Friday, July 15, 2011

Writing Group Week 7: Goal (re)setting

Welcome to week seven! We've bid farewell to a few people over the past few weeks, but hopefully some of them will rejoin us when we reconvene in the fall. We're over halfway through now, but the good news is that we still have almost halfway left to finish up those goals!

So, let's talk about those goals. In last week's post, ADM referred to me as a "Type A", and she's not wrong. And what this Type A has been noticing is a bit of chaos in the area of your overall goals for this 12-week term. Now, some of this has been for excellent reason: you've finished a project! Yay! But some of it has been due to a lack of appropriate goal-setting. Maybe you set your summer goals without taking into account the inevitable detours you knew were coming. Maybe you over- or underestimated what you could accomplish this summer. Were your goals too ambitious? Not ambitious enough? Did you, perhaps, start off with a goal of multiple projects, rather than just one central goal (with the papers and presentations as side projects), leaving you unfocused as the project went forward?

Let me put this another way, for this week's discussion question: If you could go back to pre-week-one, what advice would you give late-May you as you were thinking about the goal you were going to set for the summer? Knowing what you know now, what would that summer goal be?

That's it. No long post this week. Just that one question, and the usual requirement that you report in your progress, and your specific goals for next week. Here's the run-down:

  • ABDMama [Draft of an article MS]: incorporate the 2,500+ words of source writing and ideas into the larger article draft
  • ADM [conference paper for Leeds; revision of paper after]:
  • Audie [working on transitioning a dissertation chapter to an article]: have the first section of the paper reworked
  • Cly [revise article for publication & draft chapter for book]: Leeds paper? Chapter?
  • Dame Eleanor [Revising a conference paper into article MS]: finish all the mini-outlines for the article-in-progress, and start expanding them
  • Digger [drafts of two book chapters]: finish Mash Chapter; try to get that last image permission
  • Dr. Koshary [work on book MS]: finish off chapter 4, then begin drafting chapter 3,
  • Eileen [First draft of a dissertation chapter]: figure out a path to the finish; integrate quantitative data set #2; decide whether to include or jettison planned section on religion; maintain 500 words/day.
  • Erika [Review-ready draft of an article MS]: 500 words / day, plus 1 page of revisions [per day, I assume]
  • Frog Princess [Review-ready draft of completed dissertation – done ahead of schedule! Yay!!]: finished major goal; taking a week to poke around and develop a goal for the rest of the summer
  • Godiva [First draft of diss. chap.]: ((goal for this week??))
  • J. Otto Pohl [Complete draft of 2/3-finished book MS]: ((goal for this week??))
  • Jeff [Review-ready draft of completed dissertation]: Review-ready draft of chapter 2
  • Jen [Revising conference paper into article MS]: Reinstate morning writing (500 words per morning), and finish this section
  • Matilda [Draft of a publishable paper]: work through week 7 of WYJA; revising argument of task 1 (this WG project); complete task 2; start reading materials of task 3
  • Mel [Finish dissertation!]: Finish chapter 4?
  • NWGirl [Revising a conference paper into an article MS]: finish writing section 2 of the paper
  • Sapience [diss chapter (done! ahead of schedule!) Prepare presentation of full dissertation for department]: finish revisions on the article, and get at least four pages of the presentation drafted.
  • Susan [Revise & polish two chapters of a book MS]: On vacation for two weeks
  • Tigs [Completed diss draft]:
  • Travelia [Write two conference papers (done!); prepare book MS for review]: On vacation for a week
  • Zabeel [Draft first two sections of new article]: Read two more books; complete a first draft of section 2
  • Zcat abroad [write an article]: try out this '500 words a day, first thing'

Awaiting report:
  • Bardiac [Review-ready article MS]**
  • Caleb Woodbridge [MA thesis]***
  • Firstmute [chapter draft; send out article]*
  • Gillian [an article that needs writing]*
  • Jason [First draft of a dissertation chapter]***
  • Kit: [Write the first draft of a dissertation chapter]*
  • Scatterwriter [Complete expansion/revision of an article MS]*
  • Scholastic Mama [Revising a conference paper into an article MS]*


Bardiac said...

I'm sorry to have dropped. I'm just not getting certain things done in favor of other things. Thanks for running this, though!

Firstmute said...

I'm here! If by here, you mean in the middle of the country visiting the in-laws, with a computer without Word or wireless. I met my goal last week of submitting my article, and I didnt have any goal this week because we're on vacation. Or what passes for vacation.

