No, I'm not talking about the kind of pacing that you do when you jump up from your chair when you ought to be writing. Nor is this the productive pacing that helps you think out an idea (yes, I actually do this. I have no idea why, but sometimes it helps).
What we're talking about here is establishing a good pace to keep you on track. Obviously, that's part of what the weekly check-ins are for: to make sure that you're making meaningful progress every week so you actually reach your goals. But there's another type of pacing we need to talk about, and that's the pace for each individual week. We need to make sure that we're not putting the week's goal off until two days before the end, then either trying to cram it all in, or realizing that we can't possibly cram it all in, and finish the week feeling too discouraged or embarrassed to check in the next week.
Why this topic? Because that's exactly where I found myself this week. I got absorbed in the day-to-day of the job, trying to keep up with the grading, and even doing non-work-related things (yes, those are important, too, and working on a project doesn't mean you should sacrifice them). Then, all of a sudden, it was Wednesday, and I realized that I had only barely touched the project all week. And there was panic, and a sense of impending doom.
Maybe you experienced something similar in your first "real" week on the project? Or maybe you had another kind of weekly pacing issue, in that you overestimated what you could take on in a given week? Or maybe, just maybe, you did it right, and established some good habits that you want to resolve to carry through for the following 11 weeks. Whatever it is, let's talk about how we are going to keep on track in a given week. If we take care of the individual weeks, the project will take care of itself.
So here's my report: I wrote that I would "develop a plan of attack," meaning that I would pull together all my materials, see what I had, develop a preliminary bibliography, order things up, and sketch out an outline. In a rush, I got everything but the last thing done. But my rush -- that is, my failure to pace myself this week -- meant that even the stuff that I did manage to finish was half-assed, and I don't feel as prepared as I want to going into this week.
Here's how I resolve to change it, with this week's goal: get that outline done, and write at least 300 words a day of notes on my secondary source material. Slow and steady wins the race.
How about you? Give us your report for the past week, and your goal for the week to come. Don't forget that the comments will close at the end of the weekend (that is, whenever I go to bed on Sunday). And if you're on our absences list, you need to make sure that you report in in order to maintain your status in the group.
[Note to everyone juggling projects: I have edited your weekly goals to reflect your declared project for this group only. No slight intended to the many things we've all got going on, but for the purposes of this group we're going to keep a tight focus.]
- Adelaide: [write a conference paper]: finish reading two chapters that may have some bearing on the paper; do another double-check for related articles/chapters/etc.
- ABDMama: [Complete an article draft]: re-read 100 pp previously written & free-write about 300 words
- Amcalm25: [finish an article]: gather notes, original conference papers, and the start I made on my article in the spring, reread and regroup
- Amstr: [revise and resubmit an article]: re-read article and editorial comments; list topics that need more research/citations; make (and limit) reading list; order items on reading list from ILL; read 2 articles, make entries on them in an annotated bib, and insert relevant stuff into draft
- Another Damned Medievalist: [write/revise a close-to-final draft of an article]: re-read both papers ; identify books for first set of ILL requests; possibly start reading the review book breaking the two papers down into chunks on Scrivener
- Antikate: [revise a conference paper into an article & submit]: reread the conference paper and all of the plays that the article will discuss and make notes
- Belledamesansmerci: [transform a conference paper into a journal article]: read one new relevant article; change “I” conference speak for more academic language
- Bitterandjaded (Bittergrrl?): [finishing a dissertation chapter]: Gather all notes that I have on the topic; Outline notes into something cohesive; Write at least 1000 words on the chapter introduction
- Britomart: [completing a draft of dissertation introduction]: Write approx 1250-1500 words for “in person” writing group by Wednesday; try to get enough out of 4 books to return them to the library
- Cly: [write a book chapter]: do index; review notes and sources
- Contingent Cassandra: [complete a full draft of a journal article]: read key secondary article; re-read primary texts, taking marginal notes in both; ½ hour per day freewriting
- Dame Eleanor Hull: [complete a chapter of the article-turned-book]: abstract for a conference version of this chapter
- Digger: [write two book chapters]: Work on 2 chapters 5/7 days this week: WW chap -- Go through notes and outline basic arguments and structure, selecting a few supporting quotes; SSW chap -- pull references and set aside
- Dr. Crazy: [Finish a chapter draft begun this summer]: reread current work (about 13 pages); write 3 solid additional pages; write in writing journal
- Dr. Virago: [draft a 7500-word essay for a contracted publication]: write at least 500 words towards a draft
- Erika: [write a complete & final draft of an article already underway]: Spend 30 minutes a day assembling the biblio for article
- Evan: [write a conference paper]: get all relevant PDFs of Black Dwarf, review MIA’s list for relevant articles, pull relevant stuff from thesis
- Firstmute: [Revise and submit a journal article]: come up with a specific list of revisions & strategies to complete the revisions; revise abstract based on reviewer’s feedback
- Forthright: [write two article-length pieces]: a) Finish re-reading Major Theoretical Work for article #2 & write 1000 words free writing relating MTW to the article; b) Finish transcribing the most relevant data from 2011 field season.
- Frogprincess: [Final draft of the dissertation]: think about part of c. 3; work on intro; think about conclusion
- Heu Mihi: [write paper for a faculty colloquium]: Review preliminary outline and rough in details (outline-style) for Part 1
- Highlyeccentric: [Draft two thesis chapters]: plan next chapter; re-do overeview of the entire thesis; talk to supervisor about timeline; draft about ¼ of a chapter
- Gillian: [3 chapters of dissertation]: pull together all the different completed bits for each of the three chapters and assess how much and what kind of work needs doing on all of them
- Good Enough Woman: [write a solid draft of a dissertation chapter]: develop bibliography; order sources from ILL; finish one primary text; read intro, skim chapter one of book of criticism
- Inafuturelife: [transform seminar paper into a conference paper]: Reread secondary sources and notes, and make annotations on a few new ones just ordered
- Luo Lin: [finish and submit an article]: Read through three articles to see if and how they are relevant
- Janice: [write a first draft of a chapter]: Find notes for the first chapter, outline, order three or four resources, and make notes of the exact passages in the major source
- Jennifer: [finish writing a neglected article]: Read through file of what’s done; Organize and digitize literature; Work on article for an hour a day - Bonus points for daily writing
- Katrin: [revise and add to MA thesis to get it publishable]: write the “Materials” chapter
- Kris: [write up a “full” paper and cut it down to a 15-minute conference presentation]: order ILL and documents for paper; write 500 words from current materials while waiting
- Lucie: [Complete a full draft of PhD thesis]: expand conference paper into first draft of 5,000 words
- Matilda: [revise a paper into a journal article]: make a revision plan
- Marie: [finish turning paper into journal article]: re-read original paper, revisit bibliography and determine what is next. Start on Intro.
