Do as I say, not as I do

Write it down.



Dame: the things you think you will remember, because they are so clear, so important, so essential and obvious—write them down, because in three weeks’ time, after the next round of grading and/or commitee meetings and/or intervention of personal life, you will not remember them.  They will no longer be obvious.  The Former Self who knew what they were will be gone with the wind, and the Current Self will be clueless.  So do your Future Self a favor and write it down, whatever it is.  Preferably in at least two places: say, teaching journal and personal journal, or daily calendar and research journal, or document-of-progress in a project and somewhere else for good measure.

Write the swyvere down.

This post brought to you by an Inquisition Post Mortem coughed up by the National Archives, three weeks after I requested a copy (not previously photographed); the top lines are damaged, so the opening formulae are very difficult to read.  I knew I’d requested an estimate for getting some document, and that I’d gone ahead and ordered it when the estimate came through.  However, in the intervening three weeks, I had completely forgotten what this document might be, and could find no reference to it in my research journal, the most obvious word-processed documents of notes about manuscript owners and their friends and relations, or my personal journal.  No doubt after I finally transcribe it all, I will find some cryptic reference in a place I did not think to look.  But if I had just written myself a note about what-all I had ordered, I would have saved myself a lot of trouble this morning.  This is what I have a research journal for, so why didn’t I use it?

Resolution #1 for the new year: write it down.

This is just to say . . .

I have no good reason for going silent: I have not been traveling, nor having too much fun, nor writing an MLA paper or anything else.  At the same time, there are no huge unbloggable issues, no illness or trauma to me or anyone else close to me, no big changes.  Just ordinary life and not having much to say.

I think the winter blahs have set in.  They held off a long time this year, since the weather was unusually warm and sunny, but now we’ve had about ten days of mostly gray skies with regular snow showers (but not much accumulation).  It feels like we’re suspended, waiting for the big storm, or for the clouds to roll away, but neither happens.  Just a few more flakes.

So I’ve been holed up reading my Christmas presents (the latest Harry Dresden, the latest in the Vorkosigan saga) and a huge pile of Hamish Macbeth mysteries from the library, which I saved up for this year’s winter break after I finished all the Agatha Raisins.  They are entertaining, although mostly they make me very grateful that I do not live in a tiny Highland village.  I guess that means they’re doing their work of getting me through the holiday season without serious depression.

The light box and space heater help, too, of course.  Maybe I should just call this time of year Iguana Season.  Even though the days are getting lighter, it’s hard to get excited about 20 more seconds of daylight, especially when it’s so cloudy that Glendower lets me sleep past 7:00.  But if I think of myself as an iguana, then any time I rouse myself to mammalian activities, I can think I’ve accomplished something.

End of term PARTY!

And what a term it has been.  It is now time to celebrate our accomplishments, whether getting up at 6:00 a.m. or reclaiming a professional self, from 2500 GOOD words to Writerly Glow, from attending conferences to simply (ruthlessly) leaving campus in order to write, uninterrupted, elsewhere.

Here are the Main Goals for this 15-week session, for those who have attended regularly.  How did you do?  Award yourself a prize (or nominate someone else for one), and have a drink!  I’m offering caipirinhas, Mexican hot chocolate (can be made with soymilk for those with dairy intolerance; with or without alcholic additives, as you like), and Irish coffee for those who are still grading and need to be both alert and a bit numb.  I’m sure other party-goers will turn up with contributions in the comments!

Amstr: finish dissertation.  Another Postdoc: complete a book proposal and make a working outline.  Bavardess: finish article, finish draft of PhD proposal.  cly: finish fifth chapter of book. Contingent Cassandra: finish J article; continue P project; plan/schedule additional P sub-projects; continue freelance work.  Dame Eleanor Hull: Finish and submit MMP.  Dr. Virago: write 2500-word article and revise double book review into a review essay.  Elizabeth Anne Mitchell: plan, research and write first draft of new article.  emmawriting: 1. Three grant proposals: one in LOI form, one simple one in draft form, and one full proposal. 2. One article fully drafted. 3. Data collected for two main studies plus 3 minor ones.  4. Have baby!