Next week I need to get back into the chapter draft, which I still want to have finished by the end of this group. I suppose I'll stick to a time-goal until I figure out what needs to be done with it--three hours a day? I might try a speeded up version of WYJA, since that was very helpful in finishing the article.

This is a bit disjointed, but the baby is crying. I'll be back to normal next week.

Zabeel said...

Interesting topic for this week, and well-timed in my case.
Thinking back, I had no idea how much I would be able to achieve in this period -- this is the first time I have written an article from scratch (rather than cannibalising something else) so I wasn't sure what my progress would be like. Additionally, I'm trying to give myself a bit of a holiday this summer, so I was loath to overburden myself.
I achieved both of my goals this week -- the draft of the second section is roughed out. Another week of polishing and I think I'll have achieved my overall writing group goal of a draft of the first two sections of the article.
So... I'm revising my overall goal to a draft of the entire article.
As for a weekly goal: none. I'm off on holiday for a fortnight.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Hey Bardiac, I was wondering where you'd gone! Maybe join us when we reconvene in the fall?

@ Firstmute: Babies do make things disjointed. Any thoughts on overall goal reassessment? Or are you cool where you're at?

Sapience said...

Well, it's been an interesting week. My laptop died (well, the screen did). My new computer arrived Wednesday. All the files made the transfer safely, so now I'm back to work.

The article is still waiting on comments from one of my readers, but is otherwise ready to go to the journal.

My presentation was outlined (I think I mentioned last week that I was using Prezi to help me think through organzation), and now I've started writing the intro and realizing that my previous organization isn't the most organic, so now I'm writing through the ideas, and I'll worry about the structure later. I have about 8 pages of raw material.

Which leads me to the discussion question: what advice do I have for myself at the beginning of the summer? Well, I already knew this about myself, but I tend to set goals that are well short of what I can actually achieve. I don't work particularly well under deadline pressure, and I'd rather have a goal that's super easy to achieve and then see how far I can push myself past it, than not make the goal at all. This way, I'm relieved of any guilt--which tends to be counter productive for me, and tends to shut down my desire to get things done.

So, goals for next week: continue waiting for feedback on article, and revise if I get that feedback. Keep working on the presentation/ introduction, and see if I can get a few more pages written... and maybe figure out how I want to organize this thing.

Scholasticamama said...

I'm not sure if my comment from last week made it - since I'm on the "to report" section!

Advice for my May self - summer is not an endless supply of time and energy that you will be filling with lazy writing mornings and afternoons of granitas and backyard play. That ended when your daughter was 1. Now your daughter is 5 and you are already overbooked. Start telling people NO right now. Enter the word into your vocabulary, practice it, and say it with conviction. It is the only thing that will help you.

My accomplishments for last week: I wrote one paragraph and read one article on my topic.

My goals for next week: nothing. I will be at an Aspen Institute Faculty Seminar and will be working on the reading I should have done in the last two months.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

I hate writing review articles. But I get asked to write them all the fucken time. And they always ask me like a year before they're due. And a year is so far away, it may as well be never! Fucke me.

Erika said...

These are excellent questions about goal setting, and resetting (for me!), Notorious. I set a straight-forward goal at the beginning of the summer, and I'm going to meet it. I will indeed have a review-ready MSS by the end of our 12 weeks. BUT, I really didn't anticipate how much time all of my other projects for this summer have required. I've sent off a book review, done two workshops that required a TON of reading and 100% of my time for two weeks, sent out three abstracts, I still have one more, and now a conference paper to produce by September 22nd. My secret and unstated goal of completing the MSS of two articles was a fool's dream it seems.
This week, I met and exceeded my goals! My article draft sits at 8,000 words now, and 4,400 of them are edited and polished enough for outside eyes. I'm thrilled to be a little over half done, and rather surprised!
I sat down this week, and wrote using a bootcamp approach. I did a one hour writing/ editing stint first thing, then I took a 30 minute break away from the computer, and then did a second 90 minute writing session. It has been incredibly productive, so thank you all for showing me that writing first thing in the morning with no internet access really works!
My goal for next week: edit 1 page/ day, write 500 words on conf. paper or freewrite 500 words on second article.

Tigs said...

Well, I knew that a whole draft was excessively ambitious, but I also know that I need to feel like my goals are looming in order to stay on top of them.

If I were to go back, I would tell myself to continue to write, even when I'm on a day where I actually need to edit. There's always something that can be written, and I feel so much better and like I have some direction when I've produced writing.
In fact, I think I'll try and take that advice from now-forward...