- Merryweather: [write conference paper]: finish going through database primary material notes; figure out a short reading list of essential things for theoretical framework
- Mike: [write ch. 2 of dissertation]: write a good solid page with a good working thesis
- Monks and Bones: [turn a seminar paper into an article]: Reread seminar paper and take notes; Create 1-page outline of new version; Review historiography notes and write up a 2-page historiographical overview
- Nvrwhere42: [finish a dissertation chapter]: re-outline the rest of the chapter; write at least 2000 words to get back into the writing groove
- Notorious Ph.D.: [write a conference paper]: develop plan of attack
- NWGirl: [Revise one dissertation chapter into a book chapter]: Re-read chapter, identify and pull out the relevant material and move that text into Scrivener; write up chapter outline & figure out what I need to add; make a list of any missing sources
- Opsimathphd: [turning a dissertation chapter into an article]: Reread the dissertation chapter; Read one relevant article per day; Examine articles in the more technical journal; Freewrite at least 15 minutes per day; Outline argument
- Salimata: [write a conference paper]: work on the paper for 1 hr on Monday, 2 hrs on Friday, and 15 minutes all other days; re-read abstract; identify the fieldnotes and recordings I want to use; put together a brief bibliography
- Scatterwriter: [revise three chapters of book]: re-read the introduction and first chapter of the book MS draft
- Scholasticamama: [Transform a conference paper into an article]: Read paper on Gender Binaries and Universals; Create 12 week outline
- Sisyphus: [polish the rough draft of article and send it out]: separate middle section and reorganize into two that flow; fix all the bolded sentences and (awk) comments to myself in this (these) section(s)
- Sophylou: [finish revisions on an article and prepare it for submission]: Rewrite and condense introduction. If time, assess Section 2 to identify areas for condensing/rewriting
- Stemi: [Complete and send off a review article ]: Read and take notes on 6 articles; 500 words total in the manuscript outline/Revise outline organization
- Susan: [write a 7000 word commissioned essay]: get through the first part of the historiographical review, adding about another thousand words
- Synecdoche: [Finish conference paper]: put together the start of a working bibliography
- Trapped in Canadia: [draft two chapters of the dissertation]: finish chapter on Presbyterian abuse of Episcopalians in Scotland post-1688 GR and finish outline of first WG chapter
- Undine: [Finish nearly done chapter and complete another]: minimum 1000 new words, not counting revisions or editing, on the almost complete chapter
- Viola: [writing an introduction and a chapter for thesis]: 1000-1500 words on the original part of chapter and tidy already-written 2,500 words on context; Go back over some sources and integrate their arguments
- Z-Cat/Kiwimedievalist: [ write an article]: block out the full plan for the article, and create a book-list.
Last week's absences:
Diana: [finish incomplete paper]
Jamilajamison: [finish writing the M.A. thesis]
Mae: [write up a project prospectus?]
Su Real Alteza: [finish textbook manuscript]
Last week's goals: Black Dwarf articles printed out; MIA articles printed out; thesis read (again!), notes made.
This week's goals: write conference paper outline, reword abstract into workable intro. Possibly enquire at National Library about copies of Militant and Socialist Worker from 1960s.
I have begun to realise that the relationship between the chapter I am working on and a what I had thought was a tiny tangent is more complex than I had realised (yes, this again). Notorius’ ‘pacing’ theme is very fitting for me. I decided to resurrect some long-forgotten advice, and try to make a daily list of three things I could *realistically* accomplish. My rules for myself were that two of the three had to be directly related to my writing goal, and the third had to be at least peripherally related (okay, my criteria for ‘direct’ and ‘peripheral’ isn’t well-defined, but I know what I mean). Having relatively small goals which could easily be crossed of my list gave me the wonderful illusion of productivity. I’m not sure that I accomplished much more than I would have otherwise, but it cut down on moments of panic.
Anyway, I now have the shape of a chapter, two lists of primary sources, a list of relevant secondary works, several clearly identified sections to write, and a very sketchy outline for what will have to be another chapter – to be worked on AFTER this chapter is done (maybe in the 12 weeks, don’t know – must keep other commitment before worrying about it.
Like Notorious, my goal this week is to pace. I’m going to stick to my lists of three, and also write 300 words per day. Really.
I have also finished my proofs (yay!) and made a definite decision to buy a new computer. I keep hearing wonderful things about Macs, but don’t know whether I want to switch operating systems. However, after having several computer disasters this summer, I would just be happy with something that doesn’t die on a regular basis. Comments or experiences are welcome…
My list of terms for the index is finished, the actual thing is not - I was delayed by an eye-injury. I’m experimenting with the pirate look this week…
I have written almost all of the materials chapter. Even though it's a short chapter, it is not complete yet - I have to revisit it some time later when I have collected more material for the other chapters, but it's mostly done. So I will count that as a successful week, since I have also managed to hunt down lots of other stuff.
Goals for this week: I have two Norwegian thesis pdf files relevant to the project, and I am planning to read both of them. I have also gotten a few more leads for material, so following those and contacting people or ordering the books into the Library is on the list as well.
I pulled together most of what needed pulling together and discovered I not only had too many words, but potentially an entirely new chapter. I now have my overview and my dissertation is on a diet. I've also shaved off the bits I like but that don't really belong in the dissertation (but may well belong in a book on the same subject) and put them aside for soul-gazing and deep contemplation. This means my goals were reached, but a potential problem identified (word limits - they are sad).
I also wrote myself a 12 week plan, because it helped me identify when my slow patches were going to be. The slowest path of all will be the next fortnight, with Jewish NY and my cookbook and Conflux all hitting at once. (Cookbook has a trailer - I don't feel very scholarly when I watch it.)
I have a seminar to give today week and it's on one of the sections of one of the chapters on which I'm working. This week, therefore, I intend to kill two birds with one stone. I will work on that section *and* work on the seminar. That's my goal. The week following, I'll use feedback from the seminar and finish off that section in its entirety. In other words, for two weeks my life will be ruled by the words 'Medieval masculinities.'
chapters read and a couple of points that may prove important were pulled out (none of them directly related to the subject of my paper, but as I suspected, there were still some bits and pieces).
I stumbled upon another secondary source I'd printed out a while back and forgotten about - need to glance through it (another one that I know isn't directly related, but since there is so little directly related I want to be sure I catch what is close enough)
so my goal for next week is to skim and take notes on that source, and to organize my notes and thoughts on the primary source so that I can start writing the week after next
(when I have more time thanks to the end of a current commitment, and will have had time for some of this to roll around in my head longer - I am not one who can start actually writing too early or I'll have a very hard time - it has to process long enough or I'll be staring at a blank page, or end up having to completely start over)
Quick comment in response to Cly. I'll post my update later today after my in-person writing group meeting.
I bought a Macbook in February 2008, and had never had anything other than a Windows computer before. I've been very happy with my switch to Mac, and when it's time to replace this laptop it will definitely be another Apple. There's a small learning curve, mostly just getting to know Apple keyboard shortcuts like Cmd-V instead of Ctrl-V for paste, but overall Macs are very intuitive. I've also been very pleased with how my now 3 1/2 year old computer has stood the test of time - it's still going strong, and I anticipate at least another year out of it. Moreover, Scrivener is a excellent Mac program that has really helped me refine my writing process (there's a Windows version in beta testing now).
