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Writing Group, Week Eight

28 October, 2011

Hi all —

Sorry for the delay, because I did have something I wanted to talk about. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, as OBE and administrivia are taking control of my life. Actually, that’s pretty much it — my life. Or indeed, our lives. This may not be true for all of us, so please use what you can, and if it doesn’t apply, then please think about the fact that for some of us, what I am going to say might be true.

What place does writing have in our lives? I’m actually rather pleased that my friend the Grumpy Historian has serendipitously offered his own advice on writing, some of which I will definitely be taking. At any rate, it is helpful for me to be reminded about writing. Why? because I forget about it. I forget about it in the same way that I forget about going to the gym, or mopping floors, or eating. That is to say, I don’t really forget about it at all; but there are things that must be done, things that others need done. And for many people, myself included, writing has never been anything but ours. Like other things that belong to us, or that seem to benefit us, but not others, writing can become almost a selfish act. And we are not selfish, we professional good girls and boys.

It was not always thus, I imagine. At least, in our lifetimes, those of us with PhDs and DPhils receive our training in institutions where writing is the norm. Hello! we are there to produce a thesis! Get a job! Writing is our job! At least, it’s part of it. In the US, it’s not all of the job. The first couple years include coursework, and one writes for courses. By the time we are working on our theses, we are also likely to be teaching. This is often the first real challenge to our writing habits: the first time we are actually paid to write, we are also paid to deal with students. I was in a postgraduate program where students were actually given some training, and were not allowed into a classroom or lecture hall unsupervised until we had worked with a professor, marked exams with him (or her, but there were only four female faculty in the department at that point of my career, although the number doubled in the next couple of years), and given a couple of supervised lectures. Only after this were we turned loose on our own lecture courses. One of the benefits of this process was that we had evidence that the university thought teaching was important. Another was simply that we were given training and experience. Nevertheless, there were drawbacks: for example, being a good teacher meant a chance at additional funding. On the other hand, the work involved in being a good teacher also meant time taken away from writing. For new teachers, especially, this can be a trap. After all, how much prep is enough? how many comments must we make on papers? For me, the answers were often “never enough” and “more!”

That’s not so true anymore. Other things take up my time, and I now know that I need to prep more than I do. Trying to teach the things I need to teach — things, by the way, that are not at all related to the content portions of my courses — take a lot of time, and require many assignments that need correcting. Before I can teach my students the subject, or at least while I teach the course’s subject matter, I have to teach students how to read, how to question, how to get a grip on the information in and organization of, a textbook. I have to teach them to write not just papers, but exam essays, and in fact to read essay questions. Contact hours are twelve a week in the fall, nine a week in the spring, usually three preps each semester. Add to that meetings with advisees, help sessions for the conscientious and worried, various faculty meetings, about 20 emails a day (just the ones that need immediate answers or action on my part) dealing with discipline, advising, attendance, assessment, campus initiatives, professional organizations, scheduling, advice from colleagues… They are … immediate.

My schedule has things built into it: classes, meetings, therapist, gym, lesson in a thing that is just for me. Writing is not there. It’s implied. On these days, my calendar is clear for X hours. They should be spent writing. But the phone rings. Superdean needs to know X. I look in my email for the info on X. I do X, but by then have noticed several other crying children. It’s past noon, and I should eat. I feed the crying children, and it’s one. I should really eat. At least, I should get a glass of water. I get up for water, and am waylaid by a colleague. I answer the colleague’s question. I answer someone else’s question. I go back to my office and shut the door. I’m missing something — perhaps it’s in my email. An hour later, I have answered more emails and finished commenting on student discussion posts — when did I decide to do that? It was on the list somewhere. Still, forgetting something. Oh, water. It’s three. I can prep, or I can write. I can mark, or I can write. I can finish revising an assignment, or I can write. I can work on phrasing an email asking for assessment data in a non-threatening manner, or I can write. The gym, also in the day’s plan, is long gone. As I pack up my things, some ten hours after arriving on campus, I remember that I wanted some water. No wonder my head hurts. And writing? with so many obligations to other people, it seems selfish to work on my stuff.

Because that’s it. It’s mine. I do it for me. No one else benefits. It’s selfish. That’s true. It’s also true that it’s a part of the job. People who teach at research universities are, I think, better at remembering this. They have course loads that reflect the importance of scholarship, and it’s arguably easier for them to remember that we are also paid for writing. I am almost explicitly NOT paid for writing. I am certainly expected to write, but the expectation is that I do it in my own time, that it should not interfere with my other obligations.

I think that, if scholarship were not such a personal and creative process, it might be easier to see it as work in the same way we see teaching as work. But it is generative, and it is no coincidence that metaphors for writing liken it to pregnancy and childbirth. This is clear in Grumpy’s tip #8: “Create a dust-bin.” We often have a relationship with our words that makes us want to keep them, even when they just don’t fit. They’re OURS, dammit! We have developed out voices, situated ourselves within the academic conversation, and those words, that scholarship, helps to define a part of us to our colleagues, whose approval we often seek.

So on the one hand, we have teaching, a vocation. It is service to others. It is a calling. The word is imbued with ideas of sacrifice, and indeed, we often expect teachers at all levels to make sacrifices. Because they were called to it. Like regular clergy. The asceticism of the monastic life has mostly fallen to the wayside, but the association of the ascetic to vocation (but never vocational) exists for those who teach. There seems to me to be an underlying expectation of self-sacrifice that, when combined with the sort of Professional Good Girl who becomes an academic, and a particular sort of institution, can turn scholarship into luxuria. If teaching is negotium, then scholarship is otium. We hear this often: “I need a vacation so I can get some of my stuff done!” “I wish I had time to work on my work.” I can’t remember the last time I heard someone say, “Gee, I’ve been so busy writing, I just never bothered to prep!” That goes for the people at research institutions as well — I don’t know a single medievalist, at least, who isn’t pretty conscientious about their teaching. The main difference seems to be that scholarship for them is more clearly a part of negotium, even if it is also otium, while for many of us at SLACs and teaching institutions, there really is a bifurcation of roles and responsibilities. Indeed, the fact that we define our institutions in these ways says a lot.

There’s another aspect to it that I may get to next time. If you noticed, I spoke above about the Professional Good Girl. Some of them are men, but mostly, PGGs are women. And, in fact, next time, I’ll take on the ways in which I think that this bifurcation between teaching and research, between vocation and profession, ties into ideas of gender (which I’ve already touched on in my brief — and oblique — allusions to regular and secular clergy) and why so many of us seem unable to put our writing, and ourselves, first.

Edited to Add: I forgot my report. I got more than bugger-all done, but did not meet my goal. In part, this was because I forgot it was the beginning of advising week, and some of my advisees take a lot of time (three hours for just two advisees this week!). A professional organization I belong to is having some hiccups (no joke — 287 emails since last Sunday, over a hundred since Thursday). I feel like Lloyd Bridges’s character in Airplane. So this week’s goal is to re-think this entirely. At least 30 minutes a day in which I do nothing but work on this bastard article.

