Friday, June 17, 2011

Welcome to Week Three!

(Now UPDATED, with my preliminary feedback beginning at comment #30.)

So, by now people should be past the initial obstacles and well into writing. Many of you were talking about getting that "down draft" – that is, just getting some words on the page. If you're still doing that, great. Keep moving forward until you have something to start shaping. Others started with the first draft already done (as a draft, or as a conference paper, or some other thing) and were outlining and thinking of the work in terms of small, discrete ideas to flesh out, one at a time. Whatever you're doing to keep yourself moving forward, keep it up, and don't forget to celebrate your accomplishments along the way – and announce them to the group, so we can celebrate them, too!

Today, we'll do the usual report-and-plan. That is, tell the group what you've accomplished (maybe in terms of the goals you set for yourself last week?) and what you plan to do over the next week. I'm adding a new feature on the updated roster (below), reminding you of the goal you set for yourself last week. Confronting our own selves can be a good reality check (are you setting goals too high? too low?) and a powerful motivator. And if you're on the "awaiting report" list, well… we're awaiting your report. Let us know what you're up to!

One other thing that I thought we'd do this week: Over the past couple of weeks, several of you mentioned various productivity tools you've used. If you've recently started using something that is really working well for you on this project, let us know about it. Suggestions for writing guides that have worked for you are also welcome. Come Monday or Tuesday, I'll compile and post the suggestions, each with a short blurb from the person(s) who recommended them.

One last note: this week's travels have me out of internet range on the weekends. So this weekend I won't be chiming in until Monday. ADM will likely be checking in as she's home between conferences (ramblin' gal that she is), but you'll be supporting each others' efforts, so do pop back once or twice over the weekend to read each others' comments and offer advice and support. [UPDATE: looks like I'll be able to check in once in the wee hours of Saturday morning]

Happy writing, all – and see you Monday, and again next Friday for week four at ADM's place!

updated roster, with goals:

  • ABDMama [Draft of an article MS]: get through the primary sources and articles and locate ones that are needed; continue writing reading summaries
  • ADM [conference paper for Leeds; revision of paper after]: organizing some stuff for the Leeds paper, including ordering books to be waiting in the BL
  • Bardiac [Review-ready article MS]: go through previous draft comments from friends; organize revision
  • Dame Eleanor [Revising a conference paper into article MS]: keep daily writing; also get conference paper finished
  • Digger [drafts of two book chapters]: get the rest of the data into, and a quick edit of, the typology/dating chapter
  • Dr. Koshary [Review-ready article MS]: excused absence for trans-global move [!!]
  • Eileen [First draft of a dissertation chapter]: get primary sources for this chapter lined up; write up trends in quantitative data; continue 500 words/day
  • Erika [Review-ready draft of an article MS]: excused absence for fancy summer seminar
  • Firstmute [draft of the final dissertation chapter]: Add 5,000 words to draft
  • Frog Princess [Review-ready draft of completed dissertation]: tackle three major sections of the introduction, and get all sections of my final chapter in order, ready for the final rewrite.
  • Gillian [an article that needs writing]: no declared goal for this week
  • Godiva [First draft of diss. chap.]: organize information about one collection of sources; continue freewriting ideas about individual sources
  • Historydoll [Convert dissertation chapter into an article]: freewrite on the topic every day, to reread the chapter in question, and to write at least 1,000 words of zero draft.
  • J. Otto Pohl [Complete draft of 2/3-finished book MS]: no declared goal for this week
  • Jason [First draft of a dissertation chapter]: 5 days of free(ish)-writing; (2) subdividing of outline into individual projects
  • Jeff [Review-ready draft of completed dissertation]: on vay-cay, but try to put in an hour or two a day of writing [ed. note: time off is part of the process, my friend]
  • Jen [Revising conference paper into article MS]: finish writing the first section of my article
  • Kim [???]: Write an abstract?
  • Kit [First draft of a dissertation chapter]: flesh out the chapter outline and pull relevant literature
  • Matilda [Draft of a publishable paper]: revise draft article around my argument
  • Mel [???]:write the materials and methods and results sections for the next chapter
  • Ms McD [Revising a conference paper into an article MS]: revise and add to next section of article
  • My Museology [redraft three dissertation chapters]: complete redrafting chapter 1
  • NWGirl [Revising a conference paper into an article MS]: complete a draft of one section of the paper; short archives trek [ed. note: yay, archives!!!]
  • Ro [MS revision (article?)]: read a group of newly available archival sources [ed. suggestion: Do some summarizing/where-does-this-fit writing as you read. That way, you're getting words on the page.]
  • Sapience [diss chapter]: no declared goal for this week; end-of month goal = first draft
  • Sara [Revision of research exam]: start daily writing; get a better handle on organization of draft
  • Scatterwriter [Complete expansion/revision of an article MS]: fully write up ideas on new concept from last week
  • Susan [Revise & polish two chapters of a book MS]: finish first revision of first chapter?
  • Tigs [Completed diss draft]: have all parts of ch 2 in one doc; have a clear plan for revision
  • Travelia [Write two conference papers]: complete a "decent" draft of conf. paper #1, and draft a plan for expansion/revision into article at a later date
  • What Now [Polished book proposal]: write 3,000 words for current book chapter [ed. query: so is getting a down draft of most of the book part of the work you're doing to be able to write the proposal?]
  • Zabeel [Draft first two sections of new article]: no declared goal for this week
  • Zcat abroad [write two articles]: detour/excused absence to finish Leeds paper
Awaiting report:
  • Anastasia: a book chapter to write for an edited volume*
  • Audie: working on transitioning a dissertation chapter to an article*
  • Avery: Draft of an article MS**
  • Caleb Woodbridge: MA thesis**
  • Cly: redraft three dissertation chapters*
  • Scholastic Mama: Revising a conference paper into an article MS**
  • theswain: editing & rewriting; produce new reviews/summaries for New Year's work*