Hope your eye injury heals quickly!
I have spent this week for planning and starting a new session with WYJA. This time I am going to use it more flexibly according to my own situation. I do want to finish the article I was not able to last session.
So, I have started week 2 section, writing a rough abstract, then moved to week 3, a section for 'Advancing Your Argument'. Last time I was not able to construct an argument, then I did not proceed after that. I hope this time I can hammer out some workable one. Of course, I will need to revise it during the course of working, but at least I have to proceed! Also, I am going to re-construct my daily writing habit...
As for pacing, I am very poor at pacing mayself. What I am trying to do is setting some spare time every week, which is used when I am behind schedule. The problem is, I am always behind the schedule...
For next week: working with week 3 section of WYJA; constructing my argument; taking at least 15 minutes for writing every day.
well, the good news is that i easily kept on my reading/annotations this week. on wednesday, i started going through an article that had been published since i wrote the paper (early 2010). the bad news is that this article basically addressed my issue from the "hey, i know this reading seems obvious because no one's talked about it, but really, we can complicate this!" perspective i was taking. part of me is glad that at least this means where i was going has some value, but a little bummed that i don't know where else to go with the paper. i'm pretty much only interested in this one reading of the text, and this issue has been discussed pretty completely as far as i can tell.
so, for now i'm shelving this and perhaps i'll re-read the primary text at a later date and see if anything new comes but for now, i think my efforts would be more useful elsewhere. my goal is still a transformation of previous work, just starting with a ~3 page response paper rather than a seminar paper.
so, my goal this week is basically the same: rereading my secondary sources and order new articles.
I read through the three articles, one of which will be useful for the paper.
Project: Finish and submit article
Goal for this week: Incorporate the sources I've been reading into the article.
ancillary goals (that I can do outside of writing time): track down missing Interlibrary Loan article, check on requirements of journal
For me, it was a huge step forward to find one hour, once a week to work on my writing last semester. This semester I am working on not frittering away that hour. Writing every day may be a goal for the spring.
Overall project: Finish a chapter draft begun this summer
What I accomplished this week: Looked over the 13 pages I've got (though not carefully); wrote about 3 and a half solid additional pages; wrote in writing journal about what comes next.
Goals for next week: Reread everything I've got so far and do light revision/editing notes; Write 3 pages, which will involve 1-2 concluding paragraphs to the current section that I'm working on and which provide a transition into what I think of as the "body body" of the essay, write the opening "body body" section paragraphs so I'll be on my way for the following week; begin rereading Giddens' The Transformation of Intimacy; figure out the missing theory piece for the chapter (I have some ideas, but they are still fuzzy).
I'll respond to your call about "pacing" in a post over at my place. I'll post the link here once I've written it :)
My very small goal has been accomplished: abstract is written and sent. It took all week, partly because the chapter description was not at all suitable as a conference abstract. But that, in turn, is making me wonder if the chapter description is really all that. Le sigh.
My next goals are not directly toward the chapter that is my main goal for this fall, but toward the book as a whole. I need a complete fellowship proposal draft by the beginning of October, and a sample chapter, since one of my recommenders wants that. I have a sample . . . sort of . . . 6000-ish words written in the summer. I knew there were some things to fix. But now I realize I have to tackle a major controversy about some of this material, which I had happily ignored during the first draft.
So, pacing! Absolutely critical or I'll never get this done. Writing every day, or at least focusing on moving the project forward in some small way each day, is key. Early this week I was OBE: in fact, I thought I might be really FBE. But I talked myself down. Two days without writing is not so bad if you normally write every day; and on one of those days, I wrote to a replacement recommender and got an agreement, so that moved me forward even though it wasn't "writing" as such.
So for the next push, I'm relying on scheduling: both for writing sessions and for other work, like grading and service work. I'm sure the system will break down at some point, and I'll start robbing Peter to pay Paul again. But as long as I start with envelopes for both Peter and Paul, each of them will get something.
I need to work this out in detail, but basically the proposal needs a good thinking brain while parts of the chapter revision can be relatively mechanical. This dictates both time of day and day of week when I'm most likely to work on one or the other.
More comments after I get my morning writing nailed, but:
@Stitch In Time: I don't have you on our roster. Did you use another name during the sign-up period?
Started writing again in earnest! Yippee! I'm not entirely happy with everything I wrote this week, but I did meet my word count goal and wrote everyday. That's definitely progress after a few weeks "off" from writing.
This chapter is getting way too long, and I need to cut to the chase, finish my historical section, and get to the case study that's (supposed to be) at the heart of the chapter. So my goal for this week is to finish the large historical section that I'm working on, and get to the heart of my chapter argument.
Overall project: Complete and submit review article.
Last week progress: 5 of 6 papers read plus note-taking (83% = B). I did revise the outline, with 540+ words total (pass).
I am disappointed about the progress on reading (I didn’t reach target, and my secret goal was much bigger), but I recognize that I’m still in the phase where I feel I need to Read All The Papers. To battle this impulse, I won’t include a specific reading goal this week, but will try to discover where I have holes in the outline, where more reading is really necessary.
Upcoming week, goals:
Reorganize note-taking file to match the new outline.
Identify sections that need more references.
Add 500 words to outline file (including rough draft writing).
I struggle with the pacing. I have a spreadsheet to log all sorts of progress on writing each day (with rolling 2 week averages). I don’t recommend this to anyone, as I use it mostly to beat myself up about my lack of consistency. I would have consistency if I followed “write first,” but right now, that spot is for “exercise first,” and one cannot have two firsts. I think a gentler way to approach pacing for myself is to recognize that every day is not the same, so maybe a larger time scale (e.g., weekly as with this group) is better. The risk there is what Notorious pointed out, which is that it can lead to rushing as deadlines loom.
Last week I hoped to find notes for the first chapter (done!), outline (half done when I got stuck at a conceptual question that needs one of those research resources), order three or four resources (ordered two and found a local substitute for one), and make notes of the exact passages in the major source. On the last, I failed utterly beyond dropping the two volumes on my desk and then passing by them every day this week.
I now can see that I only have real success with my research reading on Fridays or Mondays. Midweek is a huge mess of overcommitments. I can manage little tasks in there and I need to learn how to break the big goals up enough to put some of them into those tiny timeslots.
So, revised goals for this week are: complete the outline, read one resource, make notes on one half of the major source and write 500 words. If I start writing, I can see the rest in better perspective!
My post on pacing: http://reassignedtime.wordpress.com/2011/09/16/pacing-or-finding-your-own-productivity-sweet-spot/
As a few others have noted, pacing is thematically apropos for me this week: I was busy with job market related activities all week and only today have been able to snatch a few hours to meet my goals. I read Dr. Crazy's post about "good" pacing not necessarily correlating to writing every day. I do have a sense that writing every day or nearly every day is what works for me now, but that just isn't feasible with my schedule at the moment, with teaching, child rearing, working on multiple projects, and needing both sleep and downtime. So, I think coming to terms with other kinds of pacing than "slow-and-steady" is valuable.
