This week’s theme is space, in various senses: first, amstr is offering a space for the Summer 2012 writing group.  Go on over and sign up if you’re interested!

Then we have space in the sense of physical places in which to write.  I am fortunate in having a study at home as well as an office at work.  However, at the moment Glendower has taken over the study.  He cannot let papers be.  And he doesn’t just shove them onto the floor; he also chews on them.  Worse yet, he loves to chew on power cords.  Dude, if I had wanted a puppy I would have adopted a puppy.  Ditto for rabbits.  Anyway, I can’t leave anything plugged in or spread out in my study, and I have rather got used to leaving a project lying around so that when I see it I start work on it.  This is sort of like leaving an unfinished sentence when you stop writing for the day.  I’ve been trying to work on the couch downstairs, but that has its drawbacks.  Since both Glendower and Basement Cat need playtime (but not at the same time), it’s hard to get time to go out to a coffee shop or library; I keep trying to work on the couch while tossing mylar balls for someone.

Even worse, my laptop has died.  I can write on an old one that is slow and uses old versions of programs I commonly use, but it doesn’t have a wireless card.  Thus, no internet access at home.

So, not the best of weeks.  I’m hoping to get into a better headspace next week.

Roll call:

Amstr: 1) notes/annotations on the articles I’ve read in the past couple weeks, 2) complete my introduction (add 2-3 key pages at the beginning, fill in some blank paragraphs) and send it off to my writing partner.


Contingent Cassandra: work on ancillary tasks related to the P project.

DEH: 20 minutes on teaching days, 2 hours each on Wednesday and Friday (I will see if I can schedule a writing date with a buddy), and another hour on Saturday. I hope that will get me a presentable conference paper draft.

EAM: Write an hour a day.

FeMOMhist: Foot front, do best.

GEW: Buy plane tix to UK so I can go to my uni and meet with my supervisor at the end of May. Re-read current draft and make notes for changes and next steps.

Ink: survive the grading avalanche and get two new pages done!

JaneB: write 500 words worth of actual coherent sentences on the funding idea I came up with from free-writing, and go over the revisions to the R&R we got for the paper with my post-doc (she drafted it, now I get to polish/check/add to it). Anything else will be a bonus.

JLiedl: Complete the draft.

kiwimedievalist: Write up the 1,000 word proposal by Wednesday, so I can post three copies of everything to the other side of the world… Then shine it up a bit more, before sending to the other uni in the Centre.

Luo Lin: 1/2 hour Monday and Friday; 1 hour Wednesday.

Matilda: finishing my presentation and hopefully some developments with it.

Nancy Warren: this week is all about the Kalamazoo paper, which I hope to get drafted.

profgrrrl: excused absence.

Rented Life: Apply to 2 jobs. (One I’m unsure on, but will need an interview to get more info.) Read one chapter. Anything else is bonus.

Sapience: another 10-15 pages of revision. Might be less depending on how much harder the hard part is.

50 thoughts on “Spring 2012 Writing Group, week 12: Dedicated Space

  1. (DEH, so sorry about recent events, again.)

    Report: this week was tough. I did grade a ton. Then I received more to grade. I did not manage to write THOSE two pages, the planned ones, but I did manage some other pages for a different project, so I’m not sure how to count that. I think: fail but also it’s ok.

    Goal: grading and draft pages
    Achieved: yes to grading, no to planned pages but yes to other unplanned pages
    Analysis: far too busy
    New Goal: submit the things that needs to be submitted…that’s it. I’m not even going to try to get any new writing done until the week AFTER this.

    1. Well, two pages are two pages, and presumably moved some project forward. If nothing else, they might someday provide the sort of pleasant “I have more of this done than I thought” surprise that others are mentioning below.

    2. Those sound like smart goals. You can’t carve out time where it doesn’t exist and you need to cut yourself some slack as opposed to setting impossible goals!

  2. Goal: Kalamazoo paper draft

    Accomplished: I do indeed have a draft. It’s still two pages too long, but that’s not too bad.

