Thursday, October 13, 2011

Writing group week six: Calvinball! (or: Letting Go of a Rule or Two)

Welcome to Week Six!

All right, so if you're still with us, congratulations on reaching the halfway point! But there's a danger in halfway points, and that's that you hit a slump. You're far from the beginning when everything was anticipation and possibility, but far from the end where fear and panic will push you. Worse yet, many of the things that were working to get you going or motivated might have stopped working.

Ack! What to do? Well, to take ADM's marathon metaphor in another direction: Maybe it's time for a game of Calvinball.

For those of you remember the now-defunct but truly wonderful comic Calvin and Hobbes, Calvinball is a "sport" where you make up the rules as you go along. It's not structured, but it looks fun.

So here's something to think about if you're in a slump: change one thing this week – something that isn't working for you right now. New writing schedule? New location? Freewriting rather than outlining (or vice-versa)? Sleeping an extra hour so you can write better, even if you start later? This might just be a one-week change, but it might be a way to shake things up for you, and get you excited again.

And hey, if things are working for you, then keep things as they are – if it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?

The only rule that I'm going to ask you to keep to is to report in with your progress, and set a goal for next week.

(And just a note: I'm going to be traveling a bit this weekend, so I'll be giving feedback, but probably just once a day, at the end of the day.)

Have fun this week!


  • Adelaide [write a conference paper]: mostly offline, so anything is a bonus
  • Amcalm25/AMChristensen [finish an article]: at least 40 minutes/5 days of writing this week
  • Amstr [revise and resubmit an article]: 1) add argument-related sentences to the beginning and end of each paragraph; 2) write a lame intro that gives some space to critical context; 3) tighten up the lame intro into passable; 4) 4 articles and 2 books: read/skim, annotate, possibly incorporate
  • Another Damned Medievalist [write/revise a close-to-final draft of an article]: re-look at books, compare patterns in data, look at problems and comment on how gender contributes to them, with luck, turn this into 500 words by Friday. (bonus goal)
  • Belledamesansmerci/Elizabeth [transform a conference paper into a journal article]: traveling for family stuff
  • Bitterandjaded/Bittergrrl [finishing a dissertation chapter]: 1) 2000 words on the work I just read. 2) Meet with my adviser to talk about the direction the chapter is going in.
  • Cly(temnestra) [write a book chapter]: very rough draft of chapter, work out a plan
  • Contingent Cassandra [complete a full draft of a journal article]: focus on reading
  • Dame Eleanor Hull [complete a chapter of the article-turned-book]: Finish revising fellowship application and send it; if there is time, list what the chapter still needs
  • Digger [write two book chapters]: Zero Draft of Why Wheels 3/7 days
  • Dr. Crazy [Finish a chapter draft begun this summer]: VACATION!!
  • Dr. Virago [draft a 7500-word essay for a contracted publication]: 500-600 words, but may not be able to check in
  • Erika [write a complete & final draft of an article already underway]: write 30 minutes / day at minimum, and even better at 250-350 words / day.
  • Evan [write a conference paper]: no precise writing goal [deadlines shifted? -- ADM]
  • Forthright [write two article-length pieces]: 400-500 words a day and check in more to help out in comments [Forthright, that would be so amazingly awesome! -- ADM]
  • Frogprincess [Final draft of the dissertation]: finish revisions for chapters 1 and 3.
  • Good Enough Woman [write a solid draft of a dissertation chapter]: Finish the 30 primary sources pages I didn’t do this week, read two chapters of Descartes, and write the first 500 hundred words of the new chapter, just to start seeing where my mind is.
  • Gillian [3 chapters of my dissertation]: Finish research on 1/2 of next chapter
  • Heu Mihi [write paper for a faculty colloquium]: FINISH the Latin, look at that German book that’s in my office and determine its relevance, and begin converting part 3′s notes into paragraphs.
  • Highlyeccentric/nakedphilologist [Draft two thesis chapters]:gain with the process goal, some work every day; and hopefully to add at least 1000 words to the draft (2 if lucky).
  • Janice/jliedl [write a first draft of a chapter]: take notes from three more research sources.
  • Jennifer [finish writing a neglected article]: My goal for this week is to write 500 new words and to read 3 new articles.
  • Katrin/StitchInTime [Do we have an overall goal for you?] read through one book, return at least five
  • Kris [write up a “full” paper and cut down to a 15-minute conference presenation]: taking week off
  • Lucie: [Complete a full draft of the PhD thesis]: 500 words a day, starting my day with writing. Sticking with this every day and not having any day completely lost.
  • Marie [finish turning paper into journal article]: clean up what’s been written.
  • Matilda [revise a paper into a journal article]: again, reviewing the related literature following the week 5 section of WYJA; 500 +words of my draft.
  • Merryweather [write conference paper]: another 2000 words by the end of this coming week, or ideally a total 3500
  • Mike [write ch. 2 of dissertation]: Gather everything for part II and re-read take notes.
  • Monks and Bones [turn a seminar paper into an article]: work on project five days; get myself to a point with my data-crunching where I’ll be ready to start doing some preliminary writing the following week
  • Notorious Ph.D. [write a conference paper]: Go through law codes
  • Opsimathphd [turning a dissertation chapter into an article]: work on the argumentby writing at least 500 words every day
  • Scatterwriter [revise three chapters of book]: continue trying to cut down my mammoth Chapter 1, and skim a recently published source to see if any new ideas need to be incorporated into this chapter.
  • Scholasticamama [Transform a conference paper into an article]: write 500 words -- in the rain, on a plane, in a box, with a fox, in a car, in a tree... the words will be so good, you see!
  • Sisyphus [polish the rough draft of my article and send it out]: incorporate all the stuff from ILL
  • Sophylou: [finish revisions on an article and prepare it for submission]: format according to submission guidelines
  • Stemi [Complete and send off a review article ]: 1) At least 30 minutes writing or reading on project, 4 of 7 days. 2) 500 new words in outline/draft document.
  • Susan [write a 7000 word commissioned essay]: Filling in gaps and beginning revisions
  • Trapped in Canadia [draft two chapters of the dissertation]: finish this chapter, outline my chapter on Jacobite women, and start reviewing my research for the Jacobite women chapter [may not be able to check in]
  • Undine/Not of General Interest [Finish nearly done chapter and complete another]: finish 1000-word review
  • Viola [writing an introduction and a chapter for thesis]: edit per my supervisor’s advice and to continue fleshing out my overall project for a meeting
  • Zcat abroad/Kiwimedievalist [write an article]: finish revising article for re-submission