J. Otto Pohl said...

I got up to 58,000 words written on the manuscript. That is three thousand more words than I had at this time last week. Again I am basically filling in details as the skeleton of the book has been written out. The manuscript still needs a lot of editing, but right now I am concentrating on just getting the first draft finished.

If anybody would like to read and offer constructive criticism feel free to e-mail me. My address is below.

j.ottopohl [the at sign] gmail [the dot} com

Unknown said...

Pfff... the last couple of weeks have been rather crazy for me with various distractions such as job applications and stuff.

So my writing is coming along rather slowly - I'm around a week behind schedule. I should have enough time to catch it up over the next few weeks, but still...

My first chapter is coming along fairly well, but I'm still lacking that elusive overall argument that will tie the whole thing together.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Thanks for checking in. Don't forget to give us your specific goals for next week, oi?

Dave said...

Am I too late to get started? I defended a couple of weeks ago, and need to get publishing this summer. I'd like to have a couple of articles in the pipeline this summer, and want to have the first of them finished by mid-July. By next week, I'd like to develop a fairly detailed outline for the conversion of Article #1. (I'm trying to incorporate some of my examiners' feedback, which included trying out an alternative theorist to the one I relied on in my chapter.)

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Hi Dave --

ADM and I agreed to close the group last week. But not to worry -- since this seems to be a popular thing, we're likely going to do a new 12-week term starting with the academic year this fall. So keep stopping by for inspiration, and watch here and at her place for the CFP in late August.

And congratulations on your successful dissertation defense!

Dr. Koshary said...

I am very glad that this writing group allows for trans-global excused absences! I'm almost over jet-lag, so let's see what I can do this coming week. My aim/hope is to experiment with article focus, since I'm still having trouble sussing out what is ready and what isn't. I'm going to try drafting a more narrowly focused article, and see what that looks like. I've been having doubts about how narrow or broad to go for here, and I don't think I can sort out that question without actually seeing the things side by side as potential articles. So: for next Friday, slapping together Narrow Draft.

Cly said...

This is rather odd. I checked in at ADM's place last week, but my comments seem to have vanished.

Just to clarify - my project isn't dissertation related (that is -mercifully - in the past). I'm working on a paper for Leeds, revising an article for publication and a draft chapter for a book.

This week I finished a first draft of my Leeds paper and was given comments on the article. I didn't make much progress with the chapter - I'm reading in circles.

My hopes this week are (i) to incorporate changes to the article (ii) to revise the Leeds paper, and (iii) to give the chapter some shape.

The first should be relatively easy (the changes are minor). I may give the Leeds paper a few days before I touch it again, so my focus is going to be the book chapter. I hope to have a skeletal draft by next week.

Sara said...

First, the good news: I met with my advisor earlier this week and she had really good things to say about my draft and my progress. I'm a creative writer more than I am a scholar, so I've been struggling to get to a point with this paper where I don't feel like a fraud. I think I've finally gotten there.

Now for the not-so-good news. I'm still not writing daily, which was my main goal for this past week. For reasons I won't bore you with here, I'm stuck in a nasty procrastination loop that's got me reading blogs and watching Dr. Phil instead of working on my draft (or any number of other projects on my plate this summer).

My goal for this week (other than dealing with the crap that's leading me to procrastinate) is to read two articles that my advisor suggested and incorporate them into the draft. I'm spending five days visiting family this week, so I won't be trying to write every day.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

I'm signing off now, and will be able to check in once in about 20 hours, so I'll leave you in ADM's capable hands. But I wanted to check in on the last two comments before I go:

@ Cly: Not to worry. Blogger does that sometimes. I'll make sure to update the roster and send it on with ADM.

@ Sara: Congratulations on the great feedback! As to the other thing: What you're experiencing is probably the biggest issue that writers face, and something we need to confront if we want to move forward. I want you to try something that may help bust you out of your procrastination rut. Set your alarm an hour earlier than usual, and make writing your first thing. Don't check your e-mail (in fact, turn it off the night before) or Facebook or even the many fabulous blogs. Trust me: there's nothing that can't wait two hours. Don't read the paper or turn on the news, not even for "company." Don't shower. Just slap on your glasses, put on a pot of coffee (if you do that sort of thing), turn on your computer, and get going in the early hours, when the house and the mind are still quiet. Make sure you already have a goal in mind when you sit down. Try it for a week, and see if it works for you. You may be surprised.

