[Updated to add: No, you may not join this group in what is essentially its fourth week.  There are 47 people already enrolled; that is more than enough for me to keep track of.  If you scroll all the way to the bottom of my page, you will find a list of topics: click on those for previous writing group incarnations (which in turn have links to other groups, like Another Damned Notorious Writing Group) and read more about how writing groups work around here.  You are welcome to go off and start your own group, with the rules and start/end dates of your choice; if you leave a comment here that you want to do that, I will advertise the site for you, by putting up a separate post with the link.  You can also plan to sign up for the winter writing group that JaneB and Trapped in Canadia will run; I’ll be advertising it in December.  Thank you for your interest, good luck with the writing, and I’ll hope to see you around—next time.  We now resume our regularly scheduled 47-person check-in.]

Week 3!  How did it get to be week 3 already?

This semester has already kicked my butt.  It’s not the classes.  It’s not the service.  It’s not even the schedule, not even the cats, not the attempt to hang on to a research agenda along with all the other stuff.  But it is all of those things together.  I have dropped every possible ball this week.  My in-box is filling up with requests, complaints, questions, and who knows what else because for two three days now I haven’t been able to bring myself to look.

I know, from experience, that all the things I dread won’t be so bad when I finally make myself look at them, and I will wonder what got into me when I start picking up the dropped balls and stashing them in the toy box (or maybe they’re bowling balls, and I can fling them at something; that would be satisfying).  I’m not so behind that I can’t catch up.

But it does seem like a good time to think about lowering expectations, maybe even about Sucking Less ™.  Two hours to write is lovely; 15 minutes is acceptable.  Two pages is great; ordering a book ILL and taking notes on an article Moves The Project Forward.

I hope I’m not raining on anyone’s parade.  If you’re having a fantastic semester whacking down your goals like a weedtrimmer instead of playing whack-a-mole, carry on!  That’s fantastic (and please spread some of the good karma around).  But if you’re Overcome By Events, see what baby steps you can manage to take.

After all, better a baby step in the right direction than running fast in the wrong one.

Here’s the roll of people and goals; please remember the four-paragraph format, and check in by 6:00 p.m. US Central time on Sunday, 16 September.

alloverthemap: Last week’s goal: get Project RM to on-hold state; work like I did the week before.
Amstr: Last week’s goal: 1) freewrite 3×20 min. and solidify outline, 2) read for Ch. 2, 3) new Ch. 2 draft: 1500 words, 4) make easy revisions of Ch. 3 from writing partner review.
Another Postdoc: Last week’s goal: free writing and brainstorming about the overall theme and argument of the book. I will also choose two books that I will use as models for my book. And I will make a list of potential presses and the contact information of editors.
Bavardess: Last week’s goal: Tidy up article draft and send to supervisors/friendly reader for review; Draft one thematic chunk of the historigraphy section for my proposal; Refine the proposal section covering definition of terms.
cly: Last week’s goal: re-read chapter four and finish the article.
Comrade PhysioProf: Last week’s goal: [checked in but no specific goal posted]
Contingent Cassandra: Last week’s goal: finish creating prompts for all major assignments; finish the current freelance piece; work toward a better sleep schedule.
Daisy: Last week’s goal: Revise Intro and Discussion sections for Paper A, and the Intro and data sections for Paper B; two hours a day of writing time.
Dame Eleanor Hull: Last week’s goal:  2 hours research/writing per day, progress on MMP MWF and translation T-Th.
Dr. Virago: Last week’s goal: continue writing the invited article (at least 250 words), but at least start thinking about the review essay.
Elizabeth Anne Mitchell: Last week’s goal: outline of the article. I need to get a better sense of what manuscript or incunabulum fits where, and therefore what can be skimmed or checked from film.
emmawriting: MIA
Erinys: Build a framework. Strip the diss of anything relevant. Put it in the article in some sort of order.
GEW: Last week’s goal: Spend 15 minutes per day, six days per week, on dissertation work, for a total of 1.5 hours
highly eccentric: Last week’s goal: Try to knock out another 1000 words; two or three days’ of writing time.
historisusan (Professor Susan): Last week’s goal: start reading primary sources
humming42: Last week’s goal:  Print the existing mess and figure out its order.
JaneB: Last week’s goal: complete and file the job application and review the status of the multi-author paper (goal a).
JLiedl: Last week’s goal: 1500 words for the chapter.
jmmcswee: Last week’s goal: (1) start filling in comprehensive outline with specific notes/references and ideas; and (2) read at least 5 articles pertaining to my paper topic.
John Spence:  1 side of note-making on the introduction to the short edition, and turn a page of transcription into a page of a ‘first edit’. I won’t be able to log in next weekend; I will report back in two weeks (next week, now).
Kirstin: (Main Goal: Write an article based on my dissertation.) Last week’s goal: Finish weeks 3 and 4 in WYJA book.
kiwi2: (Main goal: To submit two papers (Paper X and Paper Y) and complete my part of the analysis on Paper Z.) Last week’s goal: do the analysis for Paper Z, and re-do the graphs for Paper X.
kiwimedievalist: (Main goal: Give articles a break, and work on novel idea which has been floating for years.) Last week’s goal: Spend an hour a day, planning out the novel and working out where the research is needed.
Kris: Last week’s goal: give the talk; figure out the next steps for the paper.
luolin88: (main goal: 1. submit article that still needs revisions; 2. submit article that just needs proofreading and re-formatting; 3. write MLA paper). Last week’s goal: work 1/2-1 hour Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Matilda: Last week’s goal:  a 15 week plan/ read the first part of main material/ re-read three basic articles on this subject.
meansomething: Last week’s goal: 1) 1,000 words on lyric essay; 2) 3 sessions of 20 minutes each on poem sequence.
metheist: Last week’s goal: find a catchy intro for the chapter; solidify my argument in the introduction to the chapter; and put in my statistical and anecdotal examples. Fresh writing should be about 10-15pp.
Moria: MIA
Notorious Ph.D.: Last week’s goal: read/skim the three “classic” works on the Big Question and write a 400-word synopsis.
nwgirl: Last week’s goal: Continue work on AB section and combine with J section.
Pika: Last week’s goal:  Two sections of part 1; download and print the newly found papers.
Pilgrim/Heretic: Last week’s goal: at least 8 hours of writing per week, or 2,000 words.
rented life: Last week’s goal: Create character web for book. Finish Book T (for research). Look into additiona sources to see if they are really necessary. Begin reviewing notes from Book S.
Premodern: 2 hours a day of reading/writing, and 1000 words of the chapter by the end of the week.
Salimata: Last week’s goal:  decide on a paper; do the activities for Argument from Belcher’s 12-week book; carve out 30 minutes each day except Wednesday to do so.
Sapience: Last week’s goal: Get application for at least one, but preferably two, fellowships done. Read a BOOK for the review article.
Sisyphus: Last week’s goal: work an hour each day and revise 7 more pages of ch 3.
sophylou: Last week’s goal: continue writing, with hoped-for goal of half an hour every other day. Read and take notes on one or two articles or book chapters.
Susan: Last week’s goal: [I’m not sure if this is a different Susan or the same as Professor Susan/historisusan listed above under H; if different, then she’s MIA; if the same, see above]
tracynicholrose: Last week’s goal: Reread P&P paper and complete an outline for the TS intro.
Trapped in Canadia: Last week’s goal: finish reading the book and write the stupid book review; write lectures.
Undine (Not of General Interest): Last week’s goal: Begin work on a new chapter, to the tune of at least 1500 words.
What Now?: Last week’s goal: Five hours of research, spread over at least three days; plus, committee meeting to present the budget request.
Widgeon: Last week’s goal:  Prepare comments for the dissertation I’m more familiar with. Read and write notes on two important books that will be helpful for my book chapter.
Z (Mictlantecuhtli/Profacero): Last week’s goal: one research-writing block Saturday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, shortened if necessary.

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170 thoughts on “Sept-Dec 2012 Writing Group Week 3 Check-In

  1. Last goal: give the talk; figure out the next steps for the paper.

    Accomplished: both done.

    Next goal: an easy one since I’ll be traveling and jet-lagged for much of the week: collect up all necessary materials and readings for a more powerful methodology discussion; read at least two sources for the discussion.

    Commentary: I was so worried about presenting my paper at the conference. And the conference was awful, full of conservative old men in suits being patronising and rude, and younger men and women meekly accepting it. It was a very bad retro experience. It was discouraging, to put it mildly, to be experiencing such unapologetic, unreflexive and blatant patriarchal power. Luckily, I had my writing buddy with me and I met some thoughtful and potentially helpful people. I was allocated the most patronising and rude of all the patronising and rude old men as a discussant. He had no knowledge of my field and misinterpreted, misrepresented and belittled my paper – I’m not sure he even read it. But I stood my ground, told him why he was WRONG and he backed down and sat sulking with his arms crossed, not looking at me for the rest of the session. Moral of the story: sometimes the thing you fear happens, and it’s not so bad – and knowing you can deal with dipshits is empowering.

