Sept-Dec 2012 Writing Group, week 14 check-in

We’re getting close to the end here!  This week, next week, and then “finals,” where I hope everyone will report on what you have achieved from the time the group started (if you dropped out at some point, feel free to come to the party and let us know what you’ve been up to).  To everyone who has been ill, best wishes for a speedy recovery.

Question of the week: is your work (research project) your ally or your enemy?

Amstr: research + 1000 words on Ch. 4; send Ch. 3 to 2nd advisor; send Ch. 2 to primary advisor.
Another Postdoc: no check-in.
Bavardess: Another 5 hours on the article – re-write/edit/delete section two and rewrite the conclusion; outline conference paper.
cly: be writing again by mid week.
Contingent Cassandra: Touch base in some way with the J article on 2-3 days. Depending on what I find about the internal funding sources (I need to do some research tomorrow), I might substitute writing a proposal for funding, probably for some portion of the P project.
Dame Eleanor Hull: 1 hour Monday; day in major research library Tuesday; 1-1.5 hours Wednesday; 2 hours each on Thursday and Friday (can make up on Saturday if Friday gets away from me).
Dr. Virago: Cut some more!
Elizabeth Anne Mitchell: Touch article O five out of seven days for at least half an hour each time.
emmawriting: cultivating discipline! Small bouts of work every day.
GEW: Get up early Tuesday and Thursday to work for an hour each of those mornings. This is a new strategy for me and will be painful.
highly eccentric: no check-in.
historisusan: no check-in.
humming42: Finish revise & resubmit. Then tiny goals of 30 minutes a day with manuscript project.
JaneB: spend two hours (in fifteen minute chunks if necessary) stitching all the comments into the latest version of the multi-authored paper. Probably on Saturday or Sunday, but as long as it gets TOUCHED I’ll be oK with that.
JLiedl: Write another 500 words.
John Spence: (a) index 15 pages; (b) proof-read two chapters of my book.
kiwi2: Deliver the three talks. Be nice to everyone! And when I get back next week, another two and a half days on Paper Y, specifically reading relevant papers and rewriting the introduction.
kiwimedievalist:  Map out the article for a conference paper which I just found out I was still signed up for.
luolin88: 1) survive it. 2) 30 mins MWF.
Matilda: write the introductory part of the paper/ write 15 minutes a day – I keep trying to follow this rule.
meansomething: 1) 4 12-minute sessions on poems; 2) 1 12-minute session on the residency app.; 3) 1 12-minute session on lyric essay (probably just reading); 4) get out one submission.
metheist: Spend one hour each day on my project. On Tuesday and Thursday, I can spend a minimum of 4hrs because I have gotten caught up on writing my lectures and grading.
Notorious Ph.D.: no check-in (2nd week in a row).
nwgirl: an hour of work each day (6 hours).
Pika: I’ll reconsider my writing goals the first week of December, when I am back from conferencing.
Pilgrim/Heretic: 2,000 words.
Premodern: Finish 3 grant applications. 4 x 30-minute writing sessions on book chapter.
rented life: Work on book 3 times. Read.
Salimata: I’m going to let the paper rest for a week, and come back to it the week after.
Sapience: no check-in.
sophylou: print out full draft and edit by hand (just works better that way); take notes on last two items to be read.
tracynicholrose: Send LM paper out??? Rework TS intro.
Trapped in Canadia: Finish marking and go through 3 ILL books.
Undine (Not of General Interest):  1000 words.
What Now?: Pull together a complete draft of the chapter. It doesn’t have to be pretty, and it will have holes, but I need to get the whole thing put together so that I can spend a couple of weeks doing real revision.
Widgeon: Two half days of research and two additional work sessions of 45 minutes.
Z (Mictlantecuhtli/Profacero): touch work every day.


“Reality does not easily give up meaning; it’s the biographer’s job to clobber it into submission. . . . Life-writing calls for any number of dubious gifts: A touch of O.C.D., a lack of imagination, a large desk, neutrality of Swiss proportions, tactlessness, a high tolerance for archival dust. . . . There must be more to it all than this, you think as you unload the dishwasher again.  And there is; while you are ostensibly feeding the kids you are really back in 18th-century Paris, except with Internet service.”