Week 5 Absences:
  • Antikate [revise a conference paper into an article & submit]
  • Britomart [completing a draft of dissertation introduction]
  • Inafuturelife [transform seminar paper into a conference paper]
  • Jamilajamison [finish writing the M.A. thesis]
  • Luolin [finish and submit an article]
  • NWGirl [Revise one dissertation chapter into a book chapter]
  • Salimata [write a conference paper]
  • Synecdoche [Finish conference paper]

46 comments:

Dr. Crazy said...

I leave in less than 7 hours for the airport, but I'm sending all good vibes to the writing group! Also, I got all the grading and committee crap and everything done this week so that I'm taking NONE of that on my trip this week! And also I actually did do something research-related this week (a presentation on campus) so even though I had no goals, I accomplished something research-related anyway! Anyway: goal for next week: write 2 pages and compose an abstract for a conference related to the stuff I'm working on :)

word verification: midneti, which I feel like is a signal that I should be asleep :)

Cly said...

Well, by mentioning ‘major disasters’ last week, I seem to have invoked them. Okay, not really, but I did lose this week to health stuff. My goal for next week is the same as last week, a draft.

Gillian said...

I had an interesting week. I got some work done, but not nearly enough. This is largely because the novelist inside took over, and I worked on my fiction. I've decided to regard this in a positive light and call this Calvin Ball.

What I did on the dissertation was good. I sorted out what I needed to do and made some inroads. I'll have to catch up with the rest next week, though, when I finish work on the first half of that chapter and get a cleanish draft done. I can't promise no fictional diversions - these things tend to happen in waves - but I can make a valiant effort to work on both the fiction and the dissertation.

a stitch in time said...

I have managed to reduce the stack of books and bring back some of them to the library, so I will count the week's goal as met. Unfortunately, the yield from the books I checked was not so high as I had hoped for (which on the other hand made it easier to reach goal).
Since I'm juggling several projects at once, and next week will be shortened by a trip abroad (London! Hooray!), I'll set as goal to continue in the same way and finish off at least three more books/articles. And I hope I'll be able to check in next week, since I am not sure whether I will have internet access when away or not.

Word verification: scarci (that's what working time at the moment feels like...)

luolin88 said...

I tried to check in last week three times to no avail (twice with Wordpress id and once as guest). I'm not sure what happened, since I didn't have any problem the last time I checked in @ blogenspiel.

Luolin [finish and submit an article]
It is not a good sign that after submitting it three times, I don't remember exactly what my goal was.

I'm in the middle of reading and taking notes on some newly-found articles. I tend to get very involved in the note-taking, well beyond what I need for my paper. Among other things it helps me avoid dealing with the organization of my paper.

I am feeling very bogged down. A Calvinball change of rules would probably help, but I am having trouble of thinking of what to shake up. I feel like the routine is the only thing keeping the research going at all while I'm teaching. A different working location is probably my best shot.

The deadline for reviewing a ms is less than a week away (I should have said no, but I figured I need to read the book anyway, so why not now? Answer: mid-semester teaching, research, service).

Goal for the week: Read 2 1/2 articles. Take notes. Find a new place to do it.

Britomart said...

I missed checking in last week, but have been getting a little bit done, mostly in the form of reading and taking notes on some secondary sources.

Goal for next week: Get something to my in-person writing group by Monday.

Specifics of what this will look like: I'm aiming for 10 more pages of the introduction, specifically a background section that introduces the genre I'm working on and some of the literary/philosophical issues with which my dissertation will grapple.

One thing that's gotten me a little thrown off is that my "week" has a weird schedule. For instance, this week the main "due date" is Monday. Of course, this means there's a ton to do this weekend. But what about after Monday? I'll need to definitely keep working, but still, after all these years, I tend to work furiously a couple of days before a deadline, but then not much afterward.

Good luck to everyone this week!

Janice said...

I am certain that next week is going to be write-off. I checked my schedule and realized that I've got three major assignments coming into mark on Monday & Tuesday. Even if I can hand a few to my TA, that's a handful out of a prospective 160+. So it felt as if I'd decreed a particularly nasty fate for myself in my own game of Calvinball. Doh!

This week I got through three research sources but only one was of any real use. I was beating myself up over that and then I realized that it was good enough to say "there's not anything more on this subtopic if these articles don't address it, so carry on!"

Next week? I plan to complete my research reading in a few free hours on Monday and Tuesday. If I can do that, I'll be in good shape for the next week, our reading week, which is when I hope to power through a large chunk of the writing. I'll see if I can use your Calvinball paradigm to help me creatively move forward in other ways.

Thanks, by the way, for the thoughtful and inspiring posts you and ADM have made for this group. It's a great pick-me-up after the soul-destroying moment this afternoon when it was clear that only research funding matters in the great scheme of things.

zcat_abroad said...

