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.

97 thoughts on “Sept-Dec 2012 Writing Group, week 14 check-in

  1. Last week’s goal: (a) index 15 pages; (b) proof-read two chapters of my book.

    Accomplished: (a) indexed 15 pages; (b) proof-read 1 chapter.

    Next week’s goal: (a) indexing: put page numbers against 20 pages of entries; (b) proof-read two chapters of my book.

    Commentary: I’m feeling positive about what I achieved this week – but I’m not yet making enough progress to meet my external deadline for mid-December! Next week’s goal is set with this in mind.

    My writing is my ally! I’m in a position where it’s not part of my job, so I wouldn’t write if I didn’t enjoy it. It’s not always easy, but it is important to me.

    My paid work is also my ally but it is a different situation, and I can understand that for some, if writing up research is part of the job, it may introduce more tension.

  2. Last week’s goal: 2,000 words. Accomplished: 2,244. I felt like crap on Wednesday, which is usually one of my best writing mornings, so I rearranged things to be able to write more on Thursday and Friday, which I don’t think I would have done without this group, because I really wanted to check in having made the goal.

    Ally or enemy – that is a GREAT question. I’ve been doing a lot of unconsciously negative self-talk about research, thinking of it not exactly as an enemy, but certainly as a challenge or an obstacle or something that had to be wrestled with constantly. One of the many great things I have learned here is to be more attentive to that internal narrative, and to turn it around to be more positive. (Petting! Cherishing! Forehead glow!)

    I also had a deeply satisfying meeting with a very bright undergrad today, who has spent a lot of time framing and researching a great project, but he hasn’t written any actual words down yet, for a whole variety of fear-based reasons. So I told him, hey! Show up here, this time next week, with 2,000 words. They can be messy words, or words from any part of the project, just dive into the middle of it somewhere and start writing. He looked like I’d freed him from some sort of cage, and ran off with a big grin on his face to start writing.

    Took me twenty years to figure some of this stuff out, but at least I can give him more of a head start. 🙂

    1. Congrats on exceeding your goal! Woohoo!

      That student will thank you for years to come. I remember the first time a prof asked for three pages of a draft before I’d finished researching. I was horrified! I titled it “3 Pages of Crap,” and it surely was that. I liked to write a start-to-finish final draft, which I could manage for 10-25 pages papers. It took until the dissertation for me to get over myself and free myself up to write the bad stuff first and work out my arguments as I go.

      1. YES – that’s exactly it, he’s good at writing start-to-finish beautiful papers, but this is just too big for that, and he didn’t know how to start. (Which is pretty much the same thing that kept me futzing around rearranging my notes all spring instead of writing on this project.) Students hardly ever get to see the shitty-first-draft sort of process, but it’s important for them (and, God knows, us) to know it’s acceptable and important.

    2. That is a wonderful challenge. I have a dear student who should have defended her thesis proposal this week, and I have not seen a single word from her in writing yet. maybe there will be some winter break writing challenges for her. Loving dispatched, of course.

    3. Great response to your student!! One of my grad students worried that her writing process was all wrong. Some of her classmates had told her that she should write and edit simultaneously rather than treat the two as distinct steps in writing her thesis. She looked so relieved when I told her to just WRITE. BTW – she’s drafted four chapters this semester. Yes, they need work but that’s what revision is all about.

      1. I finally learned after some years of teaching writing to talk about writing class as a place to explore and try new things in your writing process, not throw out what’s been working for you. If it ain’t broke . . .

  3. Last week’s goal? 500 words

    Actually achieved? Just about that. (I think I’m within 12-20 words on the count though I didn’t make a precise mark last week so, hrm, we’ll guesstimate this time and call it good enough!)

    Next week’s goal? Another 500 words

    Ally or enemy? That’s an interesting thought. I used to think of research and writing as the enemy but I’m more proud and supportive of it these days. I only worry that it’s the red-haired stepchild of my term life – why am I not making room for it and nurturing it properly? Why is taking care of this research and writing so hard to manage? I know why; there’s so much teaching work and duties arising out off my other duties that this gets pushed back again and again.

  4. Duly touched, but not more.

    However: had summit meeting with department chair to rearrange teaching and service in favor of research. Spectacular success here. Paradigm shift and it is the writing group that caused it!


      1. Thank you! I can hardly believe it.

        So, writing is my ally, always was, too, but it was captured by the enemy and remained a prisoner of war for some time. It was given a sleeping potion and put into a glass case, or put into a hood in a torture cell in one of those black sites the CIA has in eastern Europe, I don’t know.