Stacy Schiff, “The Dual Lives of the Biographer.”  The New York Times, Sunday, November 25, 2012, SundayReview p. 8.

I wouldn’t dare call myself a life-writer.  What I can discover of my subject is the barest outline of a life, mostly composed of the sort of land transactions in which English gentry seem to have been constantly involved.  But the OCD, the tolerance for dust, the effort to clobber some meaning into the delicate tissue of dates and defendants, and above all, the sense of living in two centuries at once, all that is true and familiar.

I spent six hours in the stacks of a proper research library on Tuesday, not counting driving time.  When I got home, Sir John had already had dinner, and I remembered the old joke: “Marry an archaeologist—the older you get, the better you’ll look to him.”  Sir John’s wife is obsessed with another man, and spends hours away from home in order to stalk him, not even coming home in time for meals.  But it’s okay: the other man has been dead for centuries!

Actually, this sounds like the set-up for another vampire story: scholar’s obsession turns out to be Undead.  I could probably make my fortune writing it, except I really don’t care for vampire stories.  Anybody want to do it and give me a small cut of the proceeds?

Sept-Dec 2012 Writing Group, week 13 check-in

And lucky thirteen sees us at the US-ian Thanksgiving, so let me thank the writing group for participating, sharing ideas, and supporting each other in the comments.  I’m learning a lot from you!

This week’s topic is courtesy of Bavardess, who recently published two posts reporting on methodologies for interdisciplinary research in medieval/early modern studies.  I know that sounds very specific, not only because it’s for the humanities when I know we have some scientists aboard, but also because it focuses on specific time periods.  Nonetheless, I think these posts could be useful for a lot of us—at the very least, we do have a number of medievalists and early modernists participating; they also make points that could be generalized to other areas.  So, check them out and see if they give you ideas, or if you want to comment on them after the rest of your check-in.

Also (and speaking of scientists), in our preview of Coming Attractions, I believe JaneB and Trapped in Canadia will be hosting a winter writing group.

And here’s the list:

Amstr: start Ch. 4 draft, read for Ch. 4. Productive procrastination goals: send Ch. 2 to advisor, work on office cleaning.
Another Postdoc: excused absence.
Bavardess: 5 hours minimum on the article. Now that the proposal is basically off my plate for a couple of weeks, I really want to get this done!  Outline conference paper. I have some ideas about what I want to do, but need to decide on some primary sources to include.
cly: Write every day; work on re-organising manuscript. I’ll be distracted from this by another round of job applications.
Contingent Cassandra: excused absence.
Dame Eleanor Hull: One hour Monday (writing date, yay); two hours each day for the rest of the week.
Dr. Virago: continued revisions and cutting!
Elizabeth Anne Mitchell: Weave together the holes of article O; spend 4 hours this next week in whatever configuration I can manage with the holiday.
emmawriting:  30 minutes on actual writing, two days in the week. Smaller tasks for smaller RAs thought up and sent. Also: MUL data rearranged, grant finally submitted (Monday), maybe even try to submit paper #1.
GEW: 60 minutes of work–taking it where I can get it.
historisusan: get back to reading for the project.
humming42: excused absence.
JaneB: spend two hours (in fifteen minute chunks if necessary) stitching all the comments into the latest version of the multi-authored paper.
JLiedl: Get past the halfway point on the keynote.
John Spence: (a) index 20 pages; (b) proof-read two chapters of my book.
kiwi2: Two and a half days work on the analysis for paper Y. And prepare a talk on Paper Y for a conference the following week.
kiwimedievalist: strengthen conclusion.
luolin88: 30 minutes Monday. Steal some time on Wednesday and Friday.
Matilda: re-revise my presentation to make it into a publishable paper/ write 15 minutes a day
meansomething: 1) 4 12-minute sessions on poems; 2) 1 12-minute session on the residency app. Also hope, over Thanksgiving, to get some ms. submissions done, but not top priority.
Notorious Ph.D.: no check-in.
nwgirl: checked in.
Pika: no check-in.
Pilgrim/Heretic:  Zero Words, though I will be very pleased with myself if I get a little bit of a head start toward the following week’s 2,000.
Premodern: Sketch out/begin three more grant applications. Catch up on this wave of grading. Main goal: slot in four thirty-minute writing sessions.
rented life: work on book 2 times Continue reading book D. Record as needed.
Salimata: again, 1 hour of writing each day, but now from Mon thru Sat; content-wise: need to figure out how to connect the 3 main ideas that are currently floating randomly thru the paper.
Sapience: More request for more information essays; December applications; sleep.
sophylou: print out full draft and start cutting. Determine what else needs to be read/reread. Pet the article (so that it doesn’t start chewing on the furniture…).
tracynicholrose: Make edits on LM paper; finalize P&P or TS paper (depending on which comes back first).
Trapped in Canadia: write all of my remaining lectures, two study guides, and my final exams this week; in the last week of class, go through my ILL books before they are overdue, so that December is my Month of Writing. I’ve given it a title to make it come true.
Undine (Not of General Interest): 2 hours a day of working on the manuscript. Let’s see if the change helps.
What Now?: Two hours of work. Setting a low bar!
Widgeon:  Two days of research before heading off for Thanksgiving. Some early writing and outline drafting.
Z (Mictlantecuhtli/Profacero): part 1: get more time. I have a full weekend with other things so I am starting the week Monday. Saying 25 minutes helps me get started but I hope to get ahead of that. So this week, let us say 25 minutes M and T, 50 W and Th, and 100 F and Sa, and 150 minutes Su. That should be a good exercise for getting to the new goal of 120 minutes 6 days.  Goal for next week, part 2: I have to start putting my argument together. This means spreading things out on the table.

