Thursday, November 10, 2011

Writing Group Week 10: How Do You Feel?

“There’s something exhilarating about being near the end of a project, or at least a deadline for one. I’m finding I don’t mind the late nights working, and I just want to fix that one last thing. There will be a time to stop, but I’m enjoying the final push.”
– Amstr

“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.”
– Sisyphus


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]

62 comments:

Adelaide said...

Presentation got polished this week (and cut down for time) will be presented in the next week!

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Congratulations, Adelaide! Let us know how it goes!

Matilda said...

Hello, all,

I have finished one project and sent it out the day before yesterday. My ambitious goal of more than 2000 words were not met, but 1000 words done, which is still good for me.

Re-reading sources have taken longer time than expected, but it is necessary and I am feeling that I can find something interesting.

So, how do I feel now on week 10? Actually I am pleased with the fact that at least I have not dropped out, and kept working with confidence.

For next week: 2000 words or more; re-reading sources; revising my arugument.

Cly said...

Despite being convinced that I was trapped in some sort of Hades-inspired purgatorial loop, I have completed my goal of a draft chapter AND managed a first edit. It needs more editing and parts need re-writing, but it is all there.
As for how I’m feeling, this chapter was necessary, but is mostly dull compared to the rest of the book. I’m not thrilled, but not upset either. At the end of projects, I always wonder whether they were actually worth doing, and I’m always half-convinced they weren’t (after all, my arguments seem so obvious).
Now I’m thinking I need a few days to distance myself from this piece before I re-read it. Much as I would love to take the week off ;), my goal is to go through the piles of notes and loose paragraphs which are the next two chapters, and see what should be done with them as my next writing project.

a stitch in time said...

I've managed to work on the project during the week (not every day for more than 15 mins, but one day almost exclusively), and finally found out that it will not work as previously envisaged.

So I'm actually quite glad - I am happy that I did enough work on the project in the last weeks that I could finally see this and take the appropriate steps. I feel much better about the whole project now, and it seems to me much better handle-able; still a good bit of work left to do but no more an overwhelming amount.

So goal for next week: Restructure and figure out what of the bits I will now restrict the project to go where, and what I still have to re-write, check, and expand.

Dr. Virago said...

I feel overwhelmed and frustrated. There's the usual overwhelmed/frustrated of having too much to do, too many commitments, too many parts of work and life demanding me, but it's not just that. The overwhelmed and frustrated I feel is from the project itself. I'm supposed to write 7500 words on all of medieval English [Major Genre] for one of those big Companions-To books. Said genre has a whole companion volume devoted to it by another publisher -- how can I synthesize all of what needs to be said into 7500 words? I met this week's goal -- I wrote 586 words -- but it's the *content* that's driving me batty. So far I've been concentrating on basic facts as we know them (because this is something that has changed dramatically over the last 20-30 years) and schools of thought in the criticism in the last two decades. And it's really, really *dull*. But I feel like it's necessary -- despite being a major genre, this is an area that many other medieval English lit people get totally *wrong* when they wade into it for the first time. But I feel like I'm writing half intro-to-the-texts-themselves and half critical history, and not doing well by either half. Argh!

So, that's how I feel. Next week's goal: another 500 words, at least. Still need to set aside other writing time for another project, hence the reduction of my usual 750 words.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

@ Matilda: I think you're right to feel pleased with yourself. We often get hung up on judging "success vs. failure" based on whether we accomplished a goal we set long ago, and forget that just sticking to a plan of consistent forward progress is an accomplishment in itself.

@ Cly: You describe my own state of mind about my writing: by the time that I finish something that I've worked so hard on, it often feels so obvious (to me, at least) that I wonder if it needed to be said at all. If you can, project yourself back 10 weeks. Did it seem that obvious to you then? Try to forget about what other people will think for a moment, and ask yourself: "What have I learned?" Chances are that there's someone else who could benefit from learning that, too, right?

@ Stitch in Time: This makes perfect sense to me. It's like you're making a sculpture: you're getting rid of the stuff that isn't going to be part of the final product as the essential process of revealing what will be.

@ Dr. Virago: Oh, I was working on one of those a couple years ago. It's the essential problem of these things: you're asked to do them because you know a lot about an area, but then you realize that you know too much. How to possibly break this all down? I don't have any good advice, except to go ahead and tell yourself that frustration is an appropriate response, but that it's a response to the nature of the project, rather than to your ability to handle it.

Scholasticamama said...

@ Dr Virago - it may seem dull now, but trust me, we need that sort of information out there and I'm excited to see what you write!

How do I feel? I'm pleased that I've stuck with the project, considering the semester I've had. I'm making forward progress, not much, but the wheels are turning. I'm not where I thought I'd be at week 10, but I'm still slowly turning the wheel. (If I allow myself, I'm horribly depressed and convinced I should give up, move to Alaska and learn to make jam. So I don't allow myself - I just keep busy and working.)

Last week's goals: Introduction and an outline for Abelard's Logical.

Completed: Introduction (happy dance!) and reworked the outline from last week. Library has not delivered Abelard's work, so I ordered it on Amazon. It should be here in 8 days.

Next week: Methodology section, and 500 words in Argument Section one. If Abelard show's up, then I'll work on the L.I.

heu mihi said...

Well, I finished, because I actually took the time *last* weekend to do it. So the talk is done. Now I just need to start on the deeply regretted MLA paper....

I'm feeling worn out, of course, with the sheer overwhelming exhaustion of mid-November in a particularly crazy semester. And one of the upshots is that I don't *want* to have to spend my little "free" time writing (so, for the most part, I don't).

