Friday, July 1, 2011

Writing Group, Week Five: Facing the Heartbreak of O.B.E.

Welcome back everyone! As usual, we begin by checking in with your accomplishments for the past week, and your goals for the week to come. I've made several notes in the roll call from last week about being more specific in your goals. People in the group have expressed this in several ways: "I will finish X part of project" or "I will write 500 words a day" or "I will work six days this week for at least 90 minutes." The goals don't need to be gigantic; just specific. I encourage this because "I will make some progress" is going to be less helpful to you. To put it simply: Vague goals lead to vague results. So let's see some specifics – whatever that means for you – in your goals this week.

Okay, moving on…

We're at week five, and by now, some of you are undoubtedly saying, "Wow! I had no idea I could write so much so quickly! Dang! Why haven't I been doing this all along?"

For many, however, this is about the point where we start losing steam. Often it's because we've been Overcome By Events. OBE can arise from expected causes – a conference, a vacation, a family visit. It can also be the result of unforseen events: illness (yours or a family member's), or another project that pops up and demands your immediate attention (ADM talked last week about strategies for juggling projects). Or you could have just been hit by severe lethargy, gotten sucked in by Hulu or Netflix or an ambition to read the complete works of Dickens, and let a two-day break stretch into two weeks, and now you don't know how to get back again. These things do happen, and while we strive to be dedicated writers who meet our goals, we are not machines.

But also: Let's talk about how to keep a detour from becoming a permanent derailment. After all, if you get derailed, you become demoralized, which makes it even harder to get started again. It's happened to all of us, but this summer is going to be different.

Yes, it is.

Because I say so, that's why.

A few weeks ago, ADM threw out a discussion topic that only a few people picked up on, but now I'd like to revive it, because the comments from last week suggest that it's critical at this point: When you can't write for reasons that are out of your control, what specific thing will you do to stay engaged, and keep from losing momentum? There were some good ideas that happened to pop up in the comments last week over at ADM's place: carve out 90 minutes in the morning during a family visit; use the time period that you know will be unproductive to sketch out a specific work plan for when you return; journal daily about your ideas; have a small and easily interruptable project to work on if you're waiting for feedback or temporarily can't get sustained work time on the big project (like, say, when you're traveling).

The important thing here is to have a plan in place to stay engaged. It's hard to get started again after an absence, and the longer we stay away, the more chance we give fear and demoralization to creep in.

So remember that you made a commitment to yourself. You will feel better every day that you honor that commitment. I promise.

Week 5 roll call (with goals from last week):

  • ABDMama [Draft of an article MS]: finishing up all the new primary sources and secondary sources.
  • ADM [conference paper for Leeds; revision of paper after]: work on Leeds paper [?]
  • Bardiac [Review-ready article MS]: has a work plan for this week [NPhD: specifics will help you stay on track]
  • Dame Eleanor [Revising a conference paper into article MS]: Overcome by events
  • Digger [drafts of two book chapters]: edit the now typology-timeline chapter into something presentable, plus two smallish side projects
  • Dr. Koshary [Review-ready article MS]: no specific goal for this week?
  • Erika [Review-ready draft of an article MS]: wrap up reading in primary sources and get a modest amount added to the draft
  • Firstmute [chapter draft; send out article]: have the article in shape to send to my advisor by Friday; secondary goal of putting in 1 hr a day on the chapter.
  • Frog Princess [Review-ready draft of completed dissertation]: finish chapter, have the back broken on the introduction
  • J. Otto Pohl [Complete draft of 2/3-finished book MS]: make up for some of the lost productivity of last week [Here again, I strongly suggest setting more concrete goals to help you stay on track]
  • Jeff [Review-ready draft of completed dissertation]: take another run at revising the Nth chapter [NPhD: is this meant to be a complete revision, or a revision of specific sections?]
  • Jen [Revising conference paper into article MS]: catch up from vacation [can you be specific?]
  • Kit: [Kit, do we have a specific project goal for you?] A week of meeting daily writing goals of 500 words
  • Matilda [Draft of a publishable paper]: work through week 5 section of WYJA, esp. working on draft [specific goal: can you finish that draft? Or a specific chunk of it?]
  • Mel [NPhD: Mel, what was your overall project?]: finish Chapter 4 by Monday, then start ch. 5, w/goal of intro and methods section done by Friday
  • NWGirl [Revising a conference paper into an article MS]: finish the current section and start work on the second section.
  • Ro [MS revision (NPhD: article?)]: Traveling + family visit, so continue with research readings plus sketch out a plan for work that I can pick up upon my return the following week [not a bad way to deal with necessary diversions – sketching the plan keeps you mentally engaged with the project]
  • Sapience [diss chapter]: start working on advisor's suggestions for revisions; backup plan is write the abstract for the CFP and/or start revising the job market materials. [I like this idea of having a backup plan; it helps you keep momentum]
  • Sara [Revision of research exam]: Travel this week; can't make concrete plans
  • Scholastic Mama [Revising a conference paper into an article MS]: revise argument and choose one more secondary journal, in case the first journal does not pan out
  • Susan [Revise & polish two chapters of a book MS]: a weekend trip to Paris [okay: envious], no specific goals while traveling, other than general progress
  • Tigs [Completed diss draft]: Rework intro and frame for ch. 2; more generally, work consistently every day
  • Travelia [Write two conference papers]: No specific goals; week of travel/conference
  • What Now [Polished book proposal]: write 2000 words by next Friday
  • Zabeel [Draft first two sections of new article]: working consistently, including both reading and writing [can you set yourself a more specific goal, either in terms of words/pages/hours per day? The same 3 hrs per day that you set previously?]