Sept-Dec Writing Group check-in, week 12

Let’s talk about mentoring this week.  Do you feel you were well-mentored, ill-mentored, or just not mentored?  What was the best piece of advice you got from a mentor?  Where did one of yours go spectacularly wrong?  How are you/would you like to be different with your own grad students?  How would Present-you mentor your Younger Self, if you could send a message back?  How would you like to be mentored now?

Apologies if I’ve lost track of anyone, or said you didn’t check in when you warned you’d be away, or anything of that nature.

Amstr: get Ch. 3 out to advisor, read for and outline Ch. 4, (if Ch. 2 comes back from writing partner) work on getting Ch. 2 ready for advisor, and more work on office tidying.
Another Postdoc: Redefine writing goals for the rest of the semester. Make plan to complete a bunch of little projects. Outline short article for online journal. I am going to a conference next week and might not be able to check in.
Bavardess: At least five hours writing on PhD proposal. This should be enough to get it into a final draft that’s good enough for supervisors to review.  Five hours working through article revisions.  Start thinking about/outlining conference paper.
cly: keep moving forward.
Contingent Cassandra:  (next check-in the weekend of 11/24): stay in touch with project, make progress on some of the small sections/projects I’ve identified to work on.
Dame Eleanor Hull: 2 hours a day, 1-3 MTTh; either 1-3 or 2-4 W; I’ll fit in one hour on Friday. Keep working on organizing and writing topic sentences for the second part of the MMP.
Dr. Virago: continued revisions and cutting.
Elizabeth Anne Mitchell: Write 650 word on article O. Touch it for at least half an hour a day.
GEW: keep it up and also to push a couple of my sessions from 15 min to 30.
highly eccentric
historisusan: read book for review (relevant to project).
humming42:  Submit abstract and go to conference.   I probably won’t check in next week, as I aspire to devote my attention as fully to conferencing as possible.
JaneB:  work on something which is purely research writing for an hour.
JLiedl: Polish the first third of the keynote for publication.
John Spence: (a) index 20 pages; (b) proof-read two chapters of my book.
kiwi2: The portfolio (which has now moved to being a job for this weekend because I can’t put it off). To reserve my probably-one-day-available for writing (on any of my projects).
kiwimedievalist: no check-in.
luolin88: Submit conference abstract by Wednesday.
Matilda: making a revision plan of my presentation, writing 15 minutes a day.
meansomething: 1) 30 minutes on the lyric essay; 2) 5 12-minute sessions on poems; 3) 30 minutes on a residency application that’s due in December (including asking for references).
metheist: no check-in.
Notorious Ph.D.: 90 minutes a day… but this time, while keeping on top of other things as well.
nwgirl: Continue with revisions and a similar work schedule with the goal to complete 11 hours on the revision.
Pika: look at the article, see what needs to be done and make a plan for finishing.
Pilgrim/Heretic: 2,000 words, and petting the file every day.
rented life: work on book 3 times–specifically making Tuesday, Thursday, part of those times. Continue reading book D. Record as needed.
Salimata: write each day on the conf paper Tue-Sat, for a minimum of 1 hour. Plus one hour of reading notes.
Sapience: December job deadlines, go back to trying to work on the review that is due at the end of December.
sophylou: cut down the introduction (both for length and to tighten argument). Finish book I am arguing against. Pet the article (love that phrase) every day if possible.
tracynicholrose: Get TS paper to co-author; start making edits on LM paper; catch-up.
Undine (Not of General Interest): 1500 words.
What Now?: Spend at least three hours going through the additional sources that I found. No word count goal for writing.
Widgeon: Three full days of research plus two additional short sessions (30-45 min).
Z (Mictlantecuhtli/Profacero): some type of work per day, 25 minutes at least and 2.5 hours ideally, on this manuscript.