Sapience said...

Well, it's been an interesting week in terms of writing. My word count went up by about 1500 (currently sitting at 10,711), but I got a lot more than that done because as I was working I realized that very little of a 12 page chunk could stay as-is, and I spent a lot of time reworking that section. It feels much stronger now, though it still needs some work. The argument also crystallized for me this week, which was a big help.

So. I have a few sections that are still in brackets and need to get filled in, and a conclusion to write (hopefully this morning), but I'm planning on sending the current draft to one of my advisors this evening. This chapter has hit the point where I need to make sure I've been going in the right direction before I go any further. That means my goals for next week are going to be largely dependent on how long he takes to get back to me--he's usually very quick and has said he thinks he can get me something by Wednesday, but it could take longer. I probably should use the waiting time to work on a few other projects that are going on in the background (an article abstract for a book CFP and job market materials).

I'm finding that I don't need to set very specific product goals right now so much as make myself sit and work for a minimum amount of time that can be easily expanded into larger chunks of time. Once I get going, I really like working on my dissertation.

Gillian said...

I didn't get much work done on my article/chapter at all. This is because I had other deadlines that needed meeting if I am to get to Leeds. I now have most of my Leeds paper sorted (maybe) and have finished all work on my novel until I get the next slab of research for it under my belt. I also did a bunch of work on ch. 2 of my dissertation.

These things are why I wasn't sure I'd get to the article this week - having them done means that I can get back to it over the next week. My aim for next Friday is to have all I need to do on it done and be able to leave it until I get back from overseas. Also to finish that paper for Leeds and make more progress on my dissertation, since my supervisor needs to see stuff before I leave.

All this is part of a cunning plan. I work best when I write large slabs and then revise carefully and find out where I have gone wrong. Letting something sit for a few days makes this process more effective. This is why I have two lots of 'sitting' in the works for this piece - one for the next week and the other in the last week or so before it is sent.

Eileen said...

I got my goals for the week met, which I wasn't sure I was going to when I ran into a rough writing patch early in the week (I stumbled over a time period in my work I find kind of boring and not very important to my project, but which is important to comment on).

My goals for the coming week is another 4k words integrating my quantitative data from this past week with my theoretical backing, complete with clean, no-need-for-revisions citations. One of the reasons I stumbled toward my writing goal this week was getting side tracked hunting down citations I should have had at hand, and one of the things that has helped me the most in keeping my writing momentum going is using a citation program (which keeps me from going online "just to check" a citation and ending up on email or whatever).

Susan said...

I've been away the last two days, but I kept chugging along. Since I'm revising a chapter that was pretty close to complete, I haven't added that many words, but I think it's coming together, and a few more days should do it. By the end of *next* week, I'd like to have done what I can on this chapter, and sketched out what needs doing on the next. I'm scheduled for a day at a different library on Thursday, and I need to be ready for the things I need to do there.

Matilda said...

Hello, everyone,

I have not been doing well this week. I have read through week 3 of WYJA, and done the tasks, however, I felt revising and strengthening my argument needed more reading and research. I then started re-reading sources I used, searching relevant articles and literature only to find how more I have to read and analyze. This really made me get panic. WYJA kindly cheers me saying 'do not get discouraged!', though I felt overwhelmed. Thus, my argument is still under construction.

In addition, I received an e-mail asking me to finish another draft, whose deadline had been somehow unclear, by the end of July. There is one more draft I was asked to submit by the end of August. What I need now is to re-organize all tasks to meet the deadlines, while continuing to follow WYJA, which I do want to complete with this writing group.

A lot of people in this writing group seem to have multiple tasks and beautifully do everything. I wonder somebody could tell me how they organize themselves to meet the deadlines attacking in waves…

For next week: work through week 4 section of WYJA, researching and analyzing relevant materials while constructing my argument; re-organize time schedule to meet the deadlines.

Jennifer said...

Hello everyone,

Last week I planned to keep plugging away on the first section of my article. It's getting there. I had a breakthrough on the third section midway through the week, so I switched gears and made some headway on that part. I've been averaging between 300-500 words a day, which feels like progress to me.

I feel like I'm gaining momentum! Alas, I have to switch coasts this week for a vacation and wedding with old friends. So, the goal for next week is small! I'm going to aim to at least open my document every morning before the day gets going and write. Wish me luck!

Also, there was a useful post today on summer writing bootcamps on the Chronicle's website:

firstmute said...

Well, I did meet my goal of adding 5,000 words, which brings the document total to 20,500 words. To clarify: this zero draft might be more accurately called a journal, because it's a big hot mess. I woudl say a good 8,000 of those words are going to be cut.

