Friday, August 12, 2011

Writing Group Week 11: The Home Stretch

Hello, All!

So, here we are at week 11. Time for that last, final push on your projects. Seriously, we've come a long way, yes? This week, let's pause and think about that. How have you surprised yourself? What have you learned?

That's it for the so-called topic today. I'm actually off for a day of crazy errands and appointments, but I bring you the weekly goals list, compiled by ADM from the posts at her place last week. Time to check in!


  • ABDMama [Draft of an article MS]: Cover letters, tightening up Article 2 a little
  • ADM [conference paper for Leeds; revision of paper after]: Get article submitted
  • Cly [revise article for publication & draft chapter for book]: substantial progress on workable draft of chapter
  • Dame Eleanor [Revising a conference paper into article MS turn paper into a book!]: Write 500 words a day – still,
  • Dr. Koshary [work on book MS]: finish the prospectus and send that out to a publisher immediately
  • Eileen [First draft of a dissertation chapter]: find a conclusion
  • Erika [Review-ready draft of an article MS]: work 30-60 minutes per day on my abstract, 60 minutes on making changes to my article, spend 30-60 minutes learning how to be an academic advisor, and 30-60 minutes on preparing lectures for the first three meetings of my lecture course
  • Firstmute [chapter draft; send out article]: integrating secondary material
  • Frog Princess [rewrite Chapter 3; get another draft of the introduction]: finish this second draft of chapter 3; and begin working on the introductio
  • Gillian [an article that needs writing] proofread a book, three book reviews
  • Godiva [First draft of diss. chap.]: Full paragraph-by-paragraph outline of chapter to flesh out, and 3000 *new* words
  • J Otto Pohl: finish book
  • Jeff [Review-ready draft of completed dissertation]: finish polishing and revisions this week and next week
  • Matilda [Draft of a publishable paper]: submitting task 2; writing a plan of task 3, and writing first section of it
  • Mel [Finish dissertation!]: Revisions for ch. 4 & 6
  • NWGirl [Revising a conference paper into an article MS]: Re-read draft and devise a plan to finish remaining revisions. Spend an hour each morning (Mon-Thurs) on those revisions.
  • Sapience [Prepare presentation of full dissertation for department - changed to Introduction needs to be finished]: more on intro, finish job market materials
  • Scatterwriter [Complete expansion/revision of an article MS]: update my image file, write my cover letter, and print out one last version of the manuscript.
  • Susan [Revise & polish two chapters of a book MS]: Fill in a few more gaps in ch. 2, and read through and check argument
  • Travelia [prepare book MS for review]: Excused absence for family trip
  • Zabeel [Complete draft of an article] draft of the third section
  • Zcat abroad (Kiwi Medievalist on WP) [write an article]: take thesis chapter and start article conversion

Awaiting report:
  • Digger [drafts of two book chapters]*
  • Kit: [Write the first draft of a dissertation chapter]**
  • Tigs [Completed diss draft]**


Scatterwriter said...

I just submitted my manuscript electronically; preparing to drop print copies in the mail later today!

(I ended up not working too much on cutting the manuscript. I realized that I was using the idea of cutting as a way to put off submission.)

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

Since I (prefer to) work with a 7-day week when it comes to writing, I can report that I attained at least 500 words on 4 of the last 7 days, with three days when I did not write a word. Today's stint was 752 words of free-writing about why a particular chunk is causing me difficulties. There are bits I could fill in, about historical detail, but I think I should leave them, along with the rest of the mess, and move on to another chunk. Some time to sit might help the problematic piece.

So the plan for next week: write 500 words a day on a different section of this beast, probably the section I think I will need to use as a conference paper next spring. (Not the paper I had hoped to write, and I'm not sure how well it will fit in its context, but it's the most expedient way to deal with this conference.)

I also need to work on a more polished "chapter outline" for a fellowship application. If this thing is going to be a book, it would be lovely to have some time off to work on it. But maybe I'll leave that for a first-week-of-classes project.

firstmute said...

My goal for this week was amorphous--integrate secondary literature, as though that's something you can ever really check off--but I made fantastic headway on my stack of books and endless tabbed articles, and filled in a lot of the "[insert criticism here]" comments on my doc, so I feel confident in saying that I met my goal. I'm a little nervous about next week in terms of pulling it all together, but this has been been a good week.

What have I learned? A few things.