    On the plus side, I am staying in a really, really nice hotel with unlimited smoked salmon on the buffet breakfast. Empowerment and fish: two good outcomes of the trip.

    1. It didn’t get much better but not every conference is a winner. I think your first public rejection of senior dipshits is as defining an academic achievement as submitting the first article, the thesis. the first job.

      The whole thing was awful enough that it has transcended from depressing into great anecdote. So I don’t feel badly at all. 🙂

      1. Good on you for having such a good attitude to a pretty crappy experience. Its appalling that professionals can still get away with such bad behaviour.

      2. My closest friend from grad school told me that our advisor told her that she would know she had come in to her own when she called him on his bullshit. It took a long time for me to realize I could (can) reject good ole boy networks and other patriarchies…but it’s still hard to do. Brava for you!

      3. The whole thing was awful enough that it has transcended from depressing into great anecdote. So I don’t feel badly at all.

        Sounds like the only sane response. I’m glad you were able to get to that frame of mind in time to enjoy whatever was enjoyable about the conference (even if it was mostly time with your writing buddy and fish. Hey, unlimited smoked salmon is not to be sneezed at.)

  2. Last goal: Create character web for book. Finish Book T (for research). Look into additiona sources to see if they are really necessary. Begin reviewing notes from Book S.

    Accomplished: Created character web AND little sheets summarizing bits about characters so I stay on track with them. (I wanted to do that but didn’t make it a goal in case it didn’t happen.) Read more, but did not finish Book T. Did not look at other sources. Created complete notes for book S to help with ideas. (As in, they are not written somewhere useful and not crammed into margins in the book). Did some writing on both my fiction projects.

    New Goal: Finish book T, start book D. Write 2 times (minimum) this week–no time limit.

    Commentary: I did a lot of research on fiction writing as a craft in general this week–and that helped me with forming my own process for this. I’m not sure why I didn’t get the reading done that I planned too–I’m trying to figure out what I read instead, but it’s not coming to me. (I think I just listened to a lot of music instead?) Doing the character sheets was helpful–1) it kept me form accidently renaming periphery characters. Ooops! I liked the original names. 2) It’s a nice visual that is right in my line of vision when I look up from writing, to keep me focused on the different stories that will weave into one. 3) it reminded me that I still don’t know some things about some characters…and that’s ok.

    I did do more writing than I expected on another story–not my main goal, but a story I keep picking up here and there when I have writers block or and idea for that comes. For me it’s positive procrastination–writing still gives me practice at writing, period. At forces me to think in terms of descriptions–something I struggle with sometimes. I mean you should just SEE what’s in my head.

    1. I like your idea of positive procrastination. It’s true, I think, that any writing is good practice for writing, even if you never use it anywhere. I’m a big fan of freewriting when I’m just trying to sort out my ideas, questions etc. Somehow getting it out of my head and onto paper really helps things start to coalesce.

      1. Thanks! Because the second story is just for me, I’m using it to play with ideas of order, flashbacks, etc without feeling like it’s “risky.” I’m also using it to write from a different point of view just to see what that’s like.

    2. Sometimes the project used for distraction comes into its own. And all of that procrastination is transformed into productivity. 🙂

  3. As one of the last to join, at least I think I have been let in (Thank you so much Dame Hull), I want to briefly state my goals and then reply to the actual question and check in.

    I am an nth year PhD student trying to complete a draft of my dissertation to submit for defense this fall. I work full time and parent (with my husband) two daughters aged 10 and 8. As a result I truly struggle to find time to write.

    My goal: a full draft by the end of this fall
    The current state: Chapter 1 complete, Chapter 2 needing a last few little edits, I anticipate about 5 more chapters of which I have very rough drafts from other conference papers that I have written that need to be retooled with my now overarching argument.

    This week’s goal: to complete editing Chapter 2 and send the first two chapters off to my committee.

    1. Did you sign in with some other name, before? I do not have a Minnesota Falcon on the list, and if you weren’t here before, I think the week 3 check-in is a couple of weeks late to join in. But we do have a few dissertation-finishers, so let me know if you’re one of them from the list.

      And it’s Dame Eleanor: the title, like “Sir,” goes with the first name.

    2. Like you, I have two kids (9 and 7), and I work full time. I also find it hard to find time to write and even harder to find time to read all that needs to be read. If you are in the group, I will be eager to celebrate your progress!

  4. First off, Dame E, I hear you about the semester kicking butt. I was so sure that I was going to revolutionize my first year class with all new daily structure but as my obligations piled up this term, I’m having to be grateful that I have these old preps I can fall back upon and exploit. There will be no revolution in 2012 for yours truly. I will be grateful if there is a good revival.

    Last goal: 1500 words on current chapter

    Accomplished: Yes and more – I’m 500 words short of the required word count.

    New goal: Complete chapter and do one round of revisions so it can go to series editor

    Commentary: Protecting my writing days, Tuesday and Thursday, is what makes it possible to write and edit boatloads. I do a lot of work on the weekend, true!, but the real meat of writing happens on those two days (I teach all day Wednesday and Friday as well as a fair chunk of Monday). So weeks when I let other duties intrude on my writing days will suffer. Lesson learned: except for fairly neutral activities such as taking the car to the garage for servicing (where I can work with my netbook in the quiet waiting area or nearby coffee shop), don’t sacrifice time on those days for anything short of an emergency.

    1. I love the revolution/revival image.

      I too have to protect my workdays. It’s easy to fall for the idea that running errands or scheduling things during that time is a great idea, but it’s so easy for the time to disappear with little to no progress.

    2. I’ve have a similar strategy for my two writing days (Wednesday and Friday), especially Wednesday. I’ve found that if I can get a lot done on Wednesday, Friday seems to go much more smoothly. If I have an unproductive Wednesday, then by Friday I’m frantically trying to meet the week’s goal in a day.

      1. I write two hours every day but I really hear you about protecting time: there must be eternal vigilance! One of the things I Iike about consistent writing is avoiding the mad scramble to meet deadlines; I’m reminded of this every time I drop my vigilance

    3. I’m trying to do the same thing with protecting the times/days I’ve allocated to writing, to the point where I turn off my phone, won’t answer the door, or anything else during those periods. If I’m on a roll I can get so much done but one tiny interruption/distraction can really screw up the whole session.

    4. I love it when tasks that seem like wasted downtime can be productive time, especially when I have work done on my car. I really need to set aside more time–I lost one of my writing days to a class that needed a last minute instructor (scoring points with my chair, and earning a little extra overload pay) and the other has been filled with meetings so far. I need to learn how to do better protection.

  5. I wrote things! Not actually many things. But the ugly draft is done, and printed out and colour-coded. Next week’s job is to re-arrange the content according to the colour code, and give it some semblance of argument or at least headings, before sending it to a nice academic who’s going to advise me on it.

      1. HE & Bavardess, I’m wondering about your color-coding. Sounds like an organizing strategy, and I’m curious how you use it? (I’m always looking for excuses to buy pretty highlighters!)

      2. haha, yes color coding! I broke into the art supplies so I could color code my notes and characters. Buying pretty markers (and notebooks) is a bit of a weakness for me.

  6. Last week’s goal: Begin work on a new chapter, to the tune of at least 1500 words.

    The good news: I started the new chapter, I emailed my editor, and I finished the edits on the piece I mentioned initially.

    Bad news: Only 426 words. But I did work on the project every day this week, even teaching days, and, what’s better, I thought about it, so it’s in my brain right now.

    For next week: 1500 words on the chapter and begin work on a conference paper. (I can dream, can’t i?)

    Dame E, the semester is kicking me, too. I came home last night too tired to sit up, let alone type. Let’s hope next week is better for all of us.

    1. That’s great that you got to kept your mind in your work, even though the word count was lower than you’d hoped. I hope next week is better!

    2. I hate feeling that level of tired. I know it’s bad when I’m thinking ‘I really want to go to bed but I’m too tired to get up and walk there’. Hope this week sparks a revival.

    3. I’m finding that keeping something in my brain, even if I don’t work on it as much as I’d hoped, is really valuable. Some brain cells seem to keep doing background work, even if I’m not fully aware of it. Yay for you for finding time every day!

  7. Last week’s goal: 1) freewrite 3×20 min. and solidify outline, 2) read for Ch. 2, 3) new Ch. 2 draft: 1500 words, 4) make easy revisions of Ch. 3 from writing partner review

    Accomplished: 1) x1.5 + wrote outline, 2) yes, 3) < 500, 4) read writing partner's comments.

    Goals for next week: 1) keep reading for Ch. 2, 2) freewrite 2x20min., 3) make a first revision pass on Ch. 3, 4) resubmit revised abstract to writing partner.