I don't want to get all into my own personal scholarly psychology here, but I think that part of my problem is that I'm not currently feeling pulled toward any particularly interesting research/writing project, so I seem to be writing just for the sake of CV- (and ego-)building. That's pretty uninspiring. Does it ever strike anyone else as absurd that there are so many of us off scribbling away, all the time? How can we possibly have so much to *say*?

Of course, ask me again in mid-June, when I'm rested and immersed in my research, and you'll get a totally different answer!

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Scholastic Mama, I have those moments myself. Except for me, it’s central Oregon or the Maine coast, and canning vegetables.

Heu Mihi, that was me last year. I felt like my second-book topic had been government-issued. But now, a year later, I keep finding little aspects of it that fascinate me, to the point where I wonder if they should be books of their own. I’m not saying that will happen with your topic, but it might, so give it some time, and when you realize that a certain ostensibly minor theme finds you perking up and thinking “oooh! Neato!”, then you’ve found your path through the woods.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

And by the way, Heu Mihi:

CONGRATULATIONS!!!!

((cue balloon drop))

zcat_abroad said...

@Scholasticamama and Notorious Ph.D.: My dream is running off to farm alpacas in the hill country... There must be something in this desire for farming.

I have read half a book, but have mostly been overcome by frustration this past week. A whole week to myself, and I've managed to waste it! Well, there was the lunch with supervisor, which I managed to cut down to only 3 hours (best lunch-time was 5!); there was the wedding on the weekend which used up two whole days; there was my niece's 6th birthday. None of these things took up much time, really, but they break the concentration.

However, last night I finally tidied and sorted my office, so I can now move in there, and am going to be leaving my computer in there in the evenings, so that the next morning I get up and do work, before dragging the laptop back out to the living room to check up on internets. This is just in time for week of exam marking. Go, me!

However, I figure I've got an hour each morning, at least, to write and think and work, so my goals this week are the same as the previous one: get re-engaged with project 2 (I told my supervisor I'd have a rough draft early next week - eeeeeep!), and work on secondary sources.

Janice said...

Dr. V - sympathies! Sometimes synthesizing and all that can be fun but it's never NOT a daunting challenge to figure out how to cover everything essential.

I am happy to report I have a complete draft. It is shot through full of holes, however, so my goal is to repair it and polish it so that it can go to my co-editor by next Friday for some real outside editing.

I'm putting off a bunch of other minor work duties I'd normally tackle this weekend (marking for some grad student papers that came in on Tuesday, book orders for next term). It's all about having a polished draft, now. Then I'll get back to editing others' chapter and start to think about writing the volume introduction. Gah!

undine said...

This week: word count fail (850 words instead of the 1500 goal) and write-every-day fail. The part I thought I could add isn't working. I've hit a wall and written myself into a dead end; it's going to require more reading to get me out. Goal for next week: (1) retrench, regroup, and edit the first part to see the big picture; (2) 1500 words; (3) get well into the next section.

undine said...

@Dr. Virago: What ScholasticMamma said--it is not dull, and it won't be dull to those of us reading it, either. We'll be grateful to know the right information, especially if it's an area we don't teach regularly.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Zcat: I had a long weekend like this a couple of weeks ago (which I blogged about here: http://girlscholar.blogspot.com/2011/10/another-tuesday.html). Sometimes we need a break, but sometimes there’s a degree of sloth that just leaves us feeling icky. The best thing for me about these times is that, by the end of it, I have a renewed sense of determination: I hate feeling that icky, so I resolve to move into the next week more productively so I don’t have to feel that way again. It’s carrot and stick, all in one.

Janice: Woot! Congratulations! I always find it’s easier to fill in, polish, and revise once I have a draft, even one that’s full of holes that the drafts blow through.

Undine: Now, what did we say about the word “fail”? ;-) At this point, I think you’re on track with your goal #1: “Retrench and regroup.” Rather than focus on the “failure” aspects, focus on how to put yourself back on track.

anotherdamnedmedievalist said...

Well, I have survived part of the shitstorm,but mostly because I haven't yet finished the part I need to do that will trigger more of it. But I survived the week. Next week, the goal is to set aside at least 2 hours, no matter where, to just work on my stuff. Because at this point, I can't even connect the day I'm in to relative time.

undine said...

@Notorious: Thanks--you're right! Actually, just writing that brief status report last night clarified my thinking on moving ahead. Thanks again for hosting this group; it really is helpful.

Britomart said...

I wish that these comment posts had a "like" button (or better yet, more options, like on the Ravelry forums - any other yarn folks here?).

How do I feel? Like I haven't been a terribly good writing group participant - I haven't missed more than one week in a row, but have missed several weeks total. Nonetheless, slow but inexorable progress has been occurring on the dissertation introduction. For some reason, when I talk about my project I tend to slip into passive voice, and also to use definite articles rather than possessive pronouns. I feel like it's hard to really "own" your project.

Over the past few weeks I've written an outline for the whole introductory chapter, and started filling in some items from the outline. This past week I wrote about 1250 words on one section, plus expanded and cleaned up some very drafty writing on another section. Honestly, it probably won't be done in two weeks, but I think a reasonable goal would be to have the intro drafted with the exception of one lengthy background section that I haven't even touched yet.

Goal for this upcoming week: Finish writing the background section on early modern emblem theory.

Sending hopeful and productive thoughts in everyone's direction during this final push!