        Goal next week: do finals and touch work every day.

    1. Wonderful to see writing liberated from imprisonment! I am so struck by your descriptions of writing as a prisoner of war. That resonates with me deeply.

    2. That’s an incredible image. Now I want a Tshirt: a sketch of a book in chains, under a single dangling lightbulb, wearing a hood, that says underneath FREE THE WRITING!

  5. OK, so I completely missed last week. My cold ended up being the vile evil two week version, so I staggered through Thanksgiving, and then had to catch up on the paper grading I had meant to do the previous week. This week has been crazy (including 3 job candidates), so I did no more than order a few books on ILL. Last Sunday as an act of protest against grading, I wrote the first paragraph of the paper that I need to write by the time of a big conference in March, so I wrote a little, but it just gets me started and gives me a framework.

    Diagnosis: I noted at the beginning of the semester that I had an insane level of service. In the past few weeks it has really come to roost, and people who should be supporting me in my work are being actively hostile. So in addition to the actual work, there is the emotional fallout of being attacked, often for things I’m not responsible for. I don’t manage that well.

    While the coming week is still nuts (our unit, of which I am chair, has 4 job candidates this week) I should be able to read one book. I will call that a success.

    Ally or enemy: not sure that language works for me. What I realized this week is that I can’t do administrative work that is not properly supported or compensated any more. Whether that means I resign my position as chair at the end of this semester or the end of this year, I’m not sure. But it means that is coming.

    1. I think I had that cold. It’s a gnarly one. And agree on the administrative work. We keep getting more and more requirements imposed from outside, and it takes up more time, and thus the administrators also need more time to deal with that crap as well as the usual crap, and it’s all rather depressing. I hope you can get free soon.

      1. I’m experiencing the emotional fallout of service work for the first time, sitting on a committee where people are ugly and secretive and vindictive toward one another. Having trouble shaking off the residual yucky of that today.

    2. I can relate to the craziness of being chair. I think most administrative stipends are so small as to be offensive, and often not worth the headaches. I am lucky that I am compensated for being chair; the flip side is that I am permanently chair (until I am denied tenure, retire, or die).

  6. Last week’s goal: Pull together a complete draft of the chapter.

    Accomplished: Done! As predicted, it’s ugly and has a lot of holes, but now I have it all in one place and can see those holes much more clearly (including one major topic that I hadn’t even realized until now that I had neglected to talk about altogether).

    Next week’s goal: Fill in three specific major holes in the draft.

    Commentary: This has been the first week of our new trimester, and I’ve been amazed at how much more mental energy I have for this chapter since I have no grading. If only there were a way to live like this most of the time! But, as a HS English teacher, grading is pretty much a constant in my life; many of them are small assignments, so any one is not a big deal, but collectively they become the death of a thousand papercuts. And unfortunately I just don’t see any way around it, not if I’m doing my job well. I think the best I can do is to prioritize my grading more actively, to work on commenting on student papers when I am feeling mentally sharp but to leave silly little things like vocabulary quizzes for when I have no brain power left. Fortunately, on our trimester system, December is a month with light grading, so I should be able to devote plenty of time and energy to finishing this chapter in the next two weeks.

    1. So glad you are in a lighter period and can turn more of your attention back to your writing. I think this writers’ group has helped me become more aware of squeezing more writing into light weeks and admitting that much less will get done during heavy ones.

    2. Hurrah, indeed, for progress. Even a holey, ugly full draft is a full draft. I hear you on the “death by a thousand papercuts” thing. While I really, really do believe in the value of all the scaffolding we do for college composition classes these days, the amount of small tasks it generates can become just overwhelming (and I realize it’s nowhere near as bad as your load, if only because I have less in-class time). I, too, need to figure out how to prioritize better (and to keep up, so this time of year doesn’t become a trainwreck).

  7. last goal: Tiny goals of 30 minutes a day with manuscript project.

    accomplished: What project? Otherwise, submitted final revision to journal article. And glad to get that done.

    next goal: Reward myself with daily time with the manuscript.

    commentary: Great question. The project is definitely my ally. If it feels like an enemy, it’s only because I have neglected it, as I might feel guilty for not spending time with a friend I’ve lost touch with. But in a goofy way, I do feel a relationship with most research projects. They take on shape, form, boundaries, and personalities. Sometimes they are unkind, but that is again a result of being a thing that wants more of my time, energy, and care than I have given.

  8. Last goal: Finish marking and go through 3 ILL books

    Accomplished: Well, sort of…the marking would be done if not for all the late assignments that I just received yesterday and today. ILL books are done, though, so that makes me happy. I also managed to write 500 words, bringing me very close to finishing one of the chapters that was my overall goal for this group.