    Commentary: OBE. I have three extra commitments a month, and this week I happened to get hit with two of them. Unfortunately, the 2nd week of the month looks like this every month. Neither was a big time suck, and I enjoy both, but just having two extra things in my head makes it difficult to focus on writing. And focus is what I need. I had some good discussions this week with my writing partner, and I discovered the argument for Ch. 2 still isn't quite there. It's getting better, but still needs that glue and organization that make all the isolated ideas come together. One of his great pieces of advice was to try to write a sentence with all of my key words in it.

    I'm feeling both weary and optimistic. Each week I'm closer to being done, but it sure feels like it's taking a long time. I'm not putting up a word count for chapter 2 this week, but I do hope to get some bits and pieces drafted to help me think through the issues, and I hope to have a solid argument ready to go by this time next week. But right now, it seems like our Friday Family Movie Night plan (ordering in and Madagascar and beer for me) is a good one.

    1. Forward movement is good. For tonight, however, enjoy the movie and the beer!! Oh, and the take out, too. 😉

      1. Thanks nwgirl and Bavardess–the beer hit the spot. And I do have an amazing writing partner. I did lots of reading for his dissertation last year, and he’s helping me a lot this year. I’ve been very thankful for the camaraderie in my department.

    2. Each week I’m closer to being done, but it sure feels like it’s taking a long time.

      I had one friend in grad school who claimed she just sat down every day for several hours on her dissertation, and one day it was done. I think it was a bit more complicated than that, but still, constant application, and regular forward progress, does eventually present results.

      And yes, having a really engaged writing partner sounds awesome. Advisors can only do so much.

  8. Last week’s goal: Work on AB section and combine with J section

    Accomplished: Butkus

    Goals for next week: Work on AB section and combine with J section

    Commentary: DEH, the semester is kicking my butt, too. OBE — no end in sight. It’s not any one thing, but just the cumulative effect of all those things. Like J Liedl, I’m glad I have old preps to fall back on. So I’m trying to adjust my expectations especially for this month. I have second-year tenure review coming up later this semester so my notebook is due at the end of the month. And I have a grant application due at the end of the month. So writing has happened. Just not on the book project. But if I can kick these two projects out the door in the new few days, I can switch my focus back to the book. Definitely OBE for now.

  9. Last week’s goal: write ten lectures and a book review

    Accomplished: seven lectures, two quizzes (this counts, right?), no review

    Next week’s goal: I need to write six lectures and I just received fifty primary source analyses to mark, so that’s about it for me next week. If I get all of that done, I’ll be thrilled. If I don’t, I’ll be in serious trouble.

    Commentary: Your post was quite timely, Dame Eleanor. I was feeling bad about not getting everything done this week and not squeezing in any dissertation time, other than ordering two books through ILL. But, you’re right, that moves the project along and that’s really all I could do this week. Next week will be better, particularly because it will be the last week I have to work my second job (yay!) so I’ll have more time to myself. That will be a huge, huge help. I just need some breathing room right now.

    1. Wow–writing seven lectures in a week seems like a lot. And quizzes totally count. I’m glad you got to move the project forward–ILL saves the day! Congrats on the end of your 2nd job, too.

      1. It was a lot! I had to do it, though, to get prepared for marking these assignments and get some time to spare for writing. I’m sick of just barely keeping up with all the prep work, too. It’s driving me crazy!

    2. Yike! I’m amazed you’re keeping up with the prep work, let alone anything else. I’m glad to hear you’ll be able to bid the second job farewell; that sounds like an improvement, even if it just gives you some breathing/recovery room.

  10. Dame Eleanor, I can totally relate to your post today! This week was all about the baby steps for me (and getting rid of one of those things I dread having to deal with – my tax return).

    Last week’s goal
    Article – Tidy up the draft and send to supervisors for review.
    Proposal – complete one thematic chunk of my historiography section, refine my definition of terms

    Achievements
    I got the article tidied up and sent to supervisors for input, and I also contacted my friendly reader (fellow PhD) to ask if she could read it, too. Then I came down with a nasty cold and I didn’t get the work done that I wanted to on my proposal. I spent the time reading some secondary lit instead. I did my tax return, too – not on my list of goals but I’ve been procrastinating over it for the last couple of months, and worrying about it has been distracting me from other work. So to finally get it off my plate feels really good.

    Goals for next week
    Proposal – Complete one thematic chunk (H1 and H2) of the historiography section; refine definition of terms ; draft up a two-page skeleton with the main sections and related key texts for supervisors

    Commentary
    So, being sick meant it wasn’t a banner week for me. Although getting through several key secondary texts wasn’t on my list of goals, I did get this done so I’m counting that as a win. I got more and better work done on the couple of days that I actually forced myself out for a bit of fresh air despite feeling blech, than on the days I spent hunkering inside on the sofa.

      1. You definitely got a lot done for a sick person! When I’m sick, I’m happy if I take a shower, so well done! Desk-clearing is always useful, especially since you can get down to writing once you feel better, without having your taxes hanging over you.

    1. Sounds like pretty good progress to me, too. And getting things that are taking up brain space done and out of your brain can be very useful. Fitting the task to the energy available (rather than just getting nothing done) is a useful skill.

  11. Last goals: 1) 1,000 words on lyric essay; 2) 3 20-minute sessions on poem sequence.

    Accomplished: Yes! Got some pretty good work done despite a demanding teaching/family week.

    Next week’s goal: 1) another 1,000 words on lyric essay; 2) 5 20-minute sessions on poem sequence.

    Commentary: Glad I dialed back the goals this week, for I was able to hit them, and earlier than I did last week, so that I now have Saturday, as well as Sunday, to use for next week’s goals. So I’m adding more, but not longer, sessions to the week’s second goal. I have done two of my four exercise goals, and will do a third tomorrow, but I won’t hit my week’s goal of four. That’s fine. I am also still working on some of the non-writing (though some writing-biz) goals I listed on my own blog, but overall, I’m delighted to have met my writing goals and have a pleasant feeling of Being Effective. That lyric essay is interesting me greatly–I’m churning out the words and surprising myself with some of what comes up. I think the word-count pace will slow down as I start to think seriously about its form, and perhaps the overall goal of 10,000 words will need to change, but for now I think it’s worth keeping on with the churning. Very interested in the poem sequence, too, and in what the short but intense work periods are yielding thus far. No need to comment on this one, Dame Eleanor–I’m very happy just popping in for my accountability fix!

  12. Great blog!!! I just found out about your writing group and I was wondering if I can join now. 🙂

    About me:
    I’m a PhD student in Organizational Behavior. I am in my final stage of finishing my thesis and I expect I will defend it during 2012.

    Last goal:
    1) Finish section “how I view identity”
    2) Write 5-6 hours/day (Monday-Friday) with Pomodoro (1 pomodoro=25’).

    Accomplished:
    Not accomplished 😦

    New Goal:
    1) Finish re-writing of “how I view identity” and start section “Why choose identity for exploring diversity”
    2) Work 5-6 hours/day and minimum 3 hours/day.
    3) Understand and manage my fears concerning my thesis

    Commentary:
    I didn’t accomplish my goals because:
    1) I felt stressed and anxious of writing a topic that I feel I haven’t clarified inside me. I know that writing is the solution for clarifying my view but still…it is stressful.
    2) Because I felt stressed of my task I procrastinated. Instead of writing I was reading more papers.
    3) I started my working days by checking mails, news, etc and not by working. This distracted me. I tend to be more productive when I start my working day by actually working.

    Let me know if I can join the writing group at this stage.

  13. Last goal: Two sections of part 1; download and print the newly found papers.

    Accomplished: 1.5 sections of part 1. Didn’t manage to get new papers.

    Next week: finish the 0.5 section of part 1 that I didn’t manage yet. Start working on part 2 (which is really the main thing) and finish half of it.

    Analysis: what went wrong this week is that I spent more time than anticipated on trying to help my PhD student to write his paper (on which note I actually have a question, see below) and on teaching-related-last-minute meetings that got me into a rather vile mood for a couple of days. I can’t do anything about havng to go to meetings and the way the admin works here, but should serioulsy try to drop the mood and let go of and just go back to my proposal…

    So, a question: how do you teach someone to write in correct order? My student includes everything that should be there in the paper, but the order is completely wrong, such that he jumps ahead, lists his conclusions first and explains what should be in the introduction at the very end. This goes on at all scales, on both the section level (order of subsections or paragraphs within each section) and sentence-order in each paragraph. I’ve been trying to point this out now for weeks, marked up I don’t know how many drafts already (almost can’t see the b**y thing anymore), I actually made him do the marking up of the order himself with me there, but nothing. Next draft I get is just as messy order-wise and I’m at the point that if this continues for another draft, I might just give up and rewrite the thing myself in the proper order (and turn into one of THOSE supervisors who write their trainees’s papers – but I am really at my wits’ end with this one). Which is a BAD idea, because if he doesn’t learn this now (on a relatively short paper), how will he write the thesis next year (and how will I read that thing several times and how long will this take, he has to finish before the funding runs out)? It’s like he’s thinking backwards while I’m thinking forward. So, any advice on teaching proper order in writing?