1. Deadlines are great, and even an anonymous writing group is helpful.

2. It's possible to write a chapter draft in twelve weeks, even with vacation, family visits, and sleepless toddlers.

3. I've also learned to relax a little in regard to background material. All through grad school I've been a little paralyzed by the idea that I have to go to the source for absolutely everything: that I can't read summaries or introductions to theorists but have to read their entire body of work, that I can't read overviews of various critical debates but have to put it together from the original, you know. Well, having a deadline on this chapter has made me resort to some of that, and guess what? It is INCREDIBLY USEFUL AND TIMESAVING, and this chapter is the best of the lot, at least insofar as it's not just a really long close reading but actually situated in various critical strands.

4. And finally: I've learned to trust myself a little more. The article that I sent out midway through the group is one that I wrote the seed of as a seminar paper years ago and have dragged out endlessly in trying to figure out what exactly I was trying to say. I'd never really talked about it with my advisor, just pecked away little by little until I made the big push this summer and turned it into something that I was actually proud of and felt said something worthwhile.

Before sending it off to the journal, I sent it to my advisor with some apprehension, since he's never seen a finished(ish) piece of my work that hasn't had heavy input and guidance from him. Well, he praised it heavily and even suggested sending it to a journal higher up than I'd initially aimed at. Since I conceptualized, written, and revised it all by myself, or as much by myself as any writing can be, that approval was a real boost to my sense that I'm slowly becoming an actual scholar rather than a grad student. Baby steps!

J. Otto Pohl said...

I have about 10,000 words left. This last month I spent most of my time getting my daughter's passport and birth certificate from the US embassy in Bishkek. I got back to Ghana two days ago. So I was overcome by events. Classes start Monday. But, I think I might be able to finish it.

Digger said...

I've been MIA the last couple of weeks as I packed up and moved a few states over to begin life anew as a grad student. So writing took a backseat to packing/unpacking. One thing I learned from this group is that it's OK to set writing aside for some stuff, and I didn't fret about it during the move. Which is an amazing achievement for me (I am a fretter of the my-own-worst-enemy school).

I've also learned that deadlines are good, that I benefit from them; that daily writing is the way to go (and now am ready to actually do that!!!); and that sharing writing experiences with others is incredibly helpful (I have a history of hermiting when I work; I see now this has been affecting my work!).

Goals for this week: Get back writing. Pick at least one: Get back into that chapter of The Book or draft a 0 draft of a conference paper that has to be finished by early Oct.

Digger said...

Oh! Other goal: start that writing every day thing! Goal is 5 out of the next 7 days!

Sapience said...

Well, the introduction is coming along. I completed a partial draft and met with one advisor about it, and had a really productive discussion. I revised and expanded it, and sent it to the other advisor. Job market materials have been through another round of revision. I don't know if they're actually done, but they're certainly improved...

I don't know if I've surprised myself, but I certainly feel like this was a really productive summer, and this group was a big part of keeping me on track in the weeks where I didn't have a lot of contact with my advisors.

Travelia said...

I had a good (but quick) vacation. I didn't give myself a goal for this week, and also didn't get much done. I did light revisions on two chapters, but the most difficult work is still ahead of me. I'm also completely set for the start of school (next Wednesday!) so at least I was productive with my procrastination!

It's not realistic that I will finish the manuscript by the end of next week--I knew it wasn't, given that I started on it about halfway through the summer and am now shooting for Labor Day (technically the end of summer, right?).

What I learned/ surprised me? I learned that I have entrenched work patterns that work pretty well for me about 75% of the time. It does not work for me to try to change these radically. What I'd like to learn is how to tweak them a bit so that I can be more productive in the other 25%

Zabeel said...

Well, I had a very productive 3 days, followed by 2 days in which I did pretty much nothing at all. Goal not achieved, although I'm only about 3 paragraphs away from getting it done.

This article isn't due for another year, so my aim for the final week is to get it into a more polished state so that I can put it away for a while and work on other things.

What have I learnt? That short, self-imposed goals with weekly deadlines are a good thing and that without them I too easily let the days go by without any progress.

zcat_abroad said...

I was totally OBE this week, but as I am seeing my supervisor next Monday, I'm planning on working hard this weekend on de-thesisizing the chapter. Along with marking a number of essays, for a cross-check session on Monday. Why does life always happen at once?

Plans for next week are to polish the chapter/article, fix the footnotes, and generally get it ready to send off.

And Spring is just around the corner! The fog has not yet cleared this morning, but I just saw a wood-pigeon practice its dive-bombing dance. Warmth is coming!

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Scatterwriter: Hooray! Congratulations!

