I was going to have a different topic this week.  But the redbud and hawthorn are out, the lilacs are just coming into bloom, and I have recently returned from a conference; therefore it must be mid-May.

What do you MEAN there are still five weeks of classes to go?  Where did that grading come from?  Who are all these people who expect me to discuss changes to the catalog?  Who are all these other people who still expect me to instruct them?

Time to dig deep into the suitcase of courage, feel the world of hurt, and fight to survive . . . only I think that suitcase got lost by the airlines, or mixed in with the ones marked “Not Wanted On Voyage.”  The conference reminded me that in addition to the MMP, I once had plans to publish other work on the text in question (two previous conference papers got set aside when my parents were so ill; now that I look at them again, I think they have a lot of potential).  What most needs attention are teaching and taxes, but I know I’m supposed to write every day and set a good example to the group.  And what I really want to do is work on the garden for hours and then park my bones in a hot bath with a glass of wine and a mystery.  If I have to work, I’d rather just write, but I can’t settle to that because I’m tweaked out about the grading and getting caught up with the class spreadsheets, but it seems like there’s such a lot to do that I feel overwhelmed.

I know the answer, or at least, what the answer should be.  Schedule time to work, do short increments if that’s what it takes, set a timer, give myself rewards.  I keep dishing it out to my fellow writers.  But at the moment, I can’t take it.

So, what are your ideas about how to re-motivate when the end is not in sight, when there are two more cat 1’s to climb before the finish, when bonk is setting in?

Amstr: 1) tidy up intro based on writing partner’s comments, 2) revise Chapter 1 revision outline, 3) draft at least half of Chapter 3 (two-thirds would be even better).
ComradePhysioProf: no goal posted.
Contingent Cassandra: have a 15-minute conference paper ready to present on Friday afternoon. Use the conference to get a better idea of the historical/historiographical context for my project, perhaps do a bit of networking.
DEH: reverse-outline current draft, to figure out where a paragraph that doesn’t fit should go instead.  Start grooming the rest of the document.
EAM: Weigh the three articles; figure out whether to flit amongst them, or whether one has more traction right now than the others.
FeMOMhist: just keep going forward with “real writing” and cleaning up as I go. Hopefully 500 more words.
thefrogprincess: MIA.
GEW: Read two chapters of philosophical primary text. Read three book reviews. Write two pages.
Ink: Write 1000 words before next Friday.
JaneB: a) Reorganise my desk area at the office; b) as part of that, make a proper list of all the writing things I currently have on the go and where they are at, and check the folders are all up to date in my dropbox; c) do the analysis on another paper’s worth of data.
JLiedl: Revise grant application after getting some feedback. Write 500 words on chapter for another collection.
kiwimedievalist: Reading about saints and communities, for interest.
Luo Lin: checked in, but no goal posted.
Matilda: Start to read materials, construct my arguments, write something at least 15 minutes.
Nancy Warren: continue to write the chapter from which the conference paper was taken. I’d like to get 5 pages.
profgrrrl: Finish off the manuscript I’ve been working on (it’s so close) and the book proposal.
Rented Life: Read 2 chapters from previously mentioned book. Write one page or edit one section.
Sapience: I need to do keep working on Chapter 5, but I may need to re-prioritize mid week after my meeting with my advisor about Chapter 4. So… make progress of some sort on something?

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36 thoughts on “Spring 2012 Writing Group, Week 8: Motivation

  1. perfect theme for me. Wrote up my post this AM as I knew i’d have no time this PM
    1. goal – just keep going forward with “real writing” and cleaning up as I go. Hopefully 500 more words

    2. progress – hmm well I did spend one day working a bit on what I have, which is a messy assemblage of notes and paragraphs. I’m editing and condensing quotes, so measuring progress in terms of “words” written isn’t accurate, yet I’m still writing in the “leftover” spaces, so attempting to quantify by time isn’t going to work either.

    3. The whys and wherefores – as evidenced by my inability to even name the week we are on in writing group, my momentum is slowing. I got seriously derailed by fMhson’s “issues” and now several other projects are vying with sabbatical writing for what little spare time I do have

    4. goal – giving myself an easy out as we are approaching kids’ spring break, Easter trip, and visit from family, so my “goal” such as it is will be to continue to make some sort of ill defined progress, with progress being based on a “feeling” rather than a number.

  2. Will you hate me if I say that our term is almost at a close? Classes end next week and exam period runs until the end of April. I have marking to do, of course, but the courses are winding up.

