Writing Group Week Three
Hello, all, and welcome to this week’s post. I’ll be building on last week’s post, because it’s very relevant to me at the moment. And some of the responses have also been weighing on me, because I always freak out a little when people read something in a way that is so different to how I’ve read it. In this case, it seems to me that the two things may be connected. Here’s why:
I’m not as young as I used to be. I’m not old, and some of the group are older than I am. But it’s only in the past year that I’ve started to actually realize that my body is aging, and not as forgiving as it once was. I don’t feel older. But my body does. It aches sometimes. I feel creaky and there are fewer positions I can sit in for hours and hours without my back hurting a little. My digestive system seems more sensitive. I can’t drink as much as I used to be able to — and especially not if I want to avoid a hangover. It’s harder to get back into an exercise routine than it used to be, even three or four years ago. The number of “health management” prescriptions I have has doubled in the past few years. Nothing serious, but stuff for muscle spasms, asthma, backaches, migraines… I get sick more easily than I used to. I can’t wear the sort of high heels I used to wear all the time. I have to wear progressive lenses or reading glasses ALL THE TIME, for Pete’s sake!
Add those things together, and then the somewhat insane sort of schedule that many of us have, plus the fact that my body has been rebelling against my life in a fairly serious way since the end of July, and you get a very different reading of “pace yourself.” Where some people got sort of Bolshie and focused on the part where they thought they were being told to work according to a certain pattern, I only saw the metaphor of the race, and the physical connection to what it is we are doing. Because for me, pacing myself isn’t just about making sure I get things done on time, or organize my schedule in a way that I don’t have to play catch-up. It’s that if I don’t pace myself, there seem to be very real and very bad physical consequences. And those physical consequences can snowball and then create a vicious cycle of bad, overused metaphors being too ill to work, getting too stressed because I’m not accomplishing anything, and then doing really unhealthy things to my body in order to try to catch up.
The thing is, pacing yourself is a skill. It’s about knowing how your body works, what it does well, and what kind of race it’s running. There’s a reason that some people tend to be sprinters and some people tend to be distance runners (or swimmers, or whatever). There’s obviously some overlap, and people have different ways of training, even when it’s for the same event. But knowing your body and knowing how to set the right pace is pretty crucial. As undergraduates, we tend to be sprinters. We tend to focus for short periods on shorter projects, and our attention is seldom that divided. As postgraduates, coursework is much the same, and even exams have more in common with an important short race than a marathon. One of the things many people seem to have trouble with on the thesis is that we aren’t used to looking at a project that massive and breaking it down to manageable size. And most of us, even if we are teaching while writing, are still pretty much in that sprinter mode, sprinting to deal with prep, sprinting to deal with a deadline, sprinting to get grades in…
But life as an employed academic is really a marathon. Or perhaps a series of marathons, and some of us schedule them too close together. We might need short bursts of speed, but the people who are most successful in terms of keeping a full agenda with a lot of publication turnover AND being a good teacher AND keeping up with service AND being able to give something to a partner AND eating properly AND exercising AND seeing friends and family AND any number of any other things are the ones who have learnt to keep up a steady pace that is not frenetic — or at least not all the time. We all know people who publish a lot, even though they are not necessarily the most brilliant thinkers around (and we know some brilliant ones who publish a lot, too, I expect). The ones I know can turn out the burst of speed when they need it (and many do!), but they aren’t exhausted by it, because they still manage that steady pace most of the time. The burst of speed isn’t at the expense of everything else. One of the spinning plates (yes, this is a metaphor shift: deal with it) might wobble, but it’s probably not going to fall. And if it does fall, it doesn’t break completely, nor does it take all the other plates with it.
