Friday, July 29, 2011

Writing Group Week 9: How Not To Panic

Welcome to week 9!

With any luck, this post will be going up Friday morning -- I'm trying Blogger's pre-scheduling thingy, because I'm taking off in a couple of hours to spend 48 hours visiting friends out of town. A few days after that, an out of town friend is coming to visit me for a few days. Then a week after that, I'm going to visit family for a week. And then there's 5 days left to my summer.

Kind of ironic that my least productive summer since the Great Depression of 2002 (and no, I'm not depressed this time) should be the one where I start up a group dedicated to productivity, no? But those of you who don't know me will just have to trust me when I say that slowing down for a summer is an act of effort for me.

And for those of you who do know me, you probably know that this low productivity is inducing regular spasms of panic. So it occurred to me that, with the end of the twelve weeks approaching, the semester looming, and all that, perhaps some of that panic was starting to set in among the ranks here. So that's the theme of this week: Do. Not. Panic. ALL IS LOST IF YOU PANIC!!! AAAHHHH!!

::ahem:: Excuse me.

Okay, so here's what I want you to do this week, right now, before you clock in your progress for next week and your specific goals for next week:

1. Deep breath. Think about what you got done this week.

2. Deep breath. Tell yourself that this last week is over and done with. If it wasn't as good as you wanted, let it go.

3. Three weeks left. Another deep, slow breath here. Get rid of panicky thoughts of the upcoming semester. Take as many breaths as necessary until you're there. This may take a few minutes. Now: What can you reasonably get done in the final three weeks? That is your new goal. Set an intention to get there.

4. One last deep breath. Tell yourself, with complete confidence: I can do this.

  • ABDMama [Draft of an article MS]: Revise the second half of the article and have it set for peer review
  • ADM [conference paper for Leeds; revision of paper after]: Get draft sent to journal; make plan for August
  • Cly [revise article for publication & draft chapter for book]: article [NPhD: you mean, finish the revisions, I assume?]
  • Dame Eleanor [Revising a conference paper into article MS]: mini-essay draft just to get words on paper
  • Digger [drafts of two book chapters]: Work a couple of hours a day; write at least two good pages of the chapter I've been avoiding.
  • Dr. Koshary [work on book MS]: Excused absence: moving this week
  • Erika [Review-ready draft of an article MS]: edit 2 pages / day of article draft
  • Frog Princess [rewrite Chapter 3; get another draft of the introduction]: look at documents in special collections and do some additional secondary reading; start poking at structure of ch. 3.
  • Gillian [an article that needs writing]: planned incommunicado for another week while traveling
  • Godiva [First draft of diss. chap.]: write 500 words/day on my documentary sources, and do some additional research
  • Jeff [Review-ready draft of completed dissertation]: fix trainwreck section of last chapter; continue to wait for feedback
  • Matilda [Draft of a publishable paper]: working through Week 9 section of WYJA; re-writing again the argument and introduction of task 1, submitting task 2, making a start on task 3
  • NWGirl [Revising a conference paper into an article MS]: Finish introduction for upcoming conference presentation, plus revisions 2 hrs/day.
  • Sapience [Prepare presentation of full dissertation for department]: Write at least a paragraph about each text I plan to cover, explaining what use I think it will be to my overall argument
  • Scholastic Mama [Revising a conference paper into an article MS]: excused absence for faculty seminar, but will use the time to do some reading
  • Susan [Revise & polish two chapters of a book MS]: do research to figure out if Great Idea will work
  • Travelia [prepare book MS for review]: work seriously on revising the introduction to the MS
  • Zabeel [Complete draft of an article]: one-week holiday planned
  • Zcat abroad [write an article]: work on structuring an argument, and building up the word-count

Awaiting report:
  • Audie [working on transitioning a dissertation chapter to an article]**
  • Eileen [First draft of a dissertation chapter]*
  • Firstmute [chapter draft; send out article]*
  • J. Otto Pohl [Complete draft of 2/3-finished book MS]**
  • Jen [Revising conference paper into article MS]**
  • Kit: [Write the first draft of a dissertation chapter]*
  • Mel [Finish dissertation!]**
  • Scatterwriter [Complete expansion/revision of an article MS]*
  • Tigs [Completed diss draft]*


Dame Eleanor Hull said...

Mini-essay draft. Ha! For all my agony about getting started, once I did, I can't stop. The document is at 3460 words, and I'm not yet done with the first "mini" essay. It's true there are some large quotations that could be cut down, and maybe I'm going into too much detail, but I'm feeling a bit like the Sorcerer's Apprentice.

My new goal is to write at least 500 words a day, every day, until mid-August. Then I'll see what I have, and re-group from there. Maybe I'll just do a lot of cutting. Maybe I'll write a two-part essay. Maybe, heaven help me, maybe this is turning into a monograph.

