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.

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87 thoughts on “Sept-Dec Writing Group check-in, week 12

  1. Last week’s goal: Spend at least three hours going through the additional sources that I found.

    Accomplished: Until this afternoon, I thought my answer to this question was going to be “zip. zilch. nada.” But I did actually just now do an hour’s work while proctoring my students’ exam. I was taking notes on a secondary source rather than working through the primary sources I had meant to, but I’ll count it all the same.

    Commentary: I have done almost nothing the past two weeks other than teach, grade, and write up exams so that I can do more grading. I’m actually pretty proud of the fact that I kept my head above water, even though I basically got no writing or research accomplished. There are just times in the term that are like that — no point in fighting it. And I may as well be realistic about the next week, since I have exams to grade this weekend and then we’re piling into the car for a 20-hour round-trip road trip to my family for Thanksgiving. I am simply reminding myself that, if November is always crazy at school, December is always relatively peaceful. (We have a weird trimester system.) So I will work like heck on school/teaching stuff for the rest of November and then work even harder on my own writing after that — no worries (she said confidently).

    Next week’s goal: Two hours of work. Setting a low bar!

    1. Your week sounds like mine – grading, grading, grading, and more grading! I’m going to seriously revise my syllabi to prevent this from happening again (she says for the millionth time).

  2. Last week’s goal: (a) index 20 pages; (b) proof-read two chapters of my book.

    Accomplished: (a) indexed 0 pages; (b) proof-read half a chapter.

    Next week’s goal: (a) index 20 pages; (b) proof-read two chapters of my book.

    Commentary: Not a great week for progress! But for the next three weeks I have to knuckle down, so no changing targets. I have a firm deadline for returning the proofs and index now by mid-December, so I need to spend more time on this work (fewer evenings without working, basically, until it’s done).

  3. Goal: Polish the first third of the keynote for publication

    Achieved: Polished almost a quarter

    Analysis: I got too bogged down in perfecting the argument instead of progressing with the paper. I need to remember that the argument shines brightest only after you finish the complete project!

    Next week’s goal: Get past the halfway point on the keynote

    Mentoring: I’m coming at this topic from a very different position than I was even cognizant of in grad school. We all have mentors, I realize, and we’re all reaching out to new and different mentors as we move into new endeavours. I’ve benefited from mentors who’re more experienced in publishing and networking as well as grants-seeking. I’ve hired a career coach and it was one of the best things I could ever do: she’s really helped me to clarify what I’m doing and why! (The last is the most important part.)

    I’m trying to be a good mentor to my students to encourage them to improve what they can and think about what they want to become. It takes a lot of emotional energy to do this well, though, and at this point in the term, I’m running dry. . . .

    1. I’ve thought about a career coach several times in the last year. I’m interested in that you found it helpful. I sometimes feel so rudderless; it may be as simple as mid-life crisis, but it would be helpful to work through what I want to do when I grow up. 🙂

    2. I’ve used a career coach, too (when I was first thinking about going back to school for the PhD, in fact). I think my approach to mentoring is similar to yours, in that I don’t expect any one person to have all the answers, but try to cultivate a network of people who can each give me input and advice on particular areas where they have the expertise.

    3. The career coach sounds interesting! I have heard about life coaches, but not career coaches (other than college career centers).

  4. Last week’s goal: The portfolio. To reserve my probably-one-day-available for writing (on any of my projects).

    Accomplished: The portfolio. Half a day of work on writing projects.

    Next goal: 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.

    Commentary: This week flew. I have become aware of how fast time is passing, how weeks seem to slide past in a marking blur, and I am wondering whether I can accomplish my writing goals before Xmas. I now really want to focus on paper Y. In my original goals I said “this needs further analysis of the data, drawing of 3 graphs, writing of Methods and Results sections, and general rewriting. And that I want to submit this during the writing group period”. I don’t even know if this is still possible. However, 4 more weeks to go, so I am trying.

    Mentoring: I have experienced both horrible and ok mentoring. As a result, I try to be clear about what I expect from mentees at the outset, and also to explain a bit about what they can expect from me as a mentor. I am not very experienced as yet, so definitely learning as I go. My mentoring style has definitely been shaped by the perceived flaws of previous mentors though. I also try and read literature about mentoring.Trying to work out appropriate boundaries for mentees and mentors is an interesting one.

  5. Did some type of work most days, but barely. I want more as it really is helpful to keep the thread going — for the health of the project and also for my own sense of direction in life. I want more.

    To get more I am cutting my goal down to 12 hours a week from 17.5 or 18. This is so I can get closer to meeting it. 12 hours a week would be 2 hours per day 6 days.

    Goal for next week, 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. I can during Thanksgiving, because my exchange student will be gone so the table will always be free.

    Mentoring: in 6th grade, when I wrote my first research paper, my father, a professor, explained how to plan a project. How much time do you have, weeks to deadline? How short can it be? How much time per day do you have to devote to it, very realistically? Take those things, add them together and average them out. Then you need: research, writing, resting, revising, finishing. That is, 5 stages. 35%-30%-10%-15%-10% was the division of time I decided on initially, with the provision I might change it somewhat, mostly by doing additional research during the next four stages. The plan was day 1; day 2 was a trip to the library for 2 hours, and days 3-5 were spent reading in the books I got. I did not get any help on this project except those suggestions about planning on day 1. This advice worked throughout school and most of an assistant professorship; the only unspoken thing was that you have to have faith in yourself and full control over your project design — things I had then.

    1. What a clear idea of research to have in 6th grade! One doesn’t always have full control over the project design, but I find “faith in [one]self” more elusive.

      Cutting down on the time in order to create a habit is important. There is an amount of experimentation in finding the correct amount of time to keep a project fresh and flowing. It varies (at least for me) in a tide-like manner, but I suspect you will find the answer.

    2. I like those stages and percentages. I need to recalibrate my planning somewhat. I tend to cut the research and resting short in my plans. I might try this on my next chapter!

    3. I like your comment about wanting more “for the health of the project and also for my own sense of direction in life.” There’s a recognition that the project needs a certain amount of attention daily for the project and its creator to thrive. I can’t articulate my thoughts more than that (not enough coffee, I guess).

      1. Yes — and having lived my whole life that way since sometime in childhood I really suffered when, as an assistant professor under bad influences, I dropped these ideas. Faculty seemed to have these really destructive ideas that projects were not yours, they were onerous burdens on you, and that they either should have been done yesterday or can be put off until tomorrow. But it is not true; all actually successful and happy people think of things in the way WE are talking about.