Stemi said...

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

Weekly goal: 1) 500 new words in outline/draft document 2) read paper sent by colleague

I read the paper, but wrote closer to only 300 words (a bit hard to tell, as I also did some editing, which removed words).

How do I feel? Mixed. While I'm making bits of progress, it is becoming clear that I'm not going to meet (even revised) the project goal. However, I think I have learned a lot, and am glad I have read (at least some of) the papers/books I have as I try to write this review. I think I might be able to write this review, I'm just not sure that it will be in a timely manner. I also have begun to worry about opportunity costs - should I instead be spending my time on lower-hanging fruit, or on actual research papers (rather than a review)?

Goals for next week: 1) find references for new paragraph, 2) 300 new words in outline/draft document

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Hey all!

I've got the latest round of comments, but as I'm about to spend an hour or so roasting up a whole mess of winter veggies, I can't respond just yet. Keep those updates coming, and look for me to return sometime in the late afternoon.

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

How I feel: like working on something else. This is very common with me & why I have so many projects in progress relative to what's actually out in the world. In the last two days, I have added over 1800 words (mostly notes/quotes from other people's work) to a project I haven't even thought about for 3 years but suddenly got obsessed with when a piece of bureaucratic nonsense reminded me of its existence. Now I have to go edit my chapter print-out (and grade, and prep, etc) and go back to ignoring this latest shiny object. I'll be back later to report properly and set a goal for next week.

Amstr said...

For last week: [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

Success!!! I did get the article done (thanks to Google Docs and a colleague who was willing to read my introduction and revisions as I typed). All this despite having one kid home sick on Monday and Tuesday, and the other kid home as well on Wed. and Thurs. I got my respite in by suspending all limits on screen time.

Since Tuesday I've been a big lump--not quite to icky sloth, but to the point where my husband and I have decided that we need to start being responsible adults tomorrow.

For next week: 1) make notes on expanding the article into a dissertation chapter; 2) make a first pass at a chapter outline.

Good Enough Woman said...

Project: [write the first half of a dissertation chapter]

This week: 1) read 30 pages of primary text, 2) read some secondary sources, and 3) type five pages of text

I completed this weeks goals. I read nearly 60 pages of primary text, I dipped into a dreaded theory book that in the past I had not been able to comprehend (more on that at my blog), and I typed just over five pages of text. Granted, the text was merely retyping some freewriting I had done, but I was startled to find that my freewriting added up to over 1600 words.

Unfortunately, those words aren't part of a clear direction or a focused argument, but I am trying to trust that they will be useful.

So how am I feeling? Mixed. For one thing, I realize that I have made a mistake in my process. I have been reading a couple of primary sources on my iPad (PDFs that I had downloaded from ECCO). But since I access ECCO differently now through my uni, I can no longer download entire texts, and recently I had to order a published facsimile version of a primary source. Wonders of all wonders, the reading went SOOOOO much faster than my iPad reading. When reading the PDFs on the iPad, I couldn't make notes on the text, and I had to stop reading to write notes and relevant quotations in my notebooks, and it's taken me weeks to read 100 pages. Reading a hard copy, writing in the margins? I banged out 60 pages in a couple of hours. So I feel like I have wasted a lot of time just for the purpose of save 20-40 bucks and making use of my database access and clever gadget.

Also, I'm pleased that I haven't stagnated--that I've made progress almost every week. But I am concerned about the fact that I am not sure how to focus this chapter, and I'm starting to wonder if my current questions/issues really amount to two or three chapters. I just don't know. And that not knowing makes it scary to face the task of sorting out the argument and writing it up in an organized direction way.

I really wish I didn't have student papers and committee work nagging at me, so that I could just DIG IN. But, like I said, at least I've been doing *something*, and that's good.

And may I also just say that having a long weekend has been just so helpful and heavenly?

Notorious Ph.D. said...

@ ADM: Considering the nature of the storm, I’d say you’re holding up quite well. Let this be a lesson to you: Never say yes. ;-) But definitely, set aside some time for yourself, even if that’s work, too. The stuff that’s coming down on you now is you being drained working for others. That needs to be balanced out.
@ Britomart: “Slow but inexorable” progress is still progress. And your overall goal is just a draft, after all, so it sounds like you’re on track. As for keeping current, even when things get hectic: maybe taking a cue from ADM and setting aside even a small amount of time, but one that you KNOW you can make? Think of this as a baby step to get you into the habit of making these commitments to yourself and your writing as inviolable as commitments you make to others.

@ Stemi: Second thoughts about Which Project are common. The important thing to do is stick to whatever you decide. Otherwise, you end up with a bunch of half-finished projects. Maybe we should start a journal? “Annals of Unfinished Ideas” ;-) In the meantime, a bit of self-diagnosis is in order: Is the problem setting a too-ambitious goal? Setting too low a priority on your own work? Unforseen Events? What can you learn from what’s happened so far these past ten weeks in a way that helps you going forward?

@ Dame Eleanor: See my above comments to Stemi. It seems like the journal idea might be doable! I’m envisioning half-finished articles full of square brackets, suddenly ending in mid-sentence on page 9… But also, see my comment to Britomart, about respecting your own goals and priorities and needs as much as you do anyone else’s. I know that’s easier said than done, but the most productive writers I know all know when to be selfish.

@ Amstr: Balloon drop for you, too! Congratulations! I’m not posting a “next week’s goal” since you finished the project you set out to do, but feel free to keep checking in as you move forwards! (And thanks, by the way, for so many helpful responses to other people’s writing last week.)