Awaiting report [NB: we are assuming that participants who have been MIA for three or more consecutive weeks have found themselves unable to continue with the group at this time, so if your name has disappeared from the list, that's why]
  • Caleb Woodbridge [MA thesis]*
  • Cly [revise article for publication & draft chapter for book]*
  • Eileen [First draft of a dissertation chapter]*
  • Gillian [an article that needs writing]*
  • Godiva [First draft of diss. chap.]*
  • Jason [First draft of a dissertation chapter]*
  • Ms McD: Revising a conference paper into an article MS**
  • My Museology: redraft three dissertation chapters**
  • Scatterwriter [Complete expansion/revision of an article MS]*
  • Zcat abroad [write two articles]*


Another Damned Medievalist said...

Well, I managed to get in a lot of reading and note-taking, but had travel obligations and some social obligations that, combined with my lodging situation, cut into my ability to get words to come out. So I'm behind, but at least have some goals for the rest of the week -- which pretty much include OMG I only have about 8 days to wrangle this paper!

So obviously, this week, I have to finish the paper, because I have no idea whether I can print it at Leeds if I don't. So it has to be done by Saturday the 9th.

I may take a little break to submit the other one, though, since I missed that self-imposed deadline.

(I am now at the 'would everybody who is not a medievalist I can talk to about this bloody thing just leave me alone' stage)

Sara said...

After another little-to-no-progress week for me, I think it's time to admit I shouldn't have signed up for this writing group. I had hoped that having some external accountability would help me stay on track, but that hasn't been the case at all.

I leave for Italy tomorrow, and I know -- if I'm not working on it daily at home -- that I'm not going to work on this project while I'm away.

I will have a crazy 2 week writing binge when I get back in order to meet my August 22 deadline. I wish I'd been able to prepare for something less intense / more productive, but maybe next time.

Thanks so much Notorious and ADM for hosting and for the advice. Good luck, everyone!

Eileen said...

Ha! This is exactly where I'm at, and in fact, the reason I didn't check in last week. I had a catastrophic car failure last week while heading out of town for a research trip (catastrophic in the sense that it's derailed my summer research travel plans and means I have to buy a new car, not that anyone was hurt). I have a problem with getting derailed by life events, blowing their impact out of proportion rather than doing something. (This week it was: I have no car and therefore will never finish my research or dissertation).

Anyway, I've managed to keep writing 500 words a day, but I'm back to free writing rather than draft writing. I got some of my previous goal (2k of 4k words on theory and my quantitative data), but not all of it, so finishing that is still my goal.

I've been trying to put myself back on track by re-reading a couple of books in my field and looking for specific points to respond to in my current chapter. I'm ready to transition back to draft writing, but the temptation is still there to just keep reading (so much easier than writing). I'm looking forward to suggestions on how to get out of a detour.

Zabeel said...

This week was slated as a "reading week" for me, and that's what it was. Lots of reading, thinking and organising. A little writing and some shifting around of paragraphs. So not highly productive, but useful all the same.

(I did have a brief crisis of faith on Tuesday when I discovered a book from 1996 which pre-empts two of my "original" ideas. Luckily I've got a few more things up my sleeve, argument-wise.)

My "three hours a day" goal from 2 weeks ago was a really useful one, so I'm going back to that for next week. Goals: Read 3 books and one article; have another think about the structure of these two sections; continue fleshing out the second section.