    1. Hand over a good book, like Robert Day’s ‘writing a scientific paper’, and ask the student to follow that? (they might find it easier to learn from reading rather than from you telling them stuff which can get blurred by some of those stupid thoughts we all had as PhD students ‘she’s mad with me’ ‘she’s attacking my work’ ‘I’m stupid’ getting in the way of good listening)

      Ask the student to pick a couple of really good papers in your field and work out what their structure is, then try to slot their own material into that structure?

      It’s a hard one! Do try to resist the lure to be ‘that’ supervisor, it will just make your life even harder…

      1. Thanks, I’ll look up this book. I normally give this one to students (being in ICT): http://www.amazon.com/Writing-Computer-Science-Justin-Zobel/dp/1852338024

        I did already ask him to pick up good papers and select one he really likes. Then I asked him to define the structure of his paper on this model paper – which he did on the highest level (sections). But it doesn’t seem to work within the text or he just doesn’t see it (he actually said that in the last conversation, he asked me how I see the order is wrong and I honestly didn’t know how to explain how I see it, I just do – I think it must be something I picked up a long time ago, e.g. in primary school and I just can’t remember how I learnt this).

    2. Is this student coming from another discipline, where papers get organized differently? If so, it could be helpful to say explicitly “We don’t do it like English lit [or whatever]; we have this formula you have to follow.” I like JaneB’s suggestion of a book, both to get around any mental noise and to make the point that this is not just you being picky but a disciplinary norm.

      1. No, he is in the same discipline and has been reading discipline papers for a long while, but it doesn’t seem to get through (and I was very surprised at this). After weeks of back-and-forth I think the problem is not that he doesn’t want to learn how to write, but that his thought process on how to explain things goes in the opposite direction than the norm and I don’t know how to make him understand that and reverse it…

      2. Oh, well, then just tell him he thinks backwards and should write the way he wants and then reverse everything. Some of us just are that way, and it can be simpler just to turn everything upside down than to try to assimilate right-side-up. I’m sorry if this sounds flippant, but seriously, every time I write something, I have to start over again from the end. It’s a basic freshman mistake, but I’ve never got over it. I’ve just learned to start over.

      3. It might be too basic, but Patricia O’Conner’s Words Fail Me has a great section on organization. It’s not discipline specific, but it could help with recognizing organization. (http://www.amazon.com/Words-Fail-Me-Everyone-Writing/dp/0156010879/ref=tmm_pap_title_0) Also, sometimes learning disabilities (known or unknown) are in play that may make things more complicated for the student. If you have an LD specialist on campus, it might help to see if they have ideas for specific strategies that might help a student having this type of problem.

    3. Others have made all the suggestions I would, except perhaps this: have you had him extract just the first sentences of paragraphs (or, for a longer paper, sections), print them in sequence, and make sure they make a logical sequence? Of course, if he can’t see that the sequence isn’t logical with the whole paper there, he may not be able to see the problem with just the initial sentences, either.

      It sounds like part of the problem may be setting expectations: whatever he needs to do to get his work in a conventional order, now that you’ve shown him the problem, he needs to find a way to write and revise to a point where you’re not just pointing out the same problem over and over again *before* he gives a piece of writing to you. Advisors are not editors.

      Does your campus have a writing center that works with graduate students? Alternatively, is it acceptable for scholars in your field to hire paid editors? It sounds like he may need one (and knowing that he either needs to figure out how to do it right himself or figure that excuse into his budget just might be an incentive to figure it out — or yield clearer evidence that he really can’t).

    4. I was thinking along the same lines as contingentcassandra – have him write a “reverse outline,” where he summarizes in just a couple of words the main idea of each paragraph, and then looks at how those ideas chain together. Doing that has really helped my students who have organizational problems.

      1. Yes, I was thinking along the same lines as Pilgrim/Heretic and cc: he needs to look at how an argument is built, so in addition to doing the reverse outline on his paper, he does it on other papers. That may help him see how the substance of the argument gets communicated.

  14. Last week’s goal: complete and file the job application and review the status of the multi-author paper (goal a)

    achieved: both of them! THe job app was due Friday, but it was one of those automated on line systems which totally stress me out so I aimed for and achieved submission on Wednesday (well the wee hours of Thursday morning). I had to write a one page ‘REF statement’, a two page ‘plans for progressing your research and how this will integrate with and strengthen our deparment’ statement, a cover letter (this became 4 pages, maybe a little long but they didn’t ask for a separate teaching statement so I wanted to include parts of that) and the usual c.v. (which I had to edit and fix from my university’s preferred format for yearly appraisals (ugly, old-fashioned, teaching-oriented-even-though-the-appraisal-process-emphasises-research) into something more suited for a research intensive position. It’s 12 pages now… I also dug through my emails, pulled out all the comments etc. on the multi-author paper since I last worked on it including annotated versions from four co-authors which now need to be recoinciled (sigh) and put them all together in a new folder on my desktop.

    analysis: I was quite idle this week – well, on the official job related work front anyway! – it’s ‘everyone is back from the summer’ chatting and trying to sort out team-teaching week at work at the moment, so apart from reading scads of text for a master’s student hoping to submit her thesis by the end of the month, it wasn’t too busy. Sat and Sun my parents were visiting, Monday I went to work, my computer had a trojan, went to a meeting, came back and found a note from the technician saying it would take ‘several hours at least’ to finish scanning my computer, so went home to be sociable (and worked on the job application in the evening). Tuesday I job-apped all day apart from helping parents load the car and getting a quote for a new bathroom. Wednesday I did a short day at the office (home early for another bathroom quote visit) and spent the evening getting the job application submitted. Thursday was a normalish work day with no writing time, Friday I took a 20 minute break from syllabi to sort out the multi-author paper stuff then left early (again!) to get a hair cut. Once semester starts (week 5 of the writing group) things will get a lot more stressful, so I want to make headway NOW. I do feel in a much better head-space for writing at the moment… long may it last!

    goals for next week: 1) have a complete ‘final draft’ version of the multi-author paper and circulate it to the rest of the team (goal a), 2) review the status and make a work-plan for the few-author paper (goal b), 3) write the first draft of an administative duty report which is due 1st October (not on the goal list for the group but it is measurable and necessary writing so it’s going on here – any writing is keeping the writing muscles in trim and habits in train, right? I also want to add goal 4) write on at least 5 days (even if I only do ten minutes, those ten minutes add up, and this is part of treating writing as an essential part of the job for me)

    1. Sounds like a good deal accomplished in an “idle” week, and like some of the job materials may actually be useful in terms of thinking about the big research picture. Hope the job application is successful!

  15. Last week’s goal: 2 hours research/writing per day, progress on MMP MWF and translation T-Th.

    Accomplished: 2 hours on Monday; nothing the rest of the week.

    Analysis: OBE. Not sleeping enough, very cranky, annoyed about how many many categories of things-to-do there are (I work better with one main thing to do and one secondary thing, say research and teaching, like during the summer; now all the hat-changing is making me mental). Suffered either a migraine or a rather disturbing allergic reaction, starting Tuesday night; at any rate, I wasn’t in any condition to to work on Wednesday, and on Thursday just plain refused to do anything at all. Friday I got home early enough that I could have done something . . . but instead we were off to the vet with the Tiny Cat yet again. As to what I worked on, I realized I really needed to be revising last year’s fellowship application for another try, so that was what got the time. I did discover a recent article relevant to the MMP, but I didn’t even copy it, let alone read it.

    New goal: continue the attempt to have 2 hours a day for reading/writing/ research, because I think that’s a good goal that should be honored. Do something each day to Move Forward. Revise fellowship application and send it to recommenders.

    1. 😦 sorry you weren’t feeling well. Sleep effects so much! (Including allergies and migraines) Here’s to a better week

    2. I work better with one main thing to do and one secondary thing, say research and teaching, like during the summer; now all the hat-changing is making me mental.

      I hear you on this. Juggling too many things just doesn’t work for me, either (or, rather, I waste significant time and attention on the juggling itself).

      I hope both you and the tc have a better week.

      1. I find when I have too many things to do the transitions take time. In theory X only takes an hour, but it takes time to get ready to do X, and afterwards to shift gears to Y.

      2. Yes, the transitions are a big part of the problem for me. When there’s not too much happening, it can be fun to trade off and do something else, but when I feel like there are far too many things and not enough time, that’s difficult. I am glad to know I’m not the only one—thanks for that!