      2. Ohmygosh, that idea of the onerous burden is something I’ve been working so hard to get rid of. I picked up that language and attitude somewhere along the way, without even thinking about it, and it’s so pointless and damaging.

    4. When I started my PhD, my supervisor told me to start writing right away, not to wait until I felt ready. I think her advice was good, but it’s also made it difficult for me to figure out how much to read (and, frankly, how to allot the time–so much time–it takes to do the reading). Maybe I should think about your allotments for each chapter. Thanks for sharing that! I might use that with my kids, too.

      1. DEH says the writing you start right away is the note taking. I never didn’t take notes, write down ideas, etc. Apparently this is what they mean when they say start before you are ready. I am *not* ready to *really* compose until I have a fairly good idea of what I am going to say. But if you are thinking and writing things all along, not just reading passively, it becomes fairly obvious when it is time to actually compose.

      2. Yes, that seems like a good and apt distinction. As I review my work so far (of chapters and such), it seems as if it goes from note-taking, to very a basic draft (a lot of close reading), to a draft with key research related to methods. What I don’t have yet are fully developed arguments that demonstrate an expert knowledge of the discipline and a well-crafted argument.

  6. The week’s goal: 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.

    Accomplished: sent Ch. 3 to advisor! (Finally!), no work on Ch. 4 or Ch. 2, sent article back to editor (after 4th proofing session)

    Next week’s goal: start Ch. 4 draft, read for Ch. 4. Productive procrastination goals: send Ch. 2 to advisor, work on office cleaning.

    Commentary: This week I was stuck with the conclusion of Ch. 3. I basically needed to rewrite it so it was in line with my argument and covered everything I said I would. I had no traction for days (but managed to get through the first ¾ of the chapter a number of times). Today, I finally convinced myself that I would spend only an hour of my work day today on the draft and then send it what I had. And what do you know, I actually managed to get a good start in during that hour, and now I actually want to write the two paragraphs I needed to to complete the chapter. It’s not perfect, but at this point, it’s good enough. It’s a complex chapter on a complicated (and lengthy) poem, so I’m pretty proud of the work. I’m also under no illusions–I will have to revise. But I’m looking forward to the advisor advice that will come.

    Now I need to turn my attention to Ch. 4. I think I have some hesitation because it’s the last chapter, and it would be great if the first draft were something I could edit rather than completely rewrite. I think I need to give up that hope and aim for some kind of draft that sort of covers the issues I need to address. The argument will get tighter as I go, and i need to see where the gaps are at this point. I think I can still get the draft and a couple revisions done by Christmas. I’m definitely motivated by the Feb. defense date, and I really, really don’t want to move it again. I’m hoping to be able to schedule by mid-Dec. so I’ll have a hard deadline, but that means I have to have at least a rough draft of Ch. 4 to my advisor by then. (Working hard is hard!) I get a mini-writing retreat on Monday and Tuesday next week–my parents are taking the kids for three nights, since the kids are off school all week. (And as a bonus, this morning my husband planned a weekend trip to Disneyland. We get on the plane tomorrow morning. After weeks and weeks of Saturday soccer games, I’m excited for the break!)

    At this point, I think I need to stick to one main goal a week, but have other tasks in mind in the hope that any procrastination will become the productive kind.

    Mentoring: I feel like I’ve been well mentored in many cases, but I haven’t always taken full advantage of the help my mentors could offer. I feel like I could have used more advice in the run-up to exams (but I was distracted having children). My dissertation is semi-related to my exams, but if they had all been more directly related, I could have saved time on the diss. I’m getting ample mentoring on the diss. itself, and I’m getting hints of future advice about publishing, etc. I feel the least prepared on the job front, partly because I’m far from my campus, partly because I haven’t applied for a real (non campus) job in 12 years, and partly because I’ve been so unsure of what I want to do post-diss that I haven’t sat down with my mentors (one is my advisor, another was one of my examiners and has become a friend) and asked the right questions. Since I’m not much younger than my mentors (only 3-5 years or so), it seems they sometimes assume I have more knowledge than I do about the career aspects of academia. I do need to ask more about non-academic career options, but sometimes career academics seem ill-equipped to answer on the topic.

    1. Amstr, when I had to leave the academy to find a job, my mentors were at a loss as well. None of them had ever thought about what to do outside the academy; most of my cohort of students fleeing the academy wanted any advice from them, so I was an anomaly.

      I found Versatile PhD an amazing resource http://versatilephd.com/about/ . Your university may be a member, which would give you access to more content. The free stuff is quite helpful, though, and they have several panels during the year.

      Sorry to sound like an infomercial, but they have helped many of my cohort.

    2. I second Elizabeth’s advice about VPhD regardless of any decision to stay or leave in academia. A lot of great resources and a lot of dedicated, supportive mentoring types among the participants. It’s well moderated, too, which is helpful when you’re trying to figure out next steps. I’m probably sounding like an infomercial for VPhD, but I’ve found a lot of helpful advice and great mentors there.

      I had a similar experience to Elizabeth’s in that my PhD mentors had few ideas about jobs outside the academy. In fact, most assumed that I would leave my professional position and go on the market once I had finished. They never really considered that I might want to find a way to combine the professional and academic fields outside the academy and the TT. Although I did land a TT job, it was a direct result of the professional position I held while I was working on the doctorate. Receiving the PhD simply meant a promotion from full-time lecturer/instructor to TT.

    3. The AHA (American Historical Association for nonhistorians) is now offering access to Versatile PhD for members. Haven’t looked at it much yet, but as someone still struggling to balance my own inherent academicness with being what feels like a sideways academic, I’m curious about it.

    4. Yay for sending out Chapter 3! And three cheers for another writing retreat! And even more cheers for the fact that I might see you on Sunday. 🙂

  7. Goal: Keep self and baby alive, & come up with tasks to give to RAs.
    Accomplished: The above. In two weeks, not in one.
    Next goal: 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.

    Commentary: The baby is all-time-consuming for large swathes of the day, with unpredictable breaks, which I’m usually spending web-surfing. I’d like to get back in the saddle again a little, since despite the time being really unpredictable, there is some….

    Mentoring: I’m not sure how my mentors could have countered my perfectionistic procrastination– they were wonderful and intellectually supportive and constantly believed in me, but let me stew in my procrastination / solve it as best I could. I think if they had set some specific goals like actual– small, imperfect, but “practice”– publications expected every 2 years or so, that might have helped– e.g. forcing me to analyze and publish my “failed” studies, perhaps. Not really sure.