Sapience said...

I got my advisor's comments back on Wednesday, and got a (very pleasant) surprise: he thinks the chapter is my best yet. I really wasn't expecting that because the chapter wasn't feeling nearly so close to being done, but I think that might just be my usual reaction when I'm too close to something. He gave me a few editing things to do, wanted a bit of revision on the intro, and a new conclusion. He said once I did those things, I should move on to the next chapter. So, I did those things, sent it to a friend for a final check, and then I'll send it to the rest of my committee.

But this does mean that I'm done with my original goal for this writing group (barring my other committee members having major problems with this chapter, which seems unlikely) with six weeks left. Clearly I underestimated what I could achieve by August 19th. Now I have to decide which should be the next big project: writing the introduction to the dissertation, or the fourth chapter (the only one that isn't at least partly drafted at this point). I'm leaning towards the introduction because I just learned that I'm going to have to give a presentation on the general shape of my dissertation in September.

I did also manage to get some work done on my back-up plan--I revised my job market materials, and even made a version of my materials that is specific to the one job that's been posted so far. Still haven't gotten around to the CFP, though.

So... Specific goals for this week: Read at least three books in preparation for Chapter 4. Start outlining my introduction.

firstmute said...

I was OBE this week, because my babysitters were both out of town through Wednesday, and my almost one year old decided that naps were for babies.

Still, I managed to get some work done on the article, including major reorganizing and rewriting the introduction and conclusion (although practically none on the chapter).

Late Thursday of next week we head off to Utah to visit the (my) in-laws, and Monday's a holiday, so on TWR I will be frantically getting the article in shape to send for a quick (I hope) review by my advisor.

Specific goals:
1. Review each paragraph for connection to argument. (today)
2. Insert some subordinating clauses to prove I've done my research. (Tuesday; this may involve a little skimming of articles and intros on Google Books. Ah, scholarship.)
3. Refine prose; get rid of boring phrases. Proofread. Make sure endnotes and biblio are basically correct. (Wednesday)
4. Reread. Revise abstract, draft cover letter. Send to advisor. (Thursday)

In terms of work to do when work can't be done, I'm finding reading a little here and there to be pretty effective. Even if it was just skimming a chapter before bed, I was able to read a little every day this week. That little adds up to a lot over time!

Notorious Ph.D. said...

I'll jump in with a few more comments later when my archive day is done, but a quick comment to Sapience while I'm thinking of it: Chances are your introduction is approach and overall questions/argument, while your chapters are more evidence-based, but your presentation has to do a little of both, or am I wrong? If I'm right, and if your presentation is semi-formal, why not make that your goal for the next seven weeks? And then you cannibalize the presentation for your *real* introduction when you're ready to write it (that is, when the chapters are done and you know precisely what it is you're introducing)?

Matilda said...

Dear all,

I have done Week 5 section of WYJA. What I did (still am doing) was reading a few most important articles, studying and reviewing them carefully. I have also read some of the newest ones among the long reading list of seemed-relevant articles and books.

My argument is still somewhat vague, but it can be amended and revised as I work. Am I gradually rising above the sea of panic?

Also, I have written first rough draft of the work I was asked to submit by the end of July.

Yesterday I downloaded Scrivener to my small Windows 7. I will use it for this WG paper.

This time I have tried to make my goals more specific. This helped me to recognise what is 'manageable chunks of work' for me.

For next week: working through Week 6 section of WYJA (I will have done the half of the book!); working on my WG paper(task 1) (With Scrivener, I will write the introduction of it); finishing at least half of the task 2 (deadline: the end of July); starting the task 3 (deadline: the end of August), by reading articles and books, making a rough plan of the draft.

J. Otto Pohl said...

My goal this week is to completely finish the deportation section. I got another 1,700 words written on it last night.

Sapience said...

Notorious--that's a really good idea. I might just do that. The presentation instructions are: "Speakers should describe their projects and explain how their own work fits into the larger field of scholarship in which it is embedded." The audience is made up of people not only outside my field, but outside my discipline (I'm English, working on Renaissance Religious lit, and will be presenting to people from Poli-Sci, History, Psychology, Philosophy, Comparative Literature, Sociology, etc.). So I'm not sure I'm going to be giving a very evidence-based presentation--more likely an overview of the questions and issues that are driving the scholarship and how my research is bringing a couple of areas together in new ways, with maybe one or two brief examples. So, I suspect writing this presentation will give me the skeleton for the introduction.

