Academic fantasies

  1. Journal editors will learn that when they ask me to add historical context and maybe some discussion of (more) manuscripts, they will get that IN SPADES and will just publish what I send them in the first place without quibbling.
  2. Journal editors will learn that when they ask me to add historical context and maybe some discussion of (more) manuscripts, they will get that IN SPADES and will start asking me at conferences what I’m working on now and if I’ll just send them a rough 15 pages or so they’ll tell me what to add so I can go in the right direction from an early stage.
  3. I will actually figure out by myself how to structure an essay so that it has the right historical context from the beginning instead of making essay-writing a years-long, multiple-draft process with two or three or more submissions before I’m finally done.

At any rate, I have now re-submitted the last chunk of the MMP, which was the first chunk that I started writing, long ago, and I think the second to be accepted (pending revisions). I have an automated e-mail to prove it is in the system. All that slow chipping away finally did the job. I hope. It’s about 40% longer than it was when I last submitted it. When I re-read the new introduction I wondered if my thesis was clear enough, but if the editors ask for clarification I am just going to add the dreaded words “In this paper I shall argue that” and other clumsy signposting because I don’t think I can stand to re-work this piece again.

During my absence from this blog I have also answered the copy-editor’s queries about the Huge Honking Translation (one-week turn-around on a MS of over 350 pages), and graded a set of papers.

I want to take the rest of the day off but I have more grading to do and a lot of work admin and Life Stuff to try to catch up with. I think I will take a break before tackling all that, to get outside (or, depending on the temperature and wind chill, go to the gym) and try to enjoy the feeling of being done with something.

 

Mirabile dictu

I’m down to footnote-grooming: where’s the first reference, have I used short references thereafter, is everything correctly formatted for this journal, that sort of thing. I’m still hoping an ILL will turn up so I can add another note, and since I’m unsure of a page reference I just ILL’d something else to double-check, but this is all-over-bar-the-shouting territory. At last.

Of course I’ll be back to do the shouting when I actually send the sucker off. But this is progress enough to be worth noting. Get ready for a big celebration of the final final no really this time I mean it END of the Macedonian Marginalia Project and all its progeny.

Chipping away

Sometimes, I like to believe, I do manage to blitz things. There was that summer (2015?), when I banged out two articles in a couple of months, and in 2016 (?) I completely re-wrote the biggest piece of the MMP from scratch so that the style would be smooth instead of a weird patchwork of revisions. Both those periods saw focused, concentrated work . . . over a period of weeks . . . which still needed to be revised and tinkered with for months after the initial “blitz.”

In other words, I don’t really blitz my writing. Even when I do have weeks of writing 1000 words a day, and get a whole essay roughed out very quickly, it is still a longer, slower process than I like to believe. Somehow I remain attached to this notion that sometimes writing goes fast, despite all the evidence I have from my own life, never mind Boice’s surveys, that it really doesn’t.

Fast is relative. I’m still working on the last remaining hunk of the MMP, one that got an R&R awhile back (I’m not mentioning how far back, too embarrassing, but I fully expect it to be treated as a new submission at this point, that’s how bad it is). I’ve worked on it every day for 28 days, since starting a new document in place of trying to alter things in an old one, and it is now up to 5233 words. That’s a little less than 200 words a day, on average. While I was away, I managed close to 400 words a day. Since I came back, I’ve had a few days (teaching days, tired days) when I just tinkered with footnotes or added translations of Latin quotations. But I’ve touched it every single day. Judging by the length, I should be near the end. I’m not going to predict when it will be done. I’d like to get it out by the end of the month, but I wanted to get it out by the end of December, too, and that didn’t happen. There will be editing passes, and footnote-checking passes, and pretty soon now I expect it will be finished. Again.