Anyway, my last week's goal was to write a revised abstract and come up with a list of revision tasks. I did both. I'm a little discouraged by how much revision I'm coming to think that the article needs (not to mention my initial discouragement by the fairly negative tenor of the reader report). Still, I think that the revised abstract significantly improves the overall argument, and I do have a clear sense of ways to improve the article, even if some of the steps are going to be fairly involved.
For next week, I'm going to take a slight detour from WYJA while I collect some more "data" and write a new section to replace a section that I'm going to cut. So, next week's goal is to draft a new ten page or so section, although it'll incorporate material I've already written.
Evan: congrats on meeting your goals this week! Gold star! (As opposed to Black Dwarf star…)
Cly: I like the three things approach myself, but I try to make one non-academic (like "water the plants, for the love of all that's holy") so I don't forget that I have other parts of my life.
Gillian: I like your twelve-week plan. WJA suggests something similar, and I had planned to do one myself this past week. Maybe I'll get it done this weekend…
Adelaide: I used to have trouble writing early on, too. But what about taking notes AND noting your thoughts on what you're reading? That counts as daily writing, and it helps form the habit for when you're ready to actually sit down and draft the piece.
Matilda: Regarding your comment that you are "always behind the schedule" – maybe the problem is your schedule, and your expectations. If you make your expectations conform more to what you know you can do, rather than what you think you ought to be able to do, you may find yourself in a better position.
In a future life: That's frustrating, getting scooped. But at least you found it now, rather than when you'd invested too much time in it. Keep reading and scribbling, and perhaps that new approach will make itself obvious to you.
Luo Lin: Good progress. As some below have noted, the "write every day" approach that I advocate doesn't work for everyone. I just find it easier, because then I don't spend time every week trying to remember where I left off.
Dame Eleanor: I love "FBE"! And when you say: "I wrote to a replacement recommender and got an agreement, so that moved me forward even though it wasn't "writing" as such," I beg to differ: anything that you're writing that moves you forward counts, in my opinion. The point is to keep engaged.
Nvrwhere: If everything you wrote every day was golden, I think you'd have a lot of envious scholars glaring daggers at you. But as I said to Dame Eleanor, consistency counts.
Stemi: Hoo boy, do I get this. I currently have a 30-item bibliography for an 11-page conference paper. And I'm all for winnowing it down to the key works… but how do I know which ones those are?
Finally (for now!) to Janice, Firstmute, and most of all Dr. Crazy, as well as others for whom a super-structured "write every day" approach doesn't work: I'm going to keep advocating the structured approach, but you need to do what works for you. If you know that you only have a couple days a week to write, or that you honestly write better in bursts, rather than consistently over time, then go with that. But as Dr. Crazy's post (and a couple of comments here) point out, there are many, many ways to stay engaged on a daily basis, whether it's writing an e-mail, scribbling down some thoughts in a paper journal, writing a blog post about something you read, freewriting about your sources, or whatever. I'm a believer in the idea that forward motion is inherently good.
And just to piggyback on Notorious's last comment: I'm a strong advocate of staying engaged every day, even if that doesn't mean sitting down at a computer and "writing," if that makes sense. I think the reason, actually, that the "write every day" thing doesn't work for me is much the reason why most "diets" don't work for me - basically, if I miss a day, then that one day becomes three days, and then I'm all, "F- this, why not just make it a week? A month?" Basically, the thing that is supposed to keep me engaged daily produces an end result in which I'm completely checked out. In contrast, I have an easier time staying engaged if I'm kinder to myself. (Actually, that's probably why WW works for me, Notorious - because every day is a new day, every week is a new week. There's no "failure" that then gives me permission to completely check out.)
Thanks all for your insights on pacing and how the writing process works for you all--and to Notorious PhD for responding to so many individual comments, that's so nice!
I reached my "process" goal of the week (1 and 2 hrs two days a week, 15 mins the other 3 days), which is my own way of "staying engaged" with the material.
My "product" goal for the week was deceptively simple--read my abstract and find my data--so I technically reached this goal, too, except: I found I don't actually have the data that would allow me to make the argument I would like to make (and claim to be able to make in the abstract). Kind of what I feared, from having written the abstract almost a year ago and not having thought much about this particular direction for my research--and with a planned trip to do additional research falling through.
Has anybody ever done this? That is, propose a paper for a conference thinking that you'll have much more material/ideas on the topic by the time the conference rolls around, and then finding that this hasn't happened. It's actually not the first time I've done this, but the second, so I feel particularly sheep-ish about it. Plus, the timing is not great as I am a recent PhD (august!!) and on the jobmarket this year. So, yeah, any advice on how to proceed from here would be greatly appreciated.
I realize i need to come up with something else to say, somewhat related to the original argument, but for which I do have sufficient data and/or where I can use the data I do have to argue that they, unexpectedly, actually speak to the topic as well. This week I spent frantically reading up on the topic, and writing down my thoughts in a writing journal, but so far I haven't come up with anything concrete.
The goal for next week is to keep up the reading and free writing and decide on a plan of attack by the end of the week.
I met my goal for the week and read the 100 pages I'd written before on this topic. I also wrote 300 words each day and have a good sense of what I'd like to include in an article and the direction I might go.
Goal for next week: Search to see what has been written on the topic since I last wrote. Begin to go through that material. Continue to write 300 words of notes a day on this material.
In terms of pacing, for me organizing my calendar with chunks of time to work and individual goals for both this and other projects works best for me. I write in my writing journal daily and post a blog post each week with all my goals so that I am accountable to others (right now I'm not working, so without that it'd be easy to get off track). I have goals for the day, the week, and for specific chunks of time (e.g. I'm trying to book it through many projects in the next five weeks before I begin working).
I'm not sure that my pacing schedule would work if I was teaching too though.
Checking in: more than 1000 words, but on an overdue article that must be turned in this weekend. I don't know if that counts, but the writing group has really helped me to keep at it. Next week: this week's quota + 1000 more.
It's always so encouraging to read through the comments. Everyone's working at a slightly different pace, but we can do it!
This week I almost claimed OBS (Overcome By Spring). My office is the coldest room in the house, and while moving the laptop back in there meant I did more work, it was much harder to work there this week. I'm trying to leave the computer there in the evening, so that I'll sit and work for a bit in the morning, before lugging the machine back to the living room, for internet distractions.
My goal for this week was to fully plan the article and create a book list. I managed to mostly plan the article, didn't touch the book list, but I did revise and resend an older article, and added 300 words to another article which needs to be done, too. (I think the best this earns is a C-.) I have found it very helpful to keep a book by my desk, to note start times & word count, and end times & word count. This proves to me that I did work this week, when I was panicking that I had nothing to show the group.
For next week, I need to write the book list and start reading it, while free writing. Breaking this goal down into daily tasks is helpful, especially if I can point out to myself that I can read in the living room, as long as I take notes.