Well, this week brought a new low - OBA: Overcome By Appendix. Monday night saw a rambunctious appendix removed, and while I was able to move, I have not been able to think straight this week. This means that all the 'not-writing' work which was hovering over my shoulder last week is still waiting to be addressed, and as it is marking, it can't wait.

So I have no goal for this week, other than free-writing in an attempt to refocus my mind. Perhaps I am playing Calvinball. (That cartoon had so many truisms, I should look it out again.)

word verification: vacci - I wish!!

undine said...

Finished the 1000-word review and wrote 600 words on the big project. Next week: aiming for 1500 words on big project.

Scholasticamama said...

I wasn't absent last week! I checked and my post is up - buut I wrote from my work computer and I came out as "Kim."

Last week - I did not make 500 words, but I did make 217! So, while I did not complete my task, I did make some progress.

Next week's goal: Complete the 500 words and I think, with the Calvinball rules, I might just read a book for pleasure next week. It's midterms, so I'll be grading a bunch.

anotherdamnedmedievalist said...

Well, I forgot that this week had a chairs' meeting, two midterms, catching up on grading, some serious prep, and who knows what else?

So not so much done. And I have not a clue what I will get done by next friday, since the next four days are all about marking 40 essay scripts, 15 journals, two discussion boards, 15 article summaries, and do some prep for next week Oh, and finish inputting data and writing up all the findings for last year's departmental assessment. On the other hand, I am also feeling much better about where I'm going.

Part of this is that I've received a R&R for a paper I submitted last summer -- about the only thing I managed to get done after my trip -- and it was awesome. Really great comments, and the ability to revise with lots of extra words. SO after this project, I have another one!

also, my word is cowivere.

Amstr said...

1) add argument-related sentences to the beginning and end of each paragraph; 2) write a lame intro that gives some space to critical context; 3) tighten up the lame intro into passable; 4) 4 articles and 2 books: read/skim, annotate, possibly incorporate

I managed to get my big scary thing accomplished this week! I did above and beyond on task 1, and did a full pass by hand over my restructured article. It's quite possible there are more handwritten words than typewritten ones (I crossed out a lot of those), and it wasn't such a bad process. I also wrote a lame intro, gave space for critical context (and right now it's really space that says "put critical context here"), and tightened it up a bit. It will definitely need more revision, but it's better than the blank space that used to be the intro.

I also got through 2.5 articles and half a book--not all I'd hoped, but done enough with my over-achieving on task 1.

Next week is lit review week. I've finally figured out what the two narrow subject are that I need to provide critical context for. My topic is not one that's been written about widely, so I have to search for bits within other arguments that at least nod to my topic. It seems both good and bad at this point. (Good because I think my argument is original; bad because I have to skim so much, and I'm much more a reader than a skimmer.)

**My specific goals: 1) type in changes to MS, 2) skim the research on my two narrow topics, 3) write a brief lit review, 4) fiddle more with the intro, 5) make some attempt to incorporate secondary research into the article (replace "citation here" notes wherever I can)

I'm heading into a spouse-less week already low on sleep, so perhaps the new thing for me should be being in bed on time. I think it will help me use my daytime worktime more effectively.

Word verification: rewrisc. Appropriate, I'd say.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

@ Dr. Crazy -- Have a great trip, and congratulations on surprising yourself this week!

@ Cly -- Okay, so we'll keep from mentioning anything, and hope for a good week to come.

@ Gillian -- Do you find that the fiction and the dissertation inspire each other? Or are they on completely separate topics?

@ A Stitch In Time -- I had a similar experience with my law codes this week, in that I got through them, but didn't find what I'm looking for. Then again, confirming that something isn't there can also be counted as progress. At least, that's what I'm telling myself.

@ LuoLin: the trick to Calvinball is to change only the rules that seem to disadvantage you. If what you have is generally working, then keep at it. But sometimes making a little change, even if you soon go back to what originally worked for you, can shake your brain up a little when you find yourself in a rut.

@ Britomart: 10 pages is an admirable goal! After Monday, you might use the down time to do something mechanical, like footnotes or something. But you should also grant yourself a reward, if you have the space to do so.

@ Janice: So glad to be helping! I had a massive week of student conferences, so I can completely sympathize. Maybe this would be a good week to journal or blog a little about what you've already learned and what it might mean, rather than trying to push forward.

@ ZCat: Freewriting is an excellent idea. And if the appendix you ditched was... oh, wait! Are we talking about a part of your book or a part of your body?

@ Undine: Excellent! I'm hoping for words on my own draft very soon, so it's inspiring to see you moving forward with such gusto.

@ ScholasticMama: I've updated your status on the post... with a bit of poetic license! And reading for pleasure will help relax your brain... and who knows what that might unlock!

@ ADM: Isn't that a great feeling to know where you're going with a project? I'm still kind of waiting for that. And Hey! Congratulations on the helpful and favorable report!

@ Amstr: Good job on getting down the introduction-shaped object. Intros are always the hardest part to write (though conclusions are, arguably, the most irritating). If I may be so bold as to suggest one of my own posts on the subject?
http://girlscholar.blogspot.com/2009/08/making-introductions.html

Contingent Cassandra said...

Reading accomplished (not quite as much as I'd ideally hoped, but enough), and I'm feeling ready for the brown bag thingy. Since this week was a bit different, my main goal for next week is to get back to the routine: writing on at least 2 weekday mornings.