A month or so to write an essay would be fantastic if I were starting from scratch. Obviously I’m not; I have a lot of material to work with for this piece. Part of the reason it has changed so much is because of working on other pieces of the MMP, and on the introduction to the translation, which gave me more insight into elements of the present essay. It was originally the more literary arm of the MMP, but now has a bit more manuscript in it than it did at first. When this chunk is done, I’ll start something fairly new, not quite totally from-scratch, as I did a lot of preliminary work in the fall so that I could write the abstract for a conference, and it’s kinda-sorta related to the Huge Honking Translation project. I’m wondering how fast I can make it go, and whether it’ll be a chip-away 200-words-a-day project, or if it might be a 1000-words-a-day-for-a-week-then-revise sort of thing.

I wish I could get over this fantasy about fast writing. I think it has something to do with the enthusiasm I feel when I have those concentrated weeks in which I write a lot. That energy makes it feel like I wrote even more than I did, and I remember the energy and enthusiasm more than I remember what really happened and how much time I spent revising and tinkering.

Sources of inspiration

Grumbles and procrastination clearing; forecast offers a chance of further improvement.

A lot of my grumpiness has to do with facing a very old R&R. I want to be done with it. I wish my past self had just done it right away. But when the reviews came in, my past self was struggling with the MMP, and then the series editors put both feet down about the Huge Honking Translation, and what with one thing and another, including my promotion application last year, years have passed. Not without efforts toward the R&R, but now this is one of the contributing factors: I have layers of notes and outlines to review as I try to figure out what the plan was, and the mass of material is daunting.

Since I finally spent an hour re-reading these, I’m feeling more like tackling the thing and getting it over with.

I’m also looking over my shoulder, suspecting that making the effort will (by Sod’s Law) bring down the Translation Editors or some other type of interference with the work.

Yesterday when I was procrastinating/looking for inspiration, I found a couple of helpful posts. One is from a gardener. The advice sounds a lot like any planning process, but it’s useful to see that people in other areas have the same problems and solutions. Here’s what Jen in Frome says at https://doingtheplan.com/2017/04/21/planning-and-doing-the-plan/

  1. Do Stuff. Take small steps frequently to get more good things thriving . . . . Lots of little things done each day adds up to a lot done over the month.
  2. Review. Note down what was done and when, and keep observing and thinking about what’s working out and what’s what’s not.
  3. Plan. Check what’s done so far against what’s hoped for in future, and set out a few next steps to get a bit closer to your goal.

Another is Kameron Hurley on working through fear and writing fatigue, here: https://www.kameronhurley.com/lets-talk-creativity-fear-losing-magic/ Hurley says, “Much of the time I feel I’m spending “writing” is actually time I spend feeling guilty because I can’t write, or because I feel that what I’m writing is utter shit. That’s not “writing” time. It’s my time with The Fear. So much of my writing time has been taken up talking with The Fear that I couldn’t figure out why shit wasn’t getting done. It certainly felt, emotionally, like I was working REALLY HARD. But arguing with your fear isn’t working. Feeling bad for not working isn’t working. Being angry about not working isn’t working.”

Yes, and no. Arguing, feeling bad, and being angry are certainly a lot of emotional labor. Doing them doesn’t necessarily “work,” as in, make it possible to get back to work. But it doesn’t help to pretend The Fear isn’t happening, either. I wound up negotiating with mine. I put on the music I usually use for grading, spread print-outs all over my desk (so I had to see them), and set a timer for ten minutes. That was all I needed to get into the task. When the timer went off, I was annoyed and immediately re-set it for 25 minutes, and made a lot of progress in that time. I needed the short time to start, though, because 25 seemed like way too much time for demon-fighting.

Am I embarrassed about having this sort of work problem, still, again, at my stage of career? Hell yeah. I also hope that admitting to it, publicly if pseudonymously, may help some other people who might be having the same problem. You can get past it. Sometimes you can go years without The Fear. But it’s also a thing that comes back with the right triggers, the right combination of factors, the wrong encounter with someone who pushes certain buttons. The only way I’ve ever found to deal with it is Virginia Valian’s: make the task smaller. As small as you need to. Ten minutes. Five. And be kind to yourself, because the piece of work is not really the problem. It’s all the emotions that have got tangled up with that piece of work. They might be big things that need therapy, or they might be ghosts of something you cleared up long ago, or they might just be bad habits.