 

Roll call, with week 8 goals

• Adelaide [write a conference paper]: turn the detailed outline into a close-to-finished paper
• Amcalm25/AMChristensen [finish an article]: write for at least 30 minutes/ 5 days
• Amstr [revise and resubmit an article]: 1) write to editors to ask for a week’s extension, 2) complete work on half of paragraph “need-to-do”s, 3) break the lit review tasks down into things that can be accomplished in 15 minutes or so and do half the list, 4) spend an hour working on the intro
• Another Damned Medievalist [write/revise a close-to-final draft of an article]: get through two ILL books, order another two books, pull up some citations one of the grandes dames sent me, and organize that information. Plus 500 new/seriously revised words.
• Antikate [get a detailed outline and several sections for an article]: make up a detailed outline, plus come up with a new and more realistic goal for the overall project
• Belledamesansmerci/Elizabeth [rough draft of a journal article]: Finish a rough first draft of the first passage
• Bitterandjaded/Bittergrrl [finishing a dissertation chapter]: create a plan for incorporating edits and comments into the draft
• Britomart [completing a draft of dissertation introduction]: write for at least 30 minutes per day, starting to flesh out some of the untouched parts of the outline
• Cly(temnestra) [write a book chapter]: finish and polish the workshop paper (plus work on techniques to improve focus while working)
• Contingent Cassandra [complete a full draft of a journal article – note goal may be revised soon]: write on Tues. and Thurs. mornings
• Dame Eleanor Hull [complete a chapter of the article-turned-book]: work at least 1/2 hour a day; add at least 500 words to the chapter; take notes on an ILL book related to he chapter
• Digger [write two book chapters]: half a zero draft of nemesis chapter
• Dr. Crazy [Finish a chapter draft begun this summer]: 4 hours of work on the chapter between now and next Friday
• Dr. Virago [draft a 7500-word essay for a contracted publication]: 750 words, plus contact one of the volume editors and let her know that I’ll need the extension
• Forthright [write two article-length pieces]: write the introduction for that article, and to fill in the linking bits between the already-written sections; clean up some reading odds and ends
• Frogprincess [Final draft of the dissertation]: Finishing and submitting the cussed thing!
• Good Enough Woman [write the first half of a dissertation chapter]: 1) Read 20 pages of primary text, 2) Read one chapter of secondary text, 3) Read two chapters of Descartes, 4) Freewrite for 10 minutes M-F
• Gillian [4 chapters of dissertation]: finish my second chapter (today) and the third is to sort out the half-drafted chapter and to add any research to it
• Heu Mihi [write paper for a faculty colloquium]: 2-3 hours of work on the talk
• Highlyeccentric/nakedphilologist [Draft one thesis chapter]: Dive into the work on section 2, writing on four days of the week
• Janice/jliedl [write a first draft of a chapter]: 3000 words of shitty draft
• Kris [write up a “full” paper and cut down to a 15-minute conference presenation]: Have a full draft of the paper, allowing for some gaps that will need to be filled in
• Lucie: [Complete a full draft of the PhD thesis]: Write 5000 words on last chapter, and continue no-internet morning writing
• Luolin [finish and submit an article]: read backed-up articles, then move on to revising the outline
• Marie [finish turning paper into journal article]: take stock and figure out how to reset goals and make a concrete plan for moving forward
• Matilda [first draft of a journal article]: write every day at least 15 minutes; finishing the introductory part of the draft
• Mike [write ch. 2 of dissertation]: two pages of a draft
• Monks and Bones [turn a seminar paper into an article]: Complete draft of a conference paper
• Notorious Ph.D. [write a conference paper]: write 300 rough-draft words on the background section of the paper
• NWGirl [Revise one dissertation chapter into a book chapter]: update inventory spreadsheet and match to digital images; if possible, start outlining next steps with this material
• Salimata [write a conference paper]: write another 300 words/day
• Scatterwriter [revise three chapters of book]: make one last pass at an book on the to-read list
• Scholasticamama [draft of an article]: redraft lost material from hard drive crash, and buy a portable hard drive!
• Sisyphus [polish the rough draft of my article and send it out]: revise pages 15-18
• Sophylou: [finish revisions on an article and prepare it for submission]: No goal because she’s DONE!!!
• Stemi [First (very rough) draft of review article]: 1) read at least 50 pages in ILL book. 2) 100 new words in outline/draft document
• Susan [write a 7000 word commissioned essay]: spend an hour or so with each of two classic works and add a couple of good sentences on each.
• Trapped in Canadia [draft two chapters of the dissertation]: write 500 words
• Undine/Not of General Interest [Finish nearly done chapter and complete another]: 1000 usable words
• Viola [writing an introduction and a chapter for thesis]: Get a handle on how to write the lit review

Week 7 Absences (some of these are planned-and-announced absences, so if your name appears here even though you announced your upcoming absence, rest assured that the only reason you will be dropped is if you miss two weeks in a row):
• Erika [write a complete & final draft of an article already underway]
• Jennifer [finish writing a neglected article]
• Katrin/StitchInTime [No goal for the project]
• Opsimathphd [turning a dissertation chapter into an article]
• Zcat abroad/Kiwimedievalist [write an article]

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106 Comments leave one →
  1. 28 October, 2011 6:27 pm

    Will say more later, but dissertation was completed and submitted to the committee Tuesday evening!

  2. 28 October, 2011 7:04 pm

    This was another crazy week somehow – with less writing than I had hoped for but rather more reading, thinking and sorting out of thoughts, with a few unexpected sources turning up here and there.
    Apart from that, I have the feeling that I am slowly getting more overview of the problems and handleable topics, and how to approach things. So yes, progress, even though less of it visible on the page and as word count.

    Goal for next week: Get the new insights written down, and finish going through literature currently stacked high here.

    My overall goal (since that seems to have gotten lost again) is to turn my old master’s thesis into book form by getting it up to date and expanding it.

    • Amstr permalink
      30 October, 2011 9:44 pm

      Insight is such a huge factor in our work, isn’t it? I’m willing to say we do need to just write, or separate writing from inspiration, or know that inspiration sometimes comes from hard work, but I think it’s good to acknowledge that we need a week of thinking sometimes. Good work pushing forward.

  3. 28 October, 2011 7:33 pm

    Even though I had a week from hell, with three family members ending up in the hospital or having CT scans, I managed to turn all that worrying time sitting in the ER/scan waiting rooms into productive time. I finished the rough draft of the portion concerning the first passage. Next week, rough draft of the second passage, as more waiting at the hospital yawns before me.

    It is either that I flee from scary thoughts, or that waiting for hours bores me to the point I will write. Odd, eh? I hope it doesn’t take crises like these, but maybe I’ve overcome the inertia.

    • 28 October, 2011 7:48 pm

      Oh, and thank you all for your kind comments and support last week; they are greatly appreciated.

      • nwgirl permalink
        29 October, 2011 2:40 am

        Glad to hear that you’ve made some lemonade from the lemons. Regardless of the motivation (escape or boredom), you’ve made progress. That’s awesome.

  4. 29 October, 2011 1:05 am

    Absent last week, due to being snowed under with marking which had overflowed from the previous week, due to hospital and recovery.

    This week, I’ve been finishing the marking (done! At last! 2 weeks for me!), and working on various applications. This, for me, has been the most annoying thing since I finished my thesis. I need to apply for jobs because, well, I need the jobs (or one job – really, just any job, in a university, teaching. Please!). But the job applications haven’t been getting far, because I don’t have publications. There’s a raft of excuses for not having gotten anything published during my thesis, but since then, I’ve gotten a number of articles on the go, and haven’t been able to finish them ‘cos I’ve been wasting time doing other writing which is not as applicable. And yet I can’t really not apply for some of these jobs, because they’d be perfect, and I could do them really well, and….

