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.

Of course there’s bougainvillea

There is also beach glass:

And beach rocks:

Feral chickens, of which here an example:

Red hibiscus:

Here’s our rent-a-dog:

And white hibiscus:One jigsaw was too easy, and the other was too hard. It’s coming home with me. Maybe Sir John and I will be able to work it when we have more than a week.

Syllabus status: written. Article: still coming along. It now stands at 3360 words, and when I’m back to my stacks of books at home I expect I can finish it off reasonably briskly (knock on wood, with the help of the Lord and a long-handled spoon, all that). There’s a book coming ILL, and another I’ll need to get from LRU’s library. Why can’t I ever . . . but I think I asked that recently, and answer came there none.

The rent-a-dog was very sweet, but I am eager to resume my regular duties of worshiping and attending on my feline overlords.

Wait till next year

It is not really the end of a decade. Start counting at 1, not at zero. You knew I’d be pedantic like that.

Day 12 of steady research/writing, still working on the long-overdue R&R, but I now have 1600 words in the new and improved version, so I’m at least 1/4 of the way there. I gave up on the document that has all-caps notes to myself saying things like “ADD PARAGRAPH ON ANGLO NORMAN SOURCE HERE” and just started over, although of course I can transfer large hunks of material from that document into the new one. It’s easier to think on a blank page, and faster to just do it my way than try to argue myself into doing it some other way.

I hope to keep the chain going. However, Queen Joan and I are off tomorrow on one of our royal progresses to warmer climes, so we’ll see. I also have class plans to work on. I hear vacations are lovely, but I’m fine with working in a more exotic setting. It is a great pleasure to noodle around with something interesting on my laptop while looking out at blue seas and tropical birds, rather than staring out at snow and bare branches. So I look forward to putting in an hour or two every morning before we go out sight-seeing, then come back to work on a jigsaw puzzle.

We know how to have fun! Tonight we’ll be turning in around 8:00 because of an 0-dark-thirty departure tomorrow morning. Woot! So Happy New Year now! Enjoy the Eve, and happy writing (and other pursuits) in 2020: finish off the decade with a bang!

St Thomas Becket

Time flies; I thought I’d done a Becket day last year, or maybe the year before, but it was 2015. My reasons for liking Becket have not changed.

In this morning’s work (10th consecutive day), I’ve read parts of a book I should have read a decade ago, a brilliant book whose author is now a professor at Oxford. It’s making me want to go in the garden and eat worms.

There should be plenty; it rained overnight.

Comparisons are odious. When I was young, I didn’t have a single-minded focus on medieval studies, nor an educational system that forced me to focus early. I’m not so much a late bloomer as a slow bloomer. Maybe this is because I keep getting distracted by new, shiny projects, some of which get done before the old ones, some of which take their places in the shifting relays of things I work on in sequence. Eventually I finish, and the ideas are (I hope) richer for their long gestation and cross-influences.

Will no one rid me of this turbulent desire to have been different? I can only be who I am. It’s way too late to be anything else.

Holy Innocents

If you like colo(u)ring books, here’s a link for you:

I hope you have time to indulge before you go back to work.

Today is the 9th day in a row I have worked on the article I’m trying to finish before the New Year. I feel like it was written by someone else, and I’m trying to re-make it in my own voice, as the scholar I am now, not the person I was when I first put the essay together, certainly not the person I was when I wrote the conference papers it was based on.

I am never again going to write a conference paper. I will write articles, and boil them down into conference papers if I want to go to the conference, but building longer pieces out of short ones just does not work for me. If it works for you, carry on, but if you’re like me, or suspect you might be, consider this permission to stop doing what isn’t working (even though it’s standard advice).

That said, I still have a couple of papers from last summer that I wanted to write, ideas that may be part of The Putative Book, and may be spin-offs. A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

Feast of John the Apostle

The joye of sayn Jonez day watz gentyle to here.

British Library MS Cotton Nero A.x. (art. 3) f. 104/108 verso (Sir Gawain and the Green Knight lines 999-1035)

Actually it’s a very quiet day chez Hull. We both slept very late. I’m still working on my writing project. Why can’t I ever just do a little light revision instead of re-thinking the whole dratted thing?

The potentially-dramatic Xmas gathering of my family seems to have gone fine, as even my Brother Less Reasonable could find nothing worthy of report. Good for them. I’m still happy I stuck with my husband, his mom, and young Alan.

How we spend our lives

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living. Each day is the same, so you remember the series afterward as a blurred and powerful pattern.”

— From “The Writing Life” by Annie Dillard

Productivity advice

Do the thing you really want to do.

I decided that I will go to a conference that I love but whose timing is terrible, and started working not on the paper I thought I could easily put together but on the one that I really want to do.

Once I started doing that, I also graded an entire set of papers over two days, and finished taking notes on an ILL book that would not renew, adding about 1500 words to my annotated bibliography. Would I rather be doing “real writing”? Well, yes, but it is worthwhile to have thorough notes on ILL books, and it keeps me in touch with the project, not to mention allowing me to return that book so that I’m not blocked from further ILL requests, so win-win-win.

Having been wildly productive in the past six hours, now I am going to go work in the garden, then go for a walk to un-kink my back (inevitably kinked after significant garden time), cook, and watch something on TV with Sir John. We are spoiled for choice right now: old cycling, new Durrells, or new-ish Discovery episodes. Such an exciting life I lead.

Actually, there was a bit of excitement earlier this week: I had a tiny dinner party! Mid-week! A friend was in the area and suggested dinner, and I countered with an invitation to dinner chez Hull. It was lovely. It made me feel so . . . sophisticated? Leisured? Socially active? Like my memories of Lady Maud’s father, who often hosted guests (fascinating, varied, intellectual, artistic) to dinner at his family table, and not just on weekends. Like I was living the life I meant to have, instead of the one I wound up with!

It also helps that I’ve two nights of entirely adequate sleep in a row. What a difference that makes. Long may it continue.