    Next goal: Mark 100 finals, turn in final grades, and survive somehow.

    Ally or enemy??? Great question! For well over a year now, I’ve looked at my dissertation as my enemy, partly because I’m tired of it and just want to be done, but also partly because I was crippled by writers’ block. With two conferences in October and November, I’ve found myself rejuvenated. I like my topic again, partly because of the extremely positive feedback and interest I received from the big conference in November. I like where I’m trying to go with it. I like the additional projects coming out of it that I want to turn to when I’m done. I haven’t been able to organize myself enough to really establish effective writing habits this semester, but I’m much more motivated, particularly with a job offer being held over my head as a carrot/incentive to finish (which, by the way, I’m not necessarily buying into, but am still a little hopeful that they will follow through). I guess this means I’m back to my research as an ally for the first time in a really long time and that feels great!

    Also, Jane B, we need to chat about how to manage the next writing group, if you’re still interested.

    1. Congrats on exceeding your goal! And I’m glad the diss. is feeling more friendly again.

  9. Last week’s goal: 1000 words. Made it!
    This week’s goal: 1000 words. It should be that much a day, but baby steps are good, too.
    Ally or enemy–hmmm. I really like wrestling with it, but it’s definitely wrestling and not simply smooth sailing. How’s that for a mixed metaphor?

    1. I was thinking of a wrestling or sparring metaphor too. Writing sometimes feels like being in a boxing ring with an unknown partner, someone you might end up friends with if you can grow to respect each other.

  10. Sorry for my unexcused absence. I went to my big disciplinary conference (I had a wonderful time, thanks for asking) and then went home for Thanksgiving (also wonderful). During this time I didn’t think too much about writing or do too much of it.

    This week’s goal: read book for book review and take notes; make revisions to online article; begin edited volume chapter

    Is my writing my friend or my enemy? I think for a long time I was my worst enemy. Like Trapped in Canadia I had horrible writers block when I was supposed to be writing my dissertation. I did not write for a full year because of fear and feelings of inadequacy. My adviser did not help because any time I gave her anything to read she would tell me that my writing had to improve with no indication of what the specific problems were. Then I just started to write (500 words a day) and I became more confident. I used to constantly say that I hated writing, but now I try to cultivate a love for writing. Basically, I am trying to revise my relationship with writing by making it my friend. It’s been a long journey but I’ve learned a lot from the ride.

  11. Last week’s goal: 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.

    Accomplished: Got up early Tuesday and Thursday to work for an hour each day and ALSO then spent time a couple of different evenings writing up annotations for the two articles I read. And THEN I searched databases for some additional articles.

    This getting-up-early strategy was very effective. I had to rise at 6:00, in the dark, and that was difficult for me. I’ve never been a morning person. Getting up that early reminded me of when I have to get up early for a plane or a train. Nevertheless, each morning I made it through an article, which felt great. I keep asking myself, “How will I get all of the reading done?” And I might have might answer. But I have been sleepier as a result (since I still went to bed late). But I will try to sustain it. I also still did my short run afterwards. Starting the day that way made me feel virtuous in a Ben Franklin sort of way.

    Ally or enemy? Well, I’m not sure these terms totally frame the relationship for me, but between the two, I would say “ally.” I enjoy my dissertation topic. I feel great when I get to spend time with the project. But, as in alliances, I suppose, we don’t always see eye-to-eye, and those moments can be challenging. Those are usually the moments when I’m trying to wrangle my ally into submission.

    Goals for next week: Work 6-7 a.m., Tuesday and Thursday. It’s a heavy grading week, but I’m hoping I won’t have to stay up so late grading that I can’t get up early to read/write.

    It’s also time to do the Christmas shopping and shipping, and that whole process always takes up WAY more time than I want it to.

      1. The only problem is that Hubby is still sleeping then. It seems the light might wake him. I’ve been using my vibrating cell phone on the night stand. He mostly sleep through that.

  12. Definitely ally at this point (though I’ve gone through the enemy phase, like many others, while writing the diss., and I was pretty skittish around the whole process for a while after that). The writing projects represent parts of myself that I really want to hold onto, and develop. And I see plenty of ways that they could contribute to current scholarly, and even popular, conversations. The frustrating part is that, right now, I’m having trouble making not only enough time, but enough mental space, to make even slow, slight progress. I’m a pretty good tortoise, and reasonably happy as a tortoise, but tortoise-progress requires a somewhat lower level of overwhelmedness than I’ve got right now.