If it’s not a good day, if The Fear is happening to you, if you’re procrastinating, give it five minutes, write down what you did in that time, and come back to the thing tomorrow. That’s all. Five minutes, and a note about what you did in the time.

Name almost in print

Yesterday I received a pre-publication PDF of the largest and most tentacular chunk of the MMP, which I promptly sent off to everyone I could think of. The volume is still in production, but it’s coming. One of my dissertation committee members actually read my essay (or at least skimmed it intelligently) as soon as it arrived, because within hours I had an e-mail calling it “intriguing and satisfying,” and praising some of the tentacles elements I worked hardest at integrating.

Also the translation editors have responded about the revised introduction, which I also worked very hard on, saying nice things like “cogent” and “does its proper job.”

So I am feeling very happy about work, writing, research. I’m good at these things I enjoy so much! And if this sounds like I’m full of myself, you know what? I think it’s a good thing to take pleasure in one’s own accomplishments, rather than thinking “I got away with it” or “I should have improved that little thing” or “but what about all these other things that I should be doing/ didn’t do/ did badly?” “or “so and so has done so much more than I have.” I used to be far more neurotic and thought things like that, instead of enjoying the feeling of having Done A Thing and done it well.

And since I do a fair amount of grumping here, it seems only fair to share the good news as well. So have some virtual, calorie-free chocolate and/or champagne, or whatever your favorite celebratory thing is, because if you were here IRL I would celebrate with you!

Also, here are my favorite cat-related posts of the week. If you need cheering up, have some kitties!

https://katyboo1.wordpress.com/2019/02/02/cat-stuff/

Back at Home

Ups and downs

This morning’s forecast is cheerful with intermittent grumpy.

Looking up: it’s the weekend, so no driving, or at least no farther than the gym. I found my missing stripy scarf, buried in the guest bed. I think I must have napped there, unwound it when I got hot, and forgot to look for it when I awakened. (How I would love to think of this as a good omen for a happy or at least peaceful outcome for the other things making me grumpy last week.) I still don’t have any significant grading to do. I’ve worked through about one quarter of our last (? please let it be last) sweep through the translation to tighten phrasing and improve style. There’s a bit of sunlight today to supplement my anti-SAD light. I had quite a nice note from my oldest friend, in reply to birthday wishes. We have an up-and-down relationship, being very different sorts of people, but there’s a lot to be said for knowing someone literally all your life even if you don’t always get along. (This is probably the sort of relationship many people have with their siblings.) Due to more weather, I will probably be able to stay at home at least one day next week when I would otherwise be driving to campus.

Grumps: would you believe, I’m unhappy because there is not enough snow in the forecast? Yesterday it looked like we’d have significant snow during the Monday morning commute, such that I would feel justified in having class online again, even if the university opened. Today, that weather band has shifted north, so I will probably have to tackle the drive, classes, and a committee meeting on Monday, after all. On topics other than weather/climate, I am fretful because I’ve had to work on the translation instead of on a conference paper or on the long-delayed last set of MMP revisions (and have recently discovered a 2018 book that I now ought to cite in that paper, sigh, this is why one should put everything aside and do revisions ASAP instead of trying not to lose momentum on all one’s OTHER on-going projects). I’ve had a few nights of poor-quality sleep, despite spending suitable amounts of time in bed. The furnace keeps popping on just as I’m dropping off; I can sleep through it if I’m properly asleep, but the noise wakes me if I’m at a delicate moment in the falling-asleep effort.