That, and Saturday morning, may be slightly complicated by the fact that a big conference in my field is taking place about an hour's train ride away, and I want to attend for at least one day, browse the book exhibits, etc. On the other hand, there's the train ride, which can provide a bit of writing time (though some of that may need to go to grading; still I think I can fit both some grading and some writing into the interstices of attending the conference, especially since I'm not presenting or doing anything else taxing, just going to listen). Since this month will throw me enough curves without my adding additional ones, I don't think I'll plan any Calvinball-style changes (though getting enough sleep would be a good thing, as would be getting some more exercise. Maybe that's a goal: at least one walk and one session of weights/floor exercises).

And thanks for the link to the introduction post, Notorious. Interestingly, the problem of how to approach the introduction has periodically been floating to the surface of my mind during this non-writing week. I'm not really planning to write one anytime very soon (though I do have a vague idea of what I'd like to do), but my subconscious is apparently telling me that it's a problem still to be solved.

Jennifer said...

@ Nototious: Thank you for linking to your post on Introductions. I've been struggling with mine and it's such good advice to just put it aside for the time being.

I was overtaken by everything and nothing this week. This always seems to happen to me when I have an open schedule with lots of time to work. My SO won't arrive in new diss. fellowship city for 2 or 3 more weeks, so in theory, my only obligation right now is writing. Yet, I spun my wheels all week. I got some, but not enough, dissertation work accomplished, but never managed to get to my article. I realize that most of the group is managing to accomplish goals while juggling teaching loads and all of the other duties that accompany busy semesters. So, this probably sounds like whining/a great problem to have. It's just frustrating that just when I expected to be picking up steam, I seem to be doing the opposite. My sense is that I am overwhelmed by my dissertation and I just need to dive in to the research and everything else will follow.

So, I guess my midway slump arrived a week early. I am going to shake it off with a day of walking around my new city, followed by dinner with a friend. Then, I am going to fix my schedule. This open schedule business is just not working for me. This week, I am going back to first thing, before the internet and everything else, morning writing. I will write 500 words each morning. I'll spend the day at my fellowship center working on my diss., and then devote one of the hours each evening that I've been wasting on the internet to review literature and edit my article.

Back to basics. 500 words of morning writing each day and one hour of article-related reading/editing each evening. My larger goal is to maintain the momentum and get a significant chunk of the work on the article accomplished before my SO arrives in a few weeks.

Matilda said...

Hello, all,

I have failed to meet my goal two weeks in a row. What I have managed to do this week was only to collect a few new materials and only some 300 words. I wrote only two days this week. My writing habit is again on the verge of collapsing. Why have I been doing so poorly and what is the problem? Is my plan too ambitious? Can't I find some more time to concentrate on my project? Therefore, I have been re-planning the use of working schedule, trying to find more 15-minute units in my daily life.

So, I hope the Calvinball trick may work for me, who is in a slump (maybe always in kind of a slump). How about doing my project of the day first, then my job-related work? But when I have deadlines? Some years ago, on a TV program I watched Natalie Portman was asked how she accomplished so many things in so short a time. She just answered when you got a lot to do then you got them done with a shrug. Well, some people can do everything. Me, not.

Goal for next week: continuing to review related literature, 1000 words of my introduction part; week 6 section of WYJA (strengthening your structure).

NWGirl said...

I missed checking in last week and I accomplished nothing toward my weekly or my group goals. Knocked out by a nasty case of bronchitis -- however, given a choice I would rather be overcome by bronchitis rather than zcat's oba. Zcat, hope you're feeling better soon.

Thanks for such a great post, Notorious. I think we're all in need of a little Calvinball! I think a couple of my grad students would benefit from Calvinball.

I'm on fall break this week and I am traveling, so I will have time to work on this project. I'm hoping that a week in the archives, with no responsibilities other than my research, will be the Calvinball that I need to get me back in the game. Usually, I dread solo trips -- hate being away from my DH (I know that may sound weird to some, but we like hanging out together even after all these years) -- but I'm looking forward to this trip. It's been a stressful year personally and professionally and I think I would benefit from some time to myself even if it's spent working in archives.

word verification: kisms -- sounds like some wonderful chocolate treat! May have to go in search of chocolate.

Britomart said...

@Matilda: Don't feel discouraged! I've also found meeting my goals to be challenging and haven't been very successful at it, so you're definitely not alone. It sounds like even if it's not quite as fast as you ideally wish, you are getting stuff done!

One suggestion that people have been giving me is to try to work on your research project first in the day, before anything else can sidetrack you. I haven't always found this possible - sometimes the pile of papers just needs to be graded - but I think it's a laudable goal. After all, work seems to expand to fill whatever time is available.

Best of luck this next week, and maybe focus on the positive of what you are getting done rather than chastising yourself for what's left to do.

heu mihi said...

I'm having some kind of emotional thing here, where I just can't imagine what people are talking about when they say that they wrote 1000 words or made good progress or whatever, and I feel sort of bewildered and angry for some reason. How in the world--how in the *world*--does anyone have time for anything, ever???

OK. OK. This semester has just been a completely overwhelming whirl, and it's not about to get better: in addition to the usual weekly meetings, I have 1-3 evening events per week for the next four weeks, some of which I'm organizing; *and* houseguests for three consecutive weekends. What is happening? When is December??

Sorry. Focus. Here's what I did this week: Finished the bloody Latin. Literally "looked at" the other book and yes, it's relevant (and unfortunately in German). Nothing else; didn't even open the file for my talk.

Anyway, the rule-change is a good idea. Here's what I'm going to do: I'm going to meet my week's goal (or as close to it as I'll get) this weekend, because otherwise I just won't do it. Here's hoping that I'm less bitter a week from now!

The goal, then: Convert part 3's notes into paragraphs; deal with German article. OR: Work for 3 hours on the talk.