    1. Welcome back—sorry I left you off the list! From a rather absent-minded professor’s point of view, the difficulty in setting specific goals like that for a student is that the mentor has to keep track of how the student is doing; sometimes the weeks and months drift by and we don’t realize how long it has been. I hate to admit it, but it’s true. I do better by students who are very self-motivated (and confident enough to keep after me) than by those who actually need the help more.

      1. I only started to make real progress when I committed to checking in with my advisor by email once a month. My advisor didn’t have to do anything but say “got it,” and I all of a sudden had some real accountability. It also gives him the opportunity to notice if I’m getting really off track, or taking too long with something.

        Those unpredictable breaks with infants really got to me. I felt like I was constantly sitting around on high-alert waiting for an emergency. It felt nearly impossible to get anything done, especially anything the seemed like I needed uninterrupted time for. Good luck!

    2. I like the baby, it is fun to have a baby in the group. I especially like it because it is “the baby” not he or she or with a name, strangely this seems to give it MORE personality in this context and not less.

    3. Glad you and the baby are alive! Hope you are both thriving, despite the challenges to you both (it’s not easy to be a new mom, and, I imagine, it’s also difficult to be a new human).

  8. Goal: December job deadlines, some work on december review article.

    Accomplished: A few of the December job deadlines.

    Analysis: I did get a few of the December job applications done, but not as many as I hoped/planned, nor did I do any work on the review article, not least because I got derailed by requests for more information from several schools that wanted essays in response to school mission statements and whatnot. Probably wrote about 10 pages so far this week as a result, so I’m not terribly upset about not getting more done.

    Next week’s Goal: More request for more information essays; December applications; sleep.

    Mentoring: I’ve had some pretty great mentoring as a graduate student. One of my main advisors really believed in demystifying the graduate school process (believed in it enough to write a book about it, actually), and he’s been great at making sure we all know what we need to do, when we need to do, and most importantly why we need to do it. And even better, he’s been really good and modeling everything for us in a way that doesn’t say “this is the only way to do this,” but instead says, “here’s how I do it, and it works for me; try it, and if it doesn’t work for you, find another way to accomplish the same thing.” That’s something I’ll want to do with my own graduate students (if I ever have any).

  9. Last week’s goal: Daily work on chapter 3 revisions aiming for a total of 11 hours last week.

    Accomplished: About half that, but still some progress.

    Commentary: It’s been a busy week. Lots of grading, thesis drafts, etc. And a major case of OBE. The rear end is going out in my ten-year old car. It has more than 200K. But the problem is getting worse and Mr. NWG says it’s not safe to drive on the highway anymore and not worth fixing. So we’re in “tie a knot and hang on” mode until the Christmas break. We’ve swapped cars so I can get through the last three weeks of the semester. (I have a long commute.) I had hoped to postpone car shopping until spring (and tax refund), but clearly we need to do this sooner rather than later. And the thought of taking on a car payment right now — Ugh!

    Mentoring: I’ve experienced both the best and the worst of mentoring. My uni had a major, very public tenure denial debacle several years ago. That has led to some significant changes — more resources for TT faculty in their first three years: mentors for first-year faculty, monthly cohort meetings for second- and third-years, workshops, summer seminars, etc. It’s pretty amazing. As a graduate student, I also had some great mentoring. But I’ve had some negative experiences as well that were degrading and frustrating.

    I try to be a good mentor to my students, but being a good mentor is time intensive as well as emotionally exhaustive. I try to strike a balance between being nurturing and challenging students to do more. Some days I do a pretty good job, other days not so much. And at this point in the semester I am tired so it’s hard to summon the energy some days.

    1. One of the greatest gifts my advisor has given me is letting me work things out on my own. He does try to be prompt in responding, but for a while I knew that every email I sent would get answered in about a month. It made me figure out on my own what to do while I was waiting. I ended up figuring out a really good rhythm that works for me and isn’t completely dependent on him. It’s enough for me to know that he is willing and available (but not too available), and trusts that I can figure things out. As the recipient of that “balance between nurturing and challenging,” I say, huzzah!

  10. Last week’s goal: Widgeon: Three full days of research plus two additional short sessions (30-45 min).

    Accomplished: Two days, plus two short sessions. I lost a day to the task of revising course proposals for my very bureaucratic univ. And my two “full” days had their fair number of interruptions.

    Commentary: It’s hard to stay focus this time in the semester, with end-of-term grading and some prep. work for the Spring. Plus I took on some manuscript reviews and a book review. I have a better sense of what the article will be, but find myself still wallowing in sources. I think I need to do some early writing.

    Goal: Two days of research before heading off for Thanksgiving. Some early writing and outline drafting.

    Mentoring: I went to a huge graduate program (now much smaller) and so had little to no mentoring. I believe I am a good mentor for my own Ph.D./M.A. students. One of the struggles is not to give into the temptation of co-writing their theses/dissertations. I read one draft of chapters and give extensive comments, then comment on the final version. I do not read 3-4 drafts. Although I try to be supportive about personal crises I do keep space in the relationship. I will go out with a student after a successful defense to celebrate, for example. But that’s the only time. And I treat my students as adults. If they make choices that have consequences for their work, I give them advice but they are the ones who have to live with those choices. And yes, mentoring is exhausting.

  11. Accomplished: I have surprised myself and made progress! Many, many thanks to DEH, Bavardess, Pilgrim/Heretic and Jane B for their input. I’m ashamed to admit I had never considered reverse outlining. I went back and tried applying it to my entire manuscript (and found that I had much re-writing to do ;/, but made progress).

    New goal: Write every day; work on re-organising manuscript. I’ll be distracted from this by another round of job applications, but…

    Mentoring: I switched advisors after the first year of my PhD. I went from having a horrid experience (the usual being left entirely alone and criticised for not doing what he had in mind) to having a wonderful mentor. With my own students, I generally have a meeting to discuss expectations and obligations at the very beginning of their projects (MA, PhD). It seems to have worked fairly well.

    1. I’m glad the reverse outlining worked for you! Sometimes its the only way I can figure out where to go next when I have one of those documents where I’ve written myself into a tangle.

  12. Last week’s goal: 1500 words. Achieved: some reading, but no real writing.
    This week’s goal: 2 hours a day of working on the manuscript. Let’s see if the change helps.

    About mentoring: I mostly didn’t get any, but then again, I didn’t seek it because I didn’t understand what academia entailed. I work hard at mentoring my own students now.