    TL: DNR This week’s aim is to finish the revisions to the article which needs to be sent off soon, and complete two job applications. Once that article is finished, I’ll then have another week to work on the articles I’ve been meant to be working on this semester…

    How can we make writing more central to daily life?

    • 5 November, 2011 2:50 am

      If it makes you feel better, I didn’t get anything published when working on my thesis. Oh. Wait. That shouldn’t make you feel better.

  5. nwgirl permalink
    29 October, 2011 2:36 am

    I did not work on the spreadsheet inventory as much as I had hoped this week. But I think I was overly optimistic about how much I could get done because this week was ugly busy with advising, service, teaching, and grading. But I did spend time reworking the outline and the proposal for the book. I’m excited about the new material that I found and I am looking forward to a lighter week next week.

    I have struggled this week with putting others’ needs and schedules ahead of my writing then finding myself frustrated and resentful because I cannot seem to achieve my goals. For example, the advising schedule has been out for a month but I have several students who have not signed up for appointments. Now they’re panicking because registration begins next week and the “convenient” appointments are filled. “But Dr. NWG, I’ve been too busy to sign up for an appointment,” when I point out that the schedule has been out for weeks. So I’m fielding e-mails and phone calls from snowflakes who want appointments that are “convenient” for them regardless of what it does to my schedule.

    So for next week I have two goals. First, I am going to schedule writing time. I have a lighter week, so I am going to make a writing appointment with myself every day next week. I will use that time to finish reworking the outline for the book proposal. Second, I will continue to work on the spreadsheet inventory.

    I welcome this discussion because I struggle with the PGG syndrome that ADM mentioned. It would interesting, too, to hear how region plays into this. I am in the South, in the heart of the Bible belt, at a private university. I think that influences those traditional ideas and increases the pressure to be the PGG.

  6. 29 October, 2011 3:52 am

    Today’s been a messy week. I’ve done a small amount of additional research, but it turned out (when I had things together) that I might have most of what I need at this moment. This was lucky, because when I pulled it all together, I found that my argument had mysteriously become incoherent. I’m still working on making it cohere.

    By next week I want this section drafted to the stage where I can hand it to my supervisor, so that I can start thinking about the most difficult chapter. I also have to do a check of the earlier chapters, because one of the reasons this chapter was such a mess was that my ideas had wandered a bit, so cutting and pasting was done and I need to check to see if it was done successfully.

    The only reason I’m on track this week is because a heap of other things that were supposed to happen (mainly emails with feedback or instructions) didn’t. When they all happen, no doubt they will happen at once, which is why I’m rather glad I am still on schedule, even if it’s not the way I expected to be.

    • Amstr permalink
      30 October, 2011 9:47 pm

      Congratulations on being on schedule! I almost never am, so it seems to me a great reason to celebrate.

  7. J Liedl permalink
    29 October, 2011 4:14 am

    3880 words of shitty draft done. I was secretly hoping to be over 5000 words but the end is in sight. Then I can fix the worst parts before handing it off to my collaborator for editorial insight.

    My goal? 5000 words of semi-polished draft by next Friday. That is assuming that nothing new and horrible in terms of OBE interferes. I have a backlog of marking to power through, a couple of meetings shoehorned into next week’s schedule and who knows what else I’m forgetting. However, as I’m not carrying any major administrative roles this year, I can cheerfully ignore my work email for a large chunk of the day. Truly, the most liberating feeling after years of administrative responsibility tied to that stupid inbox!

  8. 29 October, 2011 4:52 am

    Well, despite not having an actual word goal for the week, I ended up writing an additional 800 words for the presentation I gave on Tuesday, and it went fabulously! The chair of our department was the most excited I have ever seen him about any project that has been presented at these things. It felt fantastic to present on my own work and to get positive and constructive feedback. I’ve been feeling so overwhelmed with writing and the job market and teaching and everything else, that it was nice to take a step back and get some perspective. The experience also solidified that this is definitely the chapter I will be using for my job talks – if/when I get them – since It seems to be the type of topic that a lot of people can relate back to their own work,

    Of the comments I got, I think the best were the ones that saw what I was doing with my project possibly more clearly than I did, and which will help me to frame my project – or at least this part of my project – in a way that is a little easier to describe to specialists and non-specialists alike. The comments have been incorporated into my chapter draft, and next week I will begin revising and adding to the chapter accordingly.

    Goal for next week: 2000 words on the chapter.

    • Amstr permalink
      30 October, 2011 9:49 pm

      Congratulations on receiving great feedback. I’m glad the presentation turned into something productive for your work/job apps/ etc.

    • 5 November, 2011 3:19 am

      That’s great news. Glad it went so well!

  9. undinenotofgeneralinterest permalink
    29 October, 2011 5:28 am

    What a good and true post! The link was great, too, in terms of inspiration. This week’s total: 1200 words of usable writing, but I spent way too many writing hours responding to others’ needs, as you described.

    • undinenotofgeneralinterest permalink
      29 October, 2011 5:29 am

      Goal for next week: 1500 words (and let the other people’s needs wait for a while. It’s not life or death.).

  10. 29 October, 2011 5:51 am

    I need to check in from out of town, but only to say: I wasn’t able to make any progress on my oh-so-modest goal for this week. It was a week of student conferences, back-to-back. Since I won’t be back until late Sunday night, and since I’ve got a stupid stack (well, actually, three stacks) of grading waiting for me when I arrive, I’m going to set the same goal: 500 actual-draft (as opposed to Shitty First Draft) words on the paper by next weekend.

  11. sophylou permalink
    29 October, 2011 6:29 am

    This post really resonates with me, since “my” work is somewhat uneasily related to my actual job. Though I have to give props to a colleague who works in the time period I was writing in (a change from my “home” time period) who gave me a lot of wonderful, thoughtful feedback on my drafts. That professional courtesy did wonders for my progress, at a lot of levels.

    I am through with the thing that occupied my time and am now waiting to hear if more such preoccupation will take place (was a preliminary interview for a position that sounds almost tailor-made for me). But, in spite of my having reached my original goal, I’d like to set a writing goal for next week, because I’d really like to start a new project! So I’d like to commit to doing some brainstorming freewriting every day next week, even if it’s just a page a day. I have a lot of ideas that I’d love to follow through on, and I’m wondering if there isn’t some connecting thread that I could find and develop as a way of figuring out where I’d like to start.

  12. Viola permalink
    29 October, 2011 8:08 am

    Really interesting blog post. I’m not so busy at the moment due to Swot Vac and studying for exams but I’ve bookmarked it to come back to over the summer (Australian here) when I inevitably overcommit.

    I have been reading through Lit Review guides from Uni and I started outlining some ideas. I’m going to start writing proper this week which I guess is my goal. I am meeting with my supervisor to start fleshing things out a little bit so that when she goes overseas I can keep plodding along on my own. Some happy news -I received some good marks for coursework recently so I am crossing my fingers for scholarships for the next year.