Sorry for my mood, all. There's some stuff going on. Good stuff, but it's energy-draining in a whole lot of ways.

Stemi said...

Project: Complete and send off a review article

Weekly goal: 1) At least 30 minutes writing or reading on project, 4 of 7 days. 2) 500 new words in outline/draft document

I didn't meet the consistency goal, but did meet the word count goal. I feel ok about writing productivity for the week though, as I did submit a revised ms in response to reviewer comments, and submitted two reviewer reports (for ms I was asked to review). So the "writing" section of my to-do list has gone from 5 items to 2 (this project plus another one).

Last week Amstr suggested that (to avoid feeling compelled to read read read) I should write a paragraph/section as I wish it would be, then specifically follow up on the points to see if I can find data to support them. I did try this on the section that is giving me trouble, but still had a hard time writing anything. In the process, I rearranged the outline for the section, which I think might have been part of the problem. I will try again with the new outline. Most of my writing this week was on a different section.

Calvinball this week: I find I'm not meeting consistency goals for this project, so I will let those go. That doesn't sound sufficiently fun or crazy, however. Therefore my one goal for this week is adding Q*12 new words to the outline/draft document.

Amstr said...

@Notorious--thanks for the intro link. My old standby was to take what I'd written as my conclusion and paste it to the top of my paper. I think I just wrote a conclusion-y paragraph that could serve that purpose.

@Jennifer--It sounds like a tough situation. I definitely find that when I have wide open time, I get less done, especially when I don't have concrete goals. I think your idea of a set schedule sounds like a great one--just make sure to schedule breaks in. ABC for 8 hours tends to be rather demoralizing, and a rested brain is much more likely to have good ideas. You might even go so far as to schedule in walks for thinking time regularly.

Another thing that helped me was to have concrete tasks that could be accomplished each day. I've managed to have a set weekly task list now (that I develop on Friday afternoons for the next week), but at times I've made the list day by day. Progress begets progress, so accomplishing little things can show you that you CAN accomplish things, and then it's easier to get to the big things (which I always have to break down into littler tasks as well).

Here's wishing you a more productive, less slumpy week.

sophylou said...

I have to confess that, writingwise, it's pretty much all Calvinball all the time for me...

I've gotten the article completely revised, formatted, proofread to the best of my abilities, so, have met my goal.

Last step and goal for the coming week: write the 500-word abstract. Forcing me, in other words, to write my elevator speech for this article. I've been working on this article for AGES, so that's going to be a bit of a challenge, but a good one. Hopefully the anticipation of finally getting it off my desk will see me through.

Sisyphus said...

Goal: Revise and send out my article.

This week's goal: read and incorporate the ILLs.

Ok, I have read and incorporated (or discovered it was not necessary to use) my ILLs. I even got work done on my job apps, but not on my article itself.

However, I am going to have to ask permission for next week off as I have student conferences all week, and I know I will be spending my evenings reading essay drafts for the next day's conferences. Gah. This is not the way I would like to play Calvinball. On the other hand, I went hiking after grading midterms all morning instead of doing more work-work and I think that is an *excellent* way of switching things up a la Calvinball! Don't forget to get outside and take some time for yourself, everybody! There will be time for hot tea and books once the weather gets crappy!

Susan said...

I got my flu shot on Wednesday, and Friday I felt kind of flu-y. Mindful of Dr. C's notes on the need to decompress, I gave myself a pass. I re-read and polished the current draft (the bad part of the word processor is the temptation to endless editing). I wrote about 100 additional words. My max is only an additional 800 words, so it's not as if I have much more I can say, even if I want to. I have all sorts of stuff from ILL now, though, and am planning to sit down and read. The sections I need to add seem manageable, though, and I've got everything blocked out. I will probably get a bit more reading done this weekend, so by next weekend I may have what I can think of as a full draft.

Re. Calvinball: it's great. I already play pretty well, since I seem to resist rules on my writing life. I'm working on letting myself feel crappy (whether it's the flu shot or an incipient cold) and not pushing too hard.

My goal for next week: read or skim ILL material, and write the last 500 words or so.

Forthright said...

This week wasn't a complete success; I did get a lot of writing done, overall, but it wasn't as well-paced as I had hoped. I also did a lot of analysis that wasn't writing, but did pave the road for doing some rapid writing of big sections of text in the next couple of weeks.

One of the two articles I'm writing is begging me to split itself in twain. This is fine in the long run but for now means that some of the work I had done on article 2 is now going to, I suppose, end up not in an article at all, but in an as-yet-highly-hypothetical book MS.

I think what's not working right now, or what needs to change, is to get rid of any guilt associated with this productive (but not for the here-and-now) work, to take it for what it is, remaining mindful of where this stuff will eventually come in useful. Really coming to terms with the fact that ultimately, this project may need to be a book, even if it is part of a greater five-year plan.

For next week my goal is to get article #2 in skeleton form with the text organized in sections (which it isn't currently). This will include at least 1500 new words of writing. There's loads of filling in of material that will need to be done even after that, but if I succeed this week, it will look like an unfinished article rather than a bunch of chunks of text, which will get it caught up to the state of article #1.

word verification: whotor, which practically demands a salacious remark :)

Forthright said...

@Gillian: When I was dissertating I spent SO MUCH TIME on my various fictional endeavours; I used to think of it as wasted, but in retrospect, my dissertation ended up at over 200,000 words. My sense, nearly a decade later, is that writing, in general, put me in a good mindful state for writing the dissertation, in particular.

@Luolin88: I too have this tendency to make detailed notes even on articles that have nothing to do with my current project. The perfectionist/completist in me, I suppose, refuses to let it go. I say run with it, as long as it's not pure procrastination for the other stuff.