@ GEW: I’m soooo with you on the long weekend. Last week, I actually had an extra day off beyond that, and hoo boy was it excellent in terms of getting stuff done. And being able to do that is like hitting the reset button on your motivation, is it not? As for the scary bits you reference at the end, I refer you to the beginning of your own post, where you say that you are “trying to trust that they will be useful.” Wise words. That’s all any of us can do. Diving into a new project is in many ways a leap of faith. (and btw, I didn’t see that you put a goal for next week – whatcha gonna bring us?)

Dr. Virago said...

Thanks, everyone who commented on my little spaz attach, for the reassurance!!!

@Heu Mihi -- Yeah, that's about how I feel these days, especially since the two major projects I'm working on are this cursed companion-to article and an anthology of primary texts in the same genre -- not exactly inspiring stuff. Fingers crossed that you and I both get to Notorious's "Neato!" stage at some point (in my case, when I get to turn back to my own stuff next semester).

Good Enough Woman said...

Oh, yes! A goal! So funny. No wonder I couldn't figure out what to do after I posted my update. For reals. I was like, "Wait, what am I supposed to be doing?" I couldn't remember, so I just started grading. Duh. (It's not as bad as earlier this week when, walking down the hall to my office, I pulled my car keys out of my pocket, pointed the remote door entry thing at my office door, and clicked twice. No lie. I realized my mistake--and the fried state of my brain--pretty quickly.)

Okay, let's see. It's going to be a rough week, grading- and meeting-wise, so I'd better set my sights low (then, I'll try to finish week 12 with a bang):

1) read 30 pages of primary text, 2) make copies of some ILL book pages, 3) freewrite at least two pages in my notebook, 4) try to find an angle for the chapter (scary)

Trapped in Canadia said...

I vacillate between wanting to live in a hut on a beach far, far away, running a beach bar for locals and wanting to live on a farm in Scotland with a few sheep, some Highland cows, and a bunch of dogs far, far away from people. I think the key is being far, far away from people. This all stems from the fact that the writing is not going well at all. I didn't recoup much of my losses from the previous week. I'm so far behind on my goals for the semester and for this writing group. I feel like I am actually accomplishing nothing because I'm not getting anywhere with my writing or with my fellowship and job applications. I think I'm burned out and need a break, but I don't see that happening any time soon.

Goals for next week: keeping it simple this time and trying to write 500 words. With any luck, I will surprise myself.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

@ GEW: Thanks -- got it.

@ Trapped in Canadia: You keep checking in, though. It may not be words on the page, but the will is there. Now it just remains to find a way. Can you just open your calendar and block out two two-hour blocks of time this week? Once you've done that, don't let ANYONE schedule something there. See above what I said about being selfish. Because you keep checking in, we know this is important to you. So go ahead and give yourself permission to treat it as such. Maybe this means dropping one of the other balls you have in the air this week. But maybe you'll surprise yourself.

Viola said...

How do I feel? Well, on the glass half-full side I got access to some new archival material (over 500 letters) which is obviously fantastic. The half-empty side is that now my project will take a dramatic turn (hopefully for the better - more primary sources!) and I will not be able to finish the writing by the twelve week deadline. I don't want to pull out but I have barely started reading and transcribing the documents. Am I allowed to stay and have a set amount of transcribing I do each day? Or this where I bid adieu...

Gillian said...

I'm late reporting in because life happened.

I don't know how I feel this week, because I got my draft chapters in and now they need revision, and how much revision and what kind will basically determine the length of my candidature. That's why these chapters are so important. I'm waiting to hear back on them, in other words, and until I hear back, I can't progress.

Instead of dissertation therefore, I have worked on other stuff, including the dissertation-related novel. The result of this latter work is that I'm pretty convinced I know what I'm doing - I just have to find out if I've expressed it in a halfway acceptable way.

Technically, I guess I've met my 12 week plan. The reality is, however, that I haven't, as my aim wasn't just to get a draft written, but to find out if I know where I'm going and sort out what needs doing. Thank goodness I"m not out of time yet!

Anonymous said...

Life keeps on happening! My supervisor has already got back to me with comments, so my next week's aim is to sort out what needs to be done with those comments and to take action on all the easy elements.

Gillian said...

And that was me, sorry - I clicked on publish instead of name/URL. My excuse is the lateness of the hour.

monksandbones said...

As per my last week's goals, I had a couple of good discussions with my advisor before I left, during which she outlined what she thought would be the best approach to going from conference paper to article. Thus, I haven't done any outlining (that, plus a sleepless trip back to my research location that I'm in the process of following up by getting sick).

My goals for the coming week:
1) Reread paper.
2) As per advisor's suggestion, start by writing footnotes to conference version of paper.
3) Read massive doctoral dissertation in research language that seems like it might be making arguments similar to mine about a neighbouring area.

As for my feeeeelings, ugh. I suppose I'm reasonably confident that I can get something worth other people's attention out of this project, but I'm feeling much less sure about its potential to lead me into something larger, like say, a new plan for my dissertation (original proposal abandoned). I'm feeling both demoralized and utterly frustrated by the massive quantity of historiography, a lot of it unpublished, in my research language. Scholars here take a really different approach to making arguments compared to what I've been taught to do, with the result that I spend say, a whole paper picking something apart and making an argument that a scholar here might toss off as given in a sentence or two. I'm not sure how to deal with that in my work. I'm left feeling like there's nothing to say about the region I'm working on in the period I'm working on using the sources I'm using that hasn't already been said in the research-language scholarship. Even if it only got a paragraph when I think it deserves at least a chapter!