    Last week’s goal: 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.

    Accomplished: Didn’t touch base at all. Learned that the deadline for the internal funding is later than I thought (after Christmas break), so didn’t do anything on that, either. Did download my first peer-reviewed article in years off a database today (haven’t seen the print copy yet), so that should be

    Analysis: Some of the same things that have interfered with research writing this semester have also interfered with keeping up with grading, and that has now reached the got-to-do-it point. So that’s what I’ve been doing. There has probably been some time to when I could have written, but I can’t concentrate on it when I’m this worried about getting the grading done, and ping-ponging back and forth between whatever seems most urgent at the moment. I took on a new course this semester, and this always seems to happen when I do that; the only way I seem to be able to handle my load is not to do too much that’s new, or at least not too often. Maybe I’ll be feeling less discouraged and/or cautious when the semester is, at last, over, but my instinct is that, if I’m going to get much writing done, one thing I need to do is control as much as possible the number of new preps and projects I accept and/or seek out, even though that’s part of what keeps an otherwise pretty repetitive job somewhat interesting. There’s a catch-22 here, or at least a conflict between what makes the current job work, and what might get me out of it, with the “might” being a major part of the problem; it’s hard to know what to prioritize.

    Goal for next week (finishing with a whimper, not a bang, I’m afraid): reconnect a bit with the P project, since I’m headed to a DH workshop related to it in about a week, and need to have some materials ready to experiment with (and haven’t even peeked at the materials from a class on which this workshop will build in, oh, over a year). Get as much grading done as possible before students do evals this week (and before I take off on this expedition, which will be a nice break if I can travel with just final grading — i.e. grading only, no need for comments).

    Though I’ll be traveling, I should be able to check in next week.

    1. It sounds like the traveling could be a good break for you to assess priorities. It sounds really hard to prioritize all the things you have going on. It seems as if academic writing is what you choose, it might be wise (as you’ve at least hinted) to figure out how to minimize your responsibilities elsewhere and try to skate through teaching as much as possible. Let the writing be the fulfilling area for a while, while other things go dormant or on autopilot. It might also be helpful to think of it in terms of seasons–perhaps next semester could be a season of writing, the summer a season of cranking out as much writing-for-pay as you can, etc. I too find jumping back and forth between urgent things to be unsatisfying and at times debilitating. I also sympathize with not wanting to give things up. This month is one where I have to drop as many things as possible (hard to do in December with church Christmas pageantry, kids’ performances, family obligations, etc.). It’s been hard to figure out how much I can let go and still have sanity.

      I hope the grading goes quickly, and the evals are pleasant!

  13. Last goals: write the introductory part of the paper/write 15 minutes a day

    Achieved: introductory part is still under construction, but some other parts- a small bits here and there- have been improved. Also I wrote on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.

    Analysis: first I had tried to write introductory part of the paper, because I thought that part would be the easiest. But when I realised `do what I can do now` is the better way, I turned to other parts, revised here and there, thinking the whole argument. It worked rather well this time.

    Next goals: write the main part and finish the introductory part / write 15 minutes a day

    The problem is, my 5 year old daughter picked up ‘hemolytic streptococcus’, diagnosed so on Saturday, and she and my son, who might have been infected as well, both need to stay home for 5 days. My parents will see them while I am at work, but I must come back home very early every day next week, though I have piled papers to grade.

    Take care, everyone!

  14. Last week’s goal: research + 1000 words on Ch. 4; send Ch. 3 to 2nd advisor; send Ch. 2 to primary advisor.

    Accomplished: Ch. 4, check! Ch. 3, check! Ch. 2, tomorrow.

    Next week’s goal: Ch. 2 to primary advisor; research + 5000 words on Ch. 4, send to writing partner.

    Analysis: On Tuesday, I finally got into Chapter 4. I started reading a book I’d been avoiding, and managed half of it in a couple hours. It was better and more relevant than I thought. It’s a very recent book directly related to my topic, so I was able to cull some references from the footnotes and move toward more research. I’m in the groove of it now, and I’m planning to keep going with train-of-thought writing rather than attempting to stick to an argument outline. I think I need to see what I think on paper before I dive into refining the argument.

    I also finally realized this week that I need to work toward complete content rather than academic precision for the time being. Having complete footnotes is great, but I need to get my basic argument and main evidence approved so I can schedule my defense for Feb. Checking every citation format can wait.

    And a shout out to GEW–she was able to get move moving in the direction of Ch. 4 by asking some great questions. It got me in the question-asking mood, and I spent half an hour writing down what questions I need to answer in the chapter. I rarely frame my research in question form, but it’s always helpful (dare I say essential?) when I do.