    Analysis: powered through the last big admin writing thing for now so I could carve out time for the paper. Plus, I like the chapter version from which I’m taking the K’zoo paper a whole lot more than I remembered, so that made the process easier (plus I have a much better draft of this chapter than I thought, so that’s nice too).

    New Goal: Since I made more progress than I thought on the Kalamazoo draft, I’d like to return to the chapter in progress that I though I would have to set aside for a few weeks. I’m going to be optimistic and aim for 3 new pages in that chapter this week.

  3. Last week’s goal: another 10-15 pages of revision. Might be less depending on how much harder the hard part is.

    Achieved: Probably 20 pages of revision?

    Analysis: Very productive week. I discovered that a conference paper I had written (based on an earlier seminar paper that I also based this chapter on) was actually a lot closer to what I’m arguing now than the seminar paper was. I had forgotten all about it until now. Re-reading it earlier would have saved me a month or so of agony over this chapter, probably. Oh well. But, in any case, progress! I don’t know that I actually got to the hardest part, exactly–there’s still one more section to go, and I think it’s the hardest part, and I’ve spent today procrastinating instead of actually writing it. Even once that’s done, I suspect chapter 4 need one more overhaul before I can happily turn it in to my advisor, but I think I’ll be done with it by the end of May.

    Goal for next week: final revisions on Kalamazoo paper, and that last section of this iteration of chapter 4.

    1. seems to be a week for discovering that our younger selves were actually doing better/more relevant work than we remember…

  4. For example, I discovered that I had already drafted the administrivia report I had to write, and only had to slot in the numbers, quotes etc. from the latest findings. Yay!

    goal: write 500 words worth of actual coherent sentences on the funding idea I came up with from free-writing, and go over the revisions to the R&R we got for the paper with my post-doc (she drafted it, now I get to polish/check/add to it). Anything else will be a bonus.

    achieved: wrote about 600 coherant words and about 500 words of working out the budget on the funding idea. Went over the R&R (multiple repeats, as post-doc isn’t very independent sometimes) and have done all we can before getting our co-authors input (multi-author writing… it can produce good science but it’s usually no fun!). ALSO: I planned out yet another paper with a visiting post-doc (visiting to learn to use some software we developed, but we had one of those good chats that identifies a common interest and a way to take it forward… and this post-doc is the kind who will just Get On With It. Their PI is very lucky!) and wrote about 500 words on the draft I need to show to WierdBugMan (including redoing some analyses, again, as the writing helped me reason out what was the best way to explore the data).

    analysis: having little things to do, and taking half hours here and there to do them when annoyed with Other Things going on around you, can actually turn into progress! Small goals are definitely encouraging.

    goal for next week: marking, marking, marking. Complete the rough draft for WierdBugMan and mail it. Add about 1000 words to the funding idea and start contacting people about it.

      1. It feels like a petty little victory – hah, annoying thing, you can’t ruin my ENTIRE DAY, look I TOOK this half hour for something I care about!!! But it’s definitely better for my mental health and productivity than half an hour of griping with colleagues, or feeling hard done by…

  5. Goal: (unposted) Survival through the grief and chaos
    Achieved: I pulled together a book proposal (3K words) from months old fragments and notes. Sent it to the series editor. I feel good about it, really like it. Husband (who interestingly enough is in one of the intended audience groups for the book) thought it hit the right note, too.
    Also did some organizing and planning for summer writing and research.
    Analysis: I had to email the editor about something else, and so I pushed myself with a deadline. Moving forward with the book is making a commitment to having control over my time/health/energy again (something I felt I did not have when pregnant). It’s a bittersweet victory, but a victory for me nonetheless.
    Next goals: Grades due by Tues, probably not getting significant other stuff done between now and then. So, I’ll try to read one relevant article/day for BS manuscript lit review on Sun, Mon, and Tues and then spend 1/2 day Wed and Thurs working on the manuscript. Also want to get IRBs at least drafted for CSC and L projects.