I also determined the chapter's organization this week, so I'm hopeful that everything is going to come together pretty quickly. Figuring out goals from here on out is harder for me, without the nice solid goal of a word number, but I'm going to set two: first, write at least two hours a day. (I'm babysitter-less again next week, so that's ambitious enough). Second, cut 3,000 words by reorganizing and massaging the material.

I'd be interested to know what kind of goals other than word count people have found useful.

Anonymous said...

So, for this past week I was adjusting to an unexpected change in plans from one writing project I had intended to finish by mid-summer (an essay for an edited volume) to another that was going to be its sequel for the second half of the season, namely a return to reading sources for a ms revision. The volume project is currently up in the air, and, while I’m awaiting word over the next few weeks, it has seemed wisest to switch to the second task for the time being.

@Notorious Ph.D. – thanks for the suggestion to do some “where does this fit” reflection on the sources in writing as I go. It’s a great idea, esp. as this is a larger project (ms rev.) that will be left on the back burner, temporarily, when I return to teaching in the fall. It’s a suggestion that also seems to intersect with the theme of productivity tools you mentioned. I do have a new routine this summer:

As in past years, I’m taking notes on readings, both primary and secondary, in word processing files. Now, though, I’m also moving copies of those into Evernote, which is allowing me to sort and access them in much more productive ways via the use of tags. I’m liking this *much* better than digging through layered folders of word doc’s as I start to build frameworks for writing.

I’m also starting to use Evernote files with a “ms-working-notes” tag as a replacement for the handwritten notes to self (too often scribbled on scraps of paper or airplane napkins, etc.) that I keep while developing ideas and analysis. Having those notes all in one place, out on the “cloud,” always accessible wherever I am and easy to add to whenever I get an idea is v. nice. I still do my most important writing in word files rather than Evernote, as I can choose a better range of file formats for backups and because there are more options for editing and marking up as I write. But it's great to have an easily accessible repository for early thoughts-in-process.

Okay, plans for next week: I’ll be losing a few days to a trip out of town, but will continue the readings in primary sources. I’ll also write up summary notes of insights gained and significant detail seen so far.

Zabeel said...

I'm still plugging away at it. I think my big struggle at the moment is with consistency. I had productive days today and on Tuesday, but there were certainly other days this week when I didn't even open the file.

Progress: section one is written in draft form and I'm pretty happy with it. I've sketched out sections two and three in terms of argument and relevant primary sources.

Aims for next week. 1. Spend at least 3 hours each day working on this project. No excuses. 2. Section 2 written in draft reflecting the research I have done up til now.

Jason said...

This week has been another at around 80%. Generated over 2,500 words (goal 1=met); continued, fitfully, expanding the outline into subsections so I can become project-oriented in the next phase of my summer (goal 2=60%, *sigh*). There was some procrastination and time spent on teaching at a camp this week that disrupted what little routine I had gained.

Working on the zero draft, I’ve gotten good writing momentum going, which was important to me in this first few weeks. I don’t need to agonize over every sentence, or the phrasing of every concept like I did back when I had Bad Writing Habits. I need to remember that when I start in on the more substantive first draft pages.

I feel more and more certain that it's time to move from zero draft to first draft, but at the same time I know that I still need a lot of background reading for those subsection projects. This will affect weeks 5-12 more, but I’m saying this so that I stay vigilant now: I have to watch out for the abyss of “but I haven’t read enough / don’t fully understand this topic / may, in fact, be talking out of my *$$.”

I’m losing much of this week to travel, but once we arrive at New Summer Place I have 6 weeks with only the dissertation and outdoor activity on my agenda!

Goals for week 4: (1) 3 writing sessions; (2) 90 minutes of reading each travel day; (3) create a daily work schedule for New Summer Place.

Travelia said...

I did not meet my goal of a "decent" conference paper draft. Instead I decided that the outline I was working from didn't work and spent quite a bit of time flailing around for another approach. Maybe I've found it? I am close, but not yet there

Meanwhile I received potentially good news about another project which may mean I need to revisit my priorities regarding conference paper #2.

Failure to meet my goals this week means that I will have to work this weekend, which I don't usually do in the summer. Spouse is out of town, though, so it's a good time for an all-out push to get something drafted. I tell myself I won't do that anymore, but honestly, I always do, especially for conference papers.

Given the possible change in priorities, I honestly don't know what my goal should be for next week. I will try 60 minutes of generative writing/ day, which may be toward conference paper #2 or possibly toward the other project.

Like Ro, I've also been using Evernote increasingly for notes and ideas--I find it great for capturing little insights throughout the day.

NWGirl said...

I did not meet my goal of completing one section of the paper. I managed to work three days, but like Zabeel I struggled with consistency. I realized today that I need do nothing but write in the morning. As I mentioned last week, we've had a couple of home improvement projects going. I have a tendency to work on those first, especially if it requires being outside, thinking that I'll stay inside during the heat of the day and work. That's not working so I need to make sure that writing comes first next week, house projects be damned. That's one goal for the upcoming week -- write first. Sticking to that goal, I hope, will help me complete at least one section of this paper.