  13. 29 October, 2011 9:52 am

    To my shock, I actually met my goal this week! It is amazing what *can* be done when one has no other choice. I’m not terribly pleased with the paper itself (it is about a period I know nothing about), but the wokshop is supposed to be ‘exploratory’ (which usually means someone will be ‘exploring’ the stuff he/she published three books on, but whatever).
    My goal for the group (the book chapter) was barely touched this week. My goal for next week is to have a semi-polished working draft (one that I can show to people and get comments on).

    As far as focus goes, I seem to do a bit better with concentrating on one thing at a time. My new attempt at focussing is to make lists of projects, prioritise, and spend at least 45 minutes a day writing. My goal next week is to stick to that.

    As for writing, many thanks for posting Grumpy’s tips. Like ADM, I will definitely be trying to take his advice. I don’t tend to forget about writing, I do tend to get stuck in writing-ruts or to work on too many things at once (my brain has trouble jumping between tasks) without having time for any of them.

    Of course, my focussing-goal and Notorious’ brilliant timer-advice (thanks btw), this will change.

  14. 29 October, 2011 3:05 pm

    First, congratulations to the Frog Princess! (Does this mean you will soon be advanced to Frog Queen?)
    Second, report: I have done pretty much exactly what I set out to do this week. I put in about half an hour on each of five days (Mon-Sat; nothing on Thurs), took notes on the ILL book (I think I’m just going to copy its bibliography, too), and wrote 523 words.
    So, third, goal for next week: continue to put in 30 minutes/day, add 500 words to the chapter, and take some notes on another book, one I own, this time.
    Fourth, thoughts about this week’s topic: very timely, as this was the week I have been dedicating to catching up on teaching and service. OTOH, I am at a school that likes to think of itself as a research school (so I teach 3-2), and I do have higher expectations for research productivity as well as, in theory, more time for it. I suppose it’s my fault that I use up my time on commuting. And it’s my choice to spend a lot of time on exercise and sleep, on the theory that it is much less selfish to take care of myself than to collapse like Sisyphus’s colleague and leave other people to pick up the pieces of my workload. Nonetheless, I have often thought that universities/colleges in general, even in the US, are still suffering from the hangover of their medieval origins, when faculty were all in orders, celibate, living in college, and making their lives center on their work.
    Teaching students some very basic skills before we can get on with content is, apparently, going to be more and more a part of my life, even in upper division and grad classes. I am in a strange head-state about this: I recognize that it is necessary, and am making adjustments for it; at the same time, I am enormously disappointed and fairly angry that this is what it has come to. I did not sign up to teach high school, yet I need to teach undergrads things that I learned by the end of 8th grade (in public school, BTW). This sort of grading, at least, doesn’t require a huge investment of time, but I still resent having to give lots of low-point, low-stakes assignments that give me huge amounts of paper to handle. The result, at least at this point, is a very strong disinclination to be a PGG. I’ll do what I judge to be essential, and that’s that. I put off checking e-mail, I put off or forget about bureaucratic stuff that doesn’t directly serve my aims, and I have, in fact, said (more or less) “I was so busy writing I just never bothered to prep.” That’s where the first half of my semester went. I don’t say it’s ideal or that anyone should follow this example, but I like writing and more and more I find that I really like being selfish. When I write every day, I’m much happier, and that makes the rest of my job (and my life) more enjoyable. And at my time of life, I’m going for happiness points. When I retire, or die, I want to be able to say, “I did what I wanted and I had a good time,” not “I conscientiously looked after other people.”

    • 29 October, 2011 3:49 pm

      Dame E, so would I — I am envious! I do think a lot of it is about how we are raised, and what initially draws us to academia. I think PGGs are often those who get sucked in as much because it is where they feel at home and are praised as it is about being drawn to scholarship for its own sake.

      • 29 October, 2011 5:12 pm

        ADM,
        I await your further post on PGG’s, but I fit to a T the comment you made here. Leaving out the long, boring story, I was an unwanted child who figured out early on that I could get attention and something akin to love from my teachers. I found other reasons to become a scholar, but that was the beginning.

        As for making room for writing, I heard a great talk about putting writing in the top five priorities in one’s life. For me, those are health, family, friends, writing, and in last place, the day job.

        So much of your post hit a chord with me. I left graduate school when my department gave me an award for distinguished teaching, then took away my stipend two days later, saying that I had learned how to teach, so they needed to give the money to a new graduate student.

        I went to library school to put food on the table whilst writing the dissertation, but quickly that academic libraries are not generally fond of ABDs. I have worked at three different large state universities. At one, a salary survey revealed that the higher degree one had, the less salary one was paid. At another, I was called “uppity”; at another, “a professor wanna-be.”

        I am expected to do all my research on my own time; I am expected to pay the bulk of my expenses for national conferences I am required to attend, and I have to prove that I went to the conference sessions when I return, which makes me feel like a 3rd-grader with a note from my mother.

        I have to work 12 months a year; due to the pressures of state budget cuts, I am encouraged not to take vacations. My department has constricted so greatly in the last few years, that I have no one working for me, not even student help, to do the necessary grunt work for the job. Given that all the work piles up and is waiting malevolently when one returns, librarians and paraprofessionals alike often retire with years of accrued vacation time left over.

        I do not have an office, or an office door, so I have to leave the building to get any substantive work done–or to call my gynecologist. I rarely leave my veal-fattening pen for lunch, or even for that drink of water, since a superior may call or walk in at any time with an urgent request. If I do leave, I worry that I will have something waiting for me when I get back, and be in trouble for not being there. I have been called at home on weekends or in the evenings. Nothing I do is life or death, but I have never worked for a university that didn’t act like it was.

        One thing that your post made me realize is that I’m not alone in my frustrations, and that helps me greatly. I apologize for the rant, but I have to say, it made me feel better. Like I said above, you hit a chord.

      • 31 October, 2011 5:19 am

        ADM and Elizabeth, I, too, am one of those who has always enjoyed teacher approval, and now I am a certified (or certifiable) PGG. Not long ago, I heard someone define a narcissist as someone who needs external validation of their merit, or external reflection of any positive self-image. I wonder if I’m a PGG b/c I’m a narcissist? That sounds bad on several counts. It’s interesting, though, to think of putting my day job last in my priorities. Makes me feel a bit giddy. And reminds me that I have some grading to do. Thanks to both of you for your honest and thoughtful posts.

    • Susan permalink
      31 October, 2011 2:36 am

      Dame E, you should add it still is locked in the 50s, when male professors had wives to manage their lives. I’ve known (now retired) faculty who never made a cup of coffee. So of course they were highly productive.

  15. Matilda permalink
    29 October, 2011 4:29 pm

    Hello, all,

    Though this week has been extremely busy at caring for my sick children and other special problems, I have done something. I added some 500 words to my draft, while organising my argument and structure. My introductory part is still under construction, though. This makes me modestly pleased. From last week, I have learned that writing something tangible help me to be confident and motivated. Another good thing is that I had a chance to contact with a scholar whose research I have been influenced. This encouraged me a lot.

    Goal for next week: writing 1000 or more words; reading a related and seemed-important paper recently I found.

  16. Jennifer permalink
    29 October, 2011 5:46 pm

    Hello all,

    Thank you for the link to Professor Grumpy’s writing post! Also, for your words about putting writing first. I have not been making that happen regularly.