Appropriately, my verification word is "poutme"

Lucie said...

(Next week's goal: Pull chapter x together so there is a completed draft; at least one hour's uninterrupted morning writing everyday.)

I'm feeling pretty dejected. At the moment, it all feels like a big mess and I can't really see how it will all come together and how I will get all the little bits done. But, I'm trying not to drown in negativity and just get on with it.

I didn't do very well last week and didn't read either of the texts I planned to. In the next two weeks, I plan to get the two least finished chapters into shape. So, next week's goal is to work on chapter x, pulling it all together so I have a finished product. I'm also going to set a goal to do at least one hour's uninterrupted morning writing everyday, as the last couple of weeks I've lost my routine.

bitterandjaded said...

After a really great week last week, this week was not quite as awesome. The final push to get job and fellowship applications out the door took over my life. However, because I had to very closely proof my writing sample, I took the opportunity to closely proof this chapter, so while I didn't get any new words down on the chapter, I did meet my goal of proofing the first 15 pages. So that's something.

To respond to the writing therapy question. I'm exhausted right now. Between teaching, applying for jobs, writing my dissertation, and all of the other responsibilities, I'm lucky to get 4 hours of sleep a night and I know that it's just not sustainable.

If being part of this writing group has taught me anything, beyond the fact that I'm not alone, it's that if I set goals, I really am capable of writing every day, and getting my dissertation finished is really possible. I'm also more aware of what a realistic goal looks like. I can always set unrealistic goals and kill myself meeting them, but I'd much rather set realistic ones and just keep plugging away at my dissertation. It may not be as exciting as that final push to get things done under the gun, but it's more sustainable in the long run. I'm not a marathon convert yet - it's just not who I am - but I'm easing into it.

Goals for next week. Finish proofing the chapter. Give draft to adviser. Compile list of areas I need to fix/rework.

anotherdamnedmedievalist said...

I have to say it is pretty cool that so many people ARE meeting their goals, or at least seeing where it's ok that they didn't, because a question is bigger than they thought, or because sometimes you have to re-think

Notorious Ph.D. said...

@Viola: Turns for the better are always a good thing. And no project ends up where we think it will when it starts. That’s a recipe for a project that is Dead Right There. Sure, stick with us… but give us a specific goal for next week? How many pages do you want to get done by next Friday?

@ Gillian: Hey, that’s great! And it sounds like you are on your way to being finished!

I've got to head out for a few hours, but I'll pick up Monksandbones, Lucie, Bittergrrrl, and anyone else when I return!

Forthright said...

Right now, both of my articles are in a getting-close-to-finished state, but with both experiencing some bloat that needs to get cut down if they're going to fit within my target journals' guidelines. But with both in the 8-10K word range, I'm feeling very positive about finishing them up by month's end. Actually I've been thinking ahead to December - usually a big grading month of course, but my sabbatical has freed up my schedule - and looking to finish up at least one other project that has been stalled at 80% complete for a long time.

My goal for this week is going to be made a little more complex by my attendance at our big national conference from Wed - Sun; I expect to be able to post this week nonetheless but I don't anticipate having much in the way of new writing success. My goal, then, is tidying up the two articles to whatever extent possible, plus reading a few straggling articles that I may need to incorporate.

Elizabeth Anne Mitchell said...

For me, it's running off to write historical fiction in a garret.

I got through 4 of the 5 citations for the paper; once I was hip-deep in Latin Fathers, I decided to submerge and get it all done at once.

How do I feel? Well, this article is rather "meh," because it is supervisor--driven (four articles in the next year or I'm up the creek), but I do see it as good work. I do have some good points to make, but they aren't stunning. I often have to fight the feeling of anticlimax when I finish something, perhaps because any one thing rarely impacts my life one way or another. Even finishing the dissertation will not change anything, which is why my supervisors have tried to dissuade me from finishing. Sadly, I really love the dissertation still, but oh well.

I did peek at the next article in line, which I gave as a conference paper in my early 20's and actually felt very proud of it. It is kickass, has some original thought, and will be even better with revision. So hoorah for that.

I am proud that I can stick with this article and this group, although I do wish I had been more helpful to others.

For next week, revise to final draft the first three sections.

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

OK. I've read through & marked up the chapter, and this coming week's goal is to make the edits and do the re-org that can be done now. There's more research to do on one part of the chapter, but that's okay; I just want a draft that's like my sample chapter, which also will need further attention at some later date. I need to give this chapter to my RL writing group this week, too.

And I am totally taking the work on the forgotten project as a selfish win. That was fun, and next time I get back to that thing, I'll have that much more in the way of good notes & stuff to work with.

NWGirl said...

I finished the goals for the week (finish the spreadsheet inventory and the book proposal). Book proposal sent off and positive feedback received. Now a decision to make.

I feel energized and terrified. I am in a very different space now than I was 10 weeks ago. I was struggling to make progress, any progress, toward revising the dissertation into something resembling a book manuscript. Between the new sources I found on the research trip and some very helpful feedback about the book proposal, I feel much more confident in the revisions and that has given me a much needed energy boost. In particular, the feedback that I received encouraged me to rethink the overall organization of the manuscript, which I did and I'm so encouraged by the result.

But at the same time I am terrified because I think this means I have to "grow up" a bit. (Bit of shock for this 40-something.) I'm not a graduate student anymore; I'm really on this path called the tenure track with whole new set of responsibilities.