On giving up

I’m a little amused that a five-year-old meme has caught on again, at least in a small way, thanks to my propensity for re-visiting my past, and thanks to bloggers like Clarissa and Z.

Because I was feeling so rotten last week, spending much of several days asleep, when I was awake I spent awhile re-reading Squadratomagico’s archives, which I greatly enjoyed.  Hers is a blogging voice I miss; but given the range of her interests, I’m sure she’s having a fantastic time doing whatever took the place of blogging in her life.

Since she’s not around to speak for herself (so far as I know—do speak up in the comments if you’re out there, Squadro!), I feel a certain responsibility to speak for her, since I’m the one who returned to the old topic.  The original post,, responded to changes in the lives of several members of the academic blogging community, some of whom are still with us, others of whom either stopped blogging or may have re-named themselves in moves I have lost track of: New Kid, before law school; Medieval Woman, while still in a long-distance relationship and before the twins; Heu Mihi, before her translation to the cornfields, the advent of the Minister, and Bonaventure; the bloggers who are now Maude and Moria; Hilaire, who I hope is now enjoying a happier life than the one I used to follow.   These potential (at that time—now actual) changes provoked a lot of soul-searching, and those of us who were already enjoying stable positions both empathized and took the opportunity to think about our own lives.

In particular, I want to let Squadro respond to the first line of Jonathan’s post on this topic.  In teaching meme, she explicitly values the contrafactual:  “I love teaching history because I believe it implicitly raises the possibility of counterfactual narratives. I don’t explore counterfactuality in the classroom, but I know some students are thinking about these issues on their own. The ability to imagine alternate social, political, economic, religious, etc. directions within history can, I think, lead to the ability to imagine alternate configurations for current social, political, economic, religious, etc. conditions. The study of history can train the individual to question reality; to question the authority of received cultural (and parental) expectations, hopefully in productive ways. I believe this can be empowering.”

The political is the personal.  Exploring counterfactuality in our own lives can be empowering.  It need not be a sign one should leave academia.  And one’s own contentment does not invalidate others’ struggle.  At the very least, people contemplating entering academia need to know the opportunity costs, the likely starting salaries, and the problems of salary compression.  My own students think professors make “good money” and are astonished that they could earn more teaching high school, but that is the situation in these parts.  YMMV, of course.  Personally, I think academic life has given me more than it took away; my losses have more to do with health and family situations that would almost certainly have arisen in any case.  I still think it’s worth evaluating the gains and the losses.

Sept-Dec Writing Group, week 11 check-in

I’m still sick, and feeling worse as of Thursday.  So I’m punting on this week’s discussion.  Here’s a link to advice about being productive from the Chron fora:,76982.msg1832723.html#msg1832723

If you care to read it and discuss, go for it.  I’m going back to my hot drinks and kleenex.  Carry on!  We’re entering the home stretch.