Scholasticamama said...

Reading that everyone else is in similar states to me is so heartening! I didn’t get a lot written this week, as I’m wrangling my argument into shape. I took the paper apart and now have about 5 different documents with different sections open. It’s gotten very confusing and complicated this week. I’m stuck in the trees and can’t see the forest this week. I’m thinking I might try this Scrivener everyone is talking about here – maybe it can help. I’ve also fallen off the WJA book this week.

The past two weeks have been OBE (love that, btw). Holiday, husband in town for 8 days, and a fifth birthday (tomorrow!!) on the personal side. On the professional side, my office at work is being moved. I had to pack everything up 3 weeks ago, and the dept decided that they needed to wait until the new fiscal year to actually move anything. Today, my office was put on the list to move. It should be in its new home in 2-3 weeks. So, that means I am 6 weeks off of many of my secondary sources. I tried to pull out everything I thought I’d need, but invariably, I need at least 4 books that are someplace in some box. So, to talk about our hosts’ suggestion of keeping momentum, sometimes my best weapon is “thinking about it.”

I find that reading a secondary book around my topic can help keep me engaged when life is in the way of writing. Even five minutes reading in the evening while lying with my daughter helps me to feel that I haven’t totally fallen off the wagon. While on vacation, or beset by family, I also find the 5-10 minute topic meditation helpful. I can think about my topic – mull it over, roll it around on my tongue, approach it from different directions – while sitting in a chair on the beach, or sitting on the tarmac, etc etc. If something comes to me, even something silly or ugly, I take a couple of notes – generally on my phone (who doesn’t have their phone on them most times, right?) or in a journal I take everywhere, but I have several notes on napkins, coasters, hands. I find that I need the time just to _think_ about my ideas, without writing, without talking, just thinking. I think (haha) that this came from the 6 hour drives I did between my home and my uni while in grad school. Now, I need those times just to mull it over.

Ok – long winded post today. My goals for next week – get back into the WJA book and complete week 5 (week 4 took me two weeks).

Dr. Koshary said...

OBE FTW! I had something of a crisis point with my work this week, and have concluded that this article should not exist, and I have pulled the plug on the project as I originally envisioned it. (Read my blog for all the gory details.)

However, this frees me to concentrate on my book manuscript, which is what I really want to do anyway. Accordingly, I would like to soldier on with the Greater Blogland Writing Group, with my manuscript as the material. (The stuff I've already done for the group will be worked into the manuscript, so it's not like I'm flitting from one thing to another.) In pseudology, books matter more than articles, and I need to prioritize the important stuff.

So then: I've already gotten back to working on the manuscript, which makes me feel SO MUCH BETTER about myself. For this coming week, I want to finish a rough draft of Chapter 4. (It's about halfway there now.) As various esteemed personages in the GBWG have suggested, I have downloaded Scrivener, and will take it for a spin this week as I work on the chapter.

Feeling excited about writing again! (Isn't it amazing that some projects grind you down, and others energize you?)

Audie said...

Well, my name has disappeared from the list, but I'll chime in anyway. Summer has officially started for those of us on the quarter system. This week I read through my primary source material again and made myself a calendar of deadlines for this project. Next week, I'll start to revise the chapter into an article!

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Well, since this morning, I have had a nice chat with LDW (who may at some point be a cause of OBE yet again), and at lunch he asked good questions and told me to go back and write something, so I wrote a new beginning of the paper and then an outline of how I need to put it together. Then, sadly, I was OB by professional organization events, so after dealing with those, I worked a little on the footnotes and cleaning up on the (now overdue for my mostly internal deadline) paper submission. Still, I looked at my Scrivener files, and have 1400 words of mostly blather on the Leeds paper. Now to cut about a thousand of those and write another 2500.

abdmama said...

Thanks for the great post, Notorious. I went from feeling guilty (that I'm one of the ones who has been off the last two weeks), to energized that I can do this.

I submitted my dissertation! I was waiting for paperwork to go through and once it did I revisited the dissertation one last time by reading it aloud (checking for missed words, etc.). That took FOREVER, but was a really good exercise. Through the reading I inadvertently thought of some more things that need to go in the article (small sections from other chapters that will strengthen this article).

So next week I plan to spend most of my time pulling those sections and beginning to shape an article of some sort (even in outline form). I'll continue to go through primary and secondary sources, but I won't give them as much of my time. I'll also try to go through WYJA, but for me it has been slowing me down a bit.