  16. Kris: Yay for standing your ground!
    Rented Life and meansomething: Sounds like you’re having fun, and that’s inspirational!
    JLiedl: I’m thinking I may need to designate days for teaching and service, to feel like those things are bounded. For some reason, I find it easier to shoehorn in writing on campus days that are filled with classes and meetings, I think from grim determination; but then on other days I thrash.
    Amstr: You’re making progress, and this is good. You can use your planned writing retreat as a carrot: try to get yourself into good shape to do whatever you want to do then.
    nwgirl, Trapped, Bavardess: we’ll all just keep on keeping on. It will get better.
    Pika: the cool thing about the problems with your student is that articulating what you know about organization is probably helpful for you; and down the road your work will pay off (as teachers, we have to have faith that planting the seeds is enough, even if they don’t grow while we’re in the field).
    JaneB: Good work, and good luck with the job app!

  17. Last week’s goal: continue writing the invited article (at least 250 words), but at least start thinking about the review essay.

    Accomplished: Nada. Zip. Zero. 😦

    The coming week’s goal: Sucking Less! I just want to give *some* attention to the invited article and the review essay, in whatever form that attention comes.

    Dame E., I am soooooo with you this week. Way too many things got in the way of these two writing projects, including the other professional commitment, finishing reviewing the proofs of the anthology I’m co-editing, but also teaching (why did I assign so much writing and so many pages to read???) and service, as well as a doctor’s appointment in the middle of writing time on Wednesday, and exhaustion that kep me in bed for some of Friday’s writing time, the rest of which was taken up all the other crap. Arrrggghhhhh!

    1. Is the exhaustion now abating? I do think that one key component to sucking less is getting more rest, so maybe you’ll suck less next week if you’re less tired!

  18. last goal:
    By Sept 15th, data analysis done on two studies; final decisions made on what goes into which grant proposals and 6-week plan made; MC5 scales sent to RA for translation.

    accomplished (over two weeks, not one!):
    data analysis done on two studies, but not one of the originally planned ones; data collected for one of the two main studies (but will need to re-do) final decisions made on one grant proposal and 1-week plan made; MC5 scales sent to RA for translation but not fully completed; a ton of must-do service.

    next goal:
    MC5 online and collecting data; one grant proposal draft fully done, including data analysis for pilot data; one service thing.

    commentary:
    Well, my “last goal” was actually my goal for Week 1, but since my typo in writing the due-date gave me a mental excuse, I took DEH’s helpful suggestion and skipped last week’s check-in! Actually I was also totally more-overwhelmed-than-expected by the start of school and a bunch of service things (unexpected meetings, a long process writing an article review, etc.)– it’s funny how even though I KNEW that the week would be super-busy I was STILL bowled over by it being even more busy than I thought it would be. Ah well, DEH’s commentary in this week’s check-in post is exactly what I needed to hear! In any case, over the two weeks I surprisingly did meet several of my one-week goals, though specific writing goals did not come to pass. This coming week has just two main goals, both of which MUST be done, and I suspect that there will be only time for those and no more time for “recreational” article writing; plus only one (expected) service commitment; so I’m hoping that things will go more smoothly… though I just realized that I’d been thinking of doing RA interviews this week… better move that to the next! In any case, the goals for this week will eventually have positive consequences for actual article production, and are absolutely necessary, so here we go.

    And finally– before reading comments– just a note of sympathy for the kitty cats, DEH, and hope things continue in still-a-good-life mode for all of them.

    1. I certainly recognize “yes it will be busy—OMG it’s THAT busy?!” only too well. I always think I’ll cope better than I do. I think I remember the times adrenaline kicked in and I managed, and forget both the crash afterwards, and the times when I didn’t get that kick and just dragged through a triaged list of crucial stuff.

      1. Very true… remembering that there are sometimes real limitations on the ability to power through is… I don’t know, just disappointing I suppose! But it’s too true and is exactly the reason why we need a writing group to keep us persistently moving forward, instead of imagining that we can pull a couple all-nighters someday and write 4-5 publications…

  19. Last week’s goal: Prepare comments for the dissertation I’m more familiar with. Read and write notes on two important books that will be helpful for my book chapter.
    Accomplished: Dissertation comments only. Week from hell.
    Next Goal: Two full research/writing days. Complete revisions for 9/25 talk. Read and take notes on sources.
    Commentary: A flat tire on the thruway going home from dissertation defense #1 led to rather intense feelings of anger towards my old institution. And somehow that led to less productivity. Plus I hosted a university event at my home, which meant it had to look at least mildly presentable. So I spent a research morning cleaning. So a lousy, unproductive week. But I have new energy around doing better next week, and those two defenses were my last responsibilities at my previous job. No more commute, flat tires, tiresome colleagues. Time to move on in every way.

    1. That does sound like a week from hell! But now you have a clean house, and maybe the post-flat-tire anger was in some way therapeutic? Wishing you a calmer, happier week this week!

  20. I was scared to sign in today because I felt ashamed that I hadn’t met my goal…again! After reading Dame’s initial post, I was like, “Thank God, I’m not completely alone!” I woke up at 1am the other morning in a panic (literally) because I realized that I HAVE to write and get my last chapter and introduction submitted by the end of the month. I am just very overwhelmed with 300+ students, a syllabus that I cannot really deviate from because the entire department is teaching the same class, and various negative attitudes from students and TAs. I had emails last night from students who did not want to print their readings and bring them to class and resented me asking them to do so. I received emails from students today stating that they could not complete their homework due last night because they couldn’t find sources, etc. I’ve dealt with this all week, and even went into campus on my writing day to help a student, meaning I put my work aside. And, I agreed to guest lecture in another professor’s class because he isn’t familiar with the medieval period. Oh, and plus I have my own personal neuroses.

    OK. Thanks for letting me rant. Now for the positive response to the above. . . I am not answering my email until Monday morning. I am devoting the rest of Saturday, today, to writing and then going to dinner with some colleagues. Sunday, I am also dedicating myself to my writing and preparing my lectures for the week. And I plan to play with Killer. She misses me when I’m gone 🙂

    Last week’s goal: find a catchy intro for the chapter; solidify my argument in the introduction to the chapter; and put in my statistical and anecdotal examples. Fresh writing should be about 10-15pp.

    This week’s goal: Change tactic. Write my introduction because I am going to present it to a seminar here. I feel that this is an achievable goal.

    1. Put playing with Killer at the top of that list, it sounds like you both really need it!

      Believe me, you aren’t the only person woken up in the wee hours by deadline panic… good luck with the introduction, and remember that you shouldn’t care more about the students’ education than THEY care about it (easier to say than to do, I know)

    2. Ugh. Sounds like a tough situation. How free are you to say “no” to students, colleagues, etc.? It sounds like you need to set some boundaries, but I realize that can have repercussions. On the other hand, so can falling behind on writing/research.

      Maybe having the prospect of presenting your research in public will help with realigning priorities/setting boundaries?

      And yes, playing with Killer (whoever she may be) sounds like a good stress-release (well, assuming you don’t have an actual murderer stalking you through your home).

      1. Yes, I have a definite issue with boundaries and saying no. I am a people pleaser so I always want to do what is best for everyone else. Then I obsess. I have stayed true to not responding to work emails this weekend. Plus, having dinner with some colleagues also helped to put stuff into perspective.

  21. Last week’s goal: Five hours of research, spread over at least three days; plus, committee meeting to present the budget request.

    Accomplished: Done! (And nobody seemed to blink at the budget request, so fingers crossed.)

    Next goal: Five hours of work; plus, actually start writing.

    Commentary: One, I need to make use of weekends and plan on getting at least half of my week’s research/writing done then; I was busy all last weekend with events at school, which meant that I really struggled to get work done this week and actually did the last two hours of this week’s goal just this morning (on Saturday). (And thank goodness for the deadline and public accountability of this group check-in, because that’s what made me get up and do those two hours!) This pattern of life just is what it is, and so I need to plan accordingly rather than trying to fool myself into thinking that I’m going to get lots of work done during the week when I’m also trying to be a full-time HS teacher! Second, my big goal this week is to start putting pen to paper (metaphorically); there’s more primary research to do, and certainly secondary research, but I’m a big believer in “writing before you’re ready,” and I think the time has come to start getting my “shitty first draft” down on paper, knowing full well that there will be a lot of holes that will need to be filled in.

  22. Overall goal: Draft Chapter Five of the dissertation

    Last week’s goal: Write 15 minutes a day for a total of 1.5 hours.

    Accomplished: Yes! I did it! Or close to it. A couple of times, I went 30 minutes instead of 15, but I missed one day. I totalled 1.5 hours though.

    Analysis: It might sound like very low expectations, but something is way better than nothing. Interestingly, it’s easier to write for 15 minutes (and feel productive) than it is to read for 15 minutes. As a result, most of the time was spent writing. I wrote a kind of “intro” to the diss that identifies the role of each chapter, and I wrote some bits for chapter five. I think that this 15 minutes per day strategy is very good for me. I can certainly find 15 minutes most days, or, if need be, stay up at night for an extra 15. “Touching” the work almost every day also means that the material stays fresh for me.

    The one difficulty was settling on a task the first night. I wasted about 10 minutes casting about, trying how to figure out how to make 15 minutes count for something. Therefore, this week, in addition to my time goal, I’ll note a few suggestions for how I might spend the time.