Amstr: finish fix-it tasks for Ch. 3 and send to advisor, do some reading for Ch. 4, and tidy office.
Another Postdoc: Complete the Bibliography and end notes. Smooth over any rough areas of the article.
Bavardess: at least 5 hours writing on proposal; tidy up/ edit article abstract.
cly: impose or find some sort of structure.
Comrade PhysioProf: no check-in.
Contingent Cassandra: Spend at least a short time doing something on the J article on 2-3 days.
Dame Eleanor Hull: schedule 2 hours of research a day: 4-6 Monday, 1-3 TWTh, 4-6 Friday. I want to plan writing tasks, as well, but the main thing is good topic sentences for the new(ish) draft of the MMP.
Dr. Virago: revision of the draft, including a conclusion and some winnowing of the excess (maybe down 300 words by next week).
Elizabeth Anne Mitchell: Write at least 650 words on article O. Touch it every day for at least half an hour.
emmawriting: Keep self and baby alive. Actually, though, I should come up with tasks to give to RAs too.
GEW: Write 1,000 words of Chapter Five.
highly eccentric: less writing, more planning. Two arbitrarily selected tasks: identify 4000 words for writing samples; skeleton out conference paper.
historisusan: Keep brain engaged.
humming42: Write every day with plan for 500 words/day.
JaneB: no check-in.  Was there an excursion or something?
John Spence: (a) index 20 pages; (b) review another possible (but unlikely) source for the text.
kiwi2:  I will contact my co-author on Paper X at the end of the week about the revisions; draft a 200-400 word webpage; and prepare (revise and update) my portfolio of experience for a job.
kiwimedievalist: Get this [expletive deleted] article out of the way, hopefully for good; non-academic: write 500 words a day – they may not make the final cut, but just get writing!
luolin88: 30 mins Monday and Friday for the article; 30 mins Wednesday getting started on a conference abstract.
Matilda: start revision of the presentation; make a revision-writing plan.
meansomething: 1) 30 minutes on the lyric essay; 2) 5 12-minute sessions on poems; 3) 30 minutes on a residency application that’s due in December (including asking for references).
metheist: try to write something every day.
Notorious Ph.D.: 90 minute work sessions every day, though these can be split.
nwgirl: Continue with chapter 3 revisions, working 1 hour on teaching days (3) and 4 hours on non-teaching days (2).
Pika: decide if to keep proposal as a goal (and if so, get instructions) or if I should switch to something else (and if so, decide which journal paper to prioritise).
Pilgrim/Heretic: 1000 words (AND at least looking at the file, every day).
Premodern: More applications early in the week.  Keep writing!
rented life: work on book 3 times–specifically making Tuesday, Thursday, part of those times. Continue reading book D. Record as needed.
Salimata: read book and organize notes for conference paper.
Sapience: finish all the job applications for November. Try again on the proposal.
sophylou: finish last section of article in order to have a zero draft written. Finish book I am arguing against. If time, and zero draft gets done, start editing zero draft (will need cutting down to meet word count).
tracynicholrose: excused absence for conference.
Trapped in Canadia: write two lectures and get the conference paper up to perfect or near-perfect, but I won’t be checking in because I’m leaving Wednesday for the conference.
Undine (Not of General Interest): 1500 new words.
What Now?:  Two before-school writing sessions, 500 words; get through additional sources.
Widgeon:  One day of reading.
Z (Mictlantecuhtli/Profacero): Saturday through Tuesday, 25 minutes each. Wednesday and Thursday, 2.5 total hours each.

Sept-Dec 2012 Writing Group, Week 10 Check-in

Theme for the week: decision fatigue.  I’ve seen a lot of reports on this lately; here’s an example, and here are some suggestions for countering it.  This is one reason to write early in the day, so that your willpower is strong and you’re less likely to start doing the laundry or skiving off on the Internet.  It’s also a reason to write at the same time, in the same place, every day, so that you don’t feel like you have to make a decision about what to do now; if it’s that time and place, then you write.  And that’s also what writing assignments, like What Now? plans out over the weekend, are good for; you don’t have to decide what to write today, you just have to write it up.