At the moment, I kind of enjoy the mystery of what this will turn out to be, and the daily writing feels like a game: how far can I get, what will happen, how long will it take to get a clue about the ultimate shape of this project? I doubt the euphoria will last, but it's nice to have it for awhile.

firstmute said...

What a timely post, since I've been panicking ALL WEEK about how little I've gotten done in the past three. We had family visiting this past weekend and the baby (yes, the baby again) has been going through something intense that involves her waking three times a night, which leave a very tired and foggy mama. (When you're the one lactating, there's no sending Daddy in for comfort. At least with this child.)

Anyway, OK: that's in the past.

What I have gotten done: I sent in the article, yay! And I did manage some good work on the chapter, writing and refining the argument a la WYJA, reverse outlining the draft that I have, and making my way through about 1/3rd of it to make sure that the argument is coming through, which in most paragraphs it wasn't.

This is the way I see the next three weeks breaking down:

Week Ten:
Revise sections for section arguments
Revise sections for chapter argument

Week Eleven:
Integrate secondary materials

Week Twelve:
Revise conclusion
Revise introduction for argument
Revise prose

So for this upcoming week, my goal is to revise to the point that every paragraph has a clear connection to the whole argument and its section's subargument.

Jeff said...

Plans changed this week. I took care of the administrative stuff that needed to be done (almost—still need to fill out one more form and mail it all in). As part of that process, I've finally connected my whole dissertation together in a giant document with a table of contents and stuff, and it's pretty satisfying to look at.

But it is far from done. My advisor's comments came back (yay!) and they made it clear to me just how far (hmm). I lost a day to overwhelmedness, but now I'm starting another round of extensive revisions to my last chapter, and I think I'm getting a much clearer vision of how it should work. (Something that helped a lot to get going again was to put the document away and try writing a fresh outline from scratch.)

My wife is at a conference this week, and the finish line is just about in sight, so I'm planning to let myself basically just work all the time this week. Goal: a fresh draft of this chapter, ready for the rest of my committee's eyes.

Three more weeks! Here we go.

Erika said...

Holy cowsa folks! My article is done!! I have lots of good copy-editing to get accomplished this afternoon and Saturday, but then it's off my desk into capable critical hands. I am hoping, depending on their ability to comment on my piece in a timely fashion, that I'll be able to incorporate their suggested changes in the next three weeks.

Goals for next week: enjoy my vacation while free-writing 500 words a day on other writing projects that are due in September.

Second goal: to not panic about how my last week before the semester begins has just filled itself up with advising meetings.

Dr. Koshary said...

It's bloody aggravating that my work seems to have been cryogenically frozen. I didn't even have a comfortable place to sit down in my house until Tuesday. I built my new desk on Wednesday, and I just got wired for internet yesterday, so now I have a skeletal workspace in my home. Still need a printer, but since I have to go out of town to get all my books out of storage early next week, and won't even get back to Ghosttown until this coming Friday, I guess the printer can wait.

My goal for next Friday, then, is to get all of this moving horseshit over with, so I can at least think straight for ten minutes in a row about my book. The damn thing will be irrelevant soon, if I don't get back in the saddle.

Sapience said...

Well, my plans for this week were pretty terribly derailed, though I was pretty productive once I switched goals. I only got paragraphs for two texts written before I met with my advisor about job market materials, at which he gave me a whole list of things he wanted me to do:

1. Revise my job letter. (Done, though more drafts to come)
2. Draft the intro to my dissertation by August 15th (in progress). I was panicking about this yesterday but had a bunch of friends on facebook talk me out of panicking and into progressing.
3. Figure out a paper to submit to a conference that's based on my dissertation (done--abstract still to be written next week)
4. Figure out another chunk of the dissertation I can submit for publication (in progress).

At some point I'll go back to working on Chapter 4, but I think it will take a far-back-burner until the semester starts up again, though I might do some reading between now and then for it.

So, goal for this next week: finish the first draft of the introduction, send to friend for some comments, then start revising.

zcat_abroad said...

Well, the writing of 500 words a day is going nicely, and I have lots of 'ooh, this is interesting...', but still no sign of an argument. How does one form an argument on a text? There are plenty of fascinating features, but one can't really write an article entitled "What I Found in X", can one?

How do you folk come up with arguments?

My goal for the next couple of weeks is to devise and structure an argument to make use of all these words, so that the polishing can be done between essay-marking. Unfortunately, the first essay is due the Monday after next.

(And the verification word? Muzzed. Describes how I feel on a cold, wet Saturday morning!)