  13. Last week’s goal: continued revisions and cutting.

    Accomplished: well, continued revisions and cutting! I have to input the edits (I edit on paper), but I think I got closer to the word limit. I had to cut a section I really liked, alas, but limits are limits. I’m still not entirely happy with the piece, but it’s not due until Dec. 5, so I have some fiddling time. Still haven’t done anything concrete with the review article, though it’s taking shape in my head.

    Next week: um, continued revisions and cutting!

    Oh, funny footnote to this project. You know how I said a couple of weeks ago that the streaming video I had to watch didn’t have a fast forward. Um, well, it did. It just wasn’t the usual arrow symbol thingy, but a progress bar you could manipulate. *headdesk* Oh well, I graded while the thing played in the background and I got to the part I needed.

    As for mentoring, I’m not sure I really ever had any *directly* (beyond comments on my work from professors), but I’ve always found imitation to be a good method of DYI mentoring. I think I might have bristled at someone who declared themselves my mentor, actually. I kind of *like* figuring things out on my own and asking when I’m stumped or figure I don’t need to reinvent the wheel. I am a total weirdo, I know.

    1. I’m a bit the same with wanting to work things out for myself. I feel like I’d rather save my questions for the really big/ sticky problems and do my own research to figure out the other stuff.

  14. 1. Last week’s goal: 650 words on article O; touch it every day for a half an hour a day.

    2. Accomplished: Yes and yes. It is actually a rough first draft, or really, a paragraph outline, with some meaty portions, but I’ll take it.

    3. Analysis: I have been fighting some virus that is making the rounds of the students, so I have been retreating to my cubicle and snarling at anyone who approaches that I am probably contagious and don’t have sick leave, so come on in! Boy, writing that down sounds just awful, but it has been effective against the office chit chat, gossip, and he-said, she-said that eats up far too much of my time.

    4. Weave together the holes of article O; spend 4 hours this next week in whatever configuration I can manage with the holiday.

    Mentoring: From awful–my first mentor telling me I had to marry the library like a nun marries Jesus–to well-intentioned but clueless, to helpful but very busy and very far away.

    I was struck by what you said, Dame Eleanor, that you “do better by students who are very self-motivated (and confident enough to keep after me). . . .” My director is about my age, and figures I can take care of myself. However, she did tell me to keep after her, but I have been hesitant to “bother” her.

    It sounds like I should take her at her word, and keep the lines open. Now I just need to get over the embarrassment and inertia.

    1. If you present her with a clear plan, she’ll probably go for it, if she’s anything like me. “In order to keep producing now that I have this new job, I need to set deadlines with you. I want to send you X pages once/twice/whatever a month. You don’t have to comment on them unless I ask a specific question, but getting a quick reply like ‘Glad to see you met your deadline, keep up the good work!’ would be helpful.

      This really emphasizes your self-motivation (you’re doing most of the work here, just wanting to check in more often) and the reason you are now asking for closer contact (new job! now that you’ve settled in a bit, you see what you need to be successful at both job and writing). It doesn’t ask for much from her. It allows you to deal with the embarrassment (change in circumstances). After you’ve met a couple of your self-imposed deadlines, it will probably be easier to ask more specific questions, and I would think she’d be even more inclined to help with specifics because you’ve been showing responsibility in general.

      I hope this helps and that I’m not way off base here, but I’d be very happy to get such a communication from a student.

      1. Wow, I think that’s a fantastic suggestion – at least it’s something I would be happy to hear from a student too. I’m getting better at asking students “what kind of guidance/feedback would you like to get from me?” instead of trying to guess it myself… sometimes people are strong on their ideas and want help with the writing; sometimes vice versa; sometimes they just want a little accountability, etc. I can do any of those things, but it’s dumb for me to try one if what student really wants is something different.

      2. Thank you, Dame Eleanor. Pilgrim, your seconding the suggestion is appreciated, too. It helps immensely to know that you would be happy to hear that from a student.

        I especially appreciate the suggestions about how to phrase things, since my initial instinct is to grovel (long personal history behind that, of little interest) and apologize. It is so much better to stand up where I am and move on.

        I’ll borrow from your standard of “Forward,” Dame Eleanor, and make it “Excelsior.”

      3. Excelsior! Yes! 🙂 For what it’s worth, in the realm of apologies, I think they’re worthwhile only if what you’ve done has actually inconvenienced your adviser, which is rare. If you apologize for not being in touch, or working more slowly than you’d planned, that (to me at least) just feels awkward and unproductive. As an adviser, I would much rather hear you explain where you are and where you’re headed – taking into consideration DEH’s excellent point that you can’t change the past, but you can change the future. (Just my perspective, of course, not speaking for the universe.)

      4. I am totally going to steal “Excelsior!” as a motivator (though since I wrote a diss. chapter on Longfellow, maybe it’s not stealing so much as… remembering?)

      5. I mentioned above that monthly check-ins with my advisor have made all the difference. Just reporting in on progress helps keep me motivated, and helps him have a sense of where I am. When I met with him in April, he already had a good sense of where the project was and where it needed to go, and we were able to have good discussions about progress and timing–things that would have been impossible if he hadn’t had a sense of my work pace.

  15. Last week’s goals – 
    5 hours on proposal 
    5 hours on article revisions
    Start thinking about/ outlining conference paper

    Achieved – 
    Spent most of my time this week on the proposal and the final draft is basically good to go -planning to give it a final read through/ polish tomorrow and send it to supervisors for review. All being well, I’m hoping to get the proposal defense scheduled for mid-January. I only spent 2 hours on the article. Not sure why, but I’m really dragging my heels over it. Nothing on the conference paper. 

    Next goals
    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.

    On mentoring –
    There is no formal programme or structure for mentoring in my dept/school so it is very much a case of asking for help when I need it. My supervisors are very supportive of my work and have been proactive about recommending conferences / workshops to attend, pointing me towards funding sources & writing me references etc. but I don’t really see either of them as the ‘mentor’ type at this stage. Perhaps that will change as I get further into my programme. I’ve always been very self-directed career-wise, though, so I don’t really feel I’m missing anything at this point. As a ‘mature’ student, I came into the PhD with plans B and C in the back of my mind, and I do maintain my professional networks outside academia just in case that academic job never materialises at the end of the doctorate.

