away. . . .

    2. Happy travels! I wanted to thank you–with your support, I’ve been more active about scheduling time for myself. I’m still not always good at sticking with it, but I am trying to be more mindful of who/what eats up my time.

  9. 1. Last week’s goal: continue to add to the P article/paper/outline-in-progress, with the goal of moving toward a more formal outline for the article, and a sense of which pieces will be fleshed out in the conference paper, which will be briefly mentioned, and which will be skipped. Work on this first thing for at least an hour at least 3 mornings this week (which promises to be a busy one, so goals need to be modest/manageable). Take care of remaining urgent ancillary task and chip away at others on the back burner at some time(s) other than first thing in the morning. Continue work on establishing routines, especially late-evening habits that foster early-morning writing.

    2. Achieved: urgent ancillary task completed on Friday morning. A bit added to the P article/paper/outline-in-progress later on Friday. No other work on P a/p/o-i-p; no addtional ancillary tasks even attempted; not much progress in establishing a routine. I did spend some time Sunday as well as Friday in my community garden, and slept better, and was more productive on teaching tasks, than I had been in several weeks. Schedule was better earlier in the week, fell back into late-night unproductivity later in the week.

    3. Analysis: I definitely took on too much, in various different spheres, this semester. At this point, I’m mostly just trying to stay on top of the absolutely necessary things — which are mostly teaching-related — until spring break (the week after next). The “extras” will gradually fall away (though they’re in some danger of being replaced by others) over the month of March; April should be more normal (except for Holy Week/Easter), and May even more so (give or take exams and the beginning of summer session, but I know how to do those). The main thing I *have* to do is be ready with a conference paper at the end of March. Oh, and also accomplish some of those ancillary tasks. I do at least feel somewhat “in touch” with the conference paper — productive thoughts about it come to me at odd moments — thanks mostly to this group. Establishing a routine may be a lost cause for the next week (and the week or two after spring break), but I’m still going to try.

    4. Goal for next week: Squeeze in 2-3 short morning sessions with the P conference paper/article/outline-in-progress. Accomplish at least one additional ancillary task.

  10. I feel I should come up with a post about all of these matters but then the effort it would take, I want to put into real work believe it or not.

    Cameron is over the top woo for me, partly because at the time I read her I didn’t really need the advice, but she’s got the right attitude in a lot of ways and a point to be made is that research/writing is something one does for oneself – whether it is good or not, gets published or not, has an impact or not. Of course the fact that it is for me is why I feel so guilty about it, but it in really it is why one shouldn’t – because if it is for you, then it has an immediate return, you are more enriched and happy, so you are immediately useful as well, so there is everything to gain and nothing to lose.

    *

    When I was an assistant professor, my therapist and also some of my grad school friends all decided that research and writing were hard things, required by others, things one wouldn’t want to do and that should be scary. I wasn’t having such a hard time and I was accused of not being in touch with what had to be my true feelings.

    I found it truly terrifying because I’d always been accused of being too rational for a girl, and also because I had had a department chair who kept saying research would not look good for me at tenure time. And all of these people were very adamant and they were all older than I, with fancier jobs and so on, and they truly seemed to see something about the world and me that I didn’t.

    The thing is that they did see things I didn’t – because they were somewhat delusional, actually.

    *

    Anyway, I’ve realized this week why it is I don’t like academic advice – it is all about learning discipline, learning to stay on the straight and narrow, etc.
    As I’ve said before, I don’t see how people got degrees without knowing how to do all that, let alone tenure, so I find all the re-exhortation to discipline to be partly beside the point and also partly a symptom of refusal to explore, refusal to follow interests, obsessively extreme caution, refusal to life even.

    When students ask advice I always tell them what the standard line is on whatever it is, but also that with this information in hand they should do as they see fit, do as they will. Academic advice I got, in contrast, was either endless repetition of standard advice one already knew, or insistence that one could do “anything” coupled with refusal to impart any information.

    So this is my 2 cents, which may not apply to anyone but me: it’s not really further discipline one needs, it’s information; and doing what you want / doing your will / trusting your internal rhythms is really not emphasized enough.