    Still, motivation is rarely easy to sustain, even when it’s something you love to do. Writing becomes a slog, just as marking does. I schedule in regular breaks, especially for when I’m at home. If I know I can get up in an hour to walk to the mailbox and check the mail, at least that’s something different. (Plus, being up and moving is re-energizing.)

    Onto the points:
    1) Goal was: Revise grant application after getting some feedback. Write 500 words on chapter for another collection.

    2) Progress was: Grant application revised AND submitted six days ahead of schedule. (Except I forgot the seven copies so I’ll have to stop by the research office on Monday with copy card in hand.) I also wrote just shy of 700 words on the chapter.

    3) What worked? Setting aside an entire day for the revisions. Monday was a non-teaching day and I hammered out the revisions. It amounted to a rewrite in the end as I realized that I really needed to pitch the project both in terms of publication outcomes AND student training (since most of the funds will go to pay student researchers).

    4) Goals for next week: I’ll be crazy ambitious and say “A complete chapter draft” since I’m over 1/3 of the way there. It may be a skeletal chapter draft, but I’d like it to be complete before Easter break.

      1. I’m only a year out from my sabbatical so I can’t be too envious of your well-deserved time to focus and recharge!

      1. If only we could get what we deserved and not what’s thrown at us! I’m just giddy with delight that I’m not struggling through as tough a term as the fall – teaching an overload, writing and editing was a lot more work than I’d bargained for in the planning stages of the term.

  3. Week’s goal: continue working on chapter version of recently delivered conference paper (was hoping for 5 more pages)

    Accomplished: not much! I did manage to make some smallish revisions and changes based on feedback I got at the conference, but I got swamped with administrative writing (it’s annual review season, and I have to write individual reports on every faculty member in my department–that’s a lot of reports! Plus the department’s overall performance report, a hiring proposal, and a couple of award nominations. So plenty of writing done, just not my chapter). Oh, also, I think we are pretty close to buying a house, so no shortage of real estate and bank-related distractions to add to the chaos.

    What worked: not losing my mind, I suppose. I feel I still have plenty of momentum to take the chapter forward, but I just ran out of time this week.

    Goal for next week: try again for those 5 pages.

  4. Oh, and, for once I have a motivational idea related to the original post! And yes, it does come from running, my other passion. It is this, from my high school cross country coach: stopping may feel better now, but keeping going will feel better longer. That coach was an obnoxious man in some respects, but this was and is good advice. Writing or running, I have often regretted stopping, but I have only once regretted not stopping (serious Achilles tendon injury–from running, obviously, rather than writing–which also taught me know and respect one’s limits!).

      1. I have a similar problem – I had post-viral fatigue a few years ago and DON’T want to be back there again, which maybe makes me over-cautious on all sorts of things…

  5. My answer to the prompt also comes from my experience exercising (I’m a swimmer, though). I commit to just 5 minutes. The deal I make with myself is that all I have to do is 5 minutes of whatever exercise it is, and if I feel like stopping after 5 minutes, I can do so without shame. Often starting is the hardest part for me, and I know I can do almost anything for five minutes. Once I get moving (on exercise or writing) I don’t really want to stop.

    I’ve got another strategy I posted about here: http://writingaccount.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/not-writing/

    And I’ll update my goals on Sunday, after I squeeze in a bit more writing.

  6. “when bonk is setting in”

    ‘Bonk’ is one of a great many UK slang words for having sex (“they were bonking all night, that’s why he fell asleep in the meeting” sort of context), so I assume that’s not the meaning here… if it is, well, Spring, sap rising, all that sort of thing, and I can see that it would rather distract from writing!

    I also had a stuffed toy dinosaur called Bonks (my juvenile vocabulary was very wide but sadly lacking in slang. No wonder my parents found it hard to keep a straight face when I announced his name), but his only symbolic function was keeping witches from hiding in cupboards to attack sleeping siblings, so having him around should help with writing if anything.

    1. Oh, right. I knew that, but in the cycling context the British slang meaning didn’t occur to me. In cycling, “bonk” is the feeling of having no energy left, hitting the wall, inability to keep moving at any reasonable pace. It often happens in inexperienced racers who don’t eat enough to keep up with energy expenditure. And once it happens during a stage, it’s rare for a rider to recover enough to make a decent showing; food and a night’s sleep are required.

      I think I could use some sort of talisman like your dinosaur. I’ve had a few, over the years, but mischievous young cats have forced me to hide them away instead of having them on my desk as encouragement. Glendower! Basement Cat! It’s at least partly your faults.