    Ally or enemy? I have a hard time personifying my writing, I guess. I’ve been thinking of it these days as something I enjoy, something I puzzle over, something I want to practice and master. But like playing an instrument, there’s always something more to learn. Btw–has anyone read “The Inner Game of Tennis”? A violin teacher I interviewed today mentioned it, and it sounded very familiar (how to best manage the creative self and the critic self).

    1. Thinking about content over precision is what’s gotten me going the most this semester, too. That really has to happen first.

      Yay for chapters and good questions and progress!

    2. Congrats on the forward motion, and I’m my curiosity about your project was useful! It’s small payment for all of the help you’ve given me. Next time we meet, I’ll talk to you about my chapters and you can tell me what my main arguments are for each. Somehow, you’re always able to do that even when you haven’t read any of my texts!

      Go you!

  15. Goals: well, the paper got printed out.

    Goal for next week: setting a very low bar: just read the article, see how it sounds, take notes on those two last items.

    Thanks to all who offered suggestions on getting through the article frustration!

    This week was OBE on some other fronts; the family holiday dysfunction got started early this year (harrumph) and I just got flamed in what’s been an otherwise supportive environment, at a time when I’m already feeling pretty thin-skinned. I did get a bunch of work done for the dh collaborative project I’m working on, which is tangentially related to this project, but relates more to the NEXT article I want to write.

    Current article is a friend I don’t see very often and who I feel guilty about because I’m so bad about returning its emails/phone calls. And I hope it knows I miss it and still want to be friends with it, I just get overwhelmed by other stuff. With the holidays coming, I’m hoping we’ll get to hang out over the long break. And it’ll be good company if the family stuff gets to be too much. (I have NO trouble personifying my research… I even refer to this article by the name of the protagonist of the novels it’s about).

    1. I’m so glad to see someone else who personifies one’s writing. I call the article by the name of the fictional author of the epistolary work. My husband teases me about my love interest. 🙂

      1. Ha! My heroine’s name is Dinny and I’ve been known to say, “Dinny has gone out to XYZ journal…” making me picture this 1950s teenage girl (which is what she is) sitting outside the offices of XYZ journal. She’s probably wearing a 50s-girl hat and gloves too.

        I think my willingness to personify comes from the research seminar I took with my diss director, who suggested that we think of our research paper as a long-distance relationship — something we really yearned to spend time with…

      2. I did have a friend who called his dissertation “dissy,” but it seemed like more of a name to domesticate a leviathan.

      3. I get quite chummy with my authors. I love the image of Dinny in hat and gloves sitting outside the journal office. The epistolary work was “written” by the goddess Othea, and truly written by Christine de Pizan, but I always talk about Othea, not Christine–I hope she forgives me. 🙂

        “Dissy” does sound like an animal name, really!

      4. Way outside of my area, but I would imagine that Christine probably completely understands another author making aconnection to Othea!

  16. Accomplished: Did my three talks, all were warmly received which was lovely as I hadn’t been to any conferences for a long time. . . and I was mostly interactive and nice I think. I feel really tired though!

    Next goal: to analyse half the data for my second paper Paper Y, and submit another peripheral paper.

    Commentary: The challenge for this next week is to push my papers through to the bitter end (especially Paper X), and I am having problems with overcommitted collaborators; I am not sure what to do about that. How do you get collaborators to prioritise your project, rather than other stuff? Any hints most welcome.

  17. Last week’s goal: Cut some more! (Of my 2500 word article, that is, which was at about 2800 words last week.)

    Accomplished: Edited my article down to 2620 words, at which point the editors said that would do nicely. Hooray! No more words to cut! Now I just need to clean up the endnotes (which don’t count in the word count! hooray!), which is full of “FILL IN CITATION” notes to myself, and then I’ll be done! Yipee! And not a moment too soon, because it’s due Wednesday.

    Next goal: after cleaning up the 2500 word article, get back to revising that double review into a review essay.

    Commentary: OK, I still think that short article is kind of stupid. It’s supposed to be a short “position paper” and the position I took was, “We need more of this thing we’re already doing! Because there’s not enough of it! Even though some of you might think there’s lots of it!” And then I added, “because of this trendy new way of thinking about these things!” Yeah, dumb. Sigh. So, I definitely think this current bit of work is my enemy. So is the review article. I’ll be glad when I get them both out of the way and get back to my original research. And yet…in the car the other day, I kept thinking, “You know, my subfield really needs an updated version of the MLA _Approaches to Teaching_ volume for it. Maybe I should propose editing a second edition?” Someone please stop me now!