When I was younger, and my body could take the massive sprints, one after the other, and recover. I can’t do that anymore. This year, the plates have been falling, and before I can get them spinning again, I have to figure out which pieces get glued where. My gut reaction is that I have to speed up, I need to sprint. But I don’t. I need to find the pace at which my life works when running a marathon, because that is what academia is. I need to find the pace that will let me have the occasional sprint without landing me in the hospital. And that’s not a metaphor.*
Goals for Week 4
- ABDMama: [Complete an article draft]; Search to see what has been written on the topic since I last wrote. Begin to go through that material. Continue to write 300 words of notes a day on this material
- Adelaide: [write a conference paper]; skim and take notes on source, and organize notes and thoughts on the primary source
- Amcalm25: [finish an article]; gather a couple of major resources on the historical period and determine if my ideas are “new” enough to go that route with the paper. Write 20 minutes a day for at least five days.
- Amstr: [revise and resubmit an article]; 1) make (and limit) reading list; (2) order items on reading list from ILL; 3) read 5 articles, make entries on them in an annotated bib, and insert relevant stuff into draft
- Another Damned Medievalist: Finish up with last week’s goals (‘chunking’ the paper and putting it into scrivener, starting to read the review book, and especially the ILL requests)
- Antikate: [revise a conference paper into an article & submit]; spend at least fifteen minutes a day writing, starting with lit review
- Belledamesansmerci: [transform a conference paper into a journal article]; insert article into lit review; finish ridding the piece of “I’. I am setting aside 1/2 hour a day on the paper
- Bitterandjaded (Bittergrrl?): [finishing a dissertation chapter]; 1) re-read major texts for chapter and flesh out that part of the introduction; 2) re-read primary text and expand the outline for that work; 3) add another 1500 words to chapter
- Britomart: [completing a draft of dissertation introduction]; re-read two dissertation chapters and start writing the chapter summary section of intro; Write at least 200 words per day for 5 days
- Cly: [write a book chapter]; 300 words per day
- Contingent Cassandra: [complete a full draft of a journal article]; get into a working rhythm
- Dame Eleanor Hull: [complete a chapter of the article-turned-book]; [Dame Eleanor, I missed what your goal for this week was? –NPhD]
- Digger:[write two book chapters]; 1) work on chapters 5/7 days; 2) Start writing background of Why Wheels chapter, starting with the background.
- Dr. Crazy: [Finish a chapter draft begun this summer]; 1) Reread everything so far and do light revision/editing notes; 2) Write 3 pages plus the opening “body body” section paragraphs; 3) begin rereading Giddens’ The Transformation of Intimacy; 4) figure out the missing theory piece for the chapter.
- Dr. Virago: [draft a 7500-word essay for a contracted publication]; 750 words plus a “getting started” goal: Apply Butt To Chair, first thing.
- Erika: [write a complete & final draft of an article already underway]; 30 minutes a day,, compiling all the Thoughts & Jots.
- Evan: [write a conference paper]; write conference paper outline, reword abstract into workable intro
- Firstmute: [Revise and submit a journal article]; collect some more data and draft a new ten page or so section (incorporating some already-written material)
- Forthright: [write two article-length pieces]; a) write two good, solid, usable paragraphs per day, each day this week; b) pull out and revise old structure for at least one these two articles; c) keep reading
- Frogprincess: [Final draft of the dissertation]; begin revisions of the other problematic chapter (chapter 1); start working on the mini-section my advisor wants added to the introduction; read this major work that my advisor wants incorporated into the introduction
- Gillian: [3 chapters of my dissertation]; work on chapter section (Gillian, once you’re back from the high holidays, can you add a few specifics to your goals – word count, page count, minutes worked, section x completed…? –NPhD)
- Good Enough Woman: [write a solid draft of a dissertation chapter]; read 50 pages of a primary source, the first two chapters of Descartes’s First Meditations, and one article, taking a few notes on each.
- Heu Mihi: [write paper for a faculty colloquium]; 1) Go back to relevant MS page, transcript, and associated secondary source; 2) Take notes on these and draft (or freewrite) some ideas about what to do with them
- Inafuturelife: [transform seminar paper into a conference paper]; reread secondary sources and order new articles
- Jamilajamison: [finish writing the M.A. thesis]; finalize 1 out of the 4 sections for this chapter
- Janice: [write a first draft of a chapter]; complete the outline, read one resource, make notes on one half of the major source and write 500 words.