Dame Eleanor: Time to sit is always a good idea. As for the chapter outline, one of the things that I did (and pardon me if I'm stating the obvious here) was to make sure that every chapter's summary also had a clearly stated argument all its own.

Firstmute: Sounds like you've accomplished a lot, but more than that, you've come away from this part of the work with more confidence as a young scholar. And that alone is worth the price of admission (admittedly free, but still).

J. Otto: Sounds like you've got a hellacious work week ahead of you. Good luck, and fingers crossed!

Digger: I think that most of us are fretters. I remember way back in my grad school days, there was one of those "You know you're a grad student when…" lists going around, and one item that stood out to me was "…when guilt is an inherent feature of relaxation." That's common, but that doesn't make it right. Glad you've given yourself permission not to feel guilty now and then.

Sapience: Ah, yes: that feeling that our idyll is coming to an end. But we can keep using the habits we built here, on a smaller scale.

Travelia: Sounds like a plan – go with what works for you.

Zabeel: Sounds like a little externally imposed structure is your friend. Maybe start planning now on how you can get that as we move into the academic year?

Zcat: Spring? Ah, you must be south of the equator, then. Enjoy!

Scatterwriter said...

I was too excited about finishing before to say anything about what I learned.

One thing I knew going into this: I need to be accountable to someone in order to get anything done. I'm very productive when it comes to teaching because I feel completely accountable to my students, and they and I will both know if I'm not putting in the effort. With writing, I feel as if I'm really only accountable to myself (now that I'm tenured), so it's too easy for me to ignore my self-imposed deadlines. That's where this group was crucial for me. I often checked in late, but I knew I had to make a report regularly. Thank you all for that.

What I learned was that some of my struggles with productivity have to do with fear of rejection, and the more unproductive I am, the more I feel like an imposter who deserves rejection. It's a vicious circle.

Gillian said...

I had a truly interesting week when all sorts of things went wrong. The good news is that, despite this (and some continuing concern with the article) it's now in the editor's in-box. I have done my proof-reading as well as solving all the really strange issues that arose (I need an enemy to wish some of this week upon!) and only have the book reviews/essays and teaching prep and a couple of other things for this week. What this means is that I might actually be able to do a reflective thought next week - or not. My main thought right now is thank goodness for the reporting in. It meant I met my deadline!

Dr. Koshary said...

Despite a week filled with job-related and house-related OBE, I managed to put in some good work time on my book prospectus. Actually, since today was the first day this week without a workman hacking apart my living room floor, I did my best work of the week this morning. The prospectus isn't finished yet, but I'm really pleased to see how it's developing, and how I'm playing up how awesome and cool this book is going to be, and how the press I have in mind would be foolish -- foolish! -- to pass up such an opportunity.

For the next and final week, my goal is to finish the prospectus and send it out to the press I've earmarked. I know I can do this, if I only exercise a certain degree of self-discipline and remind myself that I want to please the Greater Blogland Writing Group. :D

QueSera said...

I was OBE mostly this week as I took no time off after the diss and decided I needed to after the article draft was complete before jumping into job applications. So same goals for me next week while I wait for my advisor and another reader to give me feedback.

I learned that I can write something other than the dissertation. I confirmed that I write better when I have a community to talk with about what I am accomplishing. I learned that I write in a way that is not linear, so Scrivener has been amazing (though I still need to figure out how to format on there or transfer back to Word cleanly). I discovered that writing can be aided by books like WYJA. I'm looking for more helpful books like that as I embark on other projects.

It's been a great writing group experience. I would have languished without these check-ins.

Cly said...

Late again! Apologies.

My goal wasn't terribly precise, but (for a change) realistic. I made fairly decent progress, and divided the chapter into two - both of which seem to be nearing completion. My goal this week is to have a finished draft of at least one.

As for what I learned, like many others here, I discovered the importance of being accountable. It was also lovely to be reminded not to panic...

Godiva said...

I have not achieved my goal this week - only 2000 instead of 3000 words, and the outline doesn't have a middle! But today is Saturday, when I wouldn't normally work, and I'm going to make myself some coffee and sit down and write until it's done. (My partner is also catching up on work today, otherwise there's no chance I would do it...)

Well I've definitely learnt that weekly goals and being accountable help a lot! The weeks when I couldn't check in or was quite vague with my goal I floundered and achieved little, even if I set myself goals in my head.