Next week will be a short week because everyone is home for the holiday, but I'll try to put at least an hour in each day during the long weekend and then really work on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

Dame Eleanor Hull, Order of the British Empire---how exceedingly appropriate, and I am honored and delighted to accept the award.

In a sense, if you take a sufficiently long view, all my work these days is on the same topic; so even though I've not been working on the article, the work I've been doing in the UK provides context for it. That is, I doubt any of what I'm coming up with will go into that article, but certainly it helps me think about that material in a deeper way. And come to think of it, I did run across a reference to that author today.

This trip is wearing me out. London errands on Sunday, one London library Monday, Cambridge Tuesday, different London library Wednesday, regional archive Th-Fri, village to examine relevant church brasses tomorrow, travel on Sunday, intense conference for several days. I guess I'll sleep when I'm dead.

But listen, I am in awe of Sapience, sympathize with Eileen (glad you're OK!), wish I were more like Zabeel, send congratulations to ABDMama. And ADM, I have successfully printed papers in the computer room at Leeds, but maybe you don't want me to enable you.

Erika said...

I love the suggestion of tangible, and attainable goals, and remembering to plan for O.B.E. I lost a day this week to the precious kiddo and to a cold, and I love the suggestion to use even even 10 or 15 minutes of reading time to stay focused while putting the kiddo to bed, ScholasticaMama and firstmute. I'm thrilled with everyone's progress, and even more so with everyone's ability to make progress even when it's not 3 hours / day. Mega Congrats Sapience!

I met my goals of finishing up primary readings, and of writing a few useful close reading pages (2000 words) on those sources to add to the project. My book review went out the door last week, and the third of four abstracts went out the door this week so the small pesky deadlines are now done with. Phew!

For next week, I'd like to make significant progress on enlarging this draft, so I'm aiming for 500 + words/ day next week, and cleaning up 1 page / day of what exists already.

Travelia said...

The goals I posted last week were somewhat opaque, but it was a productive week. I had/ have to finish two conference-length papers by around July 3, one for presentation at a conference next week and the other for an early deadline for a meeting in the Fall. I finished the latter and sent it off--I'm actually quite proud of it: 4000 or so words of completely new material on a completely new topic that integrates one of my primary areas of research with a new teaching field.

The other paper, which I need to get into full draft form by the time I leave on Sunday remains a work in progress. I have about 2600 words (the skeleton of a complete draft) and extensive notes, but the argument has not yet cohered. I think (hope) that the material I have will make a good 7000 word chapter, but I'm having a hard time extracting the one strand that will make a good 3500 word conference paper. I have a long two days ahead of me and, sadly, am thinking of dropping $50 for a pass to the first class lounge so that I can use my 8 hour layover in Atlanta to finish the paper. Yikes! Here's a very clear illustration of the cost of procrastination (or more accurately in this case, overcommitment).

When I'm O.B.E. I like to read new books in my field that are interesting but far from my topic. I like to come back to my project with something new: new questions or new perspectives that can help me view my own work in a new way.

I will be at the conference next week and then vacation for the following week. I will check in, but my goals are not writing related. Next week: recharge my connection to the field by giving my talk and listening to talks by others.

When I return I will be shifting gears toward preparing my book manuscript for review.

Tigs said...

I met my goal! It was a modest goal indeed, but I finished all that reworking yesterday.
This week I am going to finish the legal section of ch. 2, do a first round of edit on the culture section, and break down what else needs to be done to finish off the chapter.
To do this, I will:
- Finish taking notes by Sunday.
- Do at least 4 writing tomatoes each day.

In this coming week I definitely anticipate having to battle O.B.E. I don't really deal with it well (and frankly, I don't juggle multiple projects well either), so I look forward to hearing what you all wise ones have to say.

Jennifer said...

Thank you for the much needed pep talk Notorious!

I definitely spent much of this week in a post-vacation slump and O.B.E. It took me a few days to get back on track. I did some productive moving around of piles, re-read some of the materials for the section of my paper I'm working on and gathered a few more sources to tie up some loose ends.

My plan for this week is to finish this section. I have around 2,000 words of very rough draft in Scrivener, which I need to transform into 3,000 more organized and polished words. My goal is to write 400 words each morning.

Happy writing everyone!

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Congratulations to all of you who are meeting your goals… and even to those of you who haven't, but who are still checking in and remaining accountable. The idea here is the same as the one behind the weekly meetings my dissertation advisor held with all of his students, as a group. Each week, we'd have to present the work we'd accomplished. We knew that we could be OBE for a week, but we had to show up and 'fess up to it, and talk about what we were going to do… and that motivated us to never plead OBE two weeks in a row.