    This week’s goal: 15 min per day, six days for a total of 1.5 hours. (Possible tasks: Work on intro and methods for chapter five, type quotations from primary source, finish chapter I started reading.)

    1. That sounds like real progress. Being able to make real progress in 15 minutes is great, and I suspect that the time you spent on the big picture (the intro section) will help with that. Thinking ahead about things you can do in 15 minutes sounds like a good idea, too. Would it work to decide on the next one at the end of the preceding session, or does it work better to list possibilities on the weekend, when you have a bit more time to think, and then pick one at the beginning of each day’s writing session?

    2. Glad to hear that the 15 minutes per day strategy is working for you! I’ve heard about it before, and probably need to try it myself–I don’t see how I can find any more than 15 minutes/day. So thanks for sharing that you actually got the work done in those short working sessions! Good luck for next week!

    3. Congratulations!!! I’ve spent much of my exams/dissertation process working 15 min at a time, and it does all add up. I’m so glad you’ve found a way to get consistent work done, even in small doses.

  23. last goal: Print the existing mess and figure out its order.

    accomplished: Printed and in my bag.

    next goal: Figure out chapter order.

    commentary: O what could be a smaller achievement than printing a document? I am hopeful that I can settle into a more balanced way of being as the semester progresses. I submitted a grant proposal that was also a collaborative endeavor (unusual for me), got all my classes taught, and even managed to do a bit of work for an upcoming conference presentation. I have a huge service load right now, most which I brought on myself. Perhaps my next goal should be learning how to say no. In the meantime, I will make sure to make time for this writing project.

    1. It *is* a small achievement, but sometimes the first tiny step is hard to take, if only because we’re afraid it will reveal the magnitude of the task ahead. What’s the first small step toward figuring out the chapter order? Reading what you’ve printed out?

      And I like your “saying no” goal. I need to work on that one, too, not so much at work as at church.

    2. I love putting those sorts of goals on my to-do list because it is so easy and feels so good to cross them off! So I say, embrace whatever small goals will help keep you going on the large goals.

    3. I think it’s great you put the “small goal” on your list–because now it’s done! Sometimes if you (I) just put the “big goal” it doesn’t get done because there is so much too be done before I can even get started on it. So, as the others have said, Hurray for Progress!

  24. Last week’s goal: 8 hours of writing or 2,000 words.

    Accomplished: 8 hours of fairly productive reading and thinking, and were it not for this group I would have given up at about 4.

    This week’s goal: focus back on writing, stick to my morning schedule, and really get 2,000 words down.

    Commentary: DEH, I was SO relieved (and sympathetic) to read your comments about being Overcome by Events and lowering expectations. I definitely had a week of Events. (nothing dramatic; just lots of committe sorts of obligations.) Having my weekly goal for this group made all the difference – I really didn’t get any writing done, but I lowered expectations and decided that doing 8 hours of reading-towards-writing was perfectly acceptable, and even that depended on squeezing out two hours today just so that I could have the satisfaction of posting here that that was done.

    1. 8 hours of productive reading and thinking sounds good to me. One of things several of us commented on during the summer group is how we tend to discount that very necessary work as “real” research/writing work, and get impatient with ourselves about it. Admittedly “research” can become a form of procrastination, which is probably why we’re leery of it, but it’s also a necessary, and productive, part of the process.

      1. Yep: reading is our lab work. I think we have heard far too much of the counter-productive advice about stopping reading and just writing. It’s one thing to “write before you’re ready” with notes and potential outlines, so you can be thinking about structure, but really those are good old-fashioned research activities, not “just writing.” Especially when one has got to the stage you’re at, P/H, one knows when reading this or that truly is necessary and when it’s a displacement activity to alleviate anxiety about sending a piece out. Reading and thinking are good: they lead to deeper and better writing.

      2. Thanks, CC and DEH, that’s helpful to hear. I am very much inclined to use more more research as a “displacement activity to alleviate anxiety”- that’s exactly it – which is why my focus this semester is on writing, but there’s still a bunch of good productive reading I can do when the writing brain just doesn’t kick in.

  25. Last week’s goal: finish creating prompts for all major assignments; finish the current freelance piece; work toward a better sleep schedule.

    Accomplished:prompts done; freelance piece in; mixed success with sleep schedule

    Analysis: this was a pretty modest goal, which helped. And the earlier lack of attention to the sleep (and eating, and exercise) schedule resulted in my getting mildly ill, which reinforced that I need to pay better attention to those things. Still, like many others, I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed. I’m hoping things might fall into a more manageable pattern after I finish a lot of getting-things-started tasks, for both school and other tasks, but grading is looming. I have cut back a bit on the frequency of the freelance assignments, but they’ll still be coming up regularly, and I’m still feeling good about them, both for financial reasons and because they feel like a very tentative beginning of an exploration of what I might do other than my present job, which isn’t untenable at the moment, but has the potential to become so (or simply to disappear at an especially inopportune moment, like when I’m c. 60 rather than c. 50, but financially unready to retire).

    Goal for the coming week:Figure out what I can realistically do on the P project before mid-Oct. conference; move that forward and/or get back to J article-in-progress. Catch up on P project correspondence.

    Background to the above: I’ve got a conference presentation on the P project in about a month, but it’s not a full paper, just a short talk as part of a roundtable. Basically, I need to decide if I’m going to try to get the related DH project started by then, so I can include a url on any materials I hand out, or decide that’s too much. I’m also contemplating applying for one of the DH workshops to be held in conjunction with the MLA. I suspect I’ll decide that trying to do the DH project in the next month is too much, but I might do some really preliminary stuff like registering the url and putting up some sort of placeholder page. At the very least, I should get the application for the MLA workshop out, and catch up on neglected correspondence; those might be my “moving things forward just a bit” goals for the week. Getting back to the J article is realistically probably a “stretch” goal.

    1. I can sympathize with the need for a better sleep schedule.

      I’m interested in hearing more about your DH project. I’ve had to set my DH project aside until I finish a couple of other big projects. I saw an announcement about the DH workshops at MLA. I think AHA is hosting another THATCamp. I would like to finish the DH project this semester so that I can use it in one of my classes in the spring, but that may be too ambitious given all of the other projects on my list.

    2. It does sound like doing the minimal for the DH project is wise. You have a lot going on! Let yourself drop what’s not necessary to leave room for the necessary and what you want to do.

  26. Goal:
    time: work 1/2-1 hour Monday, Wednesday, and Friday
    task: editing the journal article

    Accomplished:
    Neither the time nor the task

    Analysis:
    It was mainly procrastination kept me from my writing, fueled by fatigue, stress, and a disrupted weekly schedule.

    It was a week in which scheduling appointments, running errands, or dealing with service responsibilities on writing days at least meant I got something useful done then.

    Next Goal:
    I’m going to repeat last week’s goal of 1/2 hour Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, with an emphasis on Sucking Less and moving the article forward at least a bit.

    In order to make progress, I need to be vigilant about getting to sleep–starting now, since it’s 15 minutes past my bedtime.

    1. I’m reminded that the idea of available time is often influenced by available energy. Even when you can carve out the time to write, stress, fatigue and disruption can stand in the way. Sending good restful energy your way.

  27. I got so buried in grading and got absolutely nothing done on my goal list. ): I am sad.

    I am already so behind on my grading — and I have assignments staggered so that I am getting a large assignment in at least one class every week from here on out — that I don’t know if I will ever be able to dig out enough to go back to working on my book project. I had planned to get up super early every morning and write then, since I need to arrive at school and grab one of the few non-bulldozed parking spots before they fill up, but I am using it for frantic grading right now and I am still not caught up. The one thing I have been keeping up on is doing a morning yoga workout and I would hate to drop that to keep room for the writing. And of course getting up super early means I am brain dead in the afternoons and evenings. Maybe I will just bite the bullet and start going to bed at 8 pm when I poop out.

    Tomorrow’s goal is to brainstorm a way to fix my schedule. Then I’ll try the same goal list as last week. ):

    1. Sis—(a) definitely go to bed when you poop out. More rest will help everything. (b) grade less: pick a couple of things to focus on in papers and let the rest go. The book needs you. Imagine it wailing for Mama to fix its sausage curls. (c) keep doing yoga and writing in the morning, Grade when you’re brain dead. Sort the papers into heaps, roughly A B C D F. Figure out which comments you can just scribble repeatedly (or cut and paste if you type up comments). (d) remember it’s no good caring about your students’ grades more than they do.

      1. Never thought about point d) before–but I’m going to remember that one (and start doing b and c) Thanks for the comment!

      2. Thank you sharing this wisdom! Today will be the first day for grading this semester, and I need to make it quick and easy.

      3. Great advice. And congrats on keeping up with the yoga! That is a goal accomplished. Streamline the grading in any way you can.