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Also timely for me! I got nothing done last week, in part due to a 25+ degree (F) jump in the weather around me. Between that, the fact that I've been running hard to catch up without a break since last September, and had not had a day to myself between the first of June and when I got back from the UK -- and had only had about three nights in that time with more than 6 hours sleep -- I spent the week berating myself for not working on anything, and barely even getting any housework done. And then realized I was just plain exhausted. Am now taking a few days to recuperate, tidy, and then, I hope, will have submitted that article by next week.

Between now and the beginning of classes, though, I think my re-think is to make sure I am in physical and mental condition to get back to work. Still going to try to get the article that's due in December drafted by the end of August, but I think I need to step back a little.

Eileen said...

I hope we don't get a grade reduction after three missed sessions, because i'm headed that way.

I missed last week due to necessary but unscheduled research travel, and I'm doing little writing this week due to necessary but unscheduled family travel. So I'm panicking some, but I feel pretty good about the amount of writing I've gotten done so far. My goals for the next few weeks are to find a conclusion (I'm trying to find a not-arbitrary cut off point) and put it through a revision or two so I can give it to my advisor by Sept 1.

Melissa said...

Your post couldn't have come at a better time. I was starting to panic but I feel a little better now.

I completed the forst draft on chapter 4 and 6. Just one chapter to go. My goal for the week? address advisors revisions for chapter 4 and 6 and start crankin' out chapter 7. Hopefully in 3 weeks I can finish this crazy dissertation.

Scholasticamama said...

Wow! Great writing everyone, especially Erika!

I was at the Aspen Institute Wye Faculty Seminar last week. I _highly_ recommend it - it may be the most important intellectual thing I've done since starting graduate school. Email if you want more info - I'm happy to share!

Second thing, my life has been OBE since I've gotten home and I know we are three weeks from the end, but I think I need to pull out of the race. While I was at said most-important seminar week ever, my little person was staying with family. It turns out that my nephew has been sexually assaulted and felt the best person to tell this to was my five-year old speech-delayed daughter. She told me and now my life is in a total uproar. I just don't know how I can work on my article, my third-year review paperwork, and begin teaching classes, all while getting my daughter to counseling, helping my nephew out, mollifying my partner, and not taking every prescription anxiety med in my house.

I am going to plug away on the article when I can, but I really need to release as much as possible right now. If you all don't mind, I will "lurk" to see how everyone is doing, and I would love to be part of another session. This has been really helpful and I got a lot done on the article prior to two weeks ago. Thank you to ADM and Notorious for hosting this great group!

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Dame Eleanor: Excellent! Isn't it nice to surprise ourselves with how much we can get accomplished?

Firstmute & Ericka: Congratulations on finishing the articles!

Jeff: Being overwhelmed is part of it, but it sounds like you're moving forward. Excellent.

Zcat: as far as "how do you come up with arguments", the answer for me is: trial and (lots of) error. Try keeping a separate file -- maybe call it "so what?" -- of potential arguments, a sort of brainstorm file. Eventually, one will jump out as compelling, relevant, and something that actually fits what you're finding.

Kosary, Sapience, ADM, and Eileen: OBE happens, as we know. If you are planning your recovery period, with a date-certain to get back on the horse (and stick to that!), then you're actually still on track. At least, that's what I tell myself in these situations.

Mel: sounds like good progress!

ScholasticMama: Holy crap. That's awful. And, of course, that is your priority. By all means, keep lurking (or even commenting!), and consider rejoining us when we reconvene in the fall, if things have settled down by then? In the meantime, my best wishes to all concerned.

Cly said...

Hmm, This is also timely for me. I've been extremely depressed about my (lack of) productivity this summer. However, as I mentioned last week, I'm now concentrating on salvaging things. Sigh.

This week I finally did finish revisions to my article. This week I'm going to give it one more copyedit and send it away. I'm also trying to resolve housing for the autumn and moving to (yet another) research city. I think copyediting (probably on the train) is as much as I can accomplish. Next week I want to have said evil article submitted.

Matilda said...

I have spent whole this week for my task 2, after working quickly on week 9 section of WYJA. The draft is due to be sent by the end of this month, but still not finished yet. My task 1 left untouched since last Sunday, only I have collected a few related articles and books. Task 3 also has stood still. What I have to do now is: concentrating on task 2 and definitely finishing it. I do want it done as fast as possible and coping with other tasks as soon as possible.

So my goals for next week are: submitting task 2; writing a plan of task 3, and writing first section of it – the part which is the closest to my own field, and the easiest to tackle first, not necessarily easiest to write-

The fear that all my projects won’t finish by each deadline is looming ahead. …I look forward to reading other people’s encouraging success writing stories.

Susan said...