@ADM: Congratulations on the R&R! I used to get so bummed with an R&R but I'm trying very hard now to see them as simply an accept that hasn't come through yet.

@Amstr: I'm in the middle of a spouseless week myself; for me, that has meant a lot more parenting but also a lot more free time in the late evenings. Hope it works ok for you.


word verification: unledi (as in Ethel-led the Unledi?)

Notorious Ph.D. said...

@ Contingent Cassandra: One of the things I thought about when doing my intro (granted, for a book) was to write the book with a grad seminar reader in mind: Imagine your reader is carefully reading the intro and conclusion, and carefully (though quickly) skimming the rest: Have you got enough there that this hypothetical reader will get everything they need, in terms of the most fundamental parts of your argument?

@ Jennifer: sometimes, taking a "day off" where you let go of forward motion and devote yourself to recalibrating can be the most productive thing you can do.

@ Matilda: I want you to take the word "failed" out of your self-evaluations. You'll end up talking yourself into a guilt spiral that will be hard to pull out of. On the other hand, your self examination (What went wrong? What one or two small steps can I take to put myself on the path again?) can be extremely helpful. See my comment to Jennifer, above.

@ NW Girl: If you have a week, I highly recommend giving yourself permission to take a single day off, guilt-free, to relax. You'll be refreshed, and that will result in better work.

@ Heu Mihi: Sounds like a good shake-up change. And if you do it on the weekend, you can have the week without it weighing on you. Let us know how it works! (And don't apologize for your "mood" – work is stressful, so we expect that it's going to get to us now and then. We've all been there.)

@ Stemi: I LOVE the "Q*12" goal – to paraphrase the final strip on my post: you picked up the nuances of this game fast!

@ Sophylou: so if you're stuck, try a week of doing the opposite of whatever you've been doing? Just a week. See if it shakes it up a little.

@ Sisyphus: Yes! Go out and play! As I mentioned above, taking time to refresh yourself (so long as it doesn't turn into a permanent vacation) can mean that you come back stronger than ever.

@ Susan: Yep – anything that knocks you out physically will knock you out mentally, too.

@ Forthright: re: "complete success" – are they ever? As long as you've got forward motion, that's what's important. (And what a delightfully medieval word verification!)

Evan said...

My end-goal of writing a conference paper has ben scuppered. The conference I was going to present at via videolink has run into technical difficulties, so I don't have to write the paper anymore! So I'll have to end my particiation in this writing group.

I am feeling good though because I finally finished an article on youth culture in the 1980s that was a month overdue!

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

The fellowship application got done and out the door on time. I've re-read the six pages I have of the chapter I'm supposed to be working on. And I've done some noodling around with a totally different project because I'm feeling antsy about wanting to send something out in this calendar year. I had my heart set on turning the paper-turned-book into an article that would have gone out in the summer, and I can't seem to let go of the idea that I must publish something else.

Like many others, I need to tackle a lot of teaching and service work this week, and I know the sensible thing to do would be to prioritize that, with a half hour every morning for the chapter I'm supposed to be writing, and/or the translation work that I put aside for awhile. But maybe my version of Calvinball is looking over all the work-in-progress to see if anything is even in a position to get pushed out the door; and if it really isn't, then maybe I can be sensible, after all.

Congratulations to ADM on the R&R, get-well-soon wishes to Zcat, and generally supportive well-wishing to everyone!

Oh, and if anyone would like to present at a conference in February, have I got an opportunity for you . . .

antikate said...

Oof. It's been a rough couple of weeks with some definite OBE-ness. Basically the day job (which I really like and therefore give a lot of energy to, but which has nothing to do with academia) has been in overdrive as we headed towards a deadline (tomorrow!). So I've been staying late and working through lunch, and when I get home I just haven't had the willpower or discipline to kick my brain into gear for the article. I seriously contemplated just skipping this week's check-in and letting myself default out of the writing group.

But. I do want to get this article written. I just need to rethink how it's going to happen. And I have been making progress, albeit more slowly than I would have liked. I think I'll be better served by keeping on trying (even if I don't have a finished article at the end of the 12 weeks) and reminding myself of what I do manage to accomplish, rather than feeling guilty over what I don't manage to do.

So my goal for this week: back to the basics - 30 minutes of writing every day, focused on just one of the three plays I'm working on.

Erika said...

Ha ha, I love last week's procrastinate productively link from our commments thread, because it has perfectly defined my week. I have a funding application due tomorrow, and a midterm to write for my students that is tomorrow, and I haven't yet completed either of them. But I did meet this week's writing goal of 250 words/ day (or 1250). I'm in the wonderful free-writing stage of this article as I try to build the last half of the argument, and I managed to produce 1650 words.

Next week's goal = continue free-writing 350 words / day, and spend 30-60 minutes outlining, editing, or researching the article.

Salimata Doumbia said...

I'm with Sophylou ("writingwise, it's pretty much all Calvinball all the time for me... ") and Antikate this week ("But. I do want to get this article written. I just need to rethink how it's going to happen.") I missed signing in last week because I was hoping I would get my goal accomplished after all late on Sunday, as I did the previous week, but that didn't quite happen (neither finishing my goals nor checking in).

My Calvin ball rule for this week will be to have an "output goal" (in words) instead of an "input goal" (in units of time). It might sound counterintuitive, but even a very modest goal of "30 minutes" sometimes puts me off of writing, because I just can't stand the thought of a WHOLE 30 MINUTES OF REAL WRITING. But I've definitely been able to fool myself into thinking, "Oh, I only have to write 300 words today--over the entire course of the day! That's easy!! Like 25 words per hour when I have a minute here or there." So, that's what I'm going to do this week: 300 words/day for 5 days.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

I just realized that I neglected to post my own update! So, I got through the law codes, and didn't find what I was looking for. I'm now working out a way to make this work for my paper.