    1. I just read your blog post about this “dumb” position paper you wrote and this resonates so strongly with me right now. I really want to thank you for writing this. I just wrote a short article (1200 words) for an online journal in a field that is not my discipline, but that my research can speak to. I sent the piece to two friends to read and I have been talking about this piece non-stop to my partner. The primary content of my discussions: is this article stupid. I am afraid of looking stupid. I think everyone who reads this will think I am idiot. I had to write it in more of a journalistic tone and was told not to cite too much. So I am presenting my argument without the usual arsenal of citations and scholarship that I would use to buttress my claims. Anyway, to make the already long story short. I am glad that I am not alone and I needed to read this post and your blog post. Thank you…I feel better:)

      1. Various people over the years have told me (a lot) that what’s obvious to me isn’t always obvious to every one else. Especially when we’re deep in the writing, it often feels super obvious. I haven’t read your piece, of course, but I vote “not stupid.”

  18. Last goal: Cultivate discipline.

    Accomplished: Abject failure.

    Next week’s goal: Really, really try to work flexibly and in those 15 minutes, eat-a-snack breaks from baby-caring.

    Commentary: This baby thing is frustrating. So many contradictory feelings. I’m officially on maternity leave– but I must work. (my grant does not get a maternity leave deadline extension, among other things.) I want my husband to help more– but he has no maternity leave. I want to be with the baby– but I am also tired of trying for hours to get her to sleep. I want to work– but most days I don’t even turn on my computer. I want to work– but I also want to sleep. How do other mothers do it???? Why can’t I????

    Must attend baby, but I hope to be more cheerful next week!

    1. You’re doing a great job. This is probably obvious, but do you have someone — friend or family — who could help lighten the load, to watch baby while you work or catch a nap? Or someone to just do the dishes or the laundry? My daughter had similar struggles. She was able to trade breaks with a friend who had had a baby around the same time. They swapped child care responsibilities periodically so the other could get a break, even a short one, without paying for childcare.

      Hang in there. It is frustrating and its difficult to figure out the baby thing especially when there are so many other things demanding attention, too.

    2. When you ask how do other mothers do it, I can assure you that I, and many others, did not. I was exhausted when my children were young babies, and it took me a long time to get sorted with working part of the day as well. My advice is, don’t compare yourself to others, just do what you can do and be okay with it.

    3. I was lucky enough to be bale to take breaks from dissertation work when I had my two kids. With the second, it took about six weeks of really being off to feel I had figured out the baby thing again (and the sleeping part is never easy). I did a lot of sling carrying to let her sleep while I worked. Looking back, it all seemed to go pretty smoothly–I did my exams when she was six months old–but in the moment, I felt like I was neglecting her a lot and never sleeping. And I’m pretty sure my exam essays were actually terrible and my committee had a lot of sympathy for me.

      After my first, our hospital actually supplied a post-partum doula to do light housework and hold the baby. And then after the second, we had a college student come in and take care of the two year old. When he was napping, she was my baby soother, so I could work. I also co-slept, which for me meant my nighttime sleep was much less interrupted than it would have been if I’d had to get out of bed.

      To echo what others have said, we all muddle through. And it’s rarely easy. And even if it were, post-partum hormones tend to mess everything up anyway.

      Wishing you a little nap and a little work here and there!

    4. With my first child, I found the first 12 weeks very difficult. I barely showered and I had a hard time even making a sandwich. When he was about 3.5 months, we worked on the sleep thing because I was going CRAZY (we used Weissbluth’s book), and then things were better. But my maternity leave time was really the hardest because my husband was working a lot and I just didn’t have much help. When I went back to work, things were actually easier b/c someone else took care of the baby sometimes.

      If you are on baby duty full-time, then it’s no wonder you’re having trouble getting any work done. A mother’s helper (and I don’t mean Valium) might do wonders for you.

      Either way, hang in there, and be sure to drink enough water and eat some nutritious food. (That might sound stupid, but those are both things I failed to do, and I think my brain was more addled because of it.)

    5. Thanks so much for listening & the sympathy. it’s really helpful to feel that maybe I’m not abnormally overwhelmed. You’ve also gotten me thinking in practical terms of getting some baby-holding help. Something about the unpredictable time (I think amstr said something earlier about “listening for the alarm going off”) makes it so tough to work in a competent way– I start something, then I need to feed baby and that something required two hands so I start something else that only requires one hand, etc etc and in the end I finish nothing and forget half of what I was working on in the first place– and if I just KNEW I would have an hour with no interruptions, I think it would make such a difference. I’ll find a way!