    1. That sounds like a lot more than survival, profgrrrl. But yes, sometimes one takes one’s victories — and one’s sense of having some control over something — where one can, bittersweet though they may be (and if next week, or the week after that, turns out to be the one when you need to stop for a while, at least you’ll be ahead of the game).

    2. *hugs*

      I understand the idea of re-establishing control of your life through a work commitment. It helps, even if it’s not a real solution to other problems only time will resolve.

      1. A similar strategy – even if in the face of far realler problems – to my ‘use the annoyance energy to get some work done’ one above… virtual hugs, and here’s to celebrating victories of any kind!

  6. Goal for last week: work on ancillary tasks related to the P project.

    Achieved: after weeks of planning to but not getting much done, I actually finished several ancillary tasks (today, but hey, that counts, right?)

    Analysis: I’m almost at the point in the semester where I can just grade things (no comments necessary), which is a relief. I also have a whole new summer term starting up in c. 3 weeks, and will need to start thinking about that soon, but, for the moment, I’m trying to balance enjoying a bit of breathing room with some non-teaching productivity. I also came, after some weighing of options and likely costs, to the decision to repair rather than try to replace my aging car — a situation which has been wearing on me, but is not of course, nearly as serious as the human and animal life-and-death issues others have been facing. Money worries can be distracting, but are ultimately, at least at the level I’m facing them, not that big of a deal. But it will still be nice to have a bit more control of my schedule than public transport allows, and that will probably help a bit with productivity.

    Goal for next week: get a substantial start on revising the P article-in-revision (due back to the editor mid-May); continue work on ancillary tasks. Notwithstanding the usual end-of-semester rush of activities, try to get back on something resembling a regular 3-4-morning a week writing schedule.

    Glendower sounds like quite a handful, Dame — and, having cohabited with both species, I can attest that you’re spot on with the puppy/rabbit references. Who knew you were adopting some sort of 3-in-one beast? Or maybe he’s possessed by the spirits of additional beasts? In any case, I hope he calms down soon.

    And yes, spaces are important. One of my resolutions for the summer is to get my very small space in better-organized shape, since the chaos is beginning to wear on me a bit.

    1. I am pretty jealous to hear about all the no-comment-final-grading – we have to comment on final pieces of work because they are audited to see if we are commenting properly… stupid poxy system.

      1. JaneB– That may be coming one of these days (assuming anybody wants to pay someone to do the auditing — that’s probably the main argument against as far as administrators are concerned). For the moment, we need to submit a sample graded paper or three from some point in the semester with annual review materials, but there’s no complete audit. We’re also doing more and more assessment of various kinds, but that’s generally of student work.

  7. space: One thing that bugs me about my writing spaces is that they are NOT dedicated to only writing. I wrote more about this over in my blog because the comment was getting ridiculous. But any time I HAVE had a writing only space, it was a real tussle to keep it that way… I’m just not single-minded and my space reflects this, I guess.

  8. oh my DEH that is almost enough to make me want to write on campus (but not quite.

    1. foot forward, best effort
    2. achieved. Milestone exceeded this week. Me <– pleased beyond all measure
    3. we are almost past the end of the year, birthdays, finals, madness and I'm very very hopeful about recent developments in side project.
    4. once again, doing best work reveals self as best strategy EVER so I shall continue

  9. What are in common with cats and PCs are precariousness. One is lovely, the other is not so lovely for me, though.

    Goal: finishing my presenation with some developments.

    Achieved: I duely finished my presentation, but it was not good, actually.

    Analysis: It had been the first presentation in these two years because of my maternity leave. I realized how I have lost some part of presentation techniques, that is to say.

    My arguments were not good and my hand-outs were sloppy, my voice was unclear because I was not confident in what I was talking. My paper was so ambiguous partly because the article I found two days before the presentation interested me but I needed to re-organize dramatically my argument if I really want to use it in my paper. I dragged the article in my argument but I was not able to organize it suitably. I was asked one of the audience what exactly you wanted to present. sigh.