  11. Glad you’re enjoying Bullish, Dame! As someone trying to finish her dissertation and find a job or fellowship, I’ve found it really useful to help me think in terms that will set me up better for a job. My supervisor is a bit old school and was hired by his university when he finished his PhD and then was headhunted to come to my university, so his experience with the job search is a bit limited. Bullish helped me to start thinking about getting a job in more practical terms, rather than some people in academia who seem to think that research is enough to get you a job still. Plus, she’s really good at teaching effectiveness!

  12. Last week’s goal: write two pages.

    Accomplished: No pages BUT I did complete and submit a conference panel, and I finished a Very Big Thing for work.

    Analysis: I have to open up my goals a bit and not focus just on the one writing project as “counting.”

    Next week’s goal: Finish two curriculum projects (out of four currently underway). Write ONE more fiction page.

    1. Yes, it ALL counts. But I know we wish there just wasn’t so much of it ALL. Good luck with the curriculum projects (I just finished two, and have one more underway), and with that fiction page!

    2. You got a lot done – kudos on that and on the positive attitude going forward. That’s a big part of it.

  13. 1 Last week’s goal: finishing the rest of the project; writing 15 minutes a day

    2 Achieved: finishing the rest of the project – finally, finally, though some parts need to be still polished. It has taken much longer time than I had expected, really. No writingon my research.

    3 Comments: I have really concentrated on the project for this week. What I learned is you can do if you really need to and want to. So, failing 15 minute-writing everyday means?

    4 Next week’s goal: planning for my presentation in April; ok, I am making an easier goal for next week: writing at least something everyday.

  14. Goal: start the damn book! seriously. Also either begin writing the scene that’s in my head or begin reviewing previous writings that have been left alone for a month and a half.

    Achieved:I started the book, but we won’t talk about how far I didn’t get. I also have a rough sketch of the scene I’ve had in my head and re-read some previous scenes to help me get back into my characters. I’ve been letting what I wrote this week sit because I’m not committed to the scene being from teh point of view I wrote it in.

    Analysis: There were many nights when I just went to bed or, worse, wasted time online, instead of reading the book I need to read. It’s not even like I did anything useful online, I just procrastinated, looking for some mental escape from work I think. My time would be much better spent reading. I know this is my bad habit when work isn’t going well, so that’s what I’ll need to start working on this week (midterm week). Writing wise, I’ve been learning to not get upset if I don’t X done right away. I had hit such a mental wall that has been just sitting there for the last couple months, so the fact that I finally make a small crack in that and got something down is very rewarding. For a long time I was beating myself up over being so stuck mentally and when I finally just said “it’ll come when it comes,” I was able to relax enough to let my brain do some processing.

    Monday night is MY night this week. No one else will be here so I can do my process for writing without interruptions. I will not grade Monday night. I have four solid hours to myself and I can not wait.

    New Goal: Finish chapter 1 of book. I’d be happy to start chapter 2 but with midterm grading we’ll see. Print off and review the scenes I have so far because there’s certainly some continuity issues. And I need to just physically see them like that to start laying out chapters. Expand what I wrote last week.

    1. Ah, midterm grading put me waaaaaay off schedule. Sometimes I try to remind myself that teaching 4/4 is a full time job and ANYTHING I get done above and beyond that in terms of writing is to be applauded. All of this to say, hooray for having started and I’m applauding for you.

      1. Totally true about the “above and beyond.” I just put through some curriculum that will help prevent us from having to do the 5/5 or 5/4 schedule that we were facing next year. Five English classes along with committee work, etc.? The grading is devastating. Now, no English instructors at my college should have to do more than a 4/4. Still, three cheers for any work “above and beyond.”

      2. Thanks GEW and Ink. That’s really a good way to look at–above and beyond. I do a 5/5 load (normal, though it *shoud not* be as I teach writing intensive classes, though not in the English dept. Those classes are “capped” at 32, but the English writing courses are capped at 20. Not right.) and this semester I’m doing 6. So anything I do get done is a big deal, but I think it’s easy to forget that!

      3. A writing intensive class capped at 32 is a bummer. One of ours has a 35 cap, and it’s crazy. (Most of them are 28.) And six!?!?! You’re already above and beyond. Hang in there.

      1. Thank you! I am so terrible at starting new books. (not so terrible at buying books…so I have many books that I want to read but stall at starting.) Instead of telling myself I was going to finish the chapter I just said “read a page or two.” I know when I get further in and get excited about what the author is saying, it’ll be easier!