      1. Cats definitely don’t count as talismanic objects – mine likes to carry off pens and reels of tape, and regularly pushes my mouse off the desk just to watch it dangle. She also drinks out of my cup of tea…

  7. Goals: a) Reorganise my desk area at the office; b) as part of that, make a proper list of all the writing things I currently have on the go and where they are at, and check the folders are all up to date in my dropbox; c) do the analysis on another paper’s worth of data.

    Progress: a) I reorganised the bit of my desk that was most distracting me, plus I tidied and dusted my home writing area and attempted to remove the cat hair (but that is an endless task), so I now have a much nicer writing environment there. b) no list made. I kept getting distracted at work… c) do the analysis on one paper – yes, done.

    Analysis: I put in some very long days this week for various reasons, but I managed to fit in a few bits of writing related work on my own stuff and did quite a lot of commenting on other peoples’ writing (students etc.), so although it wasn’t a great work I did keep up some momentum. And that’s pretty much all down to knowing I had to report in on Friday – thanks writing group!

    Goals for next week: I am having a sort of mini break from work for the next two weeks, with the exception of writing (which I am writing about on my own blog). I will have a decent amount of writing time not hemmed in by all the other stuff and hopefully short of interruptions too… so, my goals are: a) revise the complicated paper using comments from one reader, then send out to all the co-authors, b) make that list of all the possible projects and c) do some freewriting around grant ideas – there is a deadline in June, if I start now I should be able to do a nice calm and collected application (hah! Well, a girl can dream…).

  8. Goals: Starting to read materials, constructing my arguments, writing something at least 15 minutes every day

    Achieved: Well, I started to doing what I planned, and nothing is finished. I wrote a little, though I wrote a lot of memos as I read materials.

    Analysis: I do need to construct my arguments. I started, but it needs to be worked on. I had no class this week, so I was able to work mainly on my research, though my progress is only this amount.

    Goals for next week: finishing reading my main material, starting to write my argument part of the paper, writing something at least 15 minutes.

    I have found my motivation is easily broken down, and I give up things I was planning to do, doing something completely stupid or meaningless – turning over the pages of mail-order catalogs, having a cup of coffee and so on- then after some time, I pull together my broken motivation into shape and try to restart. This often happens when I am very busy, in researching and in working, e.g., when important administrative papers need to be submitted, conference coming soon at the same time. What usually consoles me at least a little after kicking myself to re-start is I usually do not give up completely.

    1. Yes, that’s me, right now. And I think the problem is, as you suggest, the amount of stuff that needs to be done; I’m overwhelmed by the lists. (Clean ALL the things??) Time for triage.

  9. Sorry I’m late–I started the day at a conference, but was so nauseated by a new medication I’m on that as soon as my panel was done, I went home and collapsed into bed, and stayed there for 15 hours. Didn’t even check my e-mail, and for me, that’s saying something. Today is better, but largely because I’m spending it either in bed or on the couch.

    Goals from last week: I need to keep working on Chapter 5, but I may need to re-prioritize mid week after my meeting with my advisor about Chapter 4. So… make progress of some sort on something?

    Achieved: I did do more work on Chapter 5, and sent it in it’s almost-but-not-quite-done state to Advisor #1. Had meeting with advisor #2 about Chapter 4.

    Analysis: This week has been blur-like. I don’t know how I got anything done, but I clearly did. I just don’t remember doing it… Normally, it’s the other way around (I don’t remember not doing things, but clearly I didn’t do them…).

    Goals for next week: start working on re-writing Chapter 4, probably by writing a new outline.

  10. I’m sorry that my goal for this week got lost last week when I was dealing with the WordPress log-in.

    Last week’s goal:
    Write and revise article for 1 hour on Monday and Wednesday, plus half hour on Friday.

    Accomplished:
    Monday: 1h20mins
    Wednesday: 1hr15 mins.
    Friday: 1hr15mins

    Comments/analysis of what worked or what went wrong:

    Monday was hard. (procrastination–What was that I said about how it sucks to get up early and then procrastinate?) Wednesday was better-I did my 1hr15 early on, which was good, because I was booked solid after 11am. Friday: Neither particularly quick nor particularly slow at getting started. I did more time than my goal, because once I got started, it was easier to keep going than stop (that’s typical for me). I slighted preparation for my afternoon meeting in favor of revising: productive procrastination, but I felt guilty at the meeting.

    I *do* need to start thinking about *what* I’m working on, now that just getting in some work is not such a hurdle. I keep getting bogged down in
    reading and in revising the section of the paper for which I’ve been rereading. I’m afraid to make a goal like “finish x task”, though. I’m doing well with the time-based goals, so I will stick with that for bit longer.