This is my pacing. I know I need more regular writing work, but if I can prove that I'm doing writing thinking, which will result in words on page, it may make the days between Monday and Friday more profitable (those two being my main writing days). Essays come in this week, which will take away most of those days, but I still plan to spend at least 2 hours in the office at the computer.
And I have decided that we should all be in the circus, what with the juggling, tight-rope walking, plate-spinning, and fire-breathing that we have to do each day!
My goal was to order necessary materials and write 500 words. I got sick in the early part of this week but because my goals were modest I was able to complete them easily.
I was surprised at how easily I wrote 500 words. It reminded me that my pacing issues also reflect where I'm at in a project. This is a new paper on a new topic (albeit one I've been pondering for a long while) and so I'm excited and buzzing with ideas and a sense of where I want this to head. But reflecting on my work practices I know that the longer I engage with a topic, the less time I will spend on it. Essentially, I'm not a finisher.
So for me, pacing requires recognition of how my commitments fit into my week and how I relate to those commitments. When I'm enthusiastic I will timetable more writing. Doing a little bit each day - even 100 words - keeps me moving, and always writing to an external deadline forces me to keep at it when the thrill is gone.
So to take advantage of this honeymoon period I'm aiming to have 1500 words by the end of the week. This means 1300 more written. These words will comprise my framing of the problem I'm investigatingalso will also have a plan of the rest of the paper so that I can begin to be more selective in my reading from here on in.
Anyway, I'm going to take
I re-read the diss chapter, but I am still working on pulling out the relevant material and identifying gaps and sources. I overestimated how much I could complete this week. I am writing a grant application for another project, which is due in two weeks. I underestimated how much time that would take and how that would impact this project.
Gillian, I like your idea of a 12-week plan. Might help me to keep from trying to cram too much into particularly busy weeks. Between the grant application and the daily work of teaching I didn't think about this project until Wednesday. Then I found myself trying to cram seven days of work into three so the discussion about pacing is certainly relevant for me.
So goals for next week: finish dividing this chapter into two rough chapters. Move the material for the one chapter into Scrivener. And write a rough outline for that chapter.
Project: polish the rough draft of article and send it out.
Last Week's Goal: separate middle section and reorganize into two that flow; fix all the bolded sentences and (awk) comments to myself in this (these) section(s)
Achieved: I separated the middle into two subsections and moved paragraphs back and forth; I think that looks good. I fixed maybe half of the bolded/awk comments.
I only worked last weekend and Monday and then got the first of the blizzard of major assignments. I'm really going to have to think about pacing myself when I have a heavy grading load and have picked up a bug from those germy little weasels --- uh, I mean, my charming students. I was able to keep open at least one day per week last fall for writing almost all semester.
Next week's goals: finish cleaning up middle section; sit down with my calendar and make a schedule along with a to-do list for the article and pace out my semester.
My pacing is that Friday is my research day. Unfortunately today that got eaten up with finishing the footnotes on my short piece. I thought I'd finish them when I came home from work at 7:30, but I realize that I can get obsessive about trivia when I work late at night, and it's not helpful. Today I spent more of the day than I'd expected on business stuff, but it's often the only day I'm at home to see contractors, exterminators, call the lawyer, or whatever.
Which is all OBE. But I did turn to my writing group project, and probably added a couple of hundred words, and ordered some stuff on ILL. Next weekend will give me more time for writing, as I will have finished the grading I must do this weekend, and my teaching prep will be more limited. So my goal is to finish sketching the historiographical section, which is probably 1500 words or so.
Like Dr. C, I've never been successful at the "write every day" method. My first hour is usually some kind of thumb twiddling, and if what you have is an hour, it's not very helpful. So I need longer stretches, and they need to start when my brain is awake. Since this project carries a certain emotional charge, that's particularly important.
Oh, and like Cly, I've decided I must buy a new computer because my 4 year old laptop has gotten just too cranky. Another person about to make the switch to a mac...
So I didn't meet my goals, but my life moved forward.
I ended up writing the full 2,400 words I wanted for the original part of my chapter. I sent them to my supervisor and received some good feedback (well written, convincing arguments etc) and some recommended revisions (reduce repetition at beginning, increase textual analysis, expand a particular argument).
This week's goal is to go through my list of revisions and get a revised version back to her by Tuesday/Wednesday to discuss on Thursday/Friday. Bonus points if I also get to go over the 2,500 done on context and start whittling that down to 1,600.
I've started reading 'Writing your Journal Article in 12 Weeks' and it contains a lot of good advice on the writing process itself and not just writing for a journal. Thanks for putting me on to it!
Project: finish an article based on conference papers.
Last week's goal: to gather and reread the papers and assess what I have.
I can safely say that I did accomplish what I set out to do last week. However, I got bogged down midweek with life and work and so Wednesday and Thursday involved no real work on my project.
On the topic of pacing, I don't really have an answer for this other than I can say what hasn't worked for me in the past! I've been reading WYJA (and the section on objections to being able to write - I am guilty of many of them!) and am committing to working on my project every day. I've not done any real writing yet, the past week was just notes to myself on the papers, but I am shooting to write for at least 20 minutes a day next week.
Going through the conference paper versions of this project I realized that I have two different possible directions for my topic. The original project for a conference focused more on a specific reading of a passage (from a Roman historian) from a myth/ritual point of view. But over time the focus has shifted to examining how the historian has made use of mythic imagery to shape his comments on a particular period of Roman history. I hadn't really wanted to delve into the history side of things, but that in fact seems like it might be the more ambitious way to go.
So for next week's plan: gather a couple of major resources on the historical period and determine if my ideas are "new" enough to go that route with the paper. Write 20 minutes a day for at least five days.
Good to see so many thoughtful reports!
Salimata: Oh, yes, that's happened to me. Once it happened only 3 days before I was supposed to leave for the conference I was to present at. I had to scramble, and ended up saying: This is what I expected to find, and here's why that would have been expected. So why does the evidence run so counter to expectation? It ended up being a bit of a straw man argument, but I think that the process of grappling with it was valuable for me, if not for anyone else.
ABD Mama: your last comment I think encapsulates what's so different about this session, when compared with summer session: most of us are trying to squeeze in writing around other things. But again, the fact that we're making that effort, and succeeding more than we might without a group to be accountable to – and the fact that we're talking together about any difficulties we're having – can help keep us moving forward.
Undine & Zcat: glad to hear we're helping! And clearing the desk, whether it's a concrete desk or a metaphorical one, is an important step to feeling like you can really move forward. It's actually part of chapter 1 of WJA: get your work space ready. She's talking about your physical work space, but clearing the decks of the last odds and ends of other projects is just as important, if not more so.
Kris: yes, isn't it amazing how quickly the words can come sometimes, if we don't set unachievable goals for either amount or degree of perfection? I've set only 300 words a day, and those can be notes and musings at this point. At some point, they'll have to be more polished, and so they likely won't come as quickly. But as you say, the forward momentum helps a lot.
NW girl: We’re all prone to overestimate, especially coming off a summer when we had relatively few other commitments. These first few weeks, you're learning your new pace, and adjusting. At least, I am.