  15. 1. Last week’s goal: Find and procure a book review for a theory text that I find difficult. Read a methods chapter. Write one page.

    2. What I achieved: Not much. I did not get the book review. I sort of forgot about that goal, actually. I read part of a methods chapter. I did not write.

    3. Analysis: This week I spent at least 10 hours in meetings related to our college crisis, and I had some other meetings as well. Add my classes on top of that, and the week was a wash. I am SO far behind with grading it’s unbelievable. But, today, my mom (bless her) has the children, and I’m getting ready to get down to business. I have about 80 papers to grade, two novels to prep, and many committee related things to draft/revise/finish, etc. I haven’t read “Bullish,” but I plan to check it out to see if there is help for me as I find my way through the weeds.

    I still did my “mindful inflexibility” time on Tuesday, and it was great, but I forgot to bring my work on Thursday, so I spent the time in my office getting organized instead. The fact that I forgot my work at home and that I forgot to order the book review suggest that I was preoccupied by all of the campus brouhaha. Even if my time is tight, I need to work on keeping the project in my mind throughout the week.

    This coming week will be tricky. With all of the service/crisis work, grading, and prep to do, I’m just not sure I’ll be able to do much dissertation work. So, I’ll keep the goals small.

    4. Goals for this week: Order that book review. Read 10 pages of methods chapter.

    1. 10 hours in meetings? Ouch. Hope the campus stuff dies down soon!

      Sometimes forgetting work is a mixed blessing, because you find other ways to use the time–like you getting your office organized. That’s actually when I realize how much cleaning I need to do there!

      1. Oh my gosh, I am hoping that there’s a free day coming up for you soon! And all progress counts…small and otherwise. So hang in there!

  16. Packed, on the road, not very sane. The move has become an instance of reverse Midas effect, in that everything turned to, um, mud. The car carrier turned out not to be able to carry either of the cars, necessitating another trip, just one example of the mess.

    What have I learned: make back-up plans for the most unlikely options, roll with the punches, and keep notes for a novel or memoir.

    For next week: set up the study in the new house.

    Sorry for the late, quick reply. I don’t have internet, and hate commenting on the phone. With any luck, I’ll be back to as normal as I get by Friday.

  17. JLiedl: Article prep is good; excitement is terrific! And at least you have a start on the grant application, so when the time comes, you’ll have something to work with.

    Jane B: Finishing and submitting a paper is great! Don’t get bogged down in meeting stated goals when a better opportunity comes along. This group is supposed to help productivity, not tie you up in guilt-knots that keep you from doing important work.

    Profgrrrl: you’ve done an amazing amount. I hope you can enjoy your spring break!

    Cassandra: Yay SLEEP! It sounds like you are gradually making progress on various fronts. If Friday is the day you can do the most with, then work with that.

    Ink: if you wrote today, you’re a writer today. We do tend to dis-count the writing we do in teaching and admin roles, and it’s true that that writing doesn’t “count” for research. But it does count for keeping your hand in at writing, just like blogging, journaling, letter-writing. It’s all good.

    Matilda: for you, I’m going to quote Jen Dziura. “You may be procrastinating. But don’t think of yourself as a procrastinator. Think of yourself as someone in a situation where your responsibilities — or perceived responsibilities — don’t match up with your values. Now, it is of course possible that your tasks do match up with your values and you simply have too many tasks and not enough time. It’s possible. In such a case, you might have to talk to your boss about priorities, or outsource your personal life to India. But it’s at least as likely that you would benefit from defining your values.”
    http://thegloss.com/career/bullish-maybe-youre-not-actually-a-lazy-procrastinator/

    Maybe the project just isn’t as important to you as other things you have on your plate?

    Rented Life: you started! It’s the first step that costs. I am all in favor of just going to bed. Wasting time online and looking for mental escapes, well, I’m sure we’ve all been there. I sure have. Forgive yourself and move on. Finish chapter one and then you have a full chapter down!

    GEW: Above and beyond, as you all have been saying. Having a tidy office certainly contributes to mental health and productivity, so, as I said to Ink, it’s all good. And you ALSO did work on Tuesday.