My goal for this week was to get through an edit of ch. 2. I am not there. I am not sure why I am not there. I know I spent a good deal of time on Project E, but I felt like I could just not do any more on Chapter 2 at the moment.


My goals for next week:
7/16 - Finish editing 2:3
7/17 - Hand edits on 2:4-5
7/18 - Enter hand edits on 2:4-5, Hand edit & enter 2:6. Bust out last draft of 3.
7/19 - Finish draft of 2:7.
7/20-24 - only vacation days of summer.

Kit said...

I wasn't able to comment over at ADM:s last week, but I'm still here.

Pre-week one I would have started with way more structure, which includes planned time off. I'm never the most diligent worker, and it being summer doesn't help. Things like, read until lunch and write in the afternoon (I was wrong about morning writing being better for me, at least in this case), and leave as soon as you've written the set amount unless inspiration strikes - no point in sitting around the office for the sake of being at work.

Even though I'm not likely to reach my goal by the end of the 12 weeks I've certainly learned a lot about structuring a writing project in general and myself in particular. So, I'll be slogging along and reach something, albeit not the original goal.

Susan said...

While I was on vacation this week, I started my vacation with a conference (or started out for my vacation with a conference -- a conference is NOT vacation). And from that I have some ideas, which is good. Back to work on Monday, but I'm not sure if I'll continue on the chapter I was working on, or go spend a few days on the introduction, about which I had a few ideas.

I don't think I would have set different goals; I would tell anyone that projects tend to do what they need to do, and not always on your schedule. This I really know.

thefrogprincess said...

Alas, although I would love to have finished my goal early, Notorious, I didn't. What I finished last week was my midway goal, to produce the draft of the dissertation that I then attempt to revise as a whole work.

As for this week, I've done nothing of consequence, as planned.

Tomorrow, I'll read the dissertation in full, and start figuring out what I know needs doing. Advisor and other professor feedback won't come for another month or so.

My original goal was to complete dissertation revisions, so that I could go into the school year with an almost complete dissertation. I suspect now that I'll be doing the later defense date that my advisor suggested, so there's less of an urgency about things. However, I still expect that teaching two new courses--indeed, teaching my own courses for the first time--along with job market stuff will take up an extraordinary amount of time.

So I'm resetting the goal a little bit. There is one chapter that needs serious revising, and then there are bits and pieces that need doing in the other chapters. The introduction needs serious attention as well. So the goal for the rest of the summer is to rewrite Chapter 3; get another draft of the introduction under my belt; and start making progress on the bits and pieces (which I'll identify in tomorrow's readthrough).

What I think really needs to happen is a lot of secondary reading. I think my work in the sources is largely complete, and what the whole thing needs is a broader context.

For next week: draw up a list of what I think needs doing; start dealing with chapter 3, and go through the papers of a subject held at the university library for relevant information.

Anonymous said...

I think if I was talking to my late-May self I would say to give myself a break about needing down time after completing the dissertation.

Having said that, I am going to go full speed ahead in the last weeks, especially since I all of a sudden realized I have five writing projects that all have to get completed by the end of the year. I need to not only finish this article, I have got to move on.

I started off really well this week.

I downloaded Scrivener after hearing all the praise and absolutely love it so far. I had documents everywhere and one very long chapter that was hard to look at all together. I now have my writing all split up into different sections in the order it will appear in the article.

Big obstacle I encountered this week? Once I added all my writing together, I was about 4,000 words above what I need. I also still have things I found during the research this summer that I need to add. I feel like tightening this dissertation chapter will be a very good, but very difficult writing exercise for me.

Goal for next week: Really figure out my argument and begin cutting. I'll set a goal for cutting 1,000 words by the end of the week.

NWGirl said...

Great question, Notorious. Like Erica, I will meet my goal for this writing group. I do have a draft of section 2 completed. But also like Erica, I really underestimated how much time other projects would take this summer and that has slowed my progress on the main project.

I also underestimated the effect a full-time house hubby and a new rescue dog would have on my time. I've found myself easily distracted. Usually my teaching commitments are completed by mid-May with commencement, but some late thesis defenses and meetings with other students as well as a conference in May delayed the start of summer. So I started my summer in June rather than mid-May. It took me a couple of weeks to re-group and shift into summer research/writing mode. I spent a lot of time those first couple of weeks in June just trying to catch up on sleep lost during the spring semester.

So if I were to rewind back to May, I think I would focus more on allowing myself some downtime those first couple of weeks in June and setting a more realistic start date rather than berating myself for not getting more done immediately. And I would also follow scholasticmama's advice to say no. I've always had trouble with saying no, but I really need to work on that.