So keep checking in with the group. Now, a few random comments:

@ Sara (and Historydoll from last week): sometimes it just doesn't work out. Go ahead and keep following us from afar – it might provide some inspiration. But in the meantime, if you need help identifying what's blocking you from getting your writing done, you might check out ch. 1 of WJA. There's a "feelings about writing" section that feels hokey at first, but that is actually quite helpful, like therapy for writers.

@ Zabeel: I had something similar happen when I was about 18 months shy of having a complete book manuscript: I saw a just-published book by another author that seemed to treat the same subject. eeep! First thing I did was to buy the book. And like you, I found some areas of overlap, but also some areas where I was being original.

@ Matilda: Glad to hear you're "rising above a sea of panic" – it's a common feeling. The panic will probably return at some point, but you just keep writing your way out of it, and you'll be fine.

@ Scholasticmama: If I may also suggest something else to add to your goal for this week: get department move boxes unpacked and find and pull together the materials you'll need for this project from all their various boxes.

@ Audie: I've put you back on the list, but can you give us a specific goal for next week?

@ ABD Mama: W00T!!! Congratulations! You have earned a gold star, and a massage, or ice cream, or whatever treat you want, all for yourself.

@ Travelia: if you can afford the first class lounge, go for it. I've never tried it, but it sounds like a nice way to get stuff done and treat yourself at the same time.

Finally (for now): thanks to everyone for talking amongst yourselves, and encouraging each other. That kind of mutual support is going to be critical for the long middle stretch of the project.

NWGirl said...

What a helpful post, Notorious. Thank you. And in reading the comments, I see I'm in good company. Eileen, I empathize with your car troubles. I had similar problems last summer though I didn't have to buy a new car, fortunately. Here's to getting back on track, soon.

I have been somewhat OBE though I have managed to carry on even though I did not finish section one and start section two.

I had a student-related matter to tend to this week. Challenging student. But we have achieved a happy resolution. Sometimes good enough is good enough. Home and family stuff also provided a fair amount of distraction this week. And the heat! I am not ready for the hot summer temperatures -- much too early for this misplaced northwesterner. (I live in the southwest.)

But I did download Scrivener and have imported the article revisions into it. Maybe I'm a geek, or maybe it's an excuse to procrastinate, but working with the article in Scrivener has helped. Maybe it's looking at it from a less than linear perspective. I tend to be a messy writer, at least in early drafts. I find I am less intimidated by Scrivener than Word.

I also finished a paper proposal for an upcoming conference so even though I was OBE, I did manage to salvage some of the week.

Specific goals for this week:
1. Finish section one of article.

2. Draft section two of article.

3. Read book related to idea for next project.

I also need to write a book review this week, but I will put that as maybe goal for now.

And I'm going to keep Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott on my desk. Last week, I pulled it out and re-read "Short Assignments" and "Shitty First Drafts." That's my go-to resource when I'm struggling with the writing.

ETA - I guess I didn't click publish earlier. Will try this again.

Godiva said...

OK, for the first time, I did it! It is late on Friday, but I met my goal and made notes on all of my long and complex narrative source. It really helped - I may have one massive document now but I picked out lots of stuff I hadn't noticed before.

Now I'm excited to start writing down some ideas a bit more coherently. So my goal for next week is 500 words a day, Monday to Friday, not things that will go in the actual dissertation necessarily but just to keep things ticking over, as you suggested and seems to be working for other people too.

Thank you for the post as well - I certainly had a week OBE because I was on holiday. But it was an amazing holiday including a visit to Cluny abbey and medieval castles and churches so I felt suitably inspired!

thefrogprincess said...

So I met one goal and not the other. The final chapter of the dissertation is done. Or at least I've finished the fourth draft of it. It'll probably get another more minor revision, but I'm pretty happy with it. The goal I didn't make was to break the back of the introduction, by which I meant get to a point with the secondary lit and my own thoughts that I could just write the thing with little effort. That didn't happen. I did do some reading, but I was out of town and not working quite as intensively as usual. It's not quite OBE--I finished the chapter on this trip.

However, a huge OBE is looming, relatively unexpected, and may have a significant impact on work during the month of August.

So...this coming week: finish introduction (and compile dissertation, ready to send to advisor) by Friday. I'm at the point where I need a few days off from the diss, but I won't take it until the intro is done, which needs to be soon.