Sisyphus: Bless you! There seems to be a congestive bug going around here in Grit City as well. Take care of yourself.
Susan: Dr. Crazy mentioned over at her place a trick of what I've heard called "parking on the downhill slope" – at the end of each writing session, she writes a few sentences of where she's headed next. That way, if she knows that there's going to be a few days before she picks up again, she can jump back in more easily. I've done the same thing now and then, and I find it's really helpful. Could that work for you?
Viola: Congrats on getting a chunk of the project off your desk – and hooray for advisors who give quick and helpful feedback! Usually it's one or the other, but not both.
AmCalm: Sounds like you're proof that the daily "notes to self" count as real progress, because the new insights into your project show that your brain is working on them even when you don't realize it. A good feeling, no?
And a more general comment: the theme that seems to be emerging is that these first few weeks are seeing us all recalibrate and find out the rhythm that works for us so we can carry it forward. And I think that's a damn fine use of a week.
My goal for last week: Outline part one. In fact, I drafted part one (producing an outline was kind of a cop-out assignment, as it was easy for me to write this off the top of my head).
Goal for this week: Go back to relevant MS page, transcript, and associated secondary source. Take notes on these and draft (or freewrite) some ideas about what I want to do with them.
My "pacing" this week wasn't great, by the work-every-day standards; I basically did all the work Tuesday night. But I think that that's going to be the reality for me this semester. If I can find a chunk of 2-3 hours every week in which to work, on top of everything else I'm doing, I will be very happy--and should be able to get this project done with ease. Realistically, that's probably the most I can do right now.
Salimata: This happens all the time; in fact, I'm sure it's happened to everybody at least once. Conference papers do tend to morph in the time between abstract and delivery. I'd say let go of what you proposed in the abstract & see what you can say on the topic more generally.
Kris: I have that finishing problem too. The honeymoon stage is so much more fun than the "get me rewrite" stage. I have found, personally, that the "oh no it's a huge mess & I'll never finish" stage goes on longer than it seems possible and THEN very suddenly the thing is done. It's like a quantum leap. Realizing this has made me more patient with working through the mess.
Zcat: unless later in the year you want to be in the coldest room in the house, it seems to me you might want to reorganize the house. Or go out. In the first year of my job I had a cold dark study & I could not get a thing done until I moved my desk to the living room. A room of one's own is not enough; it needs to be a room one wants to be in.
My overall goal is to write a conference paper, which is really a draft of a chapter. I managed to read through the my previous database notes, re-read an important theoretical article that should help me conceptualise the paper, and did a bit of free-writing. The last two items were not on my goal list from last week, but I didn't do one of the things that was on the list--draw together a list of essential theoretical reading. In fact, I forgot I'd said I'd do that.
This week I'm going to a one-day conference on Wednesday, and spending a day in the archives on Tuesday. On Monday, all the time I've got for research (not much) will be taken up with revisions to the conference paper for Wednesday, and working out what to do in the archives on Tuesday. That leaves only Thursday and Friday for working on the project, so my goal will be to map out a schedule that will actually get this article written by the time I need to submit it--and will also allow me to get everything else I need to do done. If I can go beyond that and write a proper plan (ideally with an argument), that would be brilliant, but it may not be possible.
More generally, on the pacing discussion: I have never been a 'write every day' person, and I've managed to be reasonably well-published for my career stage (11 years post PhD) by doing research during university vacations, when I've had research leave, and one day a week. This spring, though, I was on research leave and I really ground to a halt with writing, despite having loads of time. This led me initially to despair and think I should quit my job, but eventually to try to find ways back into writing. I read Robert Boice's book (which WYJA draws on quite a bit), and became convinced that I should write every day. I've been trying that since July, and being pretty successful, not surprisingly since I have always written OK over the summer. It's now got WAY harder, as the new academic year has hit me with a vengeance--I've just taken on a big admin role and there is TONS to do, and lots of people expecting my immediate attention. I still managed to write (well, not actually write, but at least spend time thinking about research) 3 of 5 days in the last week, and I'm committed to keeping it going--joining this group is part of that.
Ah pacing...yea...that is a huge issue for me too. It's nice to hear that I'm not alone. Sometimes I feel like the faculty in my department are robots who are able to write with ease following their daily writing schedules. I know that's not true, but they all make it seem so easy.
Anyway on to the checking in:
1) Gather all notes that I have on the topic. Done.
2) Outline notes into something cohesive. Well I have an outline now. Is it cohesive? I'm not sure about that.
3) Write at least 1000 words on the chapter introduction - Using my new outline, I was able to take pieces of notes and work I had already done and piece them together into the beginnings of the introduction. With all of that I have 3235 words on the introduction. This is definitely a first draft, but it's an organized first draft that I can definitely edit into something better.
So even though my pacing was not awesome this week, I was able to meet my goals.
For next week:
1) re-read one of my major theoretical texts for the chapter and flesh out that part of the introduction (~600 words)
2) re-read one of the primary texts I will be using in this chapter and expand the outline for that work.
3) add another 1500 words to the chapter.
My overall project, a draft of a 7500-word essay, is proceeding on pace. Actually, it's proceeding beyond pace, since I've written nearly 1/4 of the words but only about a 1/10 of the content. Oops. After all this is said and done, I will have some serious editing to do!
Anyway, my specific goal this week was to write 500-600 words, slightly lower than what my usual goal (750 words) is, because I had a Major Event yesterday that I knew would take away some of my writing time.
But even so, I exceeded my more modest goal and nearly reached the usual goal: I wrote 676 words! Woot! My draft is now up to 1660 words - appropriately the year of the Restoration in England, since I feel a renewed and restored ability to write thanks to this writing group, a deadline, and a well-paced schedule of writing.
And that brings me to this week's topic. I'm with Crazy on not believing in the write-every-day mantra (or it not working for me), but I have set a write-every-Monday-Wednesday-and-Friday pace for myself. It's only in the mornings that I write, and sometimes I can bang off my planned 250 words by 10am, but other times it takes me until noon. After that, I have to turn to reading and grading for the next day's classes. Once I got this pattern established, it was pretty easy to keep up. Of course, it helps that I'm writing something that's a synthesis of current scholarship and not something original, but that has its own challenges.
Making a schedule and setting a pace really works for me *once* I get started. (This was true when I was running marathons, as well, where pacing is very important.) It's the damn getting started that's hard for me -- whether it's getting a start at all, at the very beginning, or getting started on those individual writing days. The writing group has helped a lot with that problem, so thanks, you guys! The other thing that helps get over that hump is sheer force of will. I have to tell myself, sometimes out loud, that I *must* write first, and *then* I can do X, Y, and Z.
So my goal for next week is the same old 750 words *plus* a "getting started" goal: I will start writing as soon as I apply my butt to the chair. No checking e-mail or blogs or FB or G+, no doing course-prep work, etc. Writing *must* come first next week.