  16. goal: spend an hour writing on a research subject.
    accomplished: I had an hour in my schedule, but not the motivation, and for once I decided to rebel – I went and got a coffee, drank it on a bench outside in the sunshine (very cold sunshine but who cares?) then dropped into the lab to chat with a colleague who’s on sabbatical to hear about how their experiments were going.
    analysis:It made me feel better on a bad day, so, fine. Sometimes teaching and administrivia and all the rest of it win. But… really, I’m at a ‘squeezed middle’ regional UK University, the bulk of what ‘they’ pay me to do is to teach/look after students even if the rhetoric is income generation via research first last and everything except when prospective students are visiting, so perhaps that’s OK. So my research progress has stuttered to an almost-halt … I know it’s not in the script according to Boice, but sometimes that just happens, and this week has mostly been about accepting it.

    After deciding to cancel my second conference trip of the semester which should have been last weekend, then having to cancel the first trip (mid-October) due to health problems, and being very down for the first part of the semester, I decided – it didn’t FEEL like a choice, it felt necessary – to do something for me, so I am currently doing NaNoWriMo (for those who don’t know about it, this is a crazy insane challenge to write 50,000 words of fiction from scratch in the month of November). Why, if I am so stressed about writing not happening, and about health issues, would I choose to do more writing/sitting in front of the computer? Simple – it makes me happy. I did it last year and it had a really noticeable positive effect on my work writing for the next few months, plus I had FUN. Work writing involves work, for me; whilst it’s fun and all that, it’s still actual heavy intellectual work, and when I’m teaching/prepping for teaching/reading grad students work/grading in an intense week, I have very little left over for that – the ‘rule’ of about 6 good thinking hours a day includes all those things, for me. Novelling, especially NaNoNovelling, or poetry writing, use completely different bits of my brain, and it’s good to stretch them – it balances the work side better than more passive down-time, I guess a bit like having a yoga class in your exercise schedule along with weights, say, rather than just a day on the sofa.

    goal for next week: I do need to get back to acting like a professional. Next week is busy with teaching and domestic stuff and visiting parents (they arrive Tuesday for an extended visit to supervise contractors. In my busiest teaching block. Why yes, I _am_ an idiot, thank you for noticing), but I finally have all the replies back from the many co-authors of the multi-author paper, so I will aim to spend two hours (in fifteen minute chunks if necessary) stitching all the comments into the latest version.

    1. Not an idiot—it’s the cussedness of things, the perversity of calendars, that makes events pile up like this. Not our fault, it was like that when we got here, and it’s probably a good exercise in priorities . . . or something . . . of course it is!

    2. I have a lot of friends doing NaNo and hope to do it one day myself. I can’t afford the time right now, but I have thought that it might really help ingrain the daily writing habit to help me be even more productive with academic work. I hope it’s going well!

  17. Last week I was at a conference and didn’t set any goals because I was worried about both the fallout from the conference (what if I bombed?) and I had a teaching observation on Wednesday that was also causing me severe anxiety. I know the chair likes me as a person and as a scholar (well, at least according to a few friends in the department), but would he like me as a teacher? Would my students participate like I needed them to? Could I make the Cold War interesting??? The class went well, I think, despite a technical difficulty that threatened to derail my PowerPoint and send the students into open revolt. I’ll find out Monday what the final report says. I probably won’t sleep tonight!

    Next week’s goal: I have four class days left because our semester starts early and ends the last week of November. I want to write all of my remaining lectures, two study guides, and my final exams this week.

    This leaves the last week of class to finish marking (so much marking) and to help students who need a lot of attention to even have a hope of passing the class. It also gives me time to 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.

    Mentoring is a touchy subject right now because, in the final year of my PhD, I have felt mentorless to a certain extent. I have had one or two teaching mentors who I’ve channeled this semester and it’s worked fairly well. My supervisor (and I recognize that your supervisor should not necessarily be your mentor) has all but disappeared and I don’t have anyone else right now. Most of the historians of my subject are in another country and I usually get to catch up with them on research trips, but it’s been 1 1/2 years since I’ve been on a research trip and haven’t kept in touch because I haven’t had much to say. My writing had completely stalled. I’ve been under this massive writer’s block partly because I’m a perfectionist and partly because, as a colleague pointed out, I’m scared to finish because what comes next? What happens when I’m done with my dissertation and don’t have a job? I’m an adjunct now and that’s helping ease the fears a little bit because at least I have some sort of income. I’m writing in fits and starts again, but that’s ok; there are still words getting added to my dissertation and that’s huge right now. I want to get my unofficial mentor back, but I’m not sure how to do that. I know he’s very busy, but he’s been really helpful in the past. At this point, I’m really looking for an outside perspective on both my dissertation and on my next project I’m already thinking about (and working on a little bit). I feel really awkward just coming out and asking him to be my mentor, but I also feel awkward asking him to read my work. I seem to have lost all my confidence as a scholar. Where did it go? Did I ever even have it? I can’t have Impostor Syndrome this late in the game!

    1. You wouldn’t have gotten this far in the process if you weren’t a scholar. And (from my totally non-scientific knowledge) many of not most scholars struggle with writing at times. These are things I’ve had to convince myself of within the last year.

      It might work to ask maybe-mentor to read abstracts or summaries of your projects as a starter. If you really want responses to your ideas, those should be a good starting point. If you’re wanting responses to the execution of your ideas, small chunks might be best. The trick, I think, is to make something the least amount of work for him that will give you the information that you want.

      I too have struggled with the “what next?” question–adjuncting at this point gives you not only income, but recent teaching experience (the big huge hole in my application packet). Keep on keeping on!

  18. Last week’s goal: 2,000 words, and petting the file regularly. Accomplished: YES, but just barely, and only thanks to this group! I was up to about 1500 by Friday, and don’t usually write on weekends, but I put in some extra time last night just so I could check in and say I’d made it. (It was pretty crappy writing, but you know, crappy writing is better than no writing.)

    Next week’s goal: I also have a 20-hour round trip drive planned, and I’m on a search committee this semester, so I’m going to spend this week going over applications. My writing goal is therefore 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.

    Mentoring: I felt fortunate as a grad student because many of my classmates were in very difficult mentoring relationships, and I always got along well with my adviser. So I sort of mentally equated that with good mentoring, and it was, as far as grad school went. But now I’m becoming aware that I’ve spent the first several years of my academic career kind of floundering around, especially in regard to research and publications, without a very clear plan or strategy, and no real understanding of professional development. I’m not unhappy with any of the decisions I made, and overall things have turned out fairly well, but that’s largely by accident – I wish I’d had a little more guidance in my junior-faculty years.

    (My university established a bunch of junior faculty research funding and mentoring programs right about the time I got tenure, so although I am cranky and jealous, I’m glad that the newer folks are getting that benefit.)