Digger said...

Well, it's been a more productive week, though I didn't *quite* meet my goals.

Abstract for January conference: Done and submitted. Off the hook for this for now.

Outline for paper for October conference: basic outline, done. Will flesh out the outline and maybe morph into some writing this week, as I'm visiting the site again to check it out and gather a little bit of info. This will be a good thing to play with at the hotel.

Mash chapter into shape: Partially complete. I printed out the chapter to do some editing, and was shocked to see how big it was. Way. Too. Big. So, I'm moving some information around and making some notes on collapsing some of the info. I'm pleased with where I'm at, but I'm not where I thought I'd be at the goals stage last week.

Goals for this week, which will be a little weird, because I'm heading to Great White North to see family, and will need to squeeze in some work on the road:

1. Flesh out the outline, and maybe some writing, on October conference paper. Need a draft of this by end Sept to submit.

2. Continue working on the current book chapter. Figure out what *must* be in it, what can slide to another chapter, and what just needs to be yanked and saved for an article. Mess with it, and print out another version at the end of the week to see where I'm at. (I'm giving myself next week and the week after to get this chapter done.)

3. Image permissions for the book: contact three parties re: images (northern repository, local firm, and non-local firm).

I looked at scrivener, and I'm very very intrigued, but I'm also not sure that I'm at a place with the book where it makes sense. I think I might try it for October paper to get through the learning curve.

Staying on track: not my strong point, and this writing group is helping immensely. The most helpful parts: accountability, actively working out goal setting vs. goal meeting, and the conversations with other participants. WORKING feels so great; I'm not sure why I can get so resistant to just doing it...

I have a question for the others. Many people talk about writing 3 hours a day, or are in positions (it seems) to work full time on their projects (though that doesn't always happen). The writing I'm doing for WG is stuff I'm working on in my spare time (though I write full time during my day job). Any others here whose WG stuff is "marginal", time-wise?

Scatterwriter said...

Checking in after being absent last week. Without a pseudonymous blog or e-mail address, I don't really have a good way of posting at ADM's site -- not possible to post anonymously there. I'm not sure if I like my current pseudonym and am therefore hesitant to open a gmail account with this name.

Two weeks ago, I wrote that I hoped to have all my new research incorporated into my article manuscript in some way by July 1. I actually hit that goal last Friday, surprisingly early. This past week, I've primarily been revising my writing and double-checking my translations and citations, which turned out to need a little more work. I've also been doing some last-minute checking in some sources to see if there is any further evidence to support my argument; I found some, and wrote that up as well. Yesterday I printed off the new draft (which is something I tend to do only when I think I'm essentially done). I originally planned to use all of July to polish up my writing, but I was expecting it to be rougher than it is right now, so I'm hoping to finish this project early and be able to move onto the book manuscript revision that is my second summer project.

For next week, I plan to start on my last passes through the manuscript, checking to see if the argument is clear and if there are any parts of it that need to be fortified or cut. My manuscript has grown by another 706 words, making it 19,537 in total; it could probably use some streamlining at this point. After that, I plan to compare the latest draft with my original submission, to see where I've made changes and make sure that I am appropriately addressing my readers' reports, and I'll start drafting a cover letter to my editor to explain to her what I've done in the way of revision.

Susan said...

So, I kept plugging along, and even though I only had two library days, I added 1000 or so words to this chapter. I more or less figured out some of the secondary work I needed in this section. Of course I realized that some of the notes I need to finish this chapter are at home, since they are pre-laptop notes.
I also finished reading a student's dissertation draft, which is like reading another book. For the next few weeks I will be mostly OBE, all planned: I'm taking some vacation!

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Thanks for the latest batch of reports, everyone. We still have a few more people who haven't checked in yet. I'm on the road for the next several hours or so, but I'll try to check in again soon.

@ Scatterwriter: if you can't post anonymously the weeks we're at ADM's place, you might try one of two things: 1) e-mail her your check in; or 2) post it at my place when I post the toss to her on her fridays, and I'll post it over there for you.

What Now? said...

Last week, I had pretty much decided to forge ahead with this project even though I'm being scooped, but in the intervening week I keep revisiting that decision. My partner has asked me, "Well, what do you WANT to do?," but my experience of academia is that it's pretty much eliminated my sense of my own gut impulses, so the answer is that I don't know what I want to do. But I haven't felt the slightest bit motivated to do any work on the book, so perhaps that's my gut impulse acting out even if I can't identify it.