GEW: write 20-25 pages of chapter 5 of my dissertation.  highly eccentric: keep writing new(ish) medieval academic content.  historisusan (ProfessorSusan): write an essay for one of those Oxford handbook thingies.  humming42: finish chapter 2 of the book manuscript.  JaneB: a) complete and submit a paper with multiple co-authors, b) complete and submit a substantial second paper from a different project, and c) write and submit a grant application for December 1st.  JLiedl: complete my own chapter for an edited collection, write a keynote and turn a conference paper into an article.  John Spence: prepare a short edition of a medieval text.  kiwi2: To submit two papers (Paper X and Paper Y) and complete my part of the analysis on Paper Z.

kiwimedievalist: Give articles a break, and work on novel idea which has been floating for years.  luolin88: 1. submit article that still needs revisions; 2. submit article that just needs proofreading and re-formatting; 3. write MLA paper.
Matilda:  conference paper (November) / a journal article based on the paper.  meansomething:  1) 10,000 words on a lyric essay; 2) a complete draft of a poetic sequence.  Metheist: finish my dissertation.  Notorious Ph.D.: transform a conference paper I gave last January into an article MS.  nwgirl:  revise four chapters of my book manuscript.  Pika: Large proposal (P1) due mid-October, small proposal (P2) due mid-December. Pilgrim/Heretic:  30,000 words written towards a book draft.  Premodern: new book chapter.

rented life: Move fiction book project forward and figure out my idenity as a writer. Salimata: turn conference paper into a ready-to-submit article.  Sapience:  job market materials and applications, review article.  sophylou: rework article for submission.  tracynicholrose: 1. Finalize and submit P&P paper; 2. Turn LM paper into HM presentation; 3. Complete first draft of TS paper; 4. Complete analysis and write up findings for BE paper.  Trapped in Canadia: write two chapters of my dissertation.  Undine (Not of General Interest): finish two chapters of the book manuscript.  What Now?: draft first chapter.  Widgeon: turn a conference paper into a book chapter.  Z (Mictlantecuhtli/Profacero): Keep to semester’s research schedule.

A few prizes just to get us going:  Z, most inspiring, for freeing her writing from prisoner-of-war status.  Pilgrim/Heretic, brightest glow, and Dr Virago for best bardic reference.  emmawriting, newest baby.  John Spence, bravest man (or maybe Most Like Sir John, a very high compliment from me) for hanging out all term with all us chicks.  Elizabeth Anne Mitchell, best fairy-tale image for writing.

And finally, remember the next writing group, to be run by JaneB and Trapped in Canadia, will be found here:

It’s been great.  I enjoyed hosting you all; I hope the group was helpful to you.  I look forward to seeing you around the internets and in future writing groups.

Sept-Dec Writing Group, Week 15 Check-In

Wow, that went fast.  I can’t believe this is week 15.  I teach my last classes today.  Then there’s grading, of course, and holiday hoo-ha, and planning for spring, but I am very much looking forward to having at least a few weeks in which I can mostly bury myself in the MMP and the MS-owner’s life.

Whether you’re looking for time to throw yourself into a project, or looking forward to a bit of time off, best wishes for the break.  Come back next week for the party and to reflect on what you’ve done during this group’s lifespan.

Update: the writing group to be run by JaneB and Trapped in Canadia will be found here:

Amstr: Ch. 2 to primary advisor; research + 5000 words on Ch. 4, send to writing partner.
Another Postdoc: read book for book review and take notes; make revisions to online article; begin edited volume chapter.
Bavardess: no check-in.
cly: write every day.
Contingent Cassandra: 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.
Dame Eleanor Hull: 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.
Dr. Virago: after cleaning up the 2500 word article, get back to revising that double review into a review essay.
Elizabeth Anne Mitchell: Refine the outline; highlight the missing pieces; plan how to address finishing the article in the following two weeks.
emmawriting: Really, really try to work flexibly and in those 15 minutes, eat-a-snack breaks from baby-caring.
GEW: Work 6-7 a.m., Tuesday and Thursday.
historisusan: read one book.
humming42: Reward myself with daily time with the manuscript.
JaneB: no check-in.
JLiedl: Another 500 words (and road trip to the Tudors with your hostess!).
John Spence: (a) indexing: put page numbers against 20 pages of entries; (b) proof-read two chapters of my book.
kiwi2: analyse half the data for my second paper Paper Y, and submit another peripheral paper.
kiwimedievalist: no check-in.
luolin88: 1) survive it. 2) 30 mins MWF
Matilda: write the main part and finish the introductory part / write 15 minutes a day.
meansomething:  1) 20 minutes on the residency app.; 2) start assembling a complete draft of the poem sequence: print drafts, read, mark up, etc.
metheist: no check-in.
nwgirl: 1 hour per day (total of 6 hours).
Pika: – this week: read and comment on paper of student 1.  – next week: read and comment on paper of student 2.
Pilgrim/Heretic: 2,000 more words.
Premodern: no check-in.
rented life: Write 2500 words, read.
Salimata: resting.
Sapience: final batch of pre-MLA job applications.
sophylou: just read the article, see how it sounds, take notes on those two last items.
tracynicholrose: Submit P&P paper? Rework TS intro.
Trapped in Canadia: Mark 100 finals, turn in final grades, and survive somehow.
Undine (Not of General Interest): 1000 words.
What Now?: Fill in three specific major holes in the draft.
Widgeon: no check-in.
Z (Mictlantecuhtli/Profacero): do finals and touch work every day.

Blogging the lost

Most immediately, I am looking for (1) the beads I bought in October.

While I’m at it, I would also like to find the following:

2) My grey scarf and gloves, which I had a few days ago.

3) A pair of garnet earrings that I haven’t seen since last spring.

4) The library book on Cervantes that went missing a year ago.

This blogging-the-lost thing has never worked for me before, but what’s the downside?  Well, actually, it sort of worked once when I was missing a pair of earrings, but it took months, I think.  Hardly instant gratification.  And I never did find my beautiful periwinkle-blue glasses case with my reading glasses.  So it’s about time the Gulf of Missing Items coughed up a few of my things.

Um, please.

What time is it?

For the past week, I’ve been living in the sixteenth century,* barely coming up for air.  On Sunday, Sir John and I went for a walk by a local lake, chatting for the first half mile or so, and then sinking into our private thoughts.  Another mile or two down the road, I surfaced enough to say, “You may be walking the trails around H. Lake, but I’m on a road in [English county] something over 400 years ago.”  (At least two pairs of horseback riders helped with the illusion.)  It turned out that Sir John was deriving basic principles of calculus in his head, so, as he put it, “in a timeless world of Platonic ideals,” meaning that of the two of us, I was somewhat more connected to what might be called the real world.  We are well suited!

But there is an actual real life here, and today I need to deal with it: go to the bank,  pay bills, grade a lot of papers, sort some other papers, acquire some groceries, prepare some meals.  Every time I go near my desk, the temptation to plunge back into the research is very strong.  I need to put those books away and focus on things that really need to get done in 2012.

Just for today, I won’t touch those books.  I will get out the student papers.  I will deal with the financial stuff.  I can do this.

*In my head.  Not as a re-enactor.  And yes, I am a medievalist, but just as people didn’t stand around Chaucer’s grave saying “Thank God, now we can talk normally,” they didn’t decide that “now we can stop reading those old books.”  Language and reading habits both change gradually.

Chaucerian grading scale

In the spirit of this post, I offer the Chaucerian version for your delectation.  Extra credit for identifying the quotations.


Right as oure firste lettre is now an A,
In beaute first so stood she, makeles.
Hire goodly lokyng gladed al the prees.
Nas nevere yet seyn thyng to ben preysed derre.


Al that writen is,
To oure doctrine it is ywrite, ywis;
Taketh the fruyt, and lat the chaf be stille.
. . . . . . . . .
Thow hast thee wel yquit
And gentilly.  I preise wel thy wit,


The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne,
Th’assay so hard, so sharp the conquerynge. . . .
Of usage—what for lust and what for lore—
On bokes rede I ofte, as I yow tolde.
But wherfore that I speke al this?


Namoore of this.
That ye han seyd is right ynough, ywis,
And muchel moore; for litel hevynesse
Is right ynough to muche folk, I gesse.
I seye for me, it is a greet disese.


Thy drasty rymyng is nat worth a toord.
Thou doost noght elles but despendest tyme.