I think it's time to revive the Pomodoro technique ( My husband is strongly encouraging me to do just that since it worked so well when I was working on my dissertation. So to accomplish my goal of writing first, I commit to completing 4 tomatoes (4 x 25 min.) before I do anything else in the morning (other than walk the dog). And perhaps the momentum will carry me through another two tomatoes for a total of 6.

I have a question for others in the group. Any suggestions for juggling multiple projects? In addition to this paper revision, I am finishing revisions to turn the diss into a book. But I also need to plan ahead for next year. To get research funding for next summer from my uni, I will need to submit an application this fall. I have an idea for an article, but I'm struggling with the distraction of this shiny, new project. How do you keep moving on an older project while developing something new? I know this is a skill I need to develop and could sure use some advice.

What Now? said...

I've had a very strange week, because I just discovered today that there's someone else writing essentially the same book that I am ... except that she's several years ahead of me in the entire project and already has interest from a press. I'm not actually as distraught as one might imagine, not least because I'm not trying to get tenure on this book or anything like that, but I am definitely flummoxed and unsure of what to do next.

I'm going on vacation on Monday for a week, so my plan is to Do Nothing for a week, to let things lie and see how I feel about the state of my work when I return. All will be well, I know, but I don't want to take action before I know just what action that should be.

Scatterwriter said...

@NWGirl -- I am always juggling multiple projects. The way I often handle it is by trying to procrastinate productively -- so, if I have a pressing deadline on one project, I will often feel driven to work on a different project, and I will give in to that and just work on the thing that is most enticing. What this means is that I often barely make my deadlines, but that when I am finally in a place where I must focus on a project, I find that a good chunk of it is already done. I don't recommend this because it's a pathological way of working, but it works for me, after a fashion, and I think I do better when I go with this tendency and don't fight it too much. I need the excitement of barely making a deadline to make me finish projects, and I think my work is better when I am concentrating on something I am excited about, even if it's not technically the next thing that's due.

As for my article manuscript -- having procrastinated a lot before the last check-in by working on a fall syllabus, I was finally ready to turn to this project this week. Last week, I planned to write up all my ideas on a thread for my argument that is based on a new key concept, and I did that. I've incorporated all the new writing into the current draft of the manuscript. I then read over my research on another idea, and added a few lines on that where necessary. At the same time, I've been polishing my draft -- tweaking some sentences, completely rewriting several paragraphs that were extremely convoluted, and cutting out stuff that is turning out to be extraneous. My draft has grown by 565 words, but that's a good thing; at 18,841 words, I think it's quite long enough for the journal I'll be resubmitting to.

For next week, I plan to identify some more concepts that I need to focus on, to figure out how they will embellish my argument, and to write up at least one of them (if not more). My goal is to have all of my new ideas incorporated into my manuscript somehow by July 1, just two weeks away. I am happy that the major reorganization that I thought needed to happen may not be necessary. So far, the new ideas have fit well into the current structure of the manuscript -- I needed to add a few paragraphs, but there was a logical place to put them that didn't necessitate fiddling with the overall organization.

I've been using Zotero to take notes for over a year now, and I really like it. (I also like that I can access my Zotero notes when I'm not connected to the internet. Thank you for explaining that to me, Notorious Ph.D.) I've been tagging all my notes using my concept keywords, so when I am working on a particular concept, I go into Zotero and select a particular tag, and up pop all my notes on that idea. I always take verbatim notes, so I've been copying and pasting the block quotes into my manuscript and then figuring out how to work them into my argument.

thefrogprincess said...

Under the circumstances of the week (which involved going home to deal with a minor family medical emergency, as I mentioned last week), I'm pleased with what got done. My goal was to get all sections of my final chapter ready for a final rewrite, and I did that, for the most part. The rest I can do as I write a new version of the chapter from the beginning. I did not get quite as much done on the introduction as I'd hoped, but I did have what may be a significant breakthrough on the "contribution to historical literature" front that I'm quite excited about. I also managed to read an article on most days, which was my "bare minimum" that I set last week at ADM's blog and which lead to my breakthrough, and, on the day taken up with the medical situation, I managed to get a ton of writing done. So all good things. Rough word count for the week: 3800.

My goal for this week is to produce a completed revision of this chapter, one that can go to the advisor, and to write a workable first draft of the introduction, which would leave me with my first full draft of my dissertation, which I will spend the rest of the summer revising.

Again, it's an ambitious goal--and in all likelihood, I'll finish that by the Sunday after our next check-in. But what I'm finding is that I work best if my goals are slightly ambitious. If I've worked steadily, I don't feel guilty for not meeting a goal I always knew was ambitious, especially if I've been sidetracked by new, unexpected questions. But I think I'm getting more done than I would if I set myself something I knew I could easily accomplish.