I think firstmute's points 3 and 4 are also so true - thinking about how much time I had to devote to the chapter made me so much more practical and realistic about what I could achieve. Finally made peace that it's actually impossible to read EVERYTHING. And also, that a lot of the secondary literature can wait until I have a draft based on the primary material, and then can be integrated, or the chapter rewritten a bit. I think this has helped with my writing style as well - making it more fluent and authoritative.

Goal for this week - well, I'm still hoping to have a draft of some sort by Friday. I've only got half of it done, but a final push might work - though it does require about 1000 words a day.

Thank you everyone!

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Gillian : Way to go! Feels great, no?

Dr. Koshary: Excellent – and that confidence boost is important.

ABDMama, Cly & Godiva: Glad the check-ins have been helpful. I learned the benefits of weekly accountability during my advisor's weekly meetings with all his students. Glad to see that it's helping others, too!

Jeff said...

Here I am! Writing, writing, writing. I lost a few unpleasant days to sickness this week. (But I read Watchmen for the first time—it's pretty great.) I have not, in fact, accomplished last week's goal of sending my last chapter to my committee. It turns out that the last section I was going to fix last month still needed to be fixed, and it's taking some time. Nearly there, and I'll get this chapter out the door, and go back to my stated goal of polishing everything up.

One thing I've learned is that a lot of my ambitions for what I could get done in a summer were completely unrealistic: I'm going to finish the dissertation, but I had all these grand visions of things to add in which are just not going to happen. But I've also learned that this is totally okay, and a perfectly fine dissertation doesn't need to have all that stuff I wanted to add. At one point when I was feeling discouraged, one of my professors (not on my committee) sent me a very kind email with the helpful subject line "As simply and easily as possible, FINISH your doctoral dissertation!!!!!"

I am so ready for that.

thefrogprincess said...

So this week was a wash, b/c almost right after i posted last week, I realized, oh wait, I'm teaching college courses for the first time in three weeks. Maybe I should teach myself the material. So the week's been devoted to course prep, which of course isn't anywhere close to finished.

So my goal for next week (the last week!) has to be modest. I'm also STILL waiting for the advisor's feedback. So I'm going to focus on adding inserts into three sections of the infamous chapter 3, and rewriting the introduction and conclusion.

Another Damned Medievalist said...


So there.

For next week, I need to thank a really important someone for a reference; write the editor of the volume for which I must submit a finished draft by 1 December to tell him probable word count and graphs; contact my Kalamazoo panel; write syllabi and put them into Blackboard; and work on the December paper.

Writing Goal for next week: Review the two conference papers I am combining and revising into one article, and order from ILL as needed.

What I managed to get done since mid-May:

wrote two conference papers, submitted one to a journal

Attended and performed at three conferences and one department chair's training workshop

spent nine days AP grading/traveling

read a bunch of stuff in the BL, some of which made it into the second paper.

turned in one conference proposal -- approved.

have tentative ideas for a Leeds roundtable and a Leeds paper.

It's not as much as I wanted, but it's not awful.

NWGirl said...

Well, I have a plan for revisions but I did not spend the daily time I had hoped getting those revisions done. Getting ready for the fall semester overwhelmed my week. And some personal stuff, too.

Things I've learned? I need accountability to keep me on track. My spouse is home full-time. In summers past that's not been an issue because I had the dissertation deadline. This summer was different. Knowing I had to check in at the end of the week kept me from completely blowing the summer.

I also realized that I need to work on the daily writing habit. In the last three or four weeks my productivity has really dropped off as "oh-shit-it's-August" hit hard. So I need to make sure I prioritize my writing.

I also learned that it doesn't matter where you are -- grad student, tt faculty, or tenured faculty -- we all struggle with making time for the writing. I don't feel so alone.

Finally, I learned about some great tools, especially Scrivener.

Thank you ADM and Notorious for hosting this group. And thanks to all who participated in the group. I've learned so much from each of you. I hope we can do this again. :-)

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

I wrote about what I learned here:

Susan said...

Very late for the last two weeks, which have mostly been absorbed by returning home, dealing with (a) life (b) job related duties (c) a visit from a friend I've known since nursery school.

So: my goals were minimal, and I met them. When I left London, my chapters were OK -- each probably needs a few days to get to the point where someone else COULD look at them, though not where I would actually show them. I've got a sense of the whole project.

Right now I'm dealing with all the other parts of my "work" -- reading dissertation chapters, writing syllabi, reading ms. for journals, writing a brief response for an upcoming journal forum. So I won't return to my chapters for a few weeks. But when I do, I know what needs doing. I'm keeping Fridays free as a research day this year, so this should be done by the end of September, I think.