This is also why, lately, I’ve been grading first thing in the morning instead of writing.  It’s easier to decide what to do about a series of student papers (all those decisions!) when I’m fresh.  If I have a writing assignment for later in the day, and it’s clear what I need to do for that writing task, it’s a better use of my energy to reverse my usual write-first practice.

How could decision-theory help you with writing?

Amstr:  (1) finish Ch2 mashup and send to writing partner; (2) 5 tasks for Ch. 3; (3) start a book for Ch 4.
Another Postdoc: Rearrange sections of paper to accommodate recent epiphany. Add one more paragraph to the conclusion. Begin the bibliography and endnotes.
Bavardess: Work on fleshing out the theoretical framework section of my proposal and incorporate new material; apply to attend February postgrad workshop.
cly: checked in.
Comrade PhysioProf: checked in.
Contingent Cassandra: Work on J article on at least one, even if for a short period of time.
Dame Eleanor Hull: schedule 2 hours of research a day.
Dr. Virago:  *really* finish the draft of the 2500-word essay, which requires re-watching a streaming video of a live performance, as well as writing.
Elizabeth Anne Mitchell: Write at least 650 words on article O. Touch it every day for at least half an hour.
emmawriting:  produce baby. If still waiting, on Monday, create more jobs to send to RAs; next, get over the illogical perfectionistic hangup over Study 1 that’s preventing me from moving forward.
GEW: Four 15-minutes sessions, do the Scrivener tutorial, take a training session on my new computer.
highly eccentric: At least an hour’s writing on at least two days of the week.
historisusan: excused absence, I think, due to a conference.
humming42: continue to write every day with warm up for AcWriMo.
JaneB: look for some low-hanging fruit, then pluck the buggers.
JLiedl:  finish revisions on accepted chapter.
John Spence:  (a) index 20 pages; (b) write up some information about features of the language in the text.
kiwi2: To be brave. To attempt my analysis for Paper Z and spend at least a day on it.
kiwimedievalist: Academic: revise article and resubmit. Non-academic: make notes from books, and plan for NANOWRIMO. Write at least 500 words a day on ideas, themes etc for the book.
Kris: no check in.
luolin88: 30 mins Monday and Friday.
Matilda: do presentation as well as possible.
meansomething: 1) 30 minutes on the lyric essay; 2) 5 12-minute sessions on poems; 3) 30 minutes on a residency application that’s due in December.
metheist: Do the best that I can to get my ideas down on paper. So write something, no matter what or how much, every day.
Notorious Ph.D.: no check in.
nwgirl: a). print out revised chapter one; b). begin work on revising chapter 3 (one hour of work on teaching days and four hours on non-teaching days); c). review remaining two chapters that I had hoped to revise this semester to decide whether I need to adjust schedule; d). review other writing commitments scheduled for this semester.
Pika: get instructions for this smaller proposal from the funding agency website.
Pilgrim/Heretic: 500 words.
Premodern: Return to the book chapter Friday and Saturday; 500 words. Also start thinking about the next essay I need to write by February.
rented life: work on book 3 times. Continue reading book D. Record as needed.
Salimata:  read 1 book and 2 articles I need for conference paper, write notes; plus find/organize older notes that might be useful.
Sapience: next batch of letters done and sent. If I don’t lose power, I want to try and write a conference proposal.
Sisyphus: no check in.
sophylou: think about how to integrate secondary material I read last night (or relegate it to another project!); do enough writing that I’m not ashamed to report here.
tracynicholrose:  I’m not checking in next week as I’ll just be getting back from Montreal. My only goal is to present my paper at the conference and hopefully learn something new.
Trapped in Canadia: OBSandy.
Undine (Not of General Interest): no check in.
What Now?: Three days of writing before school, at least 1000 words. “Prep” the writing ahead of time — either in one fell swoop on the weekend or on the night before.
Widgeon: Three partial research days. Work through primary sources.
Z (Mictlantecuhtli/Profacero): 1 hour in morning and 1.5 in evening, each weekday.