But I have a working furnace (actually, two), an anti-SAD light, lots of tea, a new hot water bottle, and a couple of cats who sometimes sit on me (Glendower does not believe hoo-mans make good cat beds), so I’m well-equipped for Arctic blasts and an effort to move on to new/old/different writing projects.

Found items

A gift certificate that I last had in August. It was under my keyboard. I don’t know what it was doing there, but I’m glad to have located it. Having small things go well, or come out right, is quite satisfying.

Last weekend we brought back a few boxes from storage. I have my light box set up in my study, and next weekend I hope to put the food processor to use pureeing soup. We also have bedding for the guest bed again, in case anyone should visit, or if one of us gets sick and needs to sleep separately because of coughing or snoring.

I have proofs for the last, largest piece of the MMP. They’re due back with the journal a week from tomorrow. So in a week, I’ll be done with the last piece of work regarding the MMP, the piece that Stays Done. My first encounter with the MMP’s manuscript was in 2008. I gave conference papers related to this project in 2009. It will be 2019 before this essay finally is in print. I’ve done some other things along the way, but wow, this was a monster of a project. I hope some people besides me and the editors will appreciate its virtues.

(Self)Promotion

My application has passed another level of inspection, the one after which all the rest is rubber-stamping. So, although I’ll be getting another couple of letters of approval as the process takes its course, I am now certain that as of next spring, I will be a full professor.

It has taken me a long time, and I’m happy to achieve this goal. It might have happened sooner if the MMP had been less recalcitrant, but research takes the time it takes. Anyway: Yay!

Fighting the Bishop

“Colonel Weatherhead was pulling up Bishop-weed in his garden. He had a fearful tussle with the Bishop every Autumn, for the Bishop was entrenched in a thorn hedge at the bottom of the garden near the river, and however much of him Colonel Weatherhead managed to eradicate there was always enough root left embedded in the thickest part of the hedge to start him off again next year. Colonel Weatherhead had a kind of sneaking admiration for the Bishop—here was an enemy, worthy of his steel—. The Colonel went for him tooth and nail, he dug and tore and burned the Bishop, and the sweat poured off him in rivulets.” (D. E. Stevenson, Miss Buncle’s Book [London: Herbert Jenkins, 1936], 78)

A bit later, the Colonel is trying to persuade his fiancée to marry him sooner rather than later, and they find themselves at cross-purposes:

“Why not? . . . it’s absolutely the hand of Providence pointing. The weather is as foul as your drains, and my Bishop is done for—”

“Who is your Bishop?” interrupted Dorothea somewhat irritably for such a good-natured woman. “Who on earth is your Bishop? You’ve been talking about him for ages, and I don’t see what he has got to do with our getting married—”

Colonel Weatherhead roared with laughter. “Good Heavens! I thought everyone in Silverstream had heard about my Bishop—I can’t be such a garrulous old bore after all—have I never told you about my struggles with the brute every autumn?”

“Never,” said Dorothea primly, “and I really do not think you should speak of a Bishop in that way, Robert dear. He may be very trying at times—I am sure he is—but after all we must remember that he is consecrated—consecrated with oil,” said Dorothea vaguely, “and therefore—”

“It’s a weed,” gasped the Colonel between his spasms of laughter. “Bishop—weed—it grows in my hedge—it has roots like an octopus—” (99-199).

 

You see! Not only is bishop’s-weed a dreadful opponent, but the octopus reference reminds me of my very own octopus, otherwise known as the MMP. No wonder I’m still in difficulty with the last vestiges of it.

Idle Google-stalking is not a good idea

Apart from the waste of time. I looked up a former student . . . who has published more books than I have.

Granted, that is not difficult, since I have not yet published any book. And we’re not talking academic presses, or even well-regarded commercial presses. The student was certainly both talented and a go-getter, or I wouldn’t even remember the name after all this time.

Hrrmph. I shall contemplate the glories of the completed MMP for a bit, and then get back to the Next Thing.

Maybe someone from my past will Google-stalk me and be impressed, and slink back into the woodwork.