What dreams may come

Speaking of metaphors, long-time readers might wonder what happened to my Octopus, otherwise known as the MMP-1, MMP-2, and MMP-3.  Well, MMP-1 is under consideration (for the second time), and I was slogging doggedly away at the MMP-2 when I dreamed a solution to my organizational difficulties with the MMP-3.

The MMP-3 started life as two conference papers, and for (mumble) years they refused either to coalesce or to separate tidily.  Nonetheless, I remained convinced that they belonged together, if I could just figure out how to do it, and every so often I poked them to see whether they’d respond.  I hadn’t poked them in months when this dream came.

Normally a dream solution, in my life and head, would go something like, “Add Sputnik and Queen Victoria, and you’ll have a carrot!”  The dream-self would say, “Of course, why didn’t I think of that sooner?”

When I woke up, obviously, I’d be all, “WTF???

But this time, it was a real, workable solution.  I wrote out the outline, and pulled out the topic sentences separately to check, and sure enough, they make a little mini-essay, just like they’re supposed to.  So, back to the MMP-3.

Being what I am, every time I look up a critical quotation for it, I notice something I have to add to the MMP-2 or even to Entirely Different Essay.

Some things never change.

Metaphors, again

Valian’s metaphor for multiple projects struck me because it did seem glamorous (and immoral); and because I have myself used the metaphor of writing as love object: a committed partner, or maybe a cat.  And in various writing groups and individual posts we have talked about “stealing time” for writing, as if it were an illicit affair, as if writing were cheating on our real job of teaching or librarian-ing (and sometimes it is; not all of us are at institutions or positions where academic writing is understood to be part of the job).

I’ve been sitting with this metaphor for a few days, as I find myself, once again and despite my best intentions, juggling projects.  Everything always seems to want more time than I have.  The piece I thought could be finished during the summer drags on through revisions.  I remember a rough draft as being more polished than it is.  A promised conference paper seemed clear in my head when I wrote the proposal, but now looms as another time-consuming obligation.

Children seem a more accurate metaphor than illicit lovers.  There’s nothing immoral about having lots of children, and you love them all.  Some of them will go out to play while you tend to the latest baby; and then when the baby is asleep, you catch up to the older ones.  Some of them grow up and go out into the world on their own.  Of these, some get established in good homes of their own; and others may boomerang back, at least for awhile, in need of some bolstering and re-grouping before they’re ready to try again.

Particularly when projects are closely related (related! see?), working on one may mean working on another.  Reading for one of the tentacles of the MMP gave me insights and references for two other pieces of work.  If I don’t write about the insights and record the references, I’ll lose them, because the book I’m reading is not an obvious source for the other pieces.

I’ll tend them all, and eventually they’ll grow up, nourished as much by their interactions with each other as by my direct efforts on their behalf.

Sleep and procrastination

I believe in naps if you want to nap.  Trying to stay awake when you’re sleepy just teaches you to ignore what your body needs, rather than putting you on a good sleep schedule.

This also applies (or should: the application is where I have trouble) to doing stuff you want to do: one should not repress impulses to work on interesting and/or useful projects because of some notion about doing something else first.  Want to start the grading so you can say you started?  Do it; never mind “write first.”  Feel like writing?  Do it; prep can happen later.  Have a great idea for a class activity?  Plan it; you can still get to the grading and writing, after the creative impulse is satisfied.

But . . . but . . . that sounds like selfish hedonism!

Oh yeah, baby.  Oh yeah.

Lapsus digiti

I needed to search for an idea, and typed “the vale of bad scribes.”

This vale of tears, filled with bad scribes.  The mountain valley where no good scribe will venture to teach decent techniques.  The steep alley off the main drag where the bad scribes, who can’t afford the rent in a better location, set up shop. The retirement community for those whose eyes are poor and hands shaky.  I can think of so many interpretations of this phrase, though it wasn’t what I was looking for.


“We felt glamorous by having a lot of concurrent projects, and we felt protected and safe by our lack of constant commitment to any one of them.  We were women with several lovers. . . . Other people claim that they like having more than one project because they can shift from one to another when they have a stumbling block.  [But] I lose track and make insufficient progress on both projects.”

Virginia Valian. “Solving a Work Problem.” Scholarly Writing and Publishing: Issues, Problems, and Solutions.  Ed. Mary Frank Fox.  Boulder: Westview Press, 1985.  108-9.


“There was no point in constructing a schedule we could not live with.  There was no point in creating a schedule for someone whose work attitudes were conflict-free, because we, the people for whom the schedule was intended, were not conflict-free.  We might wish, for example, that we were people who never wasted time, but we were people who did sometimes waste time, so we explicitly designed our schedules with that in mind. . . . Most time-management formulas presuppose that the problem is managing time, [and] that problem has fairly mechanical solutions.  The real problem is figuring out what one can and will do.”

Virginia Valian, “Solving a Work Problem.” Scholarly Writing and Publishing: Issues, Problems, and Solutions.  Ed. Mary Frank Fox.  Boulder: Westview Press, 1985.  106-7.

Perception of self

“My claim is that people are not wrong about their true selves.  A related claim is that to encourage someone to doubt his or her true self is to do them the gravest psychological disservice.  Unfortunately, it is not easy to extrapolate from someone’s appearances—their words and actions—to their underlying true selves.  Until my psychoanalysis began at age 22, for example, no one had ever confirmed my perception of my true self.  I saw myself as someone who could potentially think originally and deeply about psychological issues.  Being me meant trying to understand mental functioning.  But no one else saw me that way.  My teachers and friends interpreted my symptoms, such as not going to classes and not studying, incorrectly.  They questioned all the components of my self-concept: my motivation, my commitment, my choice of subject matter, and my ability.  So did I.  How could I have done otherwise?  With no alternative hypotheses of how to interpret my behavior, I unwillingly made the same inferences they did, contradicting my self-knowledge.”

Virginia Valian, “Solving a Work Problem.” Scholarly Writing and Publishing: Issues, Problems, and Solutions.  Ed. Mary Frank Fox.  Boulder: Westview Press, 1985.  101.