Thank you for your thoughtfull comment, Notorious! Yes, I need to set my schedule more workable. Sometimes, though, I think that if I make an ambitious plan, I will work harder to meet it, then I will get more accomplishment. Am I too optimistic? ;)
Heu Mihi: The important thing is to get that pace (whatever it is) established, and stick to it. If you've only got these short bursts every week, then it's important to do that parking on the downhill slope thing so you don't lose precious time tryng to remember where you were.
Merryweather: If you do want to try to keep writing every day, bear in mind that nothing says you have to write for 3 hours every day. For me, some days it's 30 minutes – and those days I make sure to leave myself an easy task to do, like a transition paragraph.
Bitter&Jaded: Everything looks easy from the outside. Chances are it's probably not. The important thing here (and this can be difficult) is not to judge your work by your perceptions of other people's work. Because those of us who are inclined to beat ourselves up will consistently perceive things in a way that makes us feel awful. If you're a type like this, then do what my yoga teacher advised me to do: stay on your own mat. That is, don't compare yourself to what other people are doing. Make it about doing your utmost in any given moment, and realizing that some moments are easier than others.
Dr. Virago: Love that Restoration parallelism! And your reward system is the one I've used as well. For me, it's: no internet until after I write.
Matilda: It may be that setting a more ambitious goal will motivate you. But it also may be that setting a less ambitious one will allow you to feel a sense of accomplishment, which will in turn motivate you. Given your experience last week, I'd say that the second approach is more true for you right now. But why not try a combined approach: set a modest goal for the next couple of weeks – one that you are confident you can meet. After you've established a pattern, slowly, gently increase your goal – but only if you need to.
Overall Goal: write two book chapters
Last week's goals: Work on 2 chapters 5/7 days this week: WW chap -- Go through notes and outline basic arguments and structure, selecting a few supporting quotes; SSW chap -- pull references and set aside
Completed: Worked 3/7 days on this. Got through the notes and have basic args/structure for WW chapter. Listed refs but haven't piled them up yet for SSW chapter. Did find some material in class readings that will be useful, which was a nice bonus.
I learned a lot about pacing. My MO is the avoidance-guilt-avoidance spiral. Working every day, even if it's just a few minutes, breaks me out of that. Note that working 3/7 = getting sucked into the spiral. I also learned that if I don't write early in the am (with the radio OFF), there are a million reasons to not do it. Like coursework. I'm sorting out how to fit my writing into my grad school life, and how to fit my grad school life into my life.
I really like Dr. Crazy's Parking On A Downhill Slope and will try that this week to help keep up the momentum. Salimata: been there. Learned to write less-specific abstracts. And trying to embrace the "process" conference paper (I've committed myself to one in Jan., and a little wigged out about it).
Goals for this week: Write/work on chapters 5/7 days. Start writing (not outlining) the Why Wheels chapter, starting with the background (this is where I've been most stuck with this chapter). Start by writing less; big, broad strokes, not niggly details. Re-read (skim) the literature for the State Sponsored Wheels chapter and draft an outline structure.
Thanks for everyone's responses! It's so helpful and encouraging just to read other people's thoughts and tips about writing and productivity.
My primary goal for this past week was to write 1250-1500 words to submit to my in-person writing group by Weds. for our meeting on Fri. I ended up producing 1429 words, and my friends had some excellent comments to offer. The secondary goal was to get enough out of 4 library books that I could then return them, but that really didn't happen. I read pieces of two books related to my current project, but not thoroughly enough to give them back.
Goals for next week: re-read two of my previously-written dissertation chapters and start writing the chapter summary section of my intro. Write at least 200 words per day for 5 days. If I have a chance, keep plugging away at the "4 library books" goal.
Regarding pacing, I have trouble with that too. I've been known to set a goal like "write 8 pages by Sunday" and then find myself doing nothing all week until a furious push on Friday and Saturday. Lately I've been trying to battle the pacing problem with 2 methods: 1) setting modest goals so I don't feel overwhelmed and can have the satisfaction of achieving something, and 2) a kind of self-deceptive monetary reward system.
In order to get myself to work earlier in the week, I "pay myself" $3/hour for dissertation work towards something that I covet. If 1 day elapses between "working days," my rate drops to $2, and if 2 days elapse with no work, the rate on the next day is $1, thus I can achieve my reward faster if I work consecutively. Right now I'm working toward a fancy, pretty expensive Scrabble set. :) Maybe this kind of reward system is silly, because it's all just a mental justification for indulging in stuff, but it seems to be working okay so far.
This week will be pretty challenging, because I'm in grading mode now. The course that I teach has 9 writing assignments spread over the semester, so I more-or-less constantly have papers to grade. I'm trying to make writing a priority, though, even if that means taking a little longer to hand back student papers.
Good luck to everyone in the upcoming week!
I re-read my paper that I'm turning into a journal article this week. While reading an ILL book during an exam this week I found a new argument for the article, which is something I had desperately been needing. It's leading me off in a new direction. I also created my 10 week plan and decided which days will be "Journal Days" where I will have solid time devoted to working. Those days are... Mondays from 2-4 and Wednesdays from 2-4. This isn't to say that I won't work at other times, but that these are the sacrosanct times for the article.
This weeks goals: re-work my abstract from the summer to include my new argument and possibly turn that into an introduction. Skim Hildegard's Liber meritorum and Scivias to see if there is anything for me there. Order John of Salisbury and Abelard's lesser works from ILL>
The note about pacing was uncannily relevant for my last week. I didn't do so well. I was advised to do some other revisions so I was late getting to do what I had aimed to do here, and ended up rushing to get something done. I read the text, and the conference paper I wanted to expand, but realised there's not much in it I can use and I need to do a new outline of the chapter. I was rather dreading checking back in here, so it was helpful to read the tips.
I'm going to try and prevent this happening again and break it down on a daily basis for next week: my goal is to re-read two other primary texts, and write 400-500 words every day (any kind of writing - thoughts as I re-read, expanded notes, etc.). I'm also going to commit to spending the first hour of every day working exclusively on this goal, so that if other stuff comes up that I have to do, I won't be abandoning this until the last minute.
I believe I work well with a routine and writing everyday, but I also really identified with Dr. Crazy's point that one lost day can cause a whole spiral of avoidance. I'm interested therefore in the idea of 'staying engaged' everyday. I'm hoping the goal I've made this week will help me do that, by approaching the task on a daily basis.
This group is a treasury of good advice! Pacing is a perfect theme for this week! I also agree with Notorious that spending a week recalibrating is a productive use of time. That is essentially how I spent my week.
My goals for last week were organizational: Reread what I've already written, organize my literature piles/bibliography and work on article-related stuff for one hour each day. I managed to get through a decent amount of my list, but did not manage to get any writing done. I need to reinstate daily writing (before the internet!) this week. Although I know it works for me, I seem to resist and let myself fall out of the habit.
This week will be more of the same:
Make sure all of the literature in my office has been added to endnote.
Reread and scan what I need to take abroad (moving in less than 2 weeks! yikes.).
Sort scrivener file and move into manageable chucks for writing/editing.