So I have moments when I want to head west and hide out in a cabin in the Coast Range and bake bread, lots and lots of it.

But since I am not independently wealthy, I guess I need to get back to work. My goal for the week: finish complete draft of one section of the chapter I started working on ten weeks ago.

Erika said...

So, how do I feel?
Like I always do, as if what I'm writing isn't *quite* well-documented and integrated enough with the rest of the scholarly conversation. This article has an added *very scary* bit for me that I think has made writing it that much harder. I am dealing with some very controversial subject matter in this piece, and taking what I am sure is a controversial tack, and I do not what the reaction is going to be. This truly is an argument that scares me to write it, and I'm nervous about shaping the paper correctly for the journals that publish in this sort of field. At the same time, if (always a big if!) anyone reads this article, I think it stands to open up an important new field, even if it's one that's hard to talk about.

My goals for this week were: read the draft, do a reverse outline; ILL the German and Italian sources. I accomplished those goals, and wrote 1,000 words of a very exciting conclusion.

My goals for next week are: just keep writing for 3 hours or 500 words/ day, and beginning to fill in the holes in my argument. I can't have a totally polished draft by Nov. 29, but I will have a complete one this month, I think.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

@ Monks and Bones AND Lucie: This is a stage that all researchers get into, and quite frequently. For me, the only thing to do is to write my way into it. Serious shitty first draft musings and mutterings and just writing. Something always comes out of it (though it will continue to take twists and turns). For encouragement, read this post: http://girlscholar.blogspot.com/2007/11/one-good-idea.html

@ bitter and jaded: Yep, sometimes we have to push past our limits, but keep an eye on when you hit that point that you talk about where it’s no longer sustainable. And hey! I’m glad that this group has helped you set realistic (but reasonably ambitious) goals for yourself. As you say, doing otherwise can lead us to get discouraged. It’s that very principle that was behind me only setting a single conference paper draft as my goal this semester.

@ Forthright: Oh, how I’ve been dreaming of getting to the point where I can start thinking about “target journals.” Thanks for mentioning this, because you’ve just reminded me to lift my gaze and think about where I should be headed down the road. And just by the way: congratulations for being on track!

@ Elizabeth/belledame: Hooray for the ass-kicking feeling! But… “supervisor-driven” articles? Supervisors trying to dissuade you from finishing? Holy hell? What kind of a program is this? I mean, I suppose (I hope) that they know what they’re doing, but both of those things are utterly alien to my experience.

@ Dame Eleanor: Hooray for taking the win! Sometimes we have to put our work aside for others, but it does need to be balanced out with making sure wee take care of our own priorities, too.

@ NW Girl: Oooh! I love the coast range: You got mountains, you got coast, you got smoked salmon jerky… Something near Manzanita, perhaps (importantly, within striking distance of the Tillamook cheese/ice cream factory)? As for moving forward, though: it can be scary, true. You want to be a grown-up scholar. What I did at this stage was to read books on similar themes that I admired, and do a self-diagnosis: What have these books got that my dissertation doesn’t? What are the steps I need to get there? It’s a leap across a chasm, but take comfort in the fact that everyone who has gotten this far has needed to take the same leap.

@Erika: If it helps, keep in mind that the riskiest arguments are usually the most interesting. I’ve read some great books where parts of the argument are balanced on big, speculative passages. But that’s balanced out by meticulous research everywhere it’s actually possible. And these end up being Very Important Works. So if you’re writing one of those, find scholars you respect – risk-takers for whom it’s worked out – and get their eyes on it.

Salimata said...

As I had predicted, I wrote the final (perfect) paragraph only a few hours after I'd posted last week's comment--which means that the conference paper is now done&off to the discussant.

So how do I feel? First of all, immensely grateful (to the group, its organizers, and myself) for actually having a paper so that I can get up in front of all these three people and read something. But other than that, I don't quite know how I feel about the paper--my first&last major conference paper (which I wasn't particularly unhappy with) was torn apart by a vicious discussant, leaving me with the idea that I clearly am not a good judge of my own ideas or writing (because I hadn't realized it was bad at all and was hugely surprised to hear so). At this point, I'm just hoping that this experience will not be a repeat of the previous--which was 3 years ago. I'm also hoping that getting some more experience from smaller conferences and obtaining a PhD in the intervening years has made me a better judge of the quality (or lack thereof) of my own work. I'll let you al know next week!

Elizabeth Anne Mitchell said...

@Notorious: Ah, sorry I must explain. Although I am ABD (and actually more than halfway through the dissertation), I work as an academic librarian. My tenure is based on library-science articles, although I am "allowed" to do a few articles as a nod to my medieval studies M.A. and post-M.A. work. The dissertation is seen as tangential to my position. I'm a bit of an imposter here, as I no longer feel like a academic. Apologies!

Notorious Ph.D. said...

@ Salimata: Whoo-hoo! Congratulations! And yes, please do let us know how it turns out. Chances are you are a much better judge of your own work by now. And don’t forget: you can always show these around to colleagues who can give you honest feedback before you hit the conference circuit.

@ Elizabeth: Ah. That makes much more sense now.

nakedphilologist said...

I'm supposed to be handing this chapter in this week, so I'm feeling - rueful, I suppose, at my slow progress. But oddly enough I feel like I -can- finish it off (probably another 3-4000 words) this week, what with having no classes to deal with.

Last week - I think about 2000 words got done. Still have one entire section to deal with, but I hope that will be easily enough knocked off.