My concrete goal for next week: draft section 3 and conclusion. Making that goal will mean I have a full draft of the article. Then I plan to set that aside for a few days while I work on the conference paper that is due in August.

PS - I'm loving Scrivener. So glad I decided to try it out. Thank you to all who recommended it.

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Gillian told me at Leeds that she may not be fully connected, and is traveling this week, but will update next week.

I got the paper done, and am actually taking a few days off to think about Leeds and recover, and enjoy my last few days in the UK. But I do plan on getting that paper submitted to MFF by next Friday. Also, it appears that the Leeds volume I agreed to a while back is on track again, so I owe a paper there. I need to re-think where it goes, though.

If I had to go back to May, I'd really sit down and ask what was possible, given my general exhaustion and workload. I don't actually know what is too much, but I think I hit my limit this time.

Digger said...

Progress report: Nada. Visit home, moving chaos, and some unscheduled omg tired zonking out = nothing.

For next week: moving away from the Mash chapter (though I'll probably keep messing with it here and there), I really need to get going on the second chapter. It's the *really* daunting one for me. I'll read over my notes, highlight themes, and have a basic outline ready.

What I'd do dif, if I knew then what I know now: get a grip that, as much as I'd like to, right now I CANNOT write every day, and with a pending move for grad school, job quitting, and other assorted RL stuff, that has to be ok. Set smaller goals each week; if they get exceeded, that's gravy. But not meeting set goals really feels like crap.

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

Despite one day of "productive procrastination" where I worked obsessively on projects not on the current list, and a somewhat disorganized approach to working on my outlines, I made very good progress. Six mini-essays are outlined (I'm going to write more about this on my own blog); only the introduction and conclusion to the whole thing remain to be outlined/ written. There are a few spots where I left holes to be filled: "someone has written about this; check document with notes on critical sources" and so on. But I think I have a good map of what this article needs to do, and I am pleased.

For next week, I am going to keep expanding/ start writing. These processes are more or less the same, except in how I think about them: if "writing" is too threatening an idea, then just figure out where some quotes fit into the outline. I hope to have a complete rough draft by the end of next week.

What would I have told myself in May? You'll need time away from the main article to work on your conference paper; remember to plan some leeway for unexpected events & tasks; finishing two articles this summer is not realistic (I realized that one pretty quickly).

Travelia said...

Posting a little late as I am still on vacation.

Hmm.. . what would I tell myself in May. I think I'd have to reassure myself that my uncertainty about goals for the summer was ok. In May I was still in a holding pattern on a big project for various reasons, so I decided to finish two small projects by the end of June, one of which will eventually contribute to the big project and the other is something brand new. That was great: I'd remind myself that I need to work on something new--even if it seems like a diversion at the time--in order to be intellectually refreshed.

Now that the big project is back to first priority, I need to create a new set of goals for the second half of the semester. Is anyone else starting over at the midway point?

My goals for next week: allow myself a day or so to recover from jet lag and take care of accumulated administrivia from my absence. Then I need to take stock of my book ms and create a master to-do list of necessary and desired revisions. I don't expect to do much more next week than re-read my entire draft and make detailed notes on the strengths and weaknesses of each chapter.

Dr. Koshary said...

Everything went up the spout this week. Painful, heartbreaking OBE. My only goal for this coming week is to endure.

I'll be moving to a new city mid-week, so I don't expect to get a blessed word written until after next week.

Jeff said...

Sorry I'm late yet again. I've been getting pretty burned out on my dissertation project—very glad to be approaching the finish line on this. It's hard to keep caring enough about the project to keep trying to get it right. But the last couple of days have picked up more: I rewrote a big chunk of Chapter 2, and have got myself interested again in the main remaining bugs. I didn't quite meet my goal of a version I can send to my committee; that's my new goal for next week. Same back-up goal of getting all my ducks in a row for the university guidelines.

As far as the long-term goal goes: the dissertation still needs to be defended at the end of the summer, and that's still sounding approximately as daunting as it did at the beginning, so I think steady on is the plan.

Eileen said...

I'm late, but I'm here.

Not much progress for me this week. I took several days to reread and rework some sections and figure out where I'm headed and whether my originally planned sections would still fit in the direction the piece has gone. I feel like I lost a bit of my writing momentum: I sat down every day with the intention to move from editing back to writing, but only managed to a couple of days. My goal for this week is to push forward to finish my current section, map out the final section, and stop editing for the moment.