    The lesson I have learned: be clear. prepare well in advance. I know I am the person who is easily get paniced when something unexpected happens. A good thing is I know I must re-construct my paper from the bottom, but I have two months to talk at Leeds.

    Goals for next week: making a plan, and making a fresh start.

    1. Yes to what GEW said.

      It’s always hard to say no to those last-minute interesting things, but sometimes its essential to let them go. It sounds like you have a great idea of what you need to do for next time.

      1. Thanks, GEW and amstr! This is not the end of the world and at least I have materials and some thoughts, anyway. I am developping them.

  10. 1.Buy plane tix to UK so I can go to my uni and meet with my supervisor at the end of May. Re-read current draft and make notes for changes and next steps.

    2. I did buy the plane tickets, and I made my hotel reservations in London and in the uni town. I have not re-read current draft, but I hope to do it later today. I also gave the draft to a friend who’ll be my first reader. I should be able to meet with her in about a week to get some feedback.

    3. Speaking of spaces, one of my hotel reservations is at a renovated Georgian mansion build in the mid 1700s, which is my time period, so I’m very excited. It’s just outside of my uni-town, and taxis into town will cost me, but I’ve decided to splurge a bit. The hotel price is not too high because it’s just reopening and also, maybe, because it’s supposed to be very haunted, which I discovered after making the reservation, and which actually creeps me out a bit. Also, I won’t be in walking distance to anything, so I might feel kind of isolated, but I doubt I’ll ever have another chance to stay somewhere like that,so I think I’m going to go for it.

    Regarding spaces at home, the kids share a room so that our third bedroom is a guest room / study. When we set it up last summer, I envisioned hiding away in there, getting loads of work done. But, in reality, the kids don’t like to leave me alone when I’m at home, and if I’m home alone, tend to spread out on the dining room table instead of working in the study. I think the study is just a bit too dark for me to really enjoy. When the family is home and I need to work, I go to a local coffee shop. I get loads of work done there.

    4. Goal for next week: Re-read draft. Read three chapters of relevant philosophy. Write one page. (All after doing a ton of grading,of course.)

  11. Well, WordPress let me post relatively easily, but I put my update into last week’s roundup.

    Space is not my biggest obstacle: I can procrastinate anywhere, and even without internet access. Still, I want a space that helps rather than hinders the process. To my surprise, I have come to spend a lot of time working / trying to work in cafes. (In graduate school, the thought of paying for a drink every day seemed scandalous; also I lived along while writing my dissertation, so I had a tiny, quiet space to myself.

    Trying one more time:

    Last week’s goal: 1/2 hour Monday and Friday; 1 hour Wednesday

    Accomplished: Nothing Monday or Friday; 1/2 hour Wednesday morning.

    I think I fell into making the goal what I *should* have been able to do rather than what was realistic. I was right about being able to put more time in on Wednesday, though. I *could* have done more if I got started faster, but I did get other, end-of-semester grading and service tasks done on Monday and Friday

    Goal for next week:
    I still have plenty to do, but fewer things scheduled during work times next week.

    1 hour Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday.

  12. Goal: Write up the 1,000 word proposal by Wednesday, so I can post three copies of everything to the other side of the world… Then shine it up a bit more, before sending to the other uni in the Centre.

    Achieved: I wrote a proposal, sent it off (four copies, and to get it there in time it cost $53. Need to be more organised!), and am still working on the cleaner version for the connected uni. That’s to be finished by the end of the day.

    Thinkings: I’ve got a really exciting topic, but it’s huge! And much of it is not in my most recent area, so I’ve got a lot of back-ground reading and flailing as I try to work out what has and hasn’t been done yet.

    Next week: Marking. That’s all there is… And start thinking about that next article which should get done.

    1. Oh, and space? That’s my biggest bug-bear. I can sit with my laptop in the lounge, but then there is a) the distraction of the TV, and b) I have to fight the cat for use of my lap.