    I was away at a conference last weekend and never managed to check in. I did manage to get some writing done and made some headway on a section that I’ve been trying to figure out. Unfortunately, this led to more reading, which inevitably sent me down the research rabbit hole for most of this week. On the plus side, I have figured out where to look for the last missing piece of my argument.

    This week my goal is to get back to daily morning writing. I’m aiming for 500 words a day.

  17. Sisyphus permalink
    29 October, 2011 6:39 pm

    • Sisyphus [polish the rough draft of my article and send it out]: revise pages 15-18

    Pages 15-18 are, indeed, revised. I even added pictures! Whoo! I like pictures. The weird thing is now those pages are # 14-17 in my draft, so my next goal, revise pages 17-21, actually does not overlap with the same pages I just did. FYI.

    And these pages are the end of my article and are a huge mess AND need to have some sort of amazing and snazzy conclusion, so I would love to completely revise it all in a week, but I am doubtful. Especially since I spent all week grading and only did the revision today, Saturday. I know I can’t fix up the entire ending section in one day next week.

    So in the spirit of trying to keep up the momentum I am adding another goal for next week: make a list of tiny mindless/tedious fixes for the article and work on them at night when I am too braindead to write or grade.

    • Amstr permalink
      30 October, 2011 9:58 pm

      Great idea on the dumb fixes list. I might do that too this week.

  18. Adelaide permalink
    29 October, 2011 7:14 pm

    Success! I wrote just over 8 pages of my paper this week! Given the presentation is only to be about 20 minutes (or less – they’re interested in leaving a good bit of time for discussion at this particular conference), this means this is pretty much a rough draft. I did find out that as a multidisciplinary conference as it is, they aren’t necessarily expecting it to be in a paper format, so my paper itself may remain unfinished until after the conference (so I can use any questions or things that get brought up there to help finish it into an article I could submit to a journal), and simply use my rough draft to prep my presentation. So my goal for next week (and probably into next weekend – so I’m giving me until a week from tomorrow rather than a week from yesterday for this goal because next week is a insanely busy one) is to turn my rough draft paper/article into a presentation…

    @Elizabeth – I am so thankful that I am at a school where I am 10 month faculty and have a very nice office with a door (Where I am at despite it not being my weekend to work, because it is a nice quiet office where I can get work done if I’m not the one covering reference for the weekend!) I’d like to say I’m surprised at the reactions you’ve had from librarians, but sadly I do think there’s such a problem with self-esteem amongst librarians, that I’m not surprised by it (though I am saddened)…

    • 30 October, 2011 8:10 pm

      Adelaide, certainly most of the librarians I know suffer from low self-esteem, possibly because many of them are classic PGG’s, to use ADM’s term. But the profession is sometimes its own worst enemy.
      However, I have many lovely colleagues who have been supportive of my finishing the dissertation, and who did not deserve my rant.

  19. Mike permalink
    29 October, 2011 8:55 pm

    I did not get two pages written but I got a lot of reding, thinking and note taking done. I’m trying to be patient with myself and just keep on trucking. Applications and teaching keep getting in the way but at least the apps will be done by the end of this week for good.

    So, this week same goal. Two pages of a draft.

  20. Erika permalink
    29 October, 2011 9:35 pm

    Well done on the Dissertation TFP! WHat a great hurdle crossed! Dame Eleanor, I think I’d like to borrow your hierarchy of happiness: self, family, friends, writing, and teaching. I too am in a school that’s quite interested in research, but also expects us to be extraordinary teachers. They have lowered our loads to a 3-2 so we’re granted some daily time for writing, which helps. Last week and this week, though, I’m OBE. My daughter and I got the cold from hell, and try as I might, I couldn’t get any better. She missed 1 week of school, and I’ve just been dragging myself from bed to the classroom and back again!
    So my goal for last week (and this one) didn’t get met, but I did make a teeny bit of progress. The draft is at 6200 words, and I’ve really got no excuses to keep it from done at this point.

    My goal this week: try outlining the entire argument again now that Free writing isn’t working, and see what needs writing. Write 2,000 words, since I don’t have any guest lectures in the way (I had two! last week, one a big deal, one no big deal).

    My Big goal is going to have to be reset. So now, I’ll write a complete draft, but not a final one for submission. That was too ambitious for a semester with 2 conference papers, 2 big guest lectures, and learning how to advise and serve.

    • 30 October, 2011 2:27 pm

      I think that was Elizabeth Anne Mitchell’s hierarchy.

      • Erika permalink
        30 October, 2011 7:49 pm

        Ah so sorry! Thanks Elizabeth Anne Mitchell for your great hierarchy, I am going to remember that one, and try to use it!

      • 30 October, 2011 8:18 pm

        Erika, it’s really not something to apologize for, although I appreciate your correction, Dame Eleanor. It feels selfish, especially if socialized to be a caretaker, but we can’t take care of others if we don’t take care of ourselves. And for me, that means writing.

  21. 29 October, 2011 10:49 pm

    A really quick update as it’s nearly dinner time…I didn’t quite manage 750 words because I missed a writing day, but I wrote 679 words and also did a little editing on what I have so far. Plus, I did contact of the collection editors and she said an extension until January would be fine. Whew!

    This is all quite an accomplishment given the craziness this week, which included getting into a yelling *and* crying argument with a colleague in front of my chair. Shit. Don’t know how I’m going to recover from that, but I can’t quite my job now, because Bullock and I close on the new house on Nov. 30 and we have yet to put the old house on the market.

    • 30 October, 2011 7:15 am

      Um… it happens.

      Or, well, I’ve done it.

      deep breaths.

      • 30 October, 2011 2:57 pm

        Anti-anxiety meds this weekend helped, too! (And I meant to write “*one* of the collection editors” and “I can’t *quit* my job” in the earlier post.)

        Also, I forgot to give next week’s goal: same old, same old 750 words.

  22. 29 October, 2011 11:19 pm

    I’m purposely going to not post my progress today, but hold off until tomorrow, in the hopes of improved results.

    I did, however, want to share this:
    http://macfreedom.com/

    Freedom *turns off your internet* for a set amount of time. It’s what I’ve needed, because apparently I have no self control when it comes to the Internets. You can override it, but that involves re-starting your computer. There’s a free trial; if you decide to keep it, it’s only $10. On one hand, I’m embarrased that I have no self control. On the other hand, you do what you gotta, you know?

    • 29 October, 2011 11:20 pm

      PS: Mac and Windows versions, despite the web addy.

      • 30 October, 2011 11:14 pm

        Goal: Half of a zero draft of nemesis chapter
        Progress: HALF A ZERO DRAFT OF NEMESIS CHAPTER! I still think I’m writing too much, but am determined to not worry about it until I have a whole zero draft to edit. Turning off the internet and buckling down = progress. Massive progress. Still embarrassed at my lack of self control to not “just quickly have a peek at email/facebook/news/whatever” while working…

        Next week’s goal: the OTHER HALF! I will be so happy to have this out of the way, I cannot even tell you. The rest of the book is cake.

    • opsimathphd permalink
      31 October, 2011 3:52 am

      There’s also a Mac program called SelfControl (Mac only, alas) which does something similar, but enables you to allow specific sites. I found it really helpful to be able to use the Internet for research, for example, but not for anything else. Or you can set up so the Internet in general remains accessible but specific sites are blocked.