So I'm at something of a loss. I didn't meet my stated goal for this week, largely because I'm now not sure I'm going to move forward with this project after all. For the same reason, I have no clear writing goal for next Friday. I'm really not sure what to do next, and the truth of the matter is that I'm not all that distressed about this ... except for having to admit all of the above here in this writing group!

Perhaps things will become clearer next week; I am meeting with my writing partner/colleague this week (so I guess there's my one writing goal), so I'm hoping we will hash things out productively. If I continue in this vein, I may take myself out of this group, having decided that I'm not in fact writing this summer; I'm not quite ready to make that decision yet, however.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Dear Whatnow: I'm drafting the promised "scooped" post this afternoon. In the meantime, what I'd recommend doing is doing a freewrite on your topic that only you will see. See what you're excited about, and what you think you can get other people excited about, without worrying for now about footnotes, sources, blah blah blah. It's a good way to figure out what you want to do.

Kit said...

Aish, I'm late again ... Notorious, there is indeed a goal for me: to write the first draft of a dissertation chapter. Of which I haven't written nearly the set amount for this week, but I'm still going to consider it a win: I've been fiddling around with Scrivener and Zotero, and while I'm the first to admit that I'm easily distracted by shiny things, the distraction resulted in some planning and work on overall structure since the whole thing was right there in front of me.

I'm also going to consider the word count experiment a success and keep it up. Or rather, do it better. I find it helps me to write with less pressure to produce something polished immediately. So for this week: write the damn 500 words so I have something to go back to and edit at the beginning of the week after. Structure is for later.

Having said all that, I totally sympathise with those who have decided to drop out or are considering it - I was this close to do it myself earlier in the week, but this chapter has to be written now and this group is really helpful. I have to get over how intimidating it is to actually write the dissertation instead of saying I'll do it in various research plans.

And, speaking of juggling different projects and getting derailed, I spend so much time rewriting and fine-tuning my research plan for various funding applications, and it's actually the biggest competitor for writing time. That, and letting myself get distracted by non-academic entertainment. Anyway, I tend to think along the lines of "well, I only have half an hour/45 mins/whatever, what am I going to get done?", but I should use that time to at least plan what I'm going to do when I do have more time, look up some literature or go through notes in order to enjoy my actual free time and not drown in guilt.

Scatterwriter said...

Thank you for the suggestions about how to post at ADM's, Notorious Ph.D.!

Regarding scooping: it has happened to me twice. The first time I was able to recover and that project evolved in a good way. The second time just happened over the past year with a project I haven't mentioned here before; I think I'm walking away from that one (with some lingering bitterness). So I will also look forward to the post on scooping.

Tigs said...

@Scatterwriter, you could also get an openid at myopenid-- it's low commitment and you can then post over there.
I try to keep Tigs relatively pseudonymous, so that worked well for me.

zcat_abroad said...

Eeek - Totally Overtaken By Events. Actually, having a real holiday for the first time in over three years - in Italy, with a husband who, though claiming to be meaning to work on an article...

Is it Friday already? Was it really Friday 2 days ago?

However, I have mostly wrangled my Leeds paper into shape - just needs some trimming, finessing, and a couple of read-throughs.

Goals for this week - actually do some planning for the article, beyond reading and thinking. Plan out the structure, and reread the base texts for notes.

(Mods may be glad to know: I've resolved to work on one article only, as this month is seriously eating my time, and when we return to DownUnder, semester starts the next day, and I'll be teaching two papers...)

Ciao from Siena, where it's beautiful!

Mel said...

Dissertation writing continues. I really want to finish this PhD by late August.

Chapter 4 status? Only the discussion section left. Hopefully I can get by butt in gear and finish it this week. Then on to chapter 5.

I got supper distracted (and lazy) this weekend. It seems like the last stretch of the dissertation writing is the hardest. My mind just won't let me focus. BUT...
Now it's really crunch time. I just got a job that starts late September. Gotta get this finished!!

Audie said...

A specific goal? Of course.

1. (re)read all secondary sources
2. Read over chapter.
3. Begin to map-out what the article might look like (outline?)
4. Hopefully start to revise.

Gillian said...

Belated check in! (so that I can pretend I didn't miss a week)

I got everything done before I left and have a complete chapter, but I still think it's the chapter from somewhere rather dank. I shall be addressing this the first week in August.

My goal for this week is a final revision of my Leeds paper. Also much work on my disssertation, which is a key reason for me to have travelled 10,000 miles.

See some of you at Leeds!