    1. Are you me? I could have written this: “I felt fortunate as a grad student because many of my classmates were in very difficult mentoring relationships, and I always got along well with my adviser. So I sort of mentally equated that with good mentoring, and it was, as far as grad school went. But now I’m becoming aware that I’ve spent the first several years of my academic career kind of floundering around, especially in regard to research and publications, without a very clear plan or strategy, and no real understanding of professional development.”

      Only in my case it persisted for years after tenure, partly due to personal circumstances (development of chronic illness, family stuff), and I really resent all the time I wasted. I try not to think about that and just move forward now that I have figured out a few things, because otherwise I would just cry and cry for my lost potential. “Forward” is my battle cry.

      1. DEH, I’d be proud to be you. 🙂

        I think that having been successful in landing a tenure-track job, and having gotten tenure (though, like you, by the skin of my teeth) fooled me into thinking I knew what I was doing. Which I guess I did, well enough to have gotten that far, but ye gods, I wish I’d had more of a clue.

        So, as you say, Forward!! We still have our potential, and much of our careers ahead, and look out, world, we’re starting to get the hang of this business.

      2. “Only in my case it persisted for years after tenure, partly due to personal circumstances (development of chronic illness, family stuff), and I really resent all the time I wasted. I try not to think about that and just move forward now that I have figured out a few things, because otherwise I would just cry and cry for my lost potential. “Forward” is my battle cry.”

        I am copying that because I am trying to do the exact same.

  19. Last goal: 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.

    Accomplished: Over an hour on M, T, W, and today. My writing group discussed my (long) intro section on Monday, which was very helpful. Since then, I have taken a lot of notes in my research journal, read a handful of short essays by historians, and set up a table of Wrong Things Others Have Said and my responses to these errors. Apparently I need to be clearer about who I am setting straight and why, but my RL group thinks it is fantastic that I am clearing this up, which is extremely gratifying. Topic sentences and outlining still need work.

    Next goal: One hour Monday (writing date, yay); two hours each day for the rest of the week, probably early in the morning (because I CAN, no more trips to campus after Monday!) but it would be okay to use the afternoon slots I use when teaching if I want to.

    Commentary: I am finally, finally, on the mend from this virus (real goal for T’giving break is to go to bed at 9:00 every night and kick it for good), but I am terribly behind with grading because of having been sick for so long. I swore I would get everything back to my students tomorow, which I now regret, but I am going to have to get through the heaps somehow, and it will be marvelous to be caught up with undergrad grading for a whole week.

    Mentoring: Like P/H, I was happy just to get along with my advisor. I had no idea how to plan a scholarly career. I just wanted a done diss that I could mine for articles; I knew it would be “better” to have a bookable dissertation, but it just wasn’t going that way. In the last couple of years of grad school, I had one prof work very closely with me on revisions of my first article, and in hindsight, I wish I had paid much more conscious attention to the process, but at the time I was mainly annoyed that I kept having to revise more before I got to send it out, because this was separate from the dissertation, and I was also distracted by applying for jobs, so I just didn’t clue in to what the stages were. Once I was done, I felt like I got nothing from any of my professors, and nothing helpful about research from my new colleagues, except that I needed to do more of it. At a conference book display I happened to see a copy of Boice’s The New Faculty Member and bought it, and it saved my ass. Not that I didn’t like research, but some of Z’s observations about Ivy Leaguers were true in my case: going from doing research while teaching under 20 students per semester to trying to do research while teaching over 50 (and sometimes well over 50) was a very hard transition, particularly because it took awhile to dawn on me that responding to papers in the same way as I was taught in an idealistic writing program with small classes was no longer manageable with a different load!

    I was fine at managing my time when the tasks were what I was used to, but I really didn’t know how to handle the professorial load.

    Well, I learned. I read Boice. I started a writing group. I bought books about teaching. Eventually I discovered the Chronicle of Higher Education, Ms Mentor, and the fora, though I think by then I had got tenure (by the skin of my teeth) and promptly developed stress-related ailments of all kinds.

    I think now I’m pretty decent at the professor gig, all aspects of it, but more mentoring early on—for any aspect of it!—would have made a big difference to me. I am the sort of smart person who has trouble applying what I observe of other people to myself, and who needs very explicit teaching. Once I worked that out, I could address it, but I didn’t even know that for a long time.

    1. Mentoring. Important. Here is what I should blog about even more obviously. I wrote a half baked dissertation under the gun for time. I wanted to either publish as is, or mine for articles and revise very, very strongly. I wanted to write a different book for tenure, because that would be faster. I was right.

      No mentor I could find would support this. Everyone said I would never have time and had to turn the dissertation as a book. And then an editor from Minnesota captured it, basically, when I was trying to sell my other prospectus and said, we want it but you must redo it a la Gramsci, within 6 months.

      And I was afraid to say no, but knew I could not do that in 6 months (fall semester with 3 new courses, my God!), and also that was not the direction I wanted to take the mss. So I said yes in hope of changing. Next week I will change, next week I will believe in this, I am only having fear of success, I am only conspiring to procrastinate, who am I to know there is not time to do this, who am I to say Gramsci is not exactly what this project needs now.

      I did not lack confidence in my actual work or judgement but I was terrified to go against what I knew was standard advice. So I stayed frozen in fear and also horror for years — horror at my own immobility, which was so uncharacteristic — that I wasted a lot of life and time.

      This is of course what I rant and rave about on my blog and why I overreact to so many things in general. What is the topic here: internalization of standard mentoring, not having any mentors who would say anything else. (And of course, there was no Internet then to ask.)

      1. It is very, very hard to go against received advice. Some few people are so inner-directed that they can believe they are right against the world, but we are socialized to believe in the group wisdom. I know exactly what you mean about the dissertation-articles-book plan you wanted, but I also think that it should not be seen as failure if you are not among the tiny percentage of people who are capable of standing out for their own beliefs in the face of the whole world telling them they are wrong.

      2. Yes … I guess it burns me because I lost so very much from this, and also it burns me that I didn’t knock on more doors until I got some sane advice — I let the wind get knocked out of me really fast on this one.

  20. Last week’s goals: Get TS paper to co-author; start making edits on LM paper; catch-up

    Accomplished: TS paper is out to my co-author and pretty close to complete (I think!); P&P paper is also out to co-authors and even closer to being complete; I am as caught up as I was before I left for the conference

    Analysis: I couldn’t get to the LM paper because my co-author has not returned it yet but I was glad I forged ahead with the P&P paper. I am pushing to get these three papers out by the end of the year. I then have two papers (BE & a methods paper) to complete by the summer. I front-load my courses so my classes aren’t crazy right now. I think I have a chance

    Next week’s goals: Make edits on LM paper; finalize P&P or TS paper (depending on which comes back first)

    Mentoring: I received some excellent mentoring for a totally different type of position than the one I have now. I received mentoring on working in an R1 institution and having no teaching responsibilities. When I started interviewing for my current job, I read Boice and others to figure out what I would need to do. It helped immensely.