      • 31 October, 2011 5:08 am

        It would be so awesome to be able to write, “The rest of the book is cake”–especially if I could write it straight and without sarcasm. As for the Internet, last spring I checked into a hotel to get some work done (away from the family), and was alarmed to realize I didn’t have Internet access in my room. It turned out to be a blessing.

  23. 30 October, 2011 12:07 am

    This is a great post for me because it describes my life.

    I am not in the writing group, but I have met my October goal. It was a big one have not met any goal in a long time so I am congratulating myself.

    The challenge I set myself at the beginning of the semester was to pour it on with writing in November, too. I am not sure I should not reset November projects to December because I am way behind on teaching. I am going to have to see. Maybe half and half.

  24. Scatterwriter permalink
    30 October, 2011 12:48 am

    Goal for this week was to make one last pass at a book on the to-read list — toward an overall goal of revising three chapters of a book manuscript.

    I did work on this, a little, but I knew it would be a tough week, so my inability to finish working with this book doesn’t really bother me. The upcoming week also has the potential to be quite busy as well, and I will be traveling next weekend so I’m not sure I’ll be able to check in.

    Last week, I said that if I couldn’t finish the book, I’d accept it and move on. However, the little I did with it made me realize that if this book is going in the direction that I think it’s going, it may be crucial to reshaping my argument (in a good way) and may necessitate reorganizing my impossibly long Chapter 1 (also in a good way). I even have ideas about how to restructure, if it pans out. So even though I said this was the last pass, I think I need to keep working with this book. Same goal for this coming week as for last week: continue skimming book on to-read list.

    I’m a little startled by the imminent arrival of November. It’s making me think that I won’t get my big goal accomplished, after all!

    Also, ADM, I love this post. Your third paragraph, especially. I will be like Dame Eleanor Hull and try to become increasingly selfish. It kind of sounds awful, but I know it’s right.

  25. Scatterwriter permalink
    30 October, 2011 12:53 am

    Your fifth paragraph, too. It sounds like one of my days.

  26. Dr. Crazy permalink
    30 October, 2011 2:01 am

    ADM – YES. I want to respond more fully to your post, but for the time being that will have to suffice.

    As for my goals this week, I didn’t get my 4 hours in, but I *did* get about 3 new pages written! Success!

    For next week: I’m going to try for 4 hours again, and I want to get three more pages written.

  27. monksandbones permalink
    30 October, 2011 3:49 pm

    This week, despite ostensibly having the whole week to dedicate to working on it, minus archive time, I have nothing remotely resembling a complete draft. That said, I’ve managed to pull myself out of the “nothing to say” hole, and I now have a workable thesis, part of an introduction, and a couple of other paragraphs. Unfortunately, I also have about a billion started-and-rejected sentences which are symptoms of my perfectionism problems all week. I’m currently regrouping by making a new, more detailed outline that will hopefully make it easier to get some words down.

    My goal for this week is more or less the same as last week, only with less time before I present it.

    1) Draft conference paper.
    2) Finish conference paper.

    I’ll be travelling next weekend, so I’m not sure I’ll be able to check in.

  28. Stemi permalink
    30 October, 2011 4:07 pm

    Project goal: First (very rough) draft of review article

    Weekly goal: 1) read at least 50 pages in ILL book. 2) 100 new words in outline/draft document

    I have been at a conference this week (with an organizational role) but I was able to finish the ILL book and write 300 words during travel/flights.

    Next week goal: 500 new words in outline/draft document

  29. Lucie permalink
    30 October, 2011 7:23 pm

    (Next week’s goal: 7000 words, re-read 2 primary texts, maintain internet-free morning writing)

    This week I can say unreservedly that I met my goal of 5000 words writing and actually wrote more, about 8000 words, though it will be edited and boiled down. So I’m going to keep the pressure on and make a goal of writing 7000 words for next week and re-reading two primary texts. I’m also going to make an effort to keep writing in the morning with the internet off. I have to keep bringing up my pace to make sure I meet the deadline, but I had a supervision meeting during the week and fixed a schedule, which was good, and I really want to stick to the dates we agreed.

    I can’t add much to the discussion about being a ‘PGG’ as I haven’t had to juggle too much yet. Though I will say that I have already struggled with the balance between teaching, papers, and actual thesis-writing, and have found the whole PhD an onslaught on my health.In that regard I have found I have to be much stricter about routine, planning and compartmentalising time than I needed to be before this or I just can’t manage.

    Good to all with this week’s goals.

    • 31 October, 2011 5:03 am

      Wow, Lucie! That is some truly sustained writing output! I’m impressed by your focus and depth of attention.

  30. 30 October, 2011 8:33 pm

    Blargh. My as-expected OBE put me way behind this week. Got lots of reading done, but I’m still not seeing the full structure of the article I’d set as my weekly goal. So it still has lots of text, but not much structure. This week, fortunately, promises to be somewhat more distraction-free. Since this is week 8 I really need to get that done if I want to get the article submitted by our mutual end, here … So I just have to do it. This week’s goal: get article #1 well-structured with a good introduction and enough filler bits between already-written sections that the end will be in sight.

  31. Contingent Cassandra permalink
    30 October, 2011 9:09 pm

    Oh, boy, I could write quite a screed riffing on various parts of this week’s prompt, viewed from the perspective of someone whose job description doesn’t include research (or service) at all, but who works for an institution where research is highly valued (and better-compensated than teaching). But I think I’ll just say (perhaps not entirely inappropriately) “amen” . . . and that I eagerly await your further musings on the matters.

    As for this week. . .it was a complete bust. The ancillary project (preparing for a class next semester that is related to the article project — something of an anomaly for me, and one that requires some extra effort on my part to make it happen) moved forward; the article itself did not. And the ancillary work is going to continue for another several weeks at once (and unfortunately isn’t of the kind that can be gotten out of the way, as Notorious suggested last week; continued back and forth with other people, including but not limited to prospective students, is involved).

    But, I’m determined to get something done by the group deadline. So the new concrete goal is to finish Section 2, which, as I currently have the article sketched out, will be c. 2500 words, in the next four weeks. I have c. 1000 solid words written (plus a lot of sketchy notes and similar stuff, which will need to be turned into actual draft or eliminated). So that leaves 1500 to go (though, given what I know about my writing processes, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I ended up writing 3,000 or 4,000 and cutting, and I’m not sure whether the cutting should happen now, or later in the process).

    So I’m going to try a word-count goal (instead of a “write on x days” one) for week 9 (and probably 10, 11, and 12 as well): write at least 500 words.

    So, to summarize:

    New overall goal: finish 2500-word Section 2 of article draft
    Week 9 goal: write at least 500 words of Section 2

  32. Britomart permalink
    30 October, 2011 9:22 pm

    I’m sorry for my late check-in this week. ADM, your post was an amazing reflection on the relationship between writing and other obligations. I’m sure most everyone here was reading it thinking, “Yes! That’s it exactly!” For me, the teaching obligations come first both because their feedback is immediate and because if I’m insufficiently prepared for teaching, I’m afraid of looking embarrassed or incompetent in front of a sizable group of people. If I don’t write, I only disappoint myself.

    Last week’s goals: I only wrote on one day, so the goals were not met.

    This week’s goals: Same as before, 30 minutes of writing per day. Try to do better than last week.