As for productivity tools, I'm an enormous fan of Scrivener, which I think has helped the quality of my work immensely. I have the freedom to break things up in sections, do random freewriting, etc, all in a way that's easily findable within one program. It's a dream for the long-form, sprawling zero draft. I also use Mellel, which I prefer to Word, but there is a steep learning curve and I know I haven't come close to tapping into its full potential. Dropbox has become increasingly important as well: one of my favorite uses of it is to upload the PDFs of my document images and then open them on another computer (old laptop, office computer), making them much easier to read and keeping my laptop screen relatively uncluttered. And finally, I'm now buying those boxes of snack packs, baking my own goodies, and pouring coffee/tea into this ginormous new thermos I just bought so that I have a steady supply of food and drink on campus and I can work for as long as my brain lets me. Also, Netflix Instant is great for those fifteen minute breaks we all need.

Jeff said...

I've been having a fantastic time at the workshop so far, but as I expected I haven't had a whole lot of writing time. Still, I've just about averaged an hour a day, and roughly written up a big chunk of the new technical material. But I'm realizing the write-up is a bigger job than I initially thought, and I'm not sure how many of the details ultimately should be included in the chapter. I think for now I'm going to try to get just enough of the rest down so I don't forget the things I've worked out, and move on to the structural issues in the Nth chapter that I mentioned last time.

Mostly, though, I'm going to keep enjoying this excellent workshop. It has nothing to do with my dissertation, and that suits me perfectly.

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

Well, I worked on the article 3 days out of 5: Monday I was recovering from food poisoning, and today I was focused on conference paper research (not going well; shoot me now). I have an outline of another subsection of the article, about 350 words of notes on secondary reading, and a few more entries in the spreadsheet of data from the primary text.

My goal for next week is pretty much the same: put in 20-30 minutes a day taking notes or outlining, just so I keep making some progress with the article; but the main event has to be the conference paper, as that deadline is looming. And after this next week I'll be away for two weeks, during which I doubt I'll have time to work on the article. I'll check in to say hi and cheer the rest of you on. In three weeks, I'm going to be trying to remember where I was with the article, so I guess that's my last goal for this week: try to leave myself some clear guidelines for when I return to it.

QueSera said...

I met my goal this week and wrote 2,500 words of reading summaries that are becoming arguments that I'm going to use in the expansion of the dissertation section. I also located more primary sources, got through a bunch of secondary sources, and located a copy of WYJA.

Next week I plan to complete going through the primary and secondary sources I identified this week. So pretty much more of the same, but I do like the direction my thinking is going for the article. I should be ready to revise and add these new ideas soon.

See you next Friday!

Gillian said...

The questions about working on more than one project at once have got me thinking about my processes. I'm another person who works best when fired up and so will work exclusively on something when I'm ripe for it and then find a lot of it done when the deadline looms.

I also factor in thinking time. Sometimes my thinking time is during a heavy teaching period or when I have a bunch of other tasks (editing, manuscript assessments, committee meetings), and sometimes it's not doing history research when I'm working on reviews or literary articles, but I've found that it's easier for me to juggle when I don't say "I have a project" and attack it immediately, but to write a possible outline of it and return to it later (after thinking time).

Just as an aside, the best thinking time in the universe is during committee meetings. I always carry paper and pen into meetings and I almost always come out with a bunch of notes for my writing. Conferences are better for thought about fiction, for some reason (please don't ask to see my notes at Leeds!).

I also like to give writing rest time before I finish it, which I mentioned earlier. I may work on another project while that piece is vegetating, or I might do paid work (or even paid work that's another writing project). In March I had a lot of stuff that needed to sit before I submitted and I had just enough time, so I organised a series of guest posts on my blog in honour of Women's History Month, for instance.

What all this means is that I always look as if I'm doing a lot more than I actually do and that when I work, I work very efficiently. It's really important for me when I handle more than one job at once to actually have those breaks and only feel pressured about deadlines, not about the whole project for every minute of its existence.

And I do feel pressured about deadlines. I love deadlines. If an editor doesn't give me a deadline, I have real trouble fitting what they want into my schedule.

zcat_abroad said...

I may be excused, but thought I should 'fess up, anyway. Very interesting, and quite comforting to see that I am not the only one struggling to get motivated, but that's what this writing group is for!

I've been slogging away at my Leeds paper, but it's been hi-jacked slightly by having to get ready to travel to the other side of the world. I'm now in London, will be in Hull (yay?!?) tomorrow, and hopefully will get some writing done while also being inspired by other people.

One of my problems is that I find it very hard to rearrange my words/ thoughts while on the computer, and often find I have to print things off, scribble on the paper, write the opening sentence in pen or pencil, and then get typing. So, that's my recommendation for 'flash new items' - paper and pen. I had thought I was getting better at going straight to 'puter, but it seems not.

Thanks to ADM and Notorious Ph.D for this service!

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Hi All!

Okay, this will likely be my last check-in before going dark for the weekend, so I'll check back in late Sunday night, North American time. As usual, I'm addressing only a few comments/check-ins/themes, but I do read them all, so please don't feel neglected. What I'm really commenting on are themes that are emerging – common problems that we all may be facing. These reflect my opinions, and not necessarily ADM's. So, here goes (broken down into three comments, so blogger can digest them):

The issue of consistency comes up. This is tough for anything – exercise, diet, daily writing, flossing… whatever. So, here's a thought, utterly anecdotal, that I heard somewhere: it takes three weeks to form a habit. Can you commit to writing every day (or maybe 6 days out of 7 – even the god of Moses took a day off!) for three weeks? You may find that it becomes addictive.