Goals for next week: Get an outline done -- this actually needs to be done by Tuesday night (eep!). Hopefully I can use the rest of the week to read one or two more last articles.

zcat_abroad said...

Thanks for all the get-well wishes!

Yup, it was a bodily appendix rather than a paper one. It seems a bit funny that we're all in a situation where it's hard to tell one from the other. Removal of either could be painful (if you've gone to all that effort).

I'm taking recovery slowly, but next week is the final one of the semester, so I'm going to show up to classes anyway.

Scatterwriter said...

Goals for last week: continue trying to cut down my mammoth Chapter 1, and skim a recently published source to see if any new ideas need to be incorporated into this chapter, toward an overall goal of revising three chapters of my book manuscript.

I mainly worked on the first bit -- cutting down Chapter 1. I managed to eliminate another 1400 words, and it is down to 76 pages (from an initial 85). Still too long, but at least I'm making some progress. I also added in references to every source except the one that I was thinking of as part of my goal for last week. I started to skim that one -- it's a rather slender book -- and then got both bored and frustrated and threw it over. So I guess I will try to go back to it this week.

One of the things I am thinking about this week is citation. I tend to be too thorough -- so, for example, I sometimes feel that paraphrasing an argument may not do justice to the author and a block quote would be better. I know this is a problem -- readers have been pointing it out to me forever -- and one of the reasons I was able to lose another four pages from my draft was simply by finally converting block quotes from secondary sources into proper paraphrases, and, in the case of footnotes, just giving the citation without a lot of long-winded contextualization.

But here is something I am struggling with this week: I've started eliminating a particular kind of footnote altogether -- the kind where I acknowledge that some other scholar has drawn a different conclusion from me. What I have done in the past is cite the other scholar, sum up his or her conclusion, and then go on to say that I don't agree with it for whatever reason (all in a very long footnote). I'm thinking now that this is too much like literature review -- which can be a good thing in a dissertation but not so desirable here -- but it still frightens me to eliminate these kinds of notes because I'm not entirely sure that this is the right thing to do. Is there a point to citing someone else just to say that I don't agree? Surely it would be better or me to just make my own argument --and in the text itself, not in the notes -- and leave it at that? Any advice on this point would be appreciated!

In the spirit of Calvinball, I'm going to try to be okay with taking more breaks from work. Last week I worked on this five out of seven days, which is kind of a record and I was really happy, but now I'm on the fourth day without looking at the manuscript. Fun and relaxation have never been on my list of priorities. I think they need to be there.

Goals for this week: finish skimming the book I started skimming last week. Go through the Introduction again and try to cut out anything superfluous (especially anything that smacks of literature review), and then think about how best to restructure the Introduction.

monksandbones said...

Almost forgot to check in, eep! I've been simultaneously data-crunching and database-building full-time since Friday and forgot all about accountability. I made my goals this week in terms of putting in time, but not in terms of finishing the data-crunching (of which there is a lot still to do).

My goals for the coming week:

1) Reread seminar paper again
2) Keep working on the data to the extent necessary (vague, but the conference-paper version of this paper is looming).
3) Write up a page of musings on what the article is going to look like on at least three occasions throughout the week.

nakedphilologist said...

As of this week, I have concluded that there's no point trying to do any thesis work on a Wednesday. I don't know why Wednesday - I have no more commitments on Wednesdays than any other day; but it's wednesdays that keep mucking up my attempt to write every day.

So my clever change is to do all the other things *deliberately on Wednesday*! Wednesdays are for marking, paperwork, etc. Other days are for thesis!

Didn't even hit 1000 words last week, but 500 isn't *bad*, and some of it was translation (therefore slower).

Onwards! Writing every day -except Wednesdays-, and hoping to finish off section 2.

Can we also ammend my official goal for the twelve weeks down to one chapter? I've revised my deadline for the whole thing with my supervisors, and given myself more space. :)

- Highlyeccentric

Notorious Ph.D. said...

@ Evan: Sorry to hear that – I'll take you off, but if you decide to stick with us and finish the project anyway, feel free to check in next week.

@ Dame Eleanor: That's the downside of having lots of things in the hopper – sometimes we get paralyzed by indecision. Your idea to spend a few days really looking your possibilities in the eye and figuring out which is the best sounds like a good use of your time.

@ Antikate: Good job. Yes, maybe it's about time in the session for all of us to recalibrate our goals. Often we end up overly ambitious, especially during the semester, and especially especially when we're just coming off a summer when we had lots of time on our hands. ADM? You want to think about that for next week?

@ Erika: Sounds like a very good week to me!

@ Salimata: I think you'll be surprised how quickly those 300 words can come – especially if you don't psych yourself out by telling yourself they have to be perfect.

@ Scatterwriter: I'm of two minds on this. On the one hand, with most presses doing endnotes these days, I figure that if it isn't in the text, no one will see it. On the other hand, a long lit-review-y passage in the text is a sure way to derail an argument and make the whole thing seem dissertationy. Here's what I did: I put them in the footnotes in the draft, and let myself be as prolix as necessary. Then, when I got to the revisions stage, I looked at all those long footnotes. Did I really want the reader to see them? If so, then I found a way to condense the essentials into a sentence, and put the refs in the notes. But four out of five times, I found that I didn't miss them at all, and so ended up deleting (or severely condensing) those notes. So let go of your lit review one small step at a time.

@ Monksandbones: the important thing is that you made it.