So, uh, this week's goal is to finish the entire bastarding chapter. *headdesk*

- Higly

Susan said...

Basically, I got nothing done this week: I was procrastinating on grading, so I didn't let myself work on my essay. I should finish the grading either today or tomorrow, and then I can do a bit of work on the essay before heading off to a conference on Thursday. So I should be able to manage a few more of the footnotes...

I'm OK with that, though: I'm ahead of schedule, I've sent drafts to a bunch of people, and one person sent back a note that ze thought the draft was "perfect". I wouldn't go that far, but since I used a conceptual framework this colleague developed, I'm pleased at hir reaction.

How do a I feel? Well, I'm pleased that I got it done. I think it will be useful for the longer term project, and it's good for my head. And my colleagues are amazed that I've done any writing at all this semester. And I think checking in was useful for me.

luolin88 said...

I did not meet my goal. I did not commit to another time and did not get any writing done.

I hope by the end of this week, if I make it through student conferences, I will be back to normal stacks of grading rather than how-did-I-let myself-get-this-far-behind piles.

As for feelings: tired and/or depressed.

Luo Lin

Scatterwriter said...

This past week's goal: make the appropriate changes to my manuscript, decide which chapter is next, and start revising whichever one it is.

I did it! Well, mostly. I have now remembered that there are some sources in my office that I need to check and some citations that I need to add to my manuscript. But I completed the majority of the revisions for Chapter 1 that I identified last week. I've moved on to Chapter 2 (which is indeed the third chapter that I've worked on, since I think of my Intro as a chapter); I've just finished making the first pass through that chapter. This week I cut about eight pages from the manuscript; as a whole it's down by 20. All good. I ended up deciding not to work on the chapter that my spring conference paper will derive from yet. Panic will make me work on that one by the spring whether I want to or not. And it's probably a good idea to go through my chapters in order.

How do I feel? Very grateful to have this group, as others have said, because it is making me prioritize my own research, and kind of amazed that I can get some scholarship done during the semester (although this semester will be much better than next semester). Also, a little embarrassed that I ever sent out such a bloated manuscript for consideration. No wonder it's not under contract anywhere.

Goal for next week: make another pass through Chapter 2. Start adding in the citations that I forgot about; they need to go in the Intro and Chapter 1.

@Good Enough Woman: do you know about iAnnotate for the iPad? I use it to mark up PDF files. That's how I'm doing my initial revisions -- to a PDF of my manuscript. (I do have to go to my computer afterward to input the changes into my actual Word document, but I like having the lag time to think about the changes, and there is something about the marking-up process that makes me feel like I'm getting a lot done. It's more legible than my own scribbling, too, because I can delete annotations if I change my mind.) It sounds like marking up your printouts is working very well, but in the future, if you need to do something like that on the iPad, you could try this app.

@Britomart: I'm on Ravelry. I knit through meetings.

Contingent Cassandra said...

Overall goal (revised as of week 8 -- at least I think it was 8): finish 2500-word section 2 of article draft.

Week 10 goal: lengthen Section 2 by at least 500 words (not reached).

Week 11 goal: lengthen Section 2 by at least 500 words.

This week was pretty much a bust, unless you count traveling to a conference that was very much on the subject of the article (but in history, not my own subject, literature), and confirming that what I'm seeing and writing about in the primary texts is fully in sync with, but not directly duplicated by, what others are doing. Since the conference represented a significant expenditure of time and (my own) money at a time when I could ill afford either, and since one of the disadvantage of trying to juggle a heavy teaching load and a slow writing schedule is that I feel constantly out-of-date on others' scholarship, that's good news. And I did generate some notes toward the draft in a file that I kept open along with the one in which I was taking notes on the talks -- but most of them are footnote material, and/or slightly-refined versions of the rough outlining and brainstorming I had done before. I can't say that I advanced the draft in the way described in my goal for the week, or that would be ideal given where we are in the writing group schedule. And I'm still behind on grading (but probably no more so than I would be if I'd stayed at home, just a bit more tired. I spent the train time, which I'd hoped to split between grading and writing, entirely on grading, figuring out what I need to grade -- small and revised assignments are close to reaching the point of maximum entropy -- and zoning out a bit).

So I've set the same modest goal for next week. There's still some possibility that I might make my (also modest) revised overall goal in a burst of writing over Thanksgiving vacation, but it's also possible that I might spend that time grading and/or collapsing. Grading may eat this week, too, but I'm going to try to keep it from doing that. And the Class Related To the Article isn't filling, which means I need to somehow fit in heroic efforts at recruiting/publicity, or give up on it (and I really don't want to give up).

So how am I feeling? A bit embarrassed that I've produced so very little prose in the last month or six weeks, but also grateful to the group for keeping me connected to the project, and hopeful that I'll be in better shape than I otherwise would have been to make progress once the deadlines are less urgent (which should be as soon as exam/grading period, and perhaps even before; I plan to try to keep up more or less the same writing schedule that I've been striving for all along once the group ends, and to ramp it up before winter break if at all possible).

Fantasy escape: I've been dreaming about a plot of land (3 acres or so) in a nearby more-rural state that I saw on Zillow. It's almost certainly not a realistic dream at this point, but may be more realistic than the one of having a real backyard again anywhere nearer campus (which is in a very expensive region). Maybe someday. For the moment, I really need to be more diligent about making regular mini-escapes on nearby walking trails.