    I’ve received some great mentoring on writing over the years, both from professors, colleagues, and books. Because of this, I put a lot of effort into mentoring my students on writing. I try to mentor on the unspoken rules of academia whenever I can.

    1. So glad to hear your comment on mentoring on the unspoken rules.. some people pick up on those so easily, and some just don’t. There’s really no good reason that they should remain unspoken, and I suspect it’s a (mostly unintentional) way of preserving class-based privilege.

  21. Last week – missing. Goal: Get this 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!

    Achieved: Well, I just have to strengthen the conclusion, and figure out how to insert a note about how I’m using British and English without insulting my readers. (The ‘reader’ said I used “Britishness” and “Englishness” interchangeably – I have _never_ used “Britishness”, and the five times in my article where I use “British”, it’s either referring to British Library manuscript (x3), or is in direct contrast to “English” – how much more deliberate do I need to be?!?!?)

    I have not been pursuing my non-academic writing, owing to spending time trying to find jobs, so not being focused. This is not a good excuse – especially as my library privileges will be running out in ten days!

    Commentary: I’ve been all over the place, but all the exam marking and meetings are over. I don’t have any excuse not to write – I just need to work out how to make me do so. What may help with that is the signal that I’m still on the list to produce a paper for a conference in June, which is something I’d really like to work on. Can only be done once this blasted article is out of the way!

    Mentors – I have great academic ones, and nothing much for non-academia. A discussion with my (fantastic!) landlords has indicated some potential there, so I’ll be working on following that up…

    1. Readers are notorious for skimming and not getting stuff. Just shove in a note the first time you use either term, distinguishing between the area south of the Humber and east of the Severn, and the larger entity, say in your cover letter for the return submission that you addressed the reader’s concerns, and move on.

  22. Last week’s goal: 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).

    Accomplished: 1) Yes; 2) 2 out of 5 done; 3) Yes. We’ll gloss over the part where almost all of the 1 hour 24 minutes of work happened this morning.

    Next week’s goal: 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.

    Analysis: I’m shrinking my goals this week to maximize the chance I will meet them. I thought about increasing them, based on the expectation that I’ll have more time over the break, but decided not to put that pressure on myself right now because there is so much other stuff going on.

    Mentoring: To be very brief–I think that I have been able to take the best parts of the mentoring I got and use them when I mentor others. Except for one very important teacher, much of the best advice I’ve gotten has been informal, from people who I didn’t realize were mentoring me and who may not have realized it themselves.

  23. Last week’s goal: keep it up and also to push a couple of my sessions from 15 min to 30.

    Accomplished: One 30-min session.

    Analysis: Things went back to normal this week. A bazillion essays to grade (well, in truth, about 80) and more meetings. And then on Tuesday, I get 50 drafts of one research paper section. Why do I assign so much writing to my students? I’m not sure how I’m going to be able to get my own work done.

    Mentoring: I have had some good informal mentors over the years. I’m not sure they gave me a lot of career direction; rather, that were just amazing women that inspired me and, in some way or another, they encouraged me and championed me in my work. So maybe they weren’t mentors, exactly. I’m not sure. My PhD supervisors are wonderful women, and they have been very supportive, but I am very far away from them, so I’m not sure how much true mentoring they offer.

    These days, what I really need help with, I think, is understanding how to best plan and accomplish all of the reading I need to do for the dissertation. I really flounder in this area.

    Next week’s goal: Argh. So much grading, and my sister-in-law’s family is coming to stay. I will plan on 60 minutes of work–taking it where I can get it.

    1. I think the writing assignments don’t ever seem like they’ll add up to so much work when they’re assigned! And A essays are easy to grade; I always seemed to hope I’d get all A students.

      I hope the grading goes quickly!

      The reading is hard. I usually treat my reading in iterations–a lot really can be left out, and I have to figure out what’s necessary to read. So for instance, I might read some articles directly related to my stated topic, then draft. Then in revision, I’ll find three or four areas that need more support, or big footnotes, so I’ll have a reading chunk there. That reading will lead to some more substantial revision, and I’ll have another iteration of revise-read to fill in gaps-revise again. The first reading tends to be plodding, since I’m not sure how to prioritize the information or what will be relevant. As I get further on in the process, I’m reading just for the basic thesis of the article (for my lovely annotations) and anything that I might quote, paraphrase, summarize, or cite in my essay (and this gets quick because I can just put it straight into the draft). I do find the reading slow at the beginning, but once I have an argument and can go from there, the reading gets faster and more selective.

      You and I have always had very different approaches to research (yours is very thorough, mine is doing just enough not to get caught leaving something out), and I think there’s probably a balance in there somewhere for both of us. I have grown in my appreciation for understanding arguments thoroughly, and in my capacity to read more comprehensively on a given subject. But I still prefer catching just what I need from an essay and leaving the rest. 🙂

      I’m looking forward to Sunday!

      I’m looking forward to

  24. Goal: work on book 3 times–specifically making Tuesday, Thursday, part of those times. Continue reading book D. Record as needed.

    Accomplished: I read a few chapters.

    Analysis: A few things ate up more time than I expected and that took priority. I also needed to develop a website for someone and that needed to happen this week. I have no idea what will haen this coming week with the hoilday, and a few get-togethers planned, but I hope to get something more done.

    New goal: work on book 2 times Continue reading book D. Record as needed.

    Mentoring: At my last gig I was assigned a mentor. Her advice was always to keep quite–new people, and young people especially, know nothing and you can’t possibly know about things until you are tenured and have been there 7-10 more years. Meanwhile my boss was all “speak up more! and listen to your mentor!” without understanding my mentor wanted me to shut up. As a result, she wasn’t supportive of me when I needed it. I really needed research mentoring in grad school and didn’t get it–I didn’t understand the politics to know how to get it. I’m a little jaded at the idea of mentoring.

    1. I am against assigning people mentors. The mentors have to spout the official line or be irresponsible, and the mentee feels they have to obey them, and the format does set the mentor up to reject the mentee if they do not obey.

      I am for telling people how to find mentors. It seems people do not know. I have a recent IRL life example of this. I kind of know now and it is sort of like using the techniques my grandmother would use to find good practitioners of all sorts: ear to the ground and brazenly yet politely follow possible leads.