I wish my goals at the beginning of the summer had been more specific. "Write chapter" was vague enough for me to dither reading for a couple of weeks, and I didn't have a good concept of how to start or how to shoot for a conclusion, which is starting to trip me up now.

firstmute said...


I'm pretty happy with where I'm at, goal-wise. If I were to speak to my former self, I would tell her to finish the article first so that my/ her progress on the chapter wouldn't be interrupted, but I think I'll be able to get back on track. Although ten days of in-laws will take a little while to recover from, pardon the twisted sentence structure.

Cly said...

Apologies for being late again, and yes, I am going to blame it on my computer. I had another rather dramatic computer crash (involving *actual smoke*) during Leeds. It was half-fixed this morning.

Needless to say, I am a bit behind. Obviously I managed to finish my Leeds paper (yay!). Also, most of my revisions on article one. My goals this week (assuming my computer behaves) are to finish my revisions and, yes, do something with the same chapter I've been on about since the beginning.

Apologies again for being so unreliable.

Godiva said...

Although it's closer to next week than this week, I thought I'd check in. But only to say I haven't done anything. I don't know where this week went! I had a course, and then went away and now it's Tuesday again. Terrible. So my goal for this week is to write 500 words a day (for the remainder of the week anyway) and do a basic outline of the whole chapter by Friday.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Feedback, pt. 1:

Sapience, I think that's an excellent idea, writing your way in, if your original structure doesn't work. Sometimes I work with an outline to keep me on track, but it's smart knowing that sometimes you have to just abandon it.

Erika, don't feel bad. Two articles in twelve weeks (unless they're both already almost done!) would have been too much for anyone, I'd think.

Tigs, if you get bogged down on one part of the project, then having a backup plan for the week will at least keep you from getting discouraged. You can always proofread your footnotes, or check bibliography, or start compiling bibliography for the next section.

Frogprincess: a little break between writing something and trying to revise it is a good thing.

NW Girl: I always plan for the first two weeks of summer break to be spent doing nothing at all. Unless there's a research trip intervening, in which case the two weeks of sloth comes back about… oh, let's say right now. Which explains the lack of blogging. Hm. Perhaps there's a post in there, no?

Digger: Learning what you can and can't do at any given time or era of your life is pretty important knowledge to have. There was no way that "write every day" was going to work for me when I was in the archives, for example. But now that I'm back, I readjust my expectations of myself. But yes: set the goals you can achieve, let them push you a litle, but don't expect setting a goal like "I'm going to write 10 pages a day and read one new monograph every night!" is going to turn any of us into a super-researcher if we weren't one already.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Feedback, pt. 2:

Dame Eleanor: "Procrastivity"!

Dr. Koshary: keep putting one foot in front of the other. Take the week you need. We'll see you on the flip side.

Jeff: A little secret about dissertations? Getting completely, utterly sick of them and never wanting to see them again, ever, is usually what gets you through the final push. You're not alone here. If a new idea is like a baby, all perfect and new, then a dissertation, towards the end, is like raising a recalcitrant teenager: you do it because you've made a commitment, and it's yours and you want it to turn out mostly okay (you've given up on perfect), even if most days, you don't really like it very much.

Hey firstmute! Long time, no see! So… what about the "what have you done/what will you do"? part of it?

Cly: no need to apologize. Just move forward. Reset your goal if need be. But this week, move forward. (The smoke, however, is very exciting.)

Scatterwriter said...

Checking in for the first time in two-and-a-half weeks: let's just say I have been amazingly unproductive for quite a while now, at least as far as my article manuscript is concerned. (I did do some work on a fall syllabus in conjunction with the colleague I am co-teaching with.) When I last wrote -- July 1 -- I felt ready to start the last passes through my manuscript, checking to make sure that my argument was clear and that I'd addressed my readers' comments. But apparently I really did not want to do that. I undoubtedly have some problems with closure -- I am afraid of this article being rejected after putting years of work into it. As long as I'm toiling over the revision, it's not being rejected (yet). However, this is clearly crazy (as long as I toil over the revision, it's also not getting published) and I am ready to go back. I think.

So -- I have started by looking again at my readers' reports, and while I think I have hit all their major points, there is one minor one that I failed to address. But having looked at it, I know exactly what I need to do. So I writing up this point today and probably tomorrow. And then really to the last passes through the manuscript.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Oops. Sorry Firstmute. I forgot that you'd already stated your goals upthread. Disregard my exhortation to get them in.

Jeff said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Notorious. It rings very true.

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