    • 31 October, 2011 3:07 am

      No worries — I’m still catching up! The immediacy of the feedback is certainly one of the big things about teaching for me, too.

  33. Amstr permalink
    30 October, 2011 10:23 pm

    For last week: 1) write to editors to ask for a week’s extension, 2) complete work on half of my paragraph “need-to-do”s, 3) break the lit review tasks down into things that can be accomplished in 15 minutes or so, revisit task list, and do half the list, 4) spend an hour working on the intro.

    My editors graciously agreed to a week’s extension. I’m incredibly grateful, as the week has been ambushed by out-of-town family (a rather difficult visit) and full weekend. I did get almost half of my to-do list done, and I got through a good chunk of Lit Review materials, but haven’t made myself sit down with the intro yet.

    For some reason, I’m having lots of trouble with the Lit Review. I think it’s because I’m not finding much related to my particular focus on my subject, and I’m afraid that it will end up being because I didn’t read enough to find it. I’ve done due diligence in many ways, but I’m nervous to say “people haven’t written about this.” I do have a couple leads that may help me say, “so and so frames the problem this way, but I think . . .” I’m happy for any Lit Review advice or “entering the conversation” advice you all might have.

    For next week: It’s do or die week. I must get the revision tasks and lit review and intro done by Friday so I have the weekend to fine tune sentences and proofread, as the article is due Tuesday.

    • Amstr permalink
      30 October, 2011 10:24 pm

      Oh, and I’ve been so busy I even forgotten that my son got diagnosed with strep on Monday, so I lost a couple days of focused working. I’m glad for walk-in strep screenings and quick-working antibiotics!

      • 31 October, 2011 5:00 am

        Strep is just the worst, especially in kids. The first time they got it seemed to be the worst. I thought the Girl had appendicitis b/c she had so much abdominal pain. Anyway, I’m sure he had rebounded by now, and I hope your daily balance is restored!

  34. highlyeccentric permalink
    30 October, 2011 11:55 pm

    ADM, thanks for the comments about the Professional Good Girl phenomenon and relationships with writing/teaching binaries. 🙂

    Hmm. Last week I hit the process goal (four days a week), but did something odd with the actual content. Section two’s lying fallow at the moment – meanwhile I did the pulling-out-points-from-old-papers which I’d planned on doing as prep for section three, got excited, and steamed ahead to the tune of 1000 words. I think I’m going to keep on with section 3 this week: I’d like to finish it, but I’d be happy with 1000 words, happier with 2000. 🙂

  35. amcalm25 permalink
    31 October, 2011 12:15 am

    Congrats Frog Princess! That is a great feeling to hand the document over, and know the end is really in sight!!

    So my plan for last week was just to forge ahead with five 30 minute writing sessions. I managed almost two. I seem to be losing focus on my project as I am overwhelmed by mid semester grading and writing up of final assignments for my students. While I do teach at a research U, as a lecturer, I teach more classes that TT/tenured faculty, and as often seems to be the case, get new classes thrown my way on a reguar basis, which means that I am constantly doing new prep. And then I of course want to add new, fresh material to classes that I have taught a million times. For instance, I spent two hours the other night making up a lesson and handout on ghosts, witches and werewolves in ancient Rome for my beginning Latin classes. It’s awesome, but I really could have used at least one of those hours for writing, or god forbid, doing the pile of dirty dishes lurking in the sink!

    I’ve had two pretty much unproductive weeks in a row and need to figure out how to regroup and get back on track, and still deal with all the busy work I have as the semester starts coming to an end. I have yet to sit down and really go back through what I have written so far and by not working regularly for the last two weeks, I find that I have forgotten where I was going with some of it.

    So this week’s goal is to reassess what I have been doing and see what I really have that is usable.

  36. 31 October, 2011 12:37 am

    In under the wire….

    Spent 2-3 hours on my talk and it is now MOSTLY drafted.

    Goal for the week (having spent the weekend with visitors, not working): 2-3 hours of work. Just keep plugging away–I should be done with this sucker soon, soon.

  37. Marie permalink
    31 October, 2011 12:51 am

    Whew, I almost forgot, but for a really good reason! I’m really happy with what I have so far. My next goal is to cut about 500 words, always tricky.

  38. 31 October, 2011 1:35 am

    I was afraid that I wouldn’t make it on time as I’m posting last minute Pacific time. Well, this week, I didn’t read the Descartes chapters, but I read the majority of a secondary source book that is turning out to be very helpful as I try to think about my research questions and approaches to the issue. So that was great. I also read about 20 pages of primary text, and while I didn’t free write M-F, I still did quite a bit of freewriting–probably around 700 words, so that’s good. So, all in all, my goals changed a bit, but it was a good week. And I celebrated by birthday!

    This week, I want to 1) read two chapters of Descartes, 2) read 30 pages of primary text, 3) read one article, and 4) freewrite for 10 minutes per day.

    And, yes, ADM, I can totally relate to your post. You frame the issue well when you point out that writing is the one thing that is “for you.” I teach at a community college, so research and writing are not expected. And I have young kids. So this whole PhD thing? It’s a rather selfish pursuit, and doing the work often seems selfish–even like I’m stealing time from the work/people who truly deserve it. So it’s what I do in my “free” time. I rarely exercise or just do leisure things. My PhD is my leisure (which is a bit twisted), so it tends to come last, which makes me wonder how I will ever finish. But this writing group is helping a lot, so you have my many thanks.

    • 31 October, 2011 3:10 am

      Yeah — I have to say, when I realize that I treat writing and taking care of myself as luxuries, I just want to scream. This weekend, I had people over, which meant about ten hours devoted to cleaning and hanging out with friends, after three 13-hour days and two 10-hour ones. It’s the first time I’ve had people over since term started. And it was in part a belated birthday celebration. And I had to justify it to myself, over and over.

      • Matilda permalink
        31 October, 2011 4:10 am

        ADM, your original post had me think deeply, though, which is too fragmentally to post… Happy birthday to you, GEW and ADM!

      • 31 October, 2011 4:55 am

        Sometimes it’s so easy for the priorities of work (whether a vocation or a profession) to overshadow or even oppress the priorities of living.

        Happy belated birthday, ADM! I hope you had a great time with your friends and were able to celebrate living!

  39. Susan permalink
    31 October, 2011 2:52 am

    Oh, it’s very late. This week was crazy, with a bunch of different things that took me out of town. But: I met my goal — I got my extra sentences in, and this morning I sat down and read through the whole thing, and decided it had progressed enough beyond the SFD to be sent to friends for comments/criticisms.

    Goal for next week: fill in some of the footnotes, and start doing the bibliography. I have to review some proposals for a meeting, so I won’t have as much time as I’d like, but I think I can do this — slightly mindless. It may help with some minor tweaks, too.

    As for ADM’s post: I *am* expected to write for my job, and my teaching load reflects that. But I am a PGG, which means I have three very different (and heavy) service obligations. (i.e. on Tuesday I started the day with a meeting at 8 AM, and was more or less in meetings except from 11-12:30, when I had office hours, until I taught at 4:30.) Also, I have to maintain the house, make sure there is food in it, play with the cats, cook, etc. My mother lives in town, and I have to make sure I see her, too; and sometimes she needs help. So it’s been very important this semester that I have just said that Friday is a research day. If I haven’t been as good at keeping it as I should have, I have at least spent some time on my research every Friday. I do also — like Dame E — do things to protect my sanity: have dinner with friends, exercise, sleep, read blogs, etc.

