“I feel like, at the end of the article you are supposed to have your big climax with fireworks and all sorts of grand confusions, and right now it’s kind of a mess that doesn’t seem to go anywhere — waving a sparkler instead of showing off some big fireworks.”
I culled these two quotes from last week’s comments, and I think they sum up the polarities of reality and expectations as one approaches the finish line of a project. On the one hand, there may be a sense of triumph and amazement at our own ass-kickingness as we approach the finish.
Then there’s the other side: “Is that all there is?” We expect great things, and then when it’s finished, it’s just… finished. Myenh.
So here, at week ten, close to the end, this is what I want to ask: How are you feeling? What are you doing to reward or at least congratulate yourself? Are you underestimating what you’ve accomplished? Or, if you’re feeling like you didn’t make the progress you wanted because of matters that really were out of your control, how do you deal with that and moving forward – without invoking the concept of “failure”?
Talking about how you feel about your work is something that Belcher talks about in Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks. It is, in fact, the project of the first week. When I first did it, it struck me as a little hokey. “I am a get-it-done professional! What’s all this touchy-feely crap about anyway?”
But we sometimes forget that writing – even academic writing – is a creative endeavor. And like all creative endeavors, it can be emotionally draining. We never approach the new project or the blank page or the looming deadline dispassionately, do we? We care deeply, and no methodical to-do list (though those help us move forward) is going to change that. Nor should it.
Here’s how I feel: wobbly and uncertain. I’m about to present my first conference paper on a section of the new project, and it’s a high-profile conference. The paper is coming together – in fact, I met my goal of having a decent first draft, though without the conclusion I promised – but now that it is, I find myself beset by doubt again. Is this all too obvious? Did I say anything interesting? Have I reinvented the wheel? I console myself with the certain knowledge that I have felt this way before -- in fact, it's how I usually feel about my writing once it's done, and especially if it's a new-ish topic. But I’m also excited to see where this might be headed.
So, if you’d like to participate in a bit of writing therapy, tell us how you’re feeling. Then post your report and goals (mine is to get two new books skimmed and incorporate them in areas where the paper seems weak) as usual.
Roll call, with week 10 goals
- Adelaide [write a conference paper]: Presentation is done!
- Amcalm25/AMChristensen [finish an article]: choose an angle and just go with it
- Amstr [revise and resubmit an article]: Make the Tuesday deadline, take some respite at the end of the week, and make notes on the areas that can easily be expanded to turn this into a dissertation chapter
- Another Damned Medievalist [write/revise a close-to-final draft of an article]: attempt to survive this week’s shit explosions (figurative ones, that is)
- Belledamesansmerci/Elizabeth [rough draft of a journal article]: Finish the second and third passages. Check Migne, or if the fates are smiling, a newer edition of the various Fathers
- Bitterandjaded/Bittergrrl [finishing a dissertation chapter]: Write another 2000 words and meticulously edit the first 15 pages
- Cly(temnestra) [write a book chapter]: draft chapter
- Contingent Cassandra [complete a full draft of a journal article – note goal may be revised soon]: lengthen Section 2 by at least 500 words
- Dame Eleanor Hull [complete a chapter of the article-turned-book]: print out completed work and edit it
- Dr. Crazy [Finish a chapter draft begun this summer]: write 3 pages
- Dr. Virago [draft a 7500-word essay for a contracted publication]: 500 words
- Erika [write a complete & final draft of an article already underway]: reading the draft, and do a reverse outline; ILL the German and Italian sources
- Forthright [write two article-length pieces]: write intro and set structure for article #2
- Frogprincess [Final draft of the dissertation DONE!!]: revisit the introduction for final revisions, and try to stay sane
- Good Enough Woman [write the first half of a dissertation chapter]: 1) read 30 pages of primary text, 2) read some secondary sources, and 3) type five pages of text
- Gillian [4 chapters of dissertation]: continue working to have section ready to give to advisor, go through previous sections to get back on track
- Heu Mihi [write paper for a faculty colloquium]: Finish the damn thing!
- Highlyeccentric/nakedphilologist [Draft one thesis chapter]: 1500 words on section 3
- Janice/jliedl [write a first draft of a chapter]: Last 800 words of the draft
- Lucie: [Complete a full draft of the PhD thesis]: 5000 words, read two texts, more detailed plan for finishing.
- Luolin [finish and submit an article]: incorporate citations from the reading and revise outline… without obsessing too much
- Katrin/StitchInTime [Turn MA thesis into book form]: work at least 15 minutes a day on the book
- Marie [finish turning paper into journal article]: edit the printed copy
- Matilda [first draft of a journal article]: more than 2000 words on my project, and re-read related sources
- Monks and Bones [turn a seminar paper into an article]: Talk to advisor, and work on outlining article version of paper
- Notorious Ph.D. [write a conference paper]: finish off the last major section and write a draft conclusion, then edit the whole thing from SFD to presentable first draft.
- NWGirl [Revise one dissertation chapter into a book chapter]: finish the spreadsheet inventory and the book proposal
- Salimata [write a conference paper]: come up with that final, perfect paragraph
- Scatterwriter [revise three chapters of book]: make the appropriate changes to manuscript, decide which chapter is next, and start revising whichever one it is
- Scholasticamama [draft of an article]: Introduction and outline section on Abelard’s Logica Ingredientibus
- Sisyphus [polish the rough draft of my article and send it out]: finish up the end of the article and make sure it is cleaned up enough to send
- Sophylou: [finish revisions on an article and prepare it for submission]: spend some time reading, and try to make contact with people who support my wanting to continue with this kind of scholarship
- Stemi [First (very rough) draft of review article]: 1) 500 new words in outline/draft document. 2) read paper sent by colleague
- Susan [write a 7000 word commissioned essay]: fill in a few more of the footnotes, and try to clear the decks in terms of grading.
- Trapped in Canadia [draft two chapters of the dissertation]: Make up the 2,000 words the computer ate last week [argh!!!]
- Undine/Not of General Interest [Finish nearly done chapter and complete another]: 1500 words, writing every day
- Viola [writing an introduction and a chapter for thesis]: start writing proper
- Zcat abroad/Kiwimedievalist [write an article]: re-engage with article 2, get a list of outside sources to read, and try to work out a plan
Week 9 Absences:
- Britomart [completing a draft of dissertation introduction]
- Digger [write two book chapters]
- Jennifer [finish writing a neglected article]:
- Kris [write up a “full” paper and cut down to a 15-minute conference presentation]
- Mike [write ch. 2 of dissertation]
- Opsimathphd [turning a dissertation chapter into an article]