  28. Accomplished: Fell even shorter of goals: Two tiny research blocks and that was it. However, since in my case research and writing are grouped together, actual writing is not required; in this week’s research time beginning of a piece of writing presented itself, so this is the actual progress.

    Goal for next week: The same concept as ever: seven total research blocks; can fall back to six; blocks are supposed to be 2.5 hours long each but can be shorter, even much shorter; the point is continuity and not being distracted, no matter what. I really hope this week not to fall so short of goals as last, and I am glad to say that this will be the last of three mega-service weeks, the only three mega-service weeks of this whole academic year.

    Commentary: I did go to my conference and present my paper (which was finished before the writing group started, so doesn’t count) and it went well and the conference was good, inspiring. It was a conference on my other research field so in that way it does not “count,” either, but still, it was great.

    1. Conferences can be really energizing and inspirational, so that could be very good for work this week! They’re also a way to fully inhabit that scholarly identity that tends to leach away back on campus. Good luck!

      1. Ah, yes, but my conference really doesn’t count — it was a law and sociology conference on the prison industrial complex, which is my actual intellectual and political interest, with all due interest to Comparative Literature which employs me. Everyone knows I am a traitor and that is one of my problems with that old scholarly identity. I am trying to figure out whether I can even ethically put the paper on vita as research and not community service, even though this conference was mostly academic and had some high level people in that field, and even though I did present a big old session.

    2. Maintaining familiarity with your projects is so important…even when the blocks get tiny because other obligations intrude, you are still touching base with the research.

      1. Yes. Super important. And it is easier to work than not work, and you feel so much better if you are doing some research than if you are not. The key to it all is not to allow yourself to be overwhelmed — always say what can I get done in 15 minutes — never allow work or research to get too closely associated with abuse, fear, danger, torture, as I did for a long time.

  29. Last week’s goal: Get application for at least one, but preferably two, fellowships done. Read a BOOK for the review article.

    Accomplished: Got one fellowship application done, and a second one outlined. Also adapted my job letter for a couple of jobs now that the job list is up. Read a book for the review article.

    Analysis: Well, I technically got it all done, but my brain is still clearly in “obsess over the dissertation even though you’ve already turned it in” mode, not “I need to work on other things” mode. I’ve forgotten everything I read in that book, which I plowed through on Wednesday. Thank god for notes. I found a couple more minor mistakes in the dissertation (they are in the file of “things to deal with later”) and I’m seriously freaking out about the defense. Completely irrationally, according to my advisor, who is doing his gosh-darnedest to calm me down.

    Next week’s goal: revise the dissertation abstract, order the rest of the books and articles I need for the review article I’m supposed to write.

      1. Yes, thanks for the article (I saw it a few years ago, I think, but certainly hadn’t thought about it in a while). I’m totally okay with being stupid–that’s certainly the position I take in my research! I’m less okay with being *seen* as stupid at the end of the process. I’m 100% aware that my anxiety is completely irrational. My committee members have all told me I have nothing to worry about. But I have two unknowns in terms of outside readers, one of whom no one in my department has ever seen in action at a defense before. I *know* their comments will be totally useful and good for me in the long run, but it just isn’t helping with the anxiety. And it’s just such a long wait! The defense is October 5th, so I have 3 more weeks to wait. Gahh! I think I just need to spend the next three weeks on breathing exercises or something.

  30. Last week’s goal: decide on a paper; do the activities for Argument from Belcher’s 12-week book; carve out 30 minutes each day except Wednesday to do so

    Accomplished: at least I remembered today that I was part of the writing group?

    Next week’s goal: baby steps!! decide on a paper by actually reading the two candidates: print them out and take with me on train! also, read/do Argument chapter from Belcher, also on train. 15 minutes a day.

    Commentary: argh! all new preps!! meetings!! grading!! worrying that I’m going to be fired instanter if I drop any ball at all. In other words, mostly OBE-stuff. But still rather cheerful and happy to give writing another shot next week. See you all then!

    1. Cheerful and happy sounds like a great frame of mind to get SOMETHING done – writing is much harder when it feels like a scary burden. I try to think of it as a treat slipped in among the less enjoyable work of grading, syllabi, paperwork… it makes those 15 minutes feel completely different, and each little task does add up. Enjoy your little steps!

      1. Ohmygosh, that’s the best psychological trick ever. I keep slipping into this trap of thinking that writing is hard and serious and needs all my mental and emotional attention… never occurred to me to think of it as a treat, and more importantly, more fun than grading!! It’s all in what you tell yourself…

  31. This was another week that vanished far too quickly and seemed to have been eaten by an onslaught of tiny problems that demanded immediate attention (I can certainly empathise with Dame E.)

    Nevertheless, I managed to finish a working(re)draft of the article AND re-read what passes for the draft of my book. The article still needs ref checking and a bit of polishing, so the goal is only almost accomplished.

    Next week, I will have sent the article away and written an outline for the chapter and make progress on ANOTHER job application. At least I will try to accomplish something from that list…

  32. Hi All! No, I haven’t forgotten to check in; I’m just behind on my goal and was hoping to finish before the group closed this week. But here we go; perhaps I’ll update later tonight:

    last goal: Read 3 classic books and write a 400-word synopsis

    accomplished: Read the books and wrote the first 300 words… and that only got me through book one! (Did I mention that two of these three are complete doorstops?)

    next goal: I still need to figure that out; I’ll post it in my update to this comment tonight (clearly marked, Dame E., I promise!). UPDATE: WRITE 200 WORDS EVERY DAY, EVEN IF THEY’RE CRAP.

    commentary: I don’t think my goal was unreasonable, but… I haven’t tried writing new words on new stuff for a while. It’s hard when you’re rusty. So, Hey! I just discovered my goal for this week!

    Look for an update to this post tonight before closing.

  33. Hello,
    Sorry I think I’m late, probably because I’m in the different time zone?

    Last Goals: make a good 15 week plan/ read first part of main material/ read three basic articles

    Accomplished: I amended the rough plan I made last week. I’ve read only some part of the material. I’ve read only one article.

    Commentary: new semester has started and term-time busyness overwhelmed me. What disappointed me is that I knew that I’d be very busy, but still I cannot prepare for the busyness in advance.

    Next goal: continure to read the first part of the material/ a book relevant to the topic of my presentation in November .

    Thank you for hosting this, Dame! This has become such a big group, really.

    1. Celebrate that you did make progress, even in a busy week! As people mentioned above, it’s difficult to anticipate how busy a busy week will really be.

  34. Last goal: Build a framework. Strip the diss of anything relevant. Put it in the article in some sort of order.

    Accomplished: not at all.

    Next goal: same, plus a process goal: 1 hr/day dedicated to the article

    Commentary: I need process not product goals, I think. This writing group is doing a good job of showing me what I need to get work done each day. There’s some emotional family stuff coming up in the next two weeks, but hopefully I can get a decent whack of this article outlined as a break.

    1. Process can be a great way of getting your head in to something, without feeling like a failure because the product isn’t there yet. I might have to do the same. . .

  35. Last week’s goal: (1) start filling in comprehensive outline with specific notes/references and ideas; and (2) read at least 5 articles pertaining to my paper topic.

    Accomplished: I marginally completed task 1, and only read 3 articles for task 2.

    Next goal: (1) Solidify comprehensive topic with a concrete outline. (2) Convert all my book notes into written work. (3) Read 5 articles (with written notes) for my paper. (4) Say ‘no’ more often to tasks that I am not responsible for.

    Commentary: I got a bit discouraged this week after discussing my enthusiasm to publish a paper on a related topic to my dissertation. It was made clear to me that I do not have enough time to work on such a publication, and that if I wanted to pursue such a topic- perhaps I should consider a change in dissertation topic. This kind of made me hesitate to put effort into continuing to contribute to the paper I want to publish. I think I am still going ahead, as this is more just a literature synthesis and reflection on application piece…I would like to perhaps pursue this topic in more depth after I graduate, and so it would be nice to have my toes in the water…and I also feel it’s a nice complimentary topic to my dissertation, as it provides a refreshing perspective to my work.

    Tomorrow I have my first full committee meeting to discuss/finalize the format and topic of my comprehensives. I am going into the meeting with a general idea of what I will be doing, and this has guided my work thus far; but it will be nice to get a final okay to continue on this path. Hopefully the meeting will provide me with a positive outlook and a solid path to move along.

    I feel a bit overwhelmed with this first full week back. It seems like a lot of duties were coming through my inbox which were associated with projects that I am no longer affiliated with- they just lack the man power to complete them. I find I often fill my plate up with things I have to complete for others rather than focus on my work…this has to stop. But it’s hard saying ‘no’. I feel every time I say ‘no’ I close a potential door. *sigh* The pains of being a Type A personality!

    Good luck next week to all!