@ nakedphilologist: Oh, a weekly day off! A sabbath! Excellent idea. If you give yourself permission, then you can actually enjoy it and get refreshed (which is the whole idea) rather than spending the day feeling guilty.

bitterandjaded said...

I am sooo late reporting in. I fell slightly short of my writing goal this week. I only wrote 1780 words, but I'm still counting that as a victory. I didn't get a chance to meet with my adviser - in part because he was gone at a workshop - but I have an appointment for next week, so that's good.

I have a conference this coming weekend, and the Tuesday after that I will be presenting the chapter I am working on to my department in our monthly research colloquium. (Two separate presentations in the span of about 3 days.) What does this mean for my goals this week? Well it means that my goal for the next week is not to get new words down on paper, but to revise what I have written and frame it in the context of my larger project.

One might argue that I should have had the larger project in mind the entire time, and I do/did, but this week is all about making sure that I'm saying what I think I'm saying and framing it for those who might not be familiar with my topic, time period, theoretical foundations, primary sources.

So my concrete goals are to:
1) Revise my writing on this chapter into 20 pages for presentation on the 25th.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

@ Bitterandjaded: just shy of 1800 words is a HUGE victory! And as for the advisor meeting, you can't control other people's schedules... but you've got your request in, and that's a start.

thefrogprincess said...

Don't want to miss my check-in: am on the verge of finishing chapter 1; haven't really touched chapter 3 but the revisions there are pretty minimal at this point. I probably won't check in next week--ill-advised high school reunion happening the same weekend that I'll finish my diss, but I have 9 days to go.

Thanks to all for the support!

A.M. Christensen said...

okay. running behind the ball here, or perhaps I should say behind the Calvinball! I love Calvin!!

My goal this past week was to write for 40 mins/day at least and to strat stitching some of the other things I have written back together.

The week started out well and I met my goals and then all hades broke loose. And in stitching things back together I found that I had some very disjointed stuff, which is going to take a fair bit of work to fit together. I also came across another source for the myth side of things that I need to cover, because the myth approach has been the predominant one, and i need to deal with it to get it out of the way and get to my own new ideas.

This coming week will not be pretty. I have to give/make two exams and also collect take home exams from a third class, which means grading will be the focus of the week and weekend. Also, since this week fell apart, I have to play catch up on a few tasks I intended to get done, like ordering texts for the spring. And I am being reviewed on Thursday.

So for this week I am shooting for 20 minutes/day for at least 3 days of writing, and I'd like to spend at least an hour working more on stitching stuff together.

Phew, at least I met this deadline!! Okay, now I can go back and read everyone's comments!

Elizabeth Mitchell said...

I found myself with a computer and internet in-between dealing with sets of relatives, so I will send all the best to all of you.

I have been doing more thinking than writing in my half-hours, but I did have a minor breakthrough this week. I decided during one insomniac episode to work on my commentary notes for my dissertation. The surprise was that I found myself falling in love with it again. It won't get me any praise or tenure, but it certainly was nice to feel that again.

I will be drifting in and out of internet availability after tonight until Friday, but wanted to drop by.
Elizabeth

Good Enough Woman said...

Project: [write a solid draft of a dissertation chapter]

Week Six Goals: Finish the 30 primary sources pages I didn’t do this week, read two chapters of Descartes, and write the first 500 hundred words of the new chapter, just to start seeing where my mind is.

Nope. Nada. Nothing.

I finished one of my classes this week and had to get the grades finished, and I had a lot of other grading at the beginning of the week. But the biggest time-taker was the conference I went to. Often, I can get a fair amount done at conferences, especially when I attend on my own (without colleagues). But this was a very colleague-heavy conference, and it was focused on assessment stuff (woohoooo!), and I am one of our campus SLOA Coordinators (don't hate me), so I felt obligated to attend everything. And the socializing and collaborating went late into the night.

But. I'm home. The house is in pretty good order. I'm not behind with anything, so I have high hopes for this week. I feel rather *alarmed* that we are half-way through our group since I really haven't gotten much done.

Calvinball rule change: This week, I will try some freewriting. I will freewrite for at least 10 minutes every day. So here are my goals:

1) Freewrite M-F for 10 minutes each day.
2) Read 50 pages of primary text
3) Read 2 chapters of Descartes
4) Skim the 90-page article I received from ILL to see if it contains anything of value.

opsimathphd said...

My goal this week was to work on the argument by free-writing 500 words a day. I would say I accomplished just over half of this, managing 4 days of 500 words each. Not actual writing, true doodling. The good news, though, is that I have finally found what I think is a real way into a substantive argument. Goal for next week: to nail it down, again in the 500 words per day mode, with the help of some additional reading.

And I finally managed to check in *before* Monday, though just barely!

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Hi Folks!

About an hour left before I pack it in for the weekend. But here's another batch of comments:

@ frogprincess: congratulations on having the end of one of those chapters in sight! I'll bet you can get it knocked off before your event, and then really kick up your heels (hells, do that anyway!)

@ AM(calm): your coming week sounds like my past week. Should be interesting, no? It's a good thing to know the hurdles and plan your goals accordingly – which you've done quite well here.

@ Elizabeth: congrats not only on your breakthrough, but also on falling in love with the project again. (Now, not to rain on the parade, but do you have a goal for next week – even a small one?)

@ GEW: Define "nothing done." Have you read? Taken notes? Conceptualized the project? Are you further along in those terms, even if not in terms of pages? If so, then you've made progress. Now, you can rededicate the second half to getting words on the page.

@ opsimathphd: " The good news, though, is that I have finally found what I think is a real way into a substantive argument." And that, my friend, is why we freewrite, even if we think it's "doodling." You done good.