      The hints are, do not look for just one. Look for a variety of people with special knowledge and skills. Do not discount anyone but look, for example, at senior faculty who have achievements but are not part of the in crowd. People who have won and also lost battles. Find out who is an old feminist, who is in the AAUP, things like this to start. I will think about this more.

  25. Last week’s goal: 1 hour of writing on the conference paper each day, Tue thru Sat

    Accomplished: yes, by swapping Wednesday for Sunday, just now got my 1 hour in; I’m currently at 6,500 words, some of them copied and pasted from a diss chapter and reading notes

    Next week’s goal: time-wise: 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.

    Analysis: grading yielded a plagiarism case, which I’ll have to deal with this coming week, and I’m not looking forward to that. at all. For the rest, I still have grading, but no lectures this week, so there should be time to write. Plus, the pressure is on as I actually need to send the paper to the discussant pretty soon.

    Mentoring: I, too, equate(d) having a good relationship with my advisor with being well mentored. But now I am far away, and I realize that I still have a lot of questions that I never thought of asking her (and my relationship isn’t that good I feel I can still ask now, now that I’m no longer an official advisee). For example, I have very little sense of how to write an article, despite having written the diss and obviously haven *read* a ton of articles. (Belcher’s Write Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks is helping a lot (thanks to this group for the reference!) Even knowing what makes for a good conference paper is hard for me–I haven’t done that many, and it seems there’s a wide range of what would be acceptable. So I mostly feel I;m just muddling along, not sure what I *should* be doing. I’m mostly focused on teaching right now, and am getting help/pointers/mentoring from my new collaegues on that score. I’m thankful for that, and don;t think I can do much more research/article/conference wise than I’m doing right now, for lack of time, so maybe it doesn’t matter all that much that I don’t quite know what I’m doing on that score.

    1. It helps me a great deal to reverse-outline essays that I admire. Not just how the argument develops (that, too, of course) but also more abstractly, what piece goes where: introduction, theory, method, textual analysis, and so on.

  26. Last week’s goal: I didn’t check in, I’m so sorry. But my goal was to finish and send two grant/fellowship proposals, which I did, and to keep writing.

    Accomplished: I didn’t “keep writing” to the extent I’d hoped. Mostly notes, a few transcriptions.

    Next week’s goals: Sketch out/begin three more grant applications. Catch up on this wave of grading. Main goal: slot in four thirty-minute writing sessions.

    Mentoring: I’ve been thinking about this a lot because as a junior faculty member, I feel a bit at sea. I had good and supportive grad school mentors, and have some terrific senior colleagues, but not nearly as much institutional support or mentoring as I’d expected. But maybe that’s always the case…

  27. Mentoring:
    I think I had good mentors, though both my undergraduate thesis adviser and my Ph.D. adviser were intimidating as role models (handling teaching-research-administrative positions-children with aplomb).

    I do not feel I have done well as a mentor myself.

    Goal: Submit conference abstract by Wednesday.
    Accomplished: No
    Analysis: An epic bout of procrastination on Wednesday lasted all night. Apparently I did not really want to go to this conference.
    I was also worried about the Friday meeting I had to prepare for.

    Goal for next week: 30 minutes Monday. Steal some time on Wednesday and Friday.

    We’re planning to eat at a restaurant on Thanksgiving, so I don’t have meal preparation as an excuse, but the public schools are closed on Wednesday, so I will have an exited kid at home.

  28. Sorry for late check-in. All the windows of my apartment are being replaced THIS coming week instead of NEXT week as I’d originally been told. This involves packing, moving heavy boxes, etc., which my postsurgery body has been whimpering about today. It’s gotta get done though. And having new energy-efficient windows is going to be great.

    Goals: finished the book I’m arguing against. Have found a way to argue with it and draw on some good things about it rather than just ripping it to shreds (always a skill worth cultivating, I guess). As for actual article, 2 night shifts, an evening class, and dramatic overscheduling during the week made for a neglected, unpetted article. But getting in a bunch of reading felt good.

    Goals for next week: 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…)

    My family is too far away to travel to for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, so I will be at home for the four-day weekend, cooking, reading, and writing, which are the three most nurturing things I can do for myself. Oh, and I’m supposed to get together with a newly discovered colleague who, like me, is a poet going through a dry spell (we are wondering together what it is about library school that works against poetry writing…) and we hope to do a bit of poetry workshopping. I do best if I’m doing both poetry and history, so I’m looking forward to that.

    Mentoring: when I read that prompt I immediately imagined Me Now calling up Me in PhD School and saying “When was the last time you talked with your advisor? Call him NOW!” My dissertation director was a fabulous reader and very supportive, but also very very very very busy and he valued having students who weren’t super-needy. So, like a good little girl, I focused on showing him just how not-needy I was, which meant that a) I didn’t ask for help when I really, really could have used help or just some encouragement, since my topic was kind of controversial and didn’t get a lot of love from people in my cohort, and b) I didn’t let him get to know me very well, which over time has felt like a deeper loss.

    I’d say I had good mentoring as a doctoral student. I’ve had a harder time finding mentors in current field. I have been thinking that I need to seek out other librarians with PhDs for mentoring/networking opportunities, since I’ve found that librarians who’ve been through the PhD process better ‘get’ the specific kinds of questions/issues I have, coming from academia.

  29. OK folks, check it out, I have started up again already, the writing group has worked, doing research daily has become the habit I had lost!

      1. Next goal: have it not just be a weekend/evening thing. Ultimately the group is supposed to have us not only keep up the research thread, but put it as part of the work day.

  30. Could I still check-in?

    Last week’s goals: making a revision plan of my presentation / writing 15 minutes a day

    Accomplished: a rough revision plan with Belcher’s book/ 3 days of writing, half an hour each

    Analysis: first half of the week went rather well. I worked hard both teaching and writing, re-reading my paper and making a revision list according to Belcher’s book. The last half of the week was just busy with administrative work, which I expected less difficult. I spent all weekend for it and still I am working on it. I hope it will succeed, considering the amount of energy I spent for the project.

    Next goal: re-revise my presentation to make it into a publishable paper/ write 15 minutes a day

    Enjoy writing, everyone!

  31. Late because I got THE cold, and my brain is mush. It’s been this way for four days. Which means I’ve missed grading papers and reading. But I had a conversation the other day which I think helped my thinking.

    (It’s the time of the semester when I grasp at straws).

    Goal for next week: get back to reading for the project.

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