The question of how to tackle multiple projects & multiple deadlines does keep coming up in this group. I've asked ADM if she'd address it in next week's post, since she's dealing with multiple projects herself, but if she can't (like many people, she's got a big conference coming up), we'll put it on the roster of themes and one of us will get to it before the term is out.

More on other themes in the next comment, below…

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Lots of people have been running into roadblocks. One thing that's important to learn is flexibility. We learn to expect the unexpected. Don't set goals that require everything to go according to plan, because that never happens. More specifically:

Matilda: "Don't panic" is good advice (though it's advice I have trouble taking). One thing to remember: there will always be another book, another article, another document. You will never read them all. Of course, you need enough to make your argument, but at some point, you just have to stop, and go with what you've got. You probably do need to do a bit more reading, but probably much less than you think. Jason has a nice way of putting it in his comment: "I have to watch out for the abyss of 'but I haven’t read enough / don’t fully understand this topic / may, in fact, be talking out of my *$$.' "

(And Jason, we're all talking out of that particular orfice, most of the time. The trick is to learn to do it with authority and panache.)

Travelia's bump in the road has a lot in common with Matilda's: you start out the semester with a good plan, then either someone comes along and says, "Hey, I need you to do this other project, and it needs to be done by August 1", or you yourself see that the place you thought you were going isn't going to work. My friends, this is not "failure." It's a change of plans, that's all. So you adjust your goals at week three/four, so what? If the argument wasn't working, you would have figured this out sooner or later. Say it along with me, everyone: Adjustments are part of the process. The trick is not to let them discourage you.

What Now's bump in the road is a bit more significant – I've had this happen to me now twice in the past four years – both for major projects – and I dealt with it differently each time. I think it's going to be the subject of a full blog post next week, but for now, let me advise What Now to go ahead and take that week off, but about halfway through the week, you might start randomly journaling/freewriting, or blogging, or talking your way into how to move forward. Once I've got that full blog post up, we can get a real correspondence going on this.

One more comment to go...

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Finally, a couple of miscellaneous points:

Dame Eleanor: So sorry to hear about the food poisoning! Ew! Never had it myself, but I've seen it in action (mussels were the culprit both times), and it ain't pretty. So I'm glad you've recovered.

Firstmute: As a hot mess myself, I fully endorse your current draft, sight unseen. And never "cut"; always "file." Sure, five years later you may go through your "orphan sections" file and toss everything, but you never know what may be handy for filling out a conference paper at some future date.

Sara said...

Thanks for the advice, Notorious! I was up at 5am this morning, and wrote three new pages (longhand, so not sure how many words) before 6.

I'll be sleeping on my mother's couch tonight, so probably won't make such an early morning of it, but I'll try to repeat this tomorrow.

What Now? said...

Notorious, it's awful that you've been scooped not just once but twice in the past four years ... but it does make me feel better, not in a "misery loves company" sort of way but in a "clearly one moves on and can thrive despite these circumstances" sort of way. I'll look forward to your blog post on the subject.

Travelia said...


Thanks for your comment: I couldn't agree more. The change in argument 2 or 3 weeks in is not failure. Indeed, I expect it! I've written about this topic in more detail on my nascent blog. I have a theory of critical mass. It might be magical thinking, but it works for me.

thefrogprincess said...

Travelia, I just looked at the blog post you wrote, and I'm much the same way. When I'm first beginning to work on a chapter, I need to sit with the documents and ideas for several weeks before an argument heaves into view. This caused problems with a faculty member who decided I was lazy and who didn't want to listen to my explanations. But I've found that I'm wasting time (and sacrificing quality) trying to write a chapter if I don't have that critical mass that you refer to. Once I reach that point, I'm about a week away from having a preliminary draft, two weeks away from having a draft that I'd show people.

As for the "write x number of words" per day, I've generally never done that. I work almost daily, but again in the first several weeks, I'm not "writing" per se. But I'm honest with myself. I know if I'm making steady enough progress or if I'm just procrastinating. And I've also become good about moving quickly into full-on writing mode once the argument begins to materialize. Sure, I do some more reading in the documents but I eliminate the idea that I'll read all of them.

Also, I do three kinds of notetaking. 1) Direct quotations. Even though it's tedious, I've found that the only way to deal with sources is to type in full relevent sections from the photographs I took in the archives. 2) short notes to myself--things to find, things to track down, 2ndary lit that springs to mind. 3) whole paragraphs that explore in freewriting ideas or arguments that I'm thinking about in relation to whatever document I'm reading.

I call all three "writing": I take Paul Silva's definition to heart where he calls writing time the time in which you do whatever needs to be done: writing, notetaking, statistics, etc. But the last one I count as legit writing and often those paragraphs appear almost untouched in drafts.