    Elizabeth Anne: looking forward to hearing from you in your new digs! May it all go more smoothly from this point on.

    Comrade: Trip-wire? High-wire? Hot-wired? Do we even want to know? If it’s working for you, then work it, man.

    1. Thank you for your comments, Dame! I’ve read the post you linked, and it helped me to figure out my working habit. As you said, probably the project is not the first thing I wanted to do…

  18. The struggles continue…

    Last week’s goal: outline the article. maybe do some rewriting?

    What I did: I outlined the article today while eating an eggs benedict pork belly poboy (not of my own creation).

    Analysis: I’m finding it very difficult to get work in. My non-teaching-prep time seems to be spent dealing with applications and not my article. Plus, I really wanted to make sure I got grading done before the break. Also: some mental and physical health issues that I should probably get sorted. It’s all a mess. Luckily, break is here, although I’m not quite sure how best to use it. Relax completely? (Probably not.) Spend a lot of time on the article? Get ahead of the reading for the rest of the semester? (I find that I don’t spend that much time doing the actual lesson planning, but it’s the reading that takes so much time. Oh, the hazards of teaching courses for the first time and being a taskmaster when it comes to reading.) We’ll see…

    Next week’s goal: rewrite (reshuffle) the article according to the new structure and figure out where needs more work (more evidence, more secondary lit, etc).

    1. Ah, so the go-out-for-breakfast thing is working for at least one of us! On reading for prep, OTOneH it’s true that you need to have done more of it, and better, than the students. But OTOtherH, you don’t have to have done it perfectly. Teach them how to read one paragraph really well (close reading skills) and how to outline, and do some of that yourself.

      1. Agreed on the “it doesn’t have to be read perfectly” point. I’ve been working with that for the entire year. That said, do you mean something specific by outlining? Because I haven’t heard of it in this context.

      2. This is supposed to reply to your comment below: not sure if it will show in the right spot. I have been amazed at how poor students are at reading scholarship. If you’re reading novels, then outlining may not work. But they mostly need help learning to find topic sentences, support, argument, since they tend to read for “facts.” So if you can demonstrate how to outline an article to highlight the argumentation, and then put students in groups to do this themselves with other reading, it might save you a bit of prep time. If you’re teaching something where this wouldn’t work, then never mind—I know the first year I was teaching, my idea of relaxation was reading photocopies of criticism in the bathtub instead of unwieldy huge primary texts that had to be supported on desk or table.

  19. Goal: keep on trucking’ with conference paper draft / chapter.

    Accomplished: I think I have the conference paper part more or less done, though I am not totally happy with the structure. I have lots of partial chapter sections that I have no good clue how to put together yet. But that’s OK.
    Some of it is crap, but some will be good eventually.

    Commentary: not much to say, really. I just plugged away. But, in the spirit of the recent discussions here and on other blogs about health and balance, I offer the news that I ran a pretty fast half marathon this weekend. (Well, it was fast for 41 year old me: 1:53:29! Woo hoo!)

    Goal for next week: polish conference paper and keep working on chapter version. Conference paper needs to be done by the end of the week, because the following week I have some serious traveling, and the conference is the week after that.

  20. 1. Last week’s goal: 4 hours
    2. Accomplished: 1 hour
    3. What went right/wrong:
    The short answer: procrastination.The long answer is too long for now.
    4. Goal for next week:write 1/2 hour on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and make a realistic plan for spring break.

    1. One hour is not nothing. One hour is worthwhile. And it’s good that you are analyzing what goes right so you can try to reproduce it. Keep moving the project forward.

  21. I do find quite a few parallels between writing and running. One of the most important for me is, even when I don’t feel like doing it, I always feel better afterwards. So I tell myself, OK, just write or run for 10 minutes, and if it truly sucks, you can stop. And somehow, I practically never do stop at 10 minutes. Also, in both things, I find longer formats suit me better. I find writing short pieces difficult, and I’m an awful sprinter. Give me a 10 mile run over a set of 400 meter sprints any day! However, there are benefits in doing the things at which I am less good / with which I am less comfortable. My running coach has convinced me that speed work pays off in faster long runs (which has proved true), and writing shorter pieces forces me to learn to hone arguments and to discern what ideas are truly important to what I want to say.

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