      I have an ‘office’ at home – we are renting a 2 1/2bed-room house, but the ‘double room’ is just big enough to fit the bed in. So the second bedroom, which is also my office, contains chests of drawers, clothes, clothes which haven’t been put away, various sewing projects, all the stuff from the living room when guests come round, etc. Somewhere under there is my desk. I have plans to clear that out, so I can actually use the space, but with winter coming on, it’s also the room furthest from the fire.

      And a note of thanks (BIG THANKS) to DEH for hosting this writing group. I’ve not always been able to post, thanks to dial-up (just as well there’s that time difference, so I can get this in on a Monday morning!) but I’ve always read, and been inspired by it all. Thank you for keeping me writing!

      1. My cat loves my office space, too, as it has sunlight in the afternoon. So there has to be space on the desk for a towel for the cat to snooze on…

        Is there a way to post photos in WP?

  13. Space: I feel very lucky to have an office out back in a part of the garage. When we bought our house, it was one of the biggest selling points. It was added in the late 1940s and has all the original pine paneling, so it feels like a little retreat, even though we’re a 1/4 block from a major road. When I’m in the space and I use it, I love it. But some days I procrastinate and end up in the rooms of the house that have all the household things I need to do in them. That makes for less work AND more guilt. Never a good combination. I also frequent a great little coffee shop, especially when I need to stop reading and just write. The change of scenery helps, as do memories of hours spent at coffee shops grading with GEW post-MA.

    And now for the reporting:

    Goals: 1) notes/annotations on the articles I’ve read in the past couple weeks, 2) complete my introduction (add 2-3 key pages at the beginning, fill in some blank paragraphs) and send it off to my writing partner.

    Achieved: I got most of my blank paragraphs and footnotes filled in and complete. I still need to tackle the first 2-3 pages and one more blank spot.

    Analysis: My goal was rather ambitious for just having returned from a cross-country trip, but I think I needed the big goal to push me to get momentum again. As I should have expected, Mon. and Tues. were slow work days, but I got quite a lot done on Wed. and Thurs., and even stole an hour of worktime on Fri. by arranging some creative babysitting. I was hoping to take time to work this weekend, but I’ve needed recovery time and time with the family.

    Goals for next week: 1) notes/annotations on articles read, 2) ship off completed intro to writing partner on Tues., 3) 2000 words on Chapter 3 (the one I didn’t finish before my trip).

    1. I’m quite good at sitting in the living room, staring at the pile of dishes, feeling guilty ‘cos I should be doing something about them, but also knowing I should be working on X project, and so avoiding both by playing on the computer. (And I have never even loaded interesting games on the computer, in an effort to combat this precise event…)

  14. I’ve been meaning to update but I’ve been distracted by revisions and a few real-life tasks.

    1. Goal: Complete the Draft

    2. Actual: Draft completed (though still a little wobbly)

    3. Analysis: I don’t know how the heck I did this given the huge amount of marking, editorial work on other project and real life interruptions. Well, i take that back because I did have help from a buddy who challenged me to fifteen-minute writing sprints three nights in a row. I powered out over 700 words in those sessions!

    4. Now that we’re done, I need to go over and see if I’m ready to commit to another twelve wee scheme.

    Regarding dedicated places to write? I know that I’m strange. I don’t have anything remotely like that at home and this is where I do 90% of my writing. I write on a corner of the living room couch in our open-concept house, so the dining room is to my left and the front foyer is dead ahead. I have an end table as my makeshift desk. Maybe not ideal but it works for me.

      1. Writing sprints are wonderful for getting you to get something, anything, down. If you’re working past a point of blockage, being in a writing sprint may inspire you to move onto the next section. I make a note of elements I’ll need to pull out of my research notes at greater length while I’m ‘sprinting’ but I won’t stop to figure those out exactly until the sprint’s done. Otherwise, the momentum is lost!