I was at the theater last night, so missed checking in. But I feel pretty good about where aim right now, which is lucky: I have one more focused research day and then I go home. (I might manage an extra half day, but that's really it.). Wednesday and Thursday are travel/unpack/sort mail days, and Friday I have administrative studd to attend to. So a deep breath is definitely in order. On the other hand, while I want to keep moving on this project, I knowvit will take it's own time. I think I have a manageable schedule on it, and I'm going to try to stick to that. But self-flagellation os not my style.

I've continued to make good progress on chapter 2, and there are few remaining highlighted sections which say "???" or "expand".

For this week - or day- I want to fill in a few more gaps,
and maybe read through,to check on the argument. When
I get home I will have to balance my research with admin
stuff, a visit from an old friend, and getting ready for
classes, which start in four weeks. But I think that between now and the start of the semester I can go back to the places where I need to check notes that I have at home, and fill in those blanks. And I have a couple of short pieces that I need to move forward on.

Oh, and Scholasticmama, what Notorious said. OBE indeed! Good luck.

Scatterwriter said...

Here are the goals I had last week, and I knew I wouldn't get them all done:

1. Add in the last citation -- two weeks ago, I think, I had realized that I had never put in one of the minor revisions -- a discussion of a particular painting -- suggested by one of my readers. As of last week, I had written something up and was looking to properly cite the literature, and I was waiting on an interlibrary loan book. The book finally came and it was duly cited -- but in the meantime, while reviewing what has been written about this painting, I stumbled across an argument that actually supports my argument in this article. This was a surprise -- what I had written was sort of a hedging-my-bets kind of paragraph, along the lines of "although this has been my argument I do have to acknowledge that this phenomenon could be otherwise explained in this other way." And now, instead, I have another example to support my argument, and now pretty much all the loose ends have been properly accounted for. The funny thing is that my reviewer was pretty clearly trying to suggest that this example totally undermined my argument and it would be best if I abandoned my preposterous ideas on the subject.

2. Finish making the last changes -- these were the longhand changes I made in the margins of the last printout of the manuscript. This is done.

3. Cut as much as I can -- instead, the article has been growing more, and it has now broken 20,000 words. So this remains a goal for this week.

4. Find high-resolution images of the new paintings I'm referencing and add them to my illustrations file, and get it printed. I still need to do this too.

5. Start drafting the letter to the editor. I need to do this as well, but I have compared what I have now to what I first submitted and at least I have some sense of how much the manuscript has changed.

So my goal is to get as much done on this as I can this week, and I hope to submit this article by August 12. I'm getting already to the point of panicking about the amount of preparation I have to do for teaching, and I want to turn to that very soon.

thefrogprincess said...

So it seems I think that Sundays are Fridays b/c that's when I seem to check in.

I'm still a little out of sorts. Still no comments from the advisor, other than hir suggesting that I write a background chapter. That's not happening, I hate background chapters, I'll just stick it in the introduction.

I'm also just exhausted and overwhelmed. There's so much to do before the end of August that it's easy to do nothing.

That said, I hit a work groove over the weekend (which is typical...I tend to get into grooves on weekends and late at night) and managed to rewrite two problematic sections of Chapter 3.

So, goal for this week: continue rewriting and restructuring the remaining three sections of Chapter 3; return to the introduction and work on a few things there (to be determined). I know that's vague, but I find that if I sit down to work, something will get done. The challenge is sitting down to work, given my levels of exhaustion and overwhelment. Which isn't a word.

Travelia said...

This was the first week in which I did panic. Also the first week in which I didn't at all get anywhere close to my (admittedly) vague goal.

I decided on Monday that it would be more productive to work on the one chapter that needs substantial work (as in more writing rather than just revisions) rather than the introduction. I actually did a lot of work toward this during the work, but am panicking because I'm still not seeing how to relate the different sections of the chapter.

I have a short week this week because I head to my family's cabin at the lake for a last-minute getaway on Friday. I'm contemplating whether to continue work on the chapter, or let it stew while I do some more manageable revisions on the other chapters. It would be nice to cross something off the list entirely before I'm away.

No internet at the cabin and poor cell phone service, so I likely won't check in next week.

Good luck for everyone as we get to the home stretch!

QueSera said...

Removing my RSS feed from my computer has made me infinitely more productive during the day. Though doing so means that I totally missed posting on Friday. Sorry! I have my RSS feed on my ipad now and didn't really spend much time in front of a screen over the weekend.

Good news is that I was able to get my article draft completed and ready for peer review with the exception of the footnotes. The word count is actually right where it needs to be too.

This week I'm sending it off for peer review and starting my second article. I need to send an abstract to the editor of the second journal and begin cutting a dissertation chapter down to 7,000 words. We'll see how far I get!

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