    Goal for next week:
    1 hour Monday, Wednesday, and Friday

    1. I’m sorry you had the problems with WordPress. I found one of your comments in the spam bin (no idea why it went there). It sounds like you’re making good progress, even surpassing your goals!

  11. Goal: reverse-outline current draft, to figure out where a paragraph that doesn’t fit should go instead. Start grooming the rest of the document.
    Accomplished: just finished the reverse-outline on Sunday morning, with a few notes about other things that have to be done. There’s more work to be done here than I had hoped; OTOH, it’s not so bad as I feared.
    Analysis: why did I expect to get anything done in a week that included travel across 6 time zones? Once I wrote out the definition of cyclists’ bonk, it was pretty clear why I was feeling so low-energy. (And now I think I may be getting sick, too.) So I took a day off, to prove to myself that the world wouldn’t come to an end if I stopped juggling and allowed all the plates to crash to the floor, and then I started doing tiny bits of stuff, and trying to limit the time spent in front of a screen, and so I am making slow progress again.
    I also found this really great post that goes some way to explaining post-conference-slump: http://www.think-differently.org/2011/02/strategy-execution-for-creative-people/
    I recognize this! I don’t always feel this way. On very busy days, or tired days, it’s great to have a plan that I can just carry out. But sometimes I feel bored with the plan, and I like the idea of stepping away from it and just saying “Where am I now? Where do I want to go? How do I want to get there?” Maybe I also love the idea of thinking of myself as a Very Creative Person instead of as a lazy schlump who can’t get it together. But I’m calling that “rational woo” (see week 4 of this spring’s writing group), the woo-woo cheerleading that makes it possible to get something done, which is all your rational self wants.
    Goal for next week: write at least 20 minutes on M, T, Th, and at least 1 hour on W, F, Sa (may be broken into smaller segments). I think time goals will work better for me than task goals, this week.

  12. Quick check in; I’ll go back and muse on the prompt (which is definitely relevant, especially the fact that grading and taxes are the most urgent things) later if I have time and the thread is still open.

    Goal for last week: have a 15-minute conference paper ready to present on Friday afternoon. Use the conference to get a better idea of the historical/historiographical context for my project, perhaps do a bit of networking.

    Accomplished: 15 (okay, 20)-minute conference paper and a few accompanying powerpoint slides produced and presented, considerably more at the last minute than I would have preferred, but I was reasonably satisfied with the result. Some networking, getting an idea of context, and getting an idea of what the conference audience (i.e. historians) find interesting about my project also accomplished.

    Analysis: As I’ve known for months, I really could write this presentation in a few hours, and probably could have talked without a manuscript (but would have been in greater danger of overstepping my time limit and/or leaving something I wanted to say out). And this was well worth doing, in terms of networking and learning about some other work that will connect to mine and networking/generating interest in/learning what others find interesting about my project. I’ve got several people, titles, etc., to follow up with, including one that may generate another small, closely-related writing project (a specialized encyclopedia entry that seems worth doing).

    I’m also beginning to see that the P article-in-progress may, in fact, be two articles-in-progress, and to figure out what belongs in each one. I’m also confirming what I already suspected: that I should get work on the P article/project to a stopping point in the next week or two, because it’s a big, gangly thing that still needs additional work and research, and is part of a complex of projects I want to work on over the summer. Once I’ve done that, I should return to the J article-in-progress (the one I was working on this fall), which I should try to finish first, because it’s more manageable, and because it’s new work on a known author that I should probably get out sooner rather than later, before there’s a burst of articles on the same or similar subjects (as opposed to the whole P project, which is on a little-known author whom no one else, to the best of my knowledge, is investigating — and in any case I think I’m far enough ahead on publishing/disseminating information at this point that anyone else would be building on my work, at least in part).

    So,

    Goal for next week (and probably the one after that): Flesh out outline(s) of P article(s)-in-progress, trying to get an idea of what might go in each (assuming there are two), and what research still needs to be done to complete the one that’s closer to being fully-formed. Catch up on ancillary tasks (mostly networking by email, both with people I’ve been with whom I’ve been out of touch for too long, and with people I met at this weekend’s conference).

  13. Goals: 1) tidy up intro based on writing partner’s comments, 2) revise Chapter 1 revision outline, 3) draft at least half of Chapter 3 (two-thirds would be even better).

