Friday, November 30, 2007

Tackling the Beast (again), and a Shout-Out

Well, there's no putting it off any longer; I'm diving back in to yet another round of revisions on Never-Ending Article. For the first time in a month and a half, I opened the folder with the article, gingerly reached into the envelope from Journal of Excellent Studies, and pulled out the chunky readers' reports. I made a list of the three Big Revisions, and took home a book and a couple of articles to read over the weekend. I've told J of ES that I'll turn it around by December 10. So ((deep breaths)), here we go.

And, on a related note, a huge Thank-You to D, who, when I e-mailed her about needing help in tracking down a copy of her recent dissertation to cite (haven't read it, but I know what it's about enough to know that it'll be incredibly helpful), e-mailed me a copy of the entire dissertation within an hour. D & I are working on topics with a little bit of overlap, and both pre-tenure, so it would be very easy for one of us to clam up about what we were doing, and refuse to share. I'm just eternally grateful that most of the people I've run into are not like that, but rather are cut from more generous cloth. Like D. To whom (may I emphasize this again?) I owe my thanks.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

On Presenting the Work

Well, well. Huh. I wonder how that went.

Over the past two days, I presented some of my work in progress at Fellowship Institute, thus fulfilling one of the major conditions of my fellowship, and getting it out of the way early. I gave a 45-minute presentation on Monday, followed by 45 minutes of discussion.... then came back Tuesday at lunch for a one-hour follow-up discussion (smaller group). The audience was about 20 on the first day, 15 on the second. I structured the presentation so the first part was all brand-new stuff (all that theory/methodology), the second part was some very technical stuff specific to my subfield, and the third part was meant to be some nice concrete examples to bring it all home.

Except that I ran out of time (I always forget to plan for my digressions), and had to skip the third part, which really tied things together. Ooops.

So, the first day's discussion was rough. It focused mainly on the methodology section, which was fine, but people did challenge me on a couple of points. By this morning, I was able to process the comments and understand how they could help, and cut myself some slack, since this is really, truly brand-new work. But that's today: yesterday, I have to admit going home feeling a bit dumb.

Second day's went a lot better: I started off by telling one of my documents' stories, and once people had something to sink their teeth into, the discussion was lively and fun.

Better yet: several of the tenured faculty approached me afterwards and suggested that we have lunch, presumably to talk more. Which means that there's some interest there. Which is good.

Best of all: right after the presentation, several of the fellows (junior-ish faculty and one advanced ABD) went out to lunch together and had a nice time -- it was good to be able to take a deep breath and relax a bit with some very nice people.

I honestly have no objective idea how the presentation went. Nobody threw anything, which is good. But I did get some good feedback on a brand-new section, and the fact that some people were hotly debating some of my assertions in the new bit is a sign, I think, that I'm on an interesting track here, even if I'm still stumbling around a bit.

Post-presentation week agenda: clean up my desk at the office, set things up to begin yet another round of revisions on The Article ((shudder)); go to the library and check out The Count of Monte Cristo for a bit of fun weekend reading. (Remember "fun reading"?)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Process

Recently, someone asked me if the writing process came easily to me; the answer was a resounding "God, no!" Getting out that first draft is like pulling my own teeth. (I am, apparently not the only one who feels this way.) I've also discovered that, for me, it requires actually putting pen to paper. I think, it seems, through the physical act of writing; only later can I successfully type words on the screen. I don't really mind. I use what works.

Now, we can hope it actually did work. I've finished writing the presentation that I will be giving Monday afternoon (though I do still need to go over it as a whole, edit out problems, and cut three pages or so). I also realized that the section of new writing that I was adding was not destined to be a part of the chapter I had thought, but rather wanted to be part of the introduction. So be it. It's words, and I'm adding them to the counter. Plus, removing those tricky elements from the (as-yet-unwritten) chapter makes the chapter outline itself more straightforward, and less terrifying, so that's another plus.

(By the way, the graphic for my counter widget doesn't seem to be working -- I checked the site that provided the code, and it seems to have disappeared. Until I find a new widget to replace it, I'm just going to be displaying the raw numbers, I'm afraid.)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

One good idea

Just half an hour ago, after three days of pretty serious work leading up to Monday's presentation, I had One Good Idea.

You know what I'm talking about: it's that moment when a whole bunch of the minor ideas that were banging around in your brain like so many confused birds trapped indoors somehow, suddenly drop into place. They coalesce into an idea, which you type out as the first half of a sentence... change where the second half was going... elaborate a bit... go back and slightly tweak the phrasing in the first part... and voilĂ ! An idea! Something that makes it all make sense!

You know, not too far beneath the surface, that your entire paper (chapter, book, whatever) can't rest on this one idea alone. One Good Idea is going to have to be joined by a number of her friends and relations to make the whole thing fly. You know that One Good Idea is likely to undergo a great deal of transformation before paper/chapter/book is finished. Perhaps you even suspect that One Good Idea will eventually dwindle in significance, or even disappear altogether, because that's happened before, as a natural product of a work's evolution.

But right now, you can lean back in your chair with a satisfied half-smile -- maybe even treat yourself to your indulgece of choice: a cigarette, an expensive chocolate, a soothing beverage, or an earlier-than-planned bedtime, guilt-free. Because, you see, you know that you have a direction now. You are no longer aimless. And you're not too dumb to do this. That One Good Idea proves it.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to hit the hay a little early tonight.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Waist-deep in theory...