  19. Last week’s goal: 1 hour per day (total of 6 hours)

    Accomplished: < 2 hours. I did manage to finish the revisions on an article that I've been working on since summer. I submitted that this week. But I did not even touch the book project.

    Next week's goal: 1 hour per day (total of 6 hours)

    Last week was ugly. Just ugly. A weeping student, another student in crisis, a rough thesis defense for another student, and a student who disappeared has now reappeared and expects miracles. By Friday, I found myself questioning why I chose this particular vocation. The thesis defense also triggered a serious case of imposter syndrome for me — who am I to think I can do this?

    So this week is all about picking myself up and starting over again. For all its ugliness, good came from the week. Professional intervention for the student in crisis. A passable (though not stellar) thesis defense.

    Writing is definitely an ally. When I'm unable to spend as much time as I would like, I really miss it. I'm looking forward to having some time to focus on my writing (rather than teaching or service) over the next few weeks.

  20. Last week’s goal: 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).

    Accomplished: Yes, and more. I’ve put in at least 15 hours this week. Mostly this has been “raw” research; it has spawned about 18 pages of notes but a lot of that is simply copied or even copy-pasted.

    Next goal: 2 hours a day, plus some product goals: a map, a family tree, a timeline, and at least two topic sentences + paragraphs written in the article, or else at least six topic sentences without paragraphs.

    Commentary: I am down the rabbit hole of obsession over my manuscript owner and his family and friends, and their lands and politics and so on. I am fascinated and I love this work, but I do need to back off a bit and think about what I really need to know for the article and what the point of diminishing returns is on all this. One of the reasons I am so engrossed is that there are hints of a connection to another manuscript and another set of owners that I have already done some work on, but not yet published. I’m not there yet, but if I could make the pieces match up, that would be a fabulous discovery. Even without that, just getting more familiar and comfortable with the primary sources is very useful. One of my friends suggested a possible spin-off article that would help with keeping the MMP from getting too unwieldy and would salve my regret at not being able to fit certain elements into this present work. The Octopus Touch strikes again!

    1. I’m completely fascinated by this possible set of connections! But — as you obviously know — it’s really important to decide “what do I need to do NOW”?

  21. Last week’s goals: Send LM paper out??? Rework TS intro.

    Accomplished: I have not sent out the LM paper nor have I reworked the TS intro. However I did get the P&P paper back from co-authors and have completed what I hope is the penultimate draft (including fixing all citations). I sent it back out to co-authors and to a colleague for a friendly peer review.

    Analysis: I’m not really sure what happened this week, but grading, starting a new study, and having a migraine might have had something to do with the lack of writing time. End of semester grading is going to eat up next weekend, so I’m hoping I can get a little writing time in during the week.

    Next week’s goals: Submit P&P paper? Rework TS intro.

    My research is definitely an ally. It is what keeps me sane when academic politics makes me want to run screaming to the hills.

  22. 1. Last week’s goal: Touch article O five out of seven days for half and hour each time.

    2. Accomplished: Only about half successful–three out of seven.

    3. Analysis: Somewhat OBE. My brother ended up in the emergency room on Monday with pneumonia, and the oncologist thought they’d have to operate to ease his breathing, but by the end of the week, he was breathing better, pulled off the “nuclear war” antibiotics, as he put it, and the surgery has been slightly postponed.

    Also, just not feeling like much of anything this week. I’ve been doing a lot of housekeeping of electronic files, paring back an overgrown inbox, and planning for the arrival of my new boss in January, who will want to know what I’ve been doing with myself these last eight months. I have entered the full marathon of new committees and supervisory assignments as well. One task force meeting was two hours away, and lasted from 10:00 to 3:00, effectively torpedoing one work day.

    4. Next week’s goal. Refine the outline; highlight the missing pieces; plan how to address finishing the article in the following two weeks.

    Like many of you, I am very taken with Z’s image of writing as POW. I have often thought of my writing as Cinderella, something that is largely ignored, forgotten, sitting in the ashes of the fireplace, but hard-working and able to shine if given a bath and some attention.

    Writing has always been my ally, my confidante, my friend, something that understood me when my colleagues did not. Perhaps because I have worked in many non-tenure-accruing environments, I have always been a bit odd in enjoying writing, since many of my colleagues chose such positions in order to avoid writing. Even in my current R1, I have quickly become known as a “great editor,” when I am really just a bit more practiced and efficient in my writing, and abhor institutional doublespeak.