  15. Well these last couple weeks have been really rough with personal issues and the insanity of the almost end of the semester. (hence two later than normal check-ins in a row.) I have a physical place I like to sit for typing, but writing other bit–notes or in my journal can occur anywhere. Mental space has been my main struggle these last couple months. I also have two needy cats that cannot be played with at the same time (unless we’re both home and we separate them.) If they don’t get that time they fight with each other (as they are doing right this second because I was gone all day).

    goal:Apply to 2 jobs. (One I’m unsure on, but will need an interview to get more info.) Read one chapter. Anything else is bonus.

    Accomplished: applied to two jobs. the one ended up being a craig’s list scam. (You need my credit score? So I can work in admissions? yeah right.) The other let me know that they will interview in May so I hope to hear from them soon. No reading that wasn’t grading papers occured this week. No writing for my project occured this week. I am bummed but when I consider what I’ve been through this week (an on-going from the last several months), it’s really ok that I’ve done what I’ve done this week.

    Analysis: scam jobs bum me out. freaking losers. I might be unrealistic about where I am mentally, what can be accomplished at this moment because personal life is really taking over all else, and what I should be doing. I had all these grand plans for writing this semester, not really knowing that other stuff would happen (sorry so vague, it’s hard to really talk about). It’s also a bit of a mental suck to be on the job hunt (again). But at least classes are over in a week and a half!

    new goal: 1) survive til end of semester, 2) really look at my writing project and be realistic about my goals in combination with my personal and professional life happenings 3) RELAX.

  16. My apologies for a late update. Ironically, the space issue is part of the reason I am late. My older son came home after two years doing manual labor over a thousand miles away, and in the process took away my writing space. I wouldn’t have it any other way, but it does raise a problem of where to write.

    I had a lovely place when I worked in Florida, which I liked so well I posted pictures on my blog (; however, I hated the day job so much that I gave it up the writing space almost happily.

    I don’t have an office at the new day job; even worse, I am a administrator, so writing is difficult there. Home is now bulging with dogs and sons, so I am planning to check out nearby coffee-shops. The good thing I can write pretty much anywhere noise-wise, and in very small snippets of time. The bad thing is I tend to write on whatever is at hand, and I do need blocks of time to pull things together–the first get lost easily, and the second are very hard to find.

    Goal: write an hour a day.

    Progress: done except for Sunday, I had just sat down to write when the boys showed up at the door earlier than expected, so no writing yesterday.

    Analysis: I still need to honor the process, try not to lose the little pieces of paper that contain the “aha!” that happened in the five minutes before a meeting started, and grab all the time that appears before me.

    New goal: I just found out this morning I was awarded a small research grant, so I need to flesh out that plan.

  17. Well, I’m late myself this week, thanks to the dead laptop, and then to a vet visit and an extra-long meeting today, just when I was planning to get in early and work my tush off catching up. Thanks for carrying on without me! It was a strange feeling through the weekend, knowing that because of all of you and because of advance scheduling, my blog was just going on its bloggy way without me!

    So, my goal for last week was 20 minutes on teaching days, 2 hours each on Wednesday and Friday, and another hour on Saturday.

    Results: I’m sure of an hour each on Monday and Friday. Other days . . . let’s see. Wednesday turned into a library day, and I think I wrote a paragraph while on public transportation. And I got another paragraph on Saturday. Time is harder to track than results, especially when the time is constantly interrupted by fur people.

    Analysis: must remember to write in research journal about what I’ve done. Little bits of time continue to be useful but also frustrating because I would like big bits to work with.

    New goal: write some footnotes for translation project and finish Zoo paper.

    1. A research journal–what a great idea!

      Your point about tracking time being difficult through distractions is a good one. I work in a library, so there are lots of places I can hide–those time counts are easy. The snippets between staff coming into my cubicle–that is nearly impossible, so I don’t tend to count those unless I look back and realize there were lots of snippets.

      Writing in the research journal would solve the time accountability and the “small paper syndrome” problem for me.

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