...and the big fool (me) says to push on.

(warning: academic-geek post follows)

Yup. Silence recently because this is my Theory Weekend. Which is rapidly becoming a Theory-Weekend-Plus-Monday. Without giving away too much of my semi-secret identity: I've been intuitively playing with the ideas about performance, and finally decided to read some of the purely theoretical stuff. I'm not brave enough yet to tackle Judith Butler's work, but I have spent this weekend curled up with a couple of things by Erving Goffman (Yes, it's old, but pre-Linguistic Turn theory is always easier to read). I spent most of grad school successfully avoiding theory. Now, it appears, it's my turn.

I am finding useful things to peg my thoughts to. But by far my favorite quote so far is one that I won't be using in my work at all: "All the world is not, of course, a stage, but the crucial ways in which it isn't are not easy to specify."


Hoping to start organizing for writing on Tuesday, and actual writing on Wednesday.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Why It's Okay to Feel Like a Fraud

Okay, enough with the word games; let's talk about something serious, and more directly related to the vita academica.

Several months ago, I refered obliquely to my fraud complex. Today, a poster on another site asked, "Is it just me?" I sent in a reply, but I thought I'd post it here, in the likely case that it doesn't appear at the original site:

No, you are not the only one to feel like a fraud. Nor am I -- I've talked to friends in academia, and most say the same thing -- although one male colleague opined that the tendency to feel like a fraud may fall predominantly along gendered lines. I've felt like a fraud ever since I was first accepted into a graduate program. I kept thinking that "When I get the M.A.," "When I get published..." "...get the Ph.D...." "...get a job..." (In case you're wondering: yes, I am now thinking "When I get tenure...") At every level, though, the stakes get higher, the peers more accomplished, and the expectations higher, so the fraud complex gets more acute, not less. Teaching makes us feel better, because we know that, once again, like in college, we're the smartest person in the room. But did we really get into this line of work to feel good about ourselves because we know more than a bunch of nineteen year-olds?

Sometimes I have to remind myself that feeling a bit ignorant is part and parcel of the non-teaching part of the job, which I got into to push back the boundaries of my own ignorance (that's ignorance -- not to be confused with stupidity). That doesn't ever stop; nor should it, because there's always more to learn. But I hope we all have those moments when we take stock of how far we've come. I hang on to those times when, every once in a while, I pull off that great presentation, publish in that respected journal, or get that big grant, and you realize that I do indeed know something. Not everything, but something.

Your thoughts?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Words... Words...

So, I managed to get another book skimmed, and am starting to feel like I have Tricky Concept #1 under some semblance of control. Should be ready to put words to page on Thursday. Which is not a moment too soon, as I need to give my Fellowship Institute presentation two weeks from today. Yipes!

And now, something completely different for you smarty-pants types out there (and I'd be surprised if my readers were anything but): Freerice lets you challenge your vocabulary skills while contributing to fund organizations that send food to places that need it. I tend to get stuck around level 45 or 46. So. There's your challenge, y'all.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Relaxed, and (sort of) ready


Well, believe it or not, I actually managed to relax on my trip to Chicago. I got to meet a number of other amateur (and one newly-professional) photographers, learned a lot, got a lot of great pictures, and re-invigorated my interest in my hobby, which had flagged a bit under the stress of working.

Unfortunately, I seem to be able to get really jazzed about only one thing at once: the motivation to work on Big Bad Chapter melted away, and only came back just today, when I got through a book on the subject of one of the subsections. In the interim, there were two whole days when I seemed to get nothing accomplished. Instead, I obsessively edited and posted photos, and staked out the photo posts of people who were on the trip. So, it seems only appropriate that this week's Onion contained the following article:

Uhh... yeah.

Friday, November 2, 2007

When guilt is an inherent feature of relaxation

Today, I finished up the conclusion to yesterday's book, reread an (admittedly short) article in German, and took notes on said article. I picked up another book (recommended by a colleague at Fellowship Institute), and am going to try to get through at least the introduction tonight. The progress is slow, but it's forward motion, nonetheless.

I also replaced a pair of headphones for the ol' iPod, and bought a bus ticket for an upcoming TRIP TO CHICAGO!!! Yes, that's right: I'm going to be taking off for a couple of days next week, not for a conference, but for recreation. I participate in an online photo-sharing community, and a couple of my online friends and I, who have never actually met in person, have agreed to meet up for a couple of days and go picture-hunting. My feelings on this are a mix of anticipation (social life! Whoo!!!) and guilty panic (omigod so much work to do so far behind where I wanted to be by now).

Crap. If "relaxation" inherently fills you with anxiety, then that's not very relaxing, is it?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Three things

My friend, Not Nurse Ratched, recently posted about a new productivity tip that she's working on: set three goals every day. Just three. Then get those done.

A very good idea, so I woke up today, with a list of three: finish reading a book, take the notes on it, and buy a new pair of headphones for my iPod.

If I stay up for another hour, I actually stand a chance of accomplishing #1 & 2. But I missed out on #3. On the other hand, I did manage to get to a yoga class today, so that's a good thing.

::sigh:: Is there anything more boring than a "to-do list" post? But this is what I've got today, I'm afraid.

UPDATE: Done! Well, except for the 12-page conclusion, and I can polish that off tomorrow morning before my coffee gets cold. Provided, of course, I don't sleep through my alarm again.