    However, I am guilty of pushing my writing back into the fireplace as often as not, complicit in keeping it ignored and dull. I fall far too easily into the “It’s urgent, it must be important,” trap, as well as cancelling appointments with myself because others are always more important than I am. I should not be surprised that CInderella sometimes refuses to work with me, sulking in the corner, or worse, picks up the poker and cuffs me upside the head with it.

  23. Last week’s goal: 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.

    Accomplished: 1) 2 sessions; 2) no; 3) no; 4) yes.

    Next week’s goal: 1) 20 minutes on the residency app.; 2) start assembling a complete draft of the poem sequence: print drafts, read, mark up, etc.

    Analysis: A mixed week. A lot of energy had to go, unexpectedly, into negotiations about my job–all quite positive, really, but it did eat up a lot of time this week. Still, forward progress. I think I’m ready to start looking at the sequence as a whole, hence the altered goal for next week. The residency app is due in a few weeks, so I’ve got to get a little more serious about that, too. A difficulty is that I have four work days this week and then three (enjoyable) days of travel, so I must be efficient this week in order to get ready to go, to hold down the usual responsibilities, and to also put time into these projects. Just keep moving forward.

    1. P.S. Definitely my ally. It’s the friend I keep forgetting to ask for help. Because the fact is that I do almost everything else better and happier when I am giving attention to my work.

  24. ARGH sorry I’m late. I’ve been hashing over a potential “job” with my husband for the last several hours and just realized “It’s Sunday!! I need to check in!”

    Goal: Work on book 3 times. Read.
    Accomplished: Zero Reading. Wrote 4 times.
    Analysis: Very sick this week and couldn’t read because couldn’t stay awake. I did write 4 times, though one day was juts over 200 words and that was it. I did grade 20 papers too.
    New goal: Keep up on grading, Write 2500 words, read.

    Question: I need a new computer, I prefer a laptop and I can’t afford Apple. Anyone have something they love?

    1. Writing fiction lets me cope with life. I can’t turn the stories and thoughts in my head off and writing lets me decompress and then come back to the real world a little more sanely. Very much an ally.

  25. I want the work to be my friend, but it feels like my enemy

    On Fri found this fun typo at beginning of my draft:
    ” [need intro!] [wail till done]”

    Wail, indeed.

    1 survive it 2. 30 mins MWF

    Survival: yes.MW:nada
    Fri: 75 mins revising.

    Monday was my first (half) day on my own in a week. Apparently, I needed a much stronger get-going routine than what worked in the past.

    Fri was relatively (can’t keep the modifier out) productive overall-I graded papers while my oil was being changed, caught up on over emails for my service job, and revised paper in afternoon.

    It’s amazing how much easier it is to access motivation and work ethic when the fog of illness is gone.

    Next Goal:
    Next week is last week of classes. Lots of grading. To be realistic, my goal is 30 minutes on Friday.

  26. Late check in again. I can empathise with professorsusan and DEH over the evil cold problem. Mr Cly returned from parts abroad and added his cold to my flu. I WAS writing by mid week, but back in bed by the end of it.

    As for goals this week, well, I’d like to catch up on everything that hasn’t been done while ill. Unfortunately, that isn’t going to happen. My realistic goal is to write every day and spend today or tomorrow coming up with a schedule for tackling the departmental stuff I haven’t done (and other catch up) without sacrificing everything else.

  27. I’m back from conferencing and exhausted after the last few weeks, but with a mountain of things to catch up (everything that I let slide in light of that crazy proposal writing two weeks ago). In light of this, I don’t think it’s possible for me to do much (if any) of my own writing front before the semester is over in two weeks’ time. However, in the last week two of my PhD students each sent me a draft of their journal papers (one paper each), which I need to read and comment on before the break, so I’ll set myself two rather small goals:
    – this week: read and comment on paper of student 1
    – next week: read and comment on paper of student 2
    I think this is just about doable in the remaining time frame before my annual Christmas travel to visit family.

  28. I’m sorry I’m so late–two weeks late! Last week I had an excuse (my internet was out, and I was dealing with that problem), but not this week, other than simple exhaustion and grading jail.

    Last time’s goals: I can’t even remember.

    Achieved: a half dozen job applications.

    Analysis: I got some requests for new materials that asked for some very detailed responses to essay questions (what’s your concept of the liberal arts and how do you implement it in your classroom? etc.), so I wrote probably about 10 pages of new material, on top of tweaking things for various jobs.

    Goals for next week: All the grading, and final batch of pre-MLA job applications.

Comments are now closed.