    Accomplished: 1) writing partner (who’s defending next week) hasn’t read my draft yet, understandably, so nothing done here. 2) didn’t happen yet. 2) I’m set up to get to my half-draft (6000 word) goal this evening.

    Analysis: I’m coming up to a deadline on Thursday to send all my dissertation writing to my advisor to prepare for a late-April meeting (I get to fly cross-country for it). I’m confident I’ll have a good body of work to present, but I’m worried that I’ll miss including something because of fatigue or lack of concentration.

    This week it was hard to get started working, but reminding myself to start with 750 words, and parking on the downhill slope with a specific easy task to begin a writing session with helped me not get too stuck. I actually took a full day off from working yesterday, and though it was nice, I still felt a bit restless. I’ve also started listening to music more at the beginning of sessions to make it feel not quite so much like work (and then I get into the work and have to turn it off).

    I’m also getting too caught up in imagining the end result (a finished dissertation!!!) and neglecting to imagine the road it will take to get there.

    Goals for next week: 1) finish Chapter 3 draft, 2) quick review of intro, 3) write cover doc (a self-assessment) to accompany the project, 4) submit by Wed. evening, 5) outline goals for the two weeks before my trip.

  14. Motivation: usually it’s hard for me to find when I’m in a slump. I find anger helps; a dear friend emailed me to remind me of the professor who told me to go home and bake pies when I asked about some of his comments on my qualifying exam. I have that email on my desk, and whenever I feel that I should just stop pushing the boulder up the hill, I re-read it. I’m Irish enough that it gets me back into the chair at the keyboard every time.

    1. Triage the three articles; decide whether to flit amongst or concentrate on one.

    2. Accomplished the triage. One takes the least work, so is up first. The second takes a little more work, so it’s next. The third will take the most work, so it has been nudged aside by a fourth. My dean encouraged me to apply for local research travel funds, nothing very substantial, but which dovetail nicely with the research for the fourth article; also, the fourth article will fit nicely as a chapter for the dissertation. In fact, I could manage the travel funds on my own if I don’t get them from the university, so it’s a win/win.

    3. I learned again the efficacy of righteous anger. I also learned that working while ill encourages one’s staff to keep a large margin, so that I got a lot done. I would have preferred to be home, and have regained a healthy respect for the institution of sick leave.

    4. Finish the blanking article.

    1. “I also learned that working while ill encourages one’s staff to keep a large margin, so that I got a lot done.” hahah! My supervisor is pretty explicit about if you’re sick you are not to go near his office or sit by him in meetings.

      1. I’ve had supervisors like that, too. I always tell my staff to go home when they are sick, so it feels really odd to be the coughing, sniveling boss. At least now it’s calmed down to the Lauren Bacall voice, which makes me feel like a wild thing; and the occasional cough, which just makes me feel thinned and strained.

  15. I’m still looking for my motivation–mostly small things on a daily basis.

    Goal: Read 2 chapters from previously mentioned book. Write one page or edit one section.

    Accomplished: Wrote one page

    Analysis: Damn Hunger Games book kept me distracted from other reading. I only planned on reading the first one because we went to the movie and I ended up starting the second…I also applied for 2 jobs instead of doing writing, but I don’t see that as a bad thing. Both jobs are good possibilities.

    New goal: Apply to 2 more jobs. Write one page or edit one section.

    1. I got sucked in by the Hunger Games trilogy a few weeks ago. At least it only took about 4 days to get through them all.

      Congrats on job apps and on a page of writing. Both are great accomplishments!

      1. I blamed my husband. I could have easily put off the bokos until the end of the semester if it weren’t for him. I managed to put it down and not start the last book at least….for now. My mom, who is also sucked in said “nothing ever gets done when you’re reading a good book.

  16. Quick version for now since it’s late and I’ve been doing taxes:

    1. Goal: Read two chapters of philosophical primary text. Read three book reviews. Write two pages.

    2. Accomplished: I didn’t read two chapters of philosophical primary text, but I did read about 30 pages of theory text. I read four book reviews (Thanks, Amstr!). I did not write two pages.

    3. Same ole, same ole. The college crisis continues, sucking up all my time. But I did start reading a theory book (an oldie but a goodie) that has helped me clarify aspects of my argument. Yay! This gave me motivation.

    4: Goal for next week: Write two pages. Read 30 pages of theory.

  17. Aw, geez, I missed the check in. Have been involved in incredibly busy work things over the past week so scrambling everywhere.

    But I did accomplish the writing goal, so yay.

    Hoping that I’ll be able to write two pages before tomorrow.

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