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Aargh! I forgot to post *my* progress. I had really small goals this week, and am glad, because I could barely meet one of them. I got back from conferencing and had found that there were some new things on my plate that, since I am going to be gone for a month, I needed to deal with before going. I did manage to set up a visit with a colleague at Cambridge to talk about the Leeds paper, and may even get some books ordered for Tuesday's BL trip. I had planned on starting in tomorrow, but a friend has taken the day off to meet me at the airport, so no go there.

As for actually working on the Leeds paper? I read an article and took a few notes, but am probably going to have to re-do that, since the software is not capable of doing what I wanted -- including exporting the things I did do this week. Boo, Sente!

Scholasticamama said...

Ok, I’m having a hell of a time posting. This is my third post – something keeps happening after I hit “post” and then my post is lost. Third time in, now I’m typing in word to keep track and not have to retype again when it is all lost in the nether.

A pretty good week, considering my daughter and I have pneumonia. I wrote an abstract for the paper and found it really helpful. I’ve never written one before and it helped me to focus the thesis and argument very quickly. A long-time writing partner visited at the beginning of the week (yes! We had pneumonia, daddy out of the state, houseguests, and a deck remodel – it’s been a great summer!) and she read and commented on the abstract, read and commented on the conference paper, and we discussed the argument in more detail. This conversation and these comments will sustain me for weeks to come – having someone to talk with and hash things out with is so important to me. I miss having her closer!

Plan for next week: read Abelard’s Logica Ingredientibus and Historia Calamitatum. Last week’s readings revealed a large hole in my argument and decided dearth of evidence. I’m hoping that going back to my two main lines of evidence with help shore up the argument and suggest new avenues of evidence. We are on a family vacation to Tampa next week, so I am not planning on doing any writing, just notetaking. My partner has 10 days off this summer (he’s working the Alaskan pipeline) so we are taking 6 to go to a beach. I do great reading and thinking outdoors and am looking forward to naptime, when I can be working!

Now, to see if this finally posts…

Godiva said...

hmm, once again I didn't meet my goals. I didn't organise my sources in the way I wanted to, but that's because I discovered there were a lot more of them than I thought. So, I'm going to look at this as a good thing: I have much more to say now!

I also found a rhythm of work that is much better and I'm being a lot more productive. This is basically to have a late lunch to give me a long morning's work, while my brain is still functioning! And now term has finished so lots of uninterrupted time. This is the first time I've researched something that requires me to read almost exclusively in Latin and French, with no helpful English commentaries, and so everything is taking me considerably longer than usual.

Next week I'm on holiday. My goal is to read my one long narrative source while I'm away and take notes as I go so that I can write my ideas about it more formally when I get back.

Matilda said...

Dear Notorious,
Thank you very much for your comment. Reading your comment, I calmed myself down, and thought what I could do. I remembered that my supervisor used to say to me, 'Do not think you can't this or that, think what you can'. Now I am revising my argument again, somewhat narrowing my topic.

It is all too common to have several deadlines at a time, yes. I will stop complaining my situation, but think different. After these deadlines, I will have several works done in such a short time anyway! What a great achievement!

I have tried the way you recommended to Sara. I went to bed with my children, and woke up very early in the morning, then opened my computer, and just started. I am really slow in writing especially when it is English, though, it worked well. What I like most is that you can start your day with feeling of success. At 7o'clock in the morning, you have already done something for the day!

I really enjoy this group. I am relieved to know some other people also have difficulty in writing, and also felt encouraged to know how they deal with the problems in various ways. Thank you again for hosting this. We have still 8 weeks to go. Happy writing!

Tigs said...

Sorry for the delay, was in a wedding this weekend.

I am slugging along, added many more words, edited some of those words, met with my dissertation advisor and am waiting for feedback on the pages I gave him.

I didn't get everything into one document (my explicit goal for the week), but I did get a handle on the first 37 pages. I also realized that this is going to need a fair amount of trimming the fat once I have the whole thing in one place.

My goal for this week is to have the legal section of ch. 2 re-written, and to have an initial round of edits on the pop culture section done.

This should put me in a decent place to finish out a draft of this chapter by the end of the month.

Kit said...

I will check in on Friday next time, Midsummer weekend or not. Apologies again!

I'm finally on holiday from the other job, so I'll have a glorious five weeks without that distraction. I have been working on the key concepts (as set out in the outline) of the chapter and what I need to say about them. This could be seen as fleshing out the outline still, so I'm behind my schedule, alas. It takes me a good while to distance myself from the sources and run my own argumentation, to find the right level of meta. I think this is partly lack of experience and partly a self-confidence issue.

Reading everyone's word counts has me quivering in my sandals, and I've been pondering whether or not it would be realistic to have a word count goal for each week. I'm not sure how else to go about dividing the work into goals, but knowing that I write in efficient spurts with a lot of hand-wringing in between I might be setting myself up for failure.

So, my goal for (what's left of this week) is to figure out how to organize the rest of the writing into manageable goals while I continue working on those key concepts.