- Jennifer: [finish writing a neglected article]; 1) add all of the literature in office to endnote; 2) Reread and scan what I need to take abroad; 3) Sort scrivener file and move into manageable chucks for writing/editing
- Kris: [write up a “full” paper and cut it down to a 15-minute conference presentation]; 1300 new words by the end of the week; develop a plan of the rest of the paper
- Lucie: [Complete a full draft of my PhD thesis]; re-read two other primary texts, and write 400-500 words every day, and commit to spending the first hour of every day working exclusively on this goal
- Luo Lin: [finish and submit an article]; Incorporate the sources into the article, plus track down missing Interlibrary Loan article
- Marie: [finish turning paper into journal article]; Re-re-read original paper. Try to decipher notes from last week
- Matilda: [revise a paper into a journal article]; work with week 3 section of WYJA to construct argument; try for at least 15 minutes for writing every day
- Merryweather: [write conference paper]; Map out a schedule.
- Mike: [write ch. 2 of dissertation]; Finish a detailed outline of the chapter so I can start putting words to screen the following week.
- Monks and Bones: [turn a seminar paper into an article]; 1) Identify and look over subset of sources that are actually relevant for this article; 2) Articulate in writing a set of concrete steps to take for dealing with data; 3) Reread 2-3 English-language articles that I remember as making persuasive arguments with attention to structure rather than content. Take notes on this
- Notorious Ph.D.: [write a conference paper]; get that outline done, and write at least 300 words a day of notes on secondary source material
- Nvrwhere42: [finish a dissertation chapter]; finish historical section, and get to the case study/chapter argument.
- NWGirl: [Revise one dissertation chapter into a book chapter]; finish dividing this chapter into two rough chapters. Move the material for the one chapter into Scrivener. And write a rough outline for that chapter
- Opsimathphd: [turning a dissertation chapter into an article]; Investigate journals; notes on read articles; read at least 3 more; write a minimum of 15 minutes a day; work on basic argument
- Salimata: [write a conference paper]; keep up the reading and free writing and decide on a plan of attack by the end of the week
- Scatterwriter: [revise three chapters of book]; Read the intro and the first chapter
- Scholasticamama: [Transform a conference paper into an article]; 1) re-work my abstract from the summer to include new argument and possibly turn that into an introduction; 2) Skim Hildegard’s Liber meritorum and Sciviasto see if there is anything for me there
- Sisyphus: [polish the rough draft of my article and send it out]; finish cleaning up middle section; sit down with my calendar and make a schedule along with a to-do list for the article and pace out my semester
- Stemi: [Complete and send off a review article ]; 1) Reorganize note-taking file to match the new outline; 2) Identify sections that need more references; 3) Add 500 words to outline file (including rough draft writing)
- Su Real Alteza: [finish textbook manuscript]; write new words (Does SRA have a particular goal for this? Word/page count? A particular section to be finished up? — NPhD)
- Susan: [write a 7000 word commissioned essay]; finish sketching the historiographical section, which is probably 1500 words or so
- Trapped in Canadia: [draft two chapters of the dissertation]; write 500 words a day on the abuses chapter and still manage an outline for my next chapter
- Undine: [Finish nearly done chapter and complete another]; 1000 more words (did I get that right? –NPhD)
- Viola: [writing an introduction and a chapter for thesis]; go through list of revisions and get a revised version back to supervisor by midweek (Bonus points for going over the 2,500 words done and start whittling that down to 1,600!)
- Z-Cat/Kiwimedievalist: [ write an article which I have planned, but not got much written. About 8,000 words?]; write the book list and start reading it, while free writing.
Absences from week two:
- Highlyeccentric: [Draft two thesis chapters];
- Katrin: [re-write and add to MA thesis to get it publishable];
- Synecdoche: [Finish conference paper]; [putting together the start of a working bibliography.]
*Speaking of which, since I underestimated how much time this week would be spent on medical tests and actually sitting in a hospital, I’m not reporting in till Saturday. And then I’m going to set a goal that is doable by the following Friday, so I can feel like I am running with the pack, rather than trying to catch up.