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

Oh, Susan. I am so glad to know other people do this: "I was procrastinating on grading, so I didn't let myself work on my essay." I am trying to figure out how to stop that sort of behavior myself. Even if I didn't do any better with the grading, I could at least get more research/writing done if I could let myself do it instead.

Trapped in Canadia said...

I find this group really helpful in knowing that I am not alone in the agony that writing/school can sometimes be. I may be behind in my goals for the group, but ADM is right. I do take this seriously and I need to stop allowing other projects and other people to take up my writing time.

Congratulations to everyone who is on track with or ahead of their goals!

sophylou said...

Goal pretty much met -- read over some old writing, made an appointment for coffee and research conversation with a historian colleague this coming week, trying to get in touch with another friend. (Feeling guilty about that since I know it's That Time Of The Semester for faculty -- my That Time tends to come in September and October). Doing a lot of brainstorming writing, stepping back and seeing the longer trajectory of my writing, trying to identify where I'd like to go next.

How do I feel? A little lost without the project I'd been working on for a long time -- sort of the way I felt when my dissertation was done. I really enjoy writing, generally, and I miss having something historical to be writing on. But, the brainstorming writing feels necessary.

Goal for this week: more brainstorming writing, and significant reading progress in a theoretical book on subject.

A.M. Christensen said...

Mostly I feel overwhelmed at the moment. Somehow I thought I had another week before Thanksgiving break, but apparently I can't read a calendar! I am also disappointed that I have been making such slow progress on my project the past few weeks.

This past week was not productive on the writing front due to various bits of life and teaching getting in the way. But I did decide on a direction, which is good. And I'd be much happier about it if I could just throw everything else out the window and work on my project.

As many have already said, I am pleased that I have stuck with this project, even if just little bits some weeks, thanks to the group. It is immensely reassuring to hear that other people have similar difficulties/obstacles/worries, instead of just working away in the solitary confinement of one's own office/work space.

So for this week: I have to get a job application together and do more grading! I'm going to forge ahead and commit to writing at least 30 minutes a day. This was how I started the WG and it seemed to be more productive. I feel as if I have wasted time dithering the past few weeks.

Good luck to all!

thefrogprincess said...

I barely managed to remain sane, I let numerous job deadlines pass me by, and opening the introduction nearly incited a mental breakdown. I ended up just cutting (without fitting some of it in elsewhere) almost 14 pages of the introduction because I didn't have the time or emotional fortitude to find ways to weave it in. I continue to be pissed about how the advisor did a careful readthrough of the intro in the summer and yet didn't flag any of these points. Said nothing when I raised questions about these exact sections. Couldn't say anything about it, in fact, until the day after I'd submitted, at which point, entire pages suddenly needed to be cut.

Whatevs. I'm generally at a low point right now in the semester. My three weeks of diss-only having seriously caught up with me and my course prep.

This week's goal: the final final submission. As in going off to the binders.

Good Enough Woman said...

@Susan and Dame Eleanor: Oh my. I totally work on my own projects when I procrastinate on grading. And I grade when I'm procrstinating on projects. In fact, it's possible that the only way I get anything done is by procrastinating on other things! Give yourself permission.

@Scatterwriter: No. No I didn *not* know about iAnnotate. I will investigate. Thank you! And also, you knit in meetings? That is totally cool and totally punk. Love it. Maybe I would brave that if I were a better knitter.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

@ nakedphilologist: you know, considering how long an entire chapter takes, if it’s only a week behind, that’s pretty darned good, in my book. So stay with that “encouraged” feeling. And good luck this week (I’ll get your balloons ready)!

@Susan: Ah – dual procrastination. I know that well. But done is done, and you should be pleased. Let us know how those last few footnotes go!

@ luo lin: Okay, so you’re dejected over this week. Best thing to do is make sure you don’t stay there, right? So set us a goal for next week. Make it small enough that you know, without a doubt, that you can accomplish it. It may not seem like enough, but sometimes getting your motivation back is worth sacrificing a week.

@ Scatterwriter: Hooray!!! So just some bits and bobs, and you’re done! And yes, it is amazing what we can get done. The trick is to figure out an achievable goal, and then to be accountable on a regular basis. And you’ve done that.

@ Contingent Cassandra: I’m behind on the grading, too. But not by too much, thanks to an extra holiday a week ago. And if you’re feeling embarrassed, then compare what you were able to do this semester to what you are normally able to get done. Better, no? And hell, maybe we’ll all have a reunion post in early January, just to see if we finished up?

@ sophylou: nothing wrong with the brainstorming – from that comes conference papers, and conference papers give birth to articles, and book chapters, and the like. I’ve had my ass saved a number of times by realizing that a section I needed to write I’d essentially already written at some earlier stage when I thought I wasn’t being productive.

@ Frogprincess: But you DID remain sane! Even though events of this past week ought to have produced a serious case of Exploding Head Syndrome. If it helps, think of yourself as finishing this out of spite. (And I’m sorry to hear about the job deadlines. Trying to juggle those AND finishing up seems awful. I submitted my diss during interview season, which is, in many ways, less time-consuming and stress-inducing than getting applications together, riding herd on letter-writers, keeping track of deadlines, and all that happy crap.)

Notorious Ph.D. said...

LAST CALL, FOLKS! Time to get those final updates in before I call it a night in... oh, let's say 45 minutes.

Marie said...

Oh wow, I totally forgot to leave a comment saying I'm out of town the last part of the week. Sorry.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

No problem, Marie -- We'll call that a check-in and keep you off the shit-list. ;-)

And... That's it for this week! See you all next week over at ADM's place!