    1. I hope your meeting goes well! I’m in the middle of working on a promised article for a book that I thought would be relevant to my dissertation. It sort of is, but it’s turning out to be more of a hindrance than a help at this point. Do consider how much the project will distract from your exams/dissertation work before you commit fully. (If you’re just writing to submit, that’s a better situation than mine, where I’ve committed to an editor.) On the other hand, my dissertation really got started by a conference paper/book article I wrote at the beginning of the process. The deadlines helped me get moving and get the major research done for one chapter. It did take a lot of space and mental energy to re-work it into a chapter, but I wouldn’t change that process or submission. This other one that’s needing to come to fruition now, I wish I hadn’t taken on. (And my advisor even cautioned me about it and encouraged me to back out of it; I tried, but wasn’t firm enough, and I didn’t go back and say what I really meant to say the first time. Bad for me.)

      Anyway–all that to say, the dissertation is hard enough in itself. Spreading yourself to related topics can seem like a good idea, but can be overstretching or significantly change your timeline. Proceed with caution!

  36. Last week’s goal: Reread P&P paper and complete an outline for the TS intro.

    Accomplished: I reread the P&P paper and made edits. I have a working draft of the TS intro. I also completed a large analysis memo for the BE paper.

    Next goal: Finish edits on P&P paper and send to co-authors; continue work on TS intro; reread LM paper.

    Commentary: Reducing my expectations last week seemed to have worked as I met my goal and went a little beyond them. This was not a particularly great week for me but it wasn’t a horrible one. Unfortunately grading starts this week but I’m hoping I can keep it all in perspective.

  37. Last week’s goal: outline of the article. I need to get a better sense of what manuscript or incunabulum fits where, and therefore what can be skimmed or checked from film.

    Accomplished: organized in thought, but not on paper. I did make the hotel arrangements for my research trip, which were difficult and annoying.

    Analysis: OBE, to some extent. Work came up with a few fires that had to be put out; my brother had a biopsy on Wednesday, which occupied my thoughts most of the week and meant I slept little and not well. I’m cranky when tired or stressed, so I had to work very hard at managing the firestarters without being snippy.

    I did some journalling, which helped with some of the stress. Also, thinking about something I can control helped a bit with the things I cannot. I could not put pen to paper, but at least I could wrangle the words in my head.

    Next goal: Repeat of last week: outline the article.

    1. My best to your brother, and to you (I guess you’re joining the group who needs more sleep). Good luck with the snippiness problem; I’m usually cranky even when I’m well-rested, so I’m always ticking people off.

  38. Last week’s goal: free writing and brainstorming about the overall theme and argument of the book. I will also choose two books that I will use as models for my book. And I will make a list of potential presses and the contact information of editors.

    Accomplished: I chose two model books and did some brainstorming for the overall theme of the book.

    Next goal: I need to switch from the topic that was the “one big thing” (book proposal) to an essay. This essay is due for an edited volume and I need to finish it. So my next goal is to write out the data description section of this paper. I have three sections and one is done in a conference paper. So two data sections for the essay.

    Commentary: I was talking to someone who graduated with me, who also has a two year post doc like me. He said that he’s not even thinking about the book yet and that made me question whether I should let it rest for now as well. But it takes me so long to write that I feel like I need to get started now. On a brighter note I just got the page proofs for my *first publication ever* in an edited volume. Woot!

  39. Last week’s goal: Oh my goodness. Last week I set myself what I thought would be an eminently achievable goal, and spent the entire week playing whack a mole. I can’t believe drawing two graphs and doing some analysis was such an unattainable goal!

    Accomplished: well, I tried doing the analysis for an hour or so, and got stuck, and didn’t get around to anything else.

    Next goal: To draw the damn graphs. Surely I can get this done. This next week is my last that is relatively free before three- four weeks of crazy teaching, so I really want to use the time I have. I also have some revisions to do on a paper that I hate, and would like to get out of the way, but that is secondary to the graphs.

    Commentary: The week was insanely busy, and a number of things with Friday deadlines suddenly, unexpectedly popped up. And I have spent all weekend marking. So, I am now really tired and still haven’t completed my goal. I am gritting my teeth. I will not give up. In part, I guess, some extra tasks arose because I was in catchup from the week before (thank you so much for your thoughts about my sick friend; unfortunately she will not be getting better, and I am really glad I spent time with her), but still. ..

    I am thrilled to be in the writing group, because it helps me not to give up. I also need to be aware that I have to rest as well this week, and do some exercise, so my brain doesn’t shut down.

  40. Last week’s goals: Read and write for 2 hours a day, to achieve 1000 words by week’s end.

    Accomplished: Again, I accomplished almost nothing this week; just a bit of reading, and a few notes and introductory sentences.

    Analysis: I missed my goal again, partly because it was one of the busiest service weeks of the semester, partly because I had/have an unexpected guest -but the lesson I’m learning is to (try to) say no more often (hard to do with service and students, though) and to be realistic about goals going forward. Though I’m a bit discouraged, I’m also learning that keeping teaching and prep on the same days is best, so that prep doesn’t expand to fill the non-teaching days. The good news is that the writing’s been happening relatively quickly, when it does happen.

    Next week’s goals: 3 2-hour blocks of reading and writing; 1500 words.

    Good luck with next week’s goals, everyone!

  41. Thank goodness for time differences! 9:30 on a Monday morning here, and I finally get to check in! Had a rather over-social weekend…

    Last week’s goal: Spend an hour a day, planning out the novel and working out where the research is needed.

    Achieved: An hour on Sunday, Tues and Weds. Better than nothing!

    Next week: Actually work on something academic – re-writing an introduction to a set of collected essays. Try and get this done on Tues and Thurs, particularly.

    Commentary: OBE! Parents away on well-deserved holiday, so I had to keep track of grandparents, not to mention my sister, due her third child any day. I usually keep Tuesdays and Thursdays free for writing, but that kind of disappeared this week – though I still managed an hour those days! At least, an hour thinking, but with little to show for it. This next week is looking full also, with a brother returning home from overseas, with new girlfriend, while other friends are throwing farewell parties. I know I should keep social time separate from work time, but have spent too much time in the free-wheeling spaces of academia – if I’m not currently teaching, then I can …

  42. Last Goal: WYJA week 3 and 4

    Accomplished: I returned my borrowed copy of WYJA and ordered my own. While I’m waiting on that, I decided to take amstr’s advice. I didn’t do anything with the WYJA book, but I did do some writing and writing related thought-organizing.

    New Goal: I really want to see if I can just write for at least 15 minutes every day this week.

    Commentary: I’d been feeling like this article idea was kind of hopeless since I’ve been out of the groove for over a month and hadn’t been working on it. But, after spending some time on it this week I am feeling more energized and hopeful.

  43. Lost track of time. Rough week.

    Goals: read and noted one article. Did some good thinking and then had a fabulously productive burst of writing yesterday which made it clear that my brain is working on this project even when I’m not consciously aware of it. Only about two hours’ worth of writing during that session (which, hey, adds up to what half an hour every other day would have been…) but seriously, seriously productive and plenty of good starting points to build on.

    Next week’s goals: read and note one article. Start (for the umpteenth time) difficult book in field. (Notice I said START. I did not say FINISH). And, skim through at least two of the four of the novels the article is about and note every time the heroine makes a purchase. There really is a reason for that, and it’s a fun/concrete/doable thing that needs to be done. Maybe not all four weeks this week.

    Hopefully this week will not be as brutal as last week, which involved a whole lot of things–little and big– going quite spectacularly wrong. Just not much energy left for writing, but it’s worth remembering how marvelous I felt after the two hours’ writing yesterday. Which is why I’m determined to keep writing, and to push beyond this article once it’s done — writing is still really just about my favorite thing ever.

  44. Last weeks goal: Read two primary sources, get thinking about the paper.

    What happened: Well, like Dame Eleanor and several others, the week included a fair bit of OBE. One of my writing days had a variety of special events that wiped it out; a day that I think of as my admin day had a set of meetings that meant I got no admin done. Which meant that Friday morning I had to catch up on the administrivia. Then I got proofs for an article, but 3 day turn-around. Furthermore, having submitted my revised article last Sunday, I got an email Wednesday saying, “That’s fine, but haven’t you noticed you’re over our word limit, and we’re going to allow you to reformat your footnotes to save words, and can you cut some more?”.

    So. I read the proofs (where the biggest error was that they changed the title so that the first paragraph of the article didn’t make sense.) I started reading primary sources. I have some ideas about how to structure the article. I actually now have some questions for the editor of the volume who has requested it, because I’ve had enough time to think. (Actually, what happened when I started reading primary sources was that I would stop and say “Oh, that would be interesting”.

    Goal for next week: I think it’s going to be a scavenging week, but I have two full days for writing, and I want to poke around and figure out my structure/focus. It will mean lots of dipping in and out. I will also try to do the cutting editing stuff at night.

    And my goal is to post here on Saturday, so that whatever I do on Sunday goes to my next week’s goal. I’d have spent more time commenting up thread, but then I realized that Dame Eleanor was about to close the shop.

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