    Sometimes it helps that I think of my writing as not for me, but for the larger conversation.

  40. Susan permalink
    31 October, 2011 2:53 am

    Oh, and I think it’s better to think of teaching as a profession, not a vocation. That vocation stuff makes us all vulnerable to exploitation!

    • 31 October, 2011 3:12 am

      yes! that’s one of the things I want to tie into my next post — it is VERY medieval.

    • sophylou permalink
      31 October, 2011 4:27 am

      Yes. I think that’s true in any service field — “vocation” thinking sounds all noble (and super marketable, too — look at our dedicated service professionals!) but does open the door for all kinds of exploitation.

  41. kris permalink
    31 October, 2011 3:09 am

    My aim for this week was to have a a full draft of the paper, allowing for some gaps that will need to be filled in. I pretty much achieved this, but some gaps are slightly larger than I had hoped. But, it looks like a proper paper now.

    This week my goal is process oriented rather than ends focused. Traditionally, I lose interest in a paper once I get to this point, and put it away until the last minute when things need to be finished. So my aim this week is to work on sharpening my ideas and expression every day for at least half an hour.

  42. Trapped in Canadia permalink
    31 October, 2011 3:17 am

    I found this post to be especially timely. My writing always ends up taking a back seat to everything else. There is always a proposal that needs to be written, work for the centre that needs to be done, something (or ten things) to do for the sale of my book, oh, and job/fellowship applications to put out. I really struggle with how to make writing a priority and, most importantly, to keep it a priority. I can devote a day or two to it and then start to panic and feel like I’m falling behind with everything else. That’s just something I need to figure out and hopefully soon!

    This week has been hell, but it is over and I am so grateful. I don’t think things will get much better this week, but at least my schedule is emptier, so I can wallow if I need to. I managed to plan and teach two essay-writing seminars and write 550 words. That’s a whopping fifty words over my goal! Woohoo!

    For this upcoming week, I plan on writing 1,000 words and turning in four job applications. I said this week wasn’t going to get any better!

  43. 31 October, 2011 3:38 am

    Few quick thoughts: for obvious reasons, I put my writing first this past week and my classes definitely suffered. I had to cancel a class that was already behind; I walked into another class ten minutes late; students didn’t get feedback on their first paper until the day before the next one was due. I don’t feel bad about these, really, except for walking in ten minutes late. But yeah, I found it hard to put writing first even when I desperately needed to because teaching involves performing in front of more people on a more frequent basis. And without the right amount of prep, those performances are rough.

    To continue with the don’t-get-an-advisor-like-mine chronicles, I got feedback from the advisor the day after I submitted on an intro draft I’d sent hir three weeks ago: this feedback consisted of hir ripping to shreds whole sections that ze had approved two months ago. In other words, the things I fixed were largely fine but now ze has major problems with the stuff that was in the first draft. That ze said nothing about earlier, not even when I asked hir face to face six weeks ago. Lovely.

    No goal for this week, other than to try not to lose out on job chances b/c I’m too exhausted to apply for jobs. Basically, my dominant feelings this weekend have been exhaustion, complete collapse really; frustration with the advisor and with graduate school in general for being this inordinately painful process, painful beyond what it needed to be; and a little bit of relief.

    And thanks to all for the support! It really means a lot.

    • Matilda permalink
      31 October, 2011 4:05 am

      I am sorry to hear about your troublesome advisor. It must have been very difficult situation for you. Thousands of congratulations on your dissertation!

    • 31 October, 2011 4:46 am

      I’m sure it was tough that you weren’t at the top of your teaching game this week, but congratulations on submitting the dissertation! I have a long way to go before I get to that point, but every time I hear of someone else finishing, I am encouraged. And so sorry abut that advisor business. That stinks.

  44. opsimathphd permalink
    31 October, 2011 4:03 am

    I am in awe of all of you: sick relatives, sick children, overwhelmed with other work and service, etc., etc, and most of you managed to get at least something done towards your project anyway. I was absent last week and am reporting in very late this week, and I have not progressed at all. This is in part due to various things having completely exploded at my unrelated but comes-with-a-salary job; it’s taken far more time and mental energy than is normal for about a month now, though it’s going to calm down considerably by the end of this week.

    I also allowed myself to freeze in total idiotic panic last week, after reading an article that is partially on the same subject as mine. Actually, the author, although very well-known in his field, was writing for a very specialized audience, whereas I am hoping to point out the application of the topic to a much wider audience. He also didn’t really elaborate on what I consider the most important aspect of it to be, though he did touch on it. All the same, it was enough to stop me in my tracks for a bit. I’m hoping to go back and look at it more calmly this week. So my goal this week is to tackle that article, get what I need from it, and then bravely write to the author (with whom I have a connection through my dissertation advisor) and ask him about the part which interests me the most. I’ve met him, and he can be very helpful–so, fingers crossed!

    • Amstr permalink
      31 October, 2011 6:35 am

      Reading the article and having a plan to approach it (even, or maybe especially, after a freeze) sounds like progress to me!

      • opsimathphd permalink
        31 October, 2011 11:30 pm

        Thanks; encouragement is most welcome!

  45. Scholasticamama permalink
    31 October, 2011 4:33 am

    ADM – I really want to talk about your post, as it was wonderful. But, I’ve 25 papers to grade (2 weeks late), a halloween costume to finish (daughter will be Batman tomorrow, and the ears are giving me troubles) and a partner who feels totally ignored – so, let’s just say I get it! And I completely feel like the PGG at work – I can’t wait to see your post on that. (2 more committees, sure!)

    Last week – incredible personal week, crappy teaching week. I canceled three classes last week – so that I could see Obama speak on campus! 2 hrs waiting for tickets in 30 degree weather and one canceled class. 2 hrs waiting in 13 inches of snow to get in and hear the speech and two canceled classes. It was worth it. So now I am behind by a week of lectures and at least two weeks in marking. Ah well.

    Last week’s goal and completion rate – re-wrote the outline, backed up everything online and on campus.

    Upcoming week’s goal – write the introduction and abstract.

    Finally – I feel so excited when I read everyone’s posts here. It is inspiring, and uplifting to “see” what all my wonderful colleagues are doing!

  46. Amstr permalink
    31 October, 2011 6:41 am

    This PGG idea makes me think that we (at least many of us) feel like we can’t say no, or that we need to explain saying no. A mentor of mine has long been a great example: she never explains her no. Her catchphrase is “that’s just not going to work for me” (sometimes adding “right now”), and often she’ll recommend someone who would really enjoy the task and be good at it. She’s always gracious, but never apologetic. I can’t say I’ve mastered this strategy at all, but I do keep her in mind often (especially after I’ve said yes to something especially ludicrous).

  47. 1 November, 2011 7:17 pm

    From LuoLin —

    In brief, my goal was to get through reading and get to outline. The result was: finished 2nd article, one to go.
    Goal going forward: read that one article and stop avoiding the outline.

    Friday ( a very small part of it) is my writing day, and I have 1/2 day of meetings and then full day of meetings the next to Fridays, so

    a additional goal is to make time somewhere else.

    My congratulations to Frog Princess didn’t go through either.

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