Pacing is key this week. I need to focus on the literature/scanning Sunday-Tuesday. Wednesday morning I leave for a wedding weekend with the in-laws. I'll aim to carve out an hour each day for the Scrivener organizing then and I should be able to get a good chunk of work done during the drive. I am really hoping to have a good report of this part of the week! I always seem to fall apart when traveling.
Project: [revise and resubmit an article]
-re-read article and editorial comments;
-list topics that need more research/citations;
-make (and limit) reading list;
-order items on reading list from ILL;
-read 2 articles, make entries on them in an annotated bib, and insert relevant stuff into draft
I accomplished my first two goals. The re-read took longer than I anticipated because of very helpful and detailed comments from three readers. Luckily, it was very clear where I need more research. I also added the task of evaluating my current sources (a la WYJA wk 5).
The week got overwhelmed by events that I knew were coming (2 days out of town for family obligations). I clearly didn't plan around them, and I also struggled to balance work time among projects.
The comments on the pacing issue brings up a crucial question for me: what counts as writing? I was using 750words.com for a while, but I didn't keep the writing focused enough on my project, so it ended up being a warm-up for distractions; writing down all the things I needed to do later made me think I should do them immediately. Starting right in on a simple task related to my project has cut down my hour-long pre-work routine to about two minutes. Since I feel lots of guilt about lots of things, and since guilt tends to make me completely unproductive, I've decided to define writing as doing anything related to my project (adding words, cutting words, adding sources, taking notes, reading/skimming sources, etc.). The reduced guilt tends to lead to more progress overall.
Goals for next week:
-make (and limit) reading list (starting with the entries in my current bibliography and expanding my search from there);
-order items on reading list from ILL;
-read 5 articles, make entries on them in an annotated bib, and insert relevant stuff into draft
My goal for the week was to read all of the plays that the article will deal with. I managed to read the primary texts, but not all of the secondary ones I'd hoped to get to. Part of my difficulty is that my day job is so completely unrelated to the scholarship that switching mental gears is a task in and of itself. Which makes the pacing question a really relevant one, actually. I've never been able to make a daily writing habit work before, but I was also working in academia, immersed in teaching and research even when I wasn't actively writing. Now that I'm not, it seems like a daily habit might help to make that mental gear shifting easier.
To that end, my goal this week is to spend at least fifteen minutes a day writing - I'm going to start with lit review type stuff to try to get my brain back to having interesting thoughts. I think I need this week mostly to be about actually getting something (even just notes/outline) written and getting excited about these texts and ideas again.
Quick version: met all the substantive parts of the week 1 goals (read key secondary source and primary sources; take notes; do some freewriting), but pacing (yes, indeed) was off; I did almost all of it last weekend; didn't write on Tues., Thurs., or today.
Week 2 goals: Get into a better rhythm, doing at least some writing about/from primary sources on Tues. and Thurs. morning. If I can squeeze out a few hours at another time during the week, I'll begin investigating possible journals in which to place the article (which will give me an idea of what word count, format, etc. I'm aiming for).
Longer version: I was OBE in both profitable and not-so-profitable ways: last Saturday morning was very productive; I read the secondary article and did some freewriting, as well as some reflective writing about the process and how it related to other projects. Because my car was in the shop, and I spent a lot of time on buses, I also managed to read through and take notes on a substantial portion of the primary sources over the weekend. However, the two planned weekday morning writing sessions didn't take place, mostly because getting up early to write requires getting to bed on time, and I stayed up late working on the classes I'm teaching, then felt that I really needed to catch up on sleep the next morning (I don't function well when sleep deprived, so cheating on needed sleep is not ultimately a productive strategy for me). The fact that I *meant* to write those mornings did mean that I thought about the project the afternoons/evenings before, which was better than nothing, but still not ideal. So, my goal for this week is really to get into a working rhythm, including getting caught up enough on my classes (a 4/4 load, all comp., with 2.5 preps and a lot of response to small as well as longer assignments, and a good many new elements of various sorts this semester) that I can get to bed at a decent hour, and not be distracted during my 2 hours of early-morning time (c. 6:30-8:30 or 7-9 a.m.) by what I need to do later in the morning. For the moment, though I may often check in on Saturday, I'm going to keeping thinking of the week as starting on Saturday (so this morning I missed the first planned writing session of week 2). I like the idea of starting with the day on which I can do the most substantive work (no need to shift gears at 9 if things are going well), but I'll need to be careful not to let a promising start dribble away later in the week again. I also need to figure out what I'll do in some upcoming weeks (e.g. much of October) when Saturday morning isn't available. I'd also like to see if I could sneak in a very short writing session on some of the other days, but that seems like a bit much to add to my plate this week, and that time might more profitably be spent on other areas of life: exercise, for instance, or cooking healthful meals (which I'm pretty good at when I schedule in the activity, but I don't always do so). I do know from the experience of completing my dissertation that setting (and/or having others urge me to set) unrealistic goals is a sure road to paralysis for me, while making slow but steady (but not necessarily daily) progress, even if that means I'm not quite sure when I'll finish what I'm working on, seems to work. I'd like to get a better idea of what I can reasonably expect to accomplish in the time I can regularly carve out while teaching; that's one of my goals for this 12-week session (more so than actually finishing a draft, though I still think that might well happen).
Last week's goals: Read major theoretical work that I hadn't read since grad school (done); free write 1000 words (got over 2000 although they will mostly need heavy rewriting / will not fit into the projects I'm doing); finish major transcriptions needed for project (done, for some value of 'major').
I was derailed for a day or so because I fell and hurt my writing/typing arm on Wednesday. So, while typing was a pain, I did extra reading, a full extra book more than I'd planned. The problem is that what I ended up reading has changed some of my ideas for these two papers, so, oops?
For this week, as I am on sabbatical, my weekly agenda is a huge blank, which of course is the point of being on sabbatical, but is so damn scary. I hear what everyone is saying on pacing because somehow, a decade ago, I wrote a 200,000 word dissertation with what must surely be the world's worst pacing. But I didn't have a six-year-old then either ...
Hmm, pacing you say? Okay, like others, most of my efforts to pace have ended in failure, but most often because other more pressing duties (eg teaching) get in the way. I don't have that excuse this term, which gives me a real opportunity to actually try the pacing thing without likely obstacles. So:
a) I aim to write two good, solid, usable paragraphs per day, each day this week.
b) I'm also going to need to pull out and revise my old structure for at least one these two articles I'm writing, given the new reading I did this week.
c) There is more reading to be done, mostly looking for new (up to 4 years old) articles that use a few key authors in my field.
This past week I had a modest goal of rereading the introduction and first chapter of my drafted book manuscript -- knowing that I had a course proposal to work on -- and my expectation was that I would get that done in a furious burst of productivity on Thursday when I have a long stretch of free time (or thought I would have -- please note foreshadowing). I tend to work in spurts. However, I had forgotten that my service commitments were beginning with a couple of meetings (carved out of teaching prep time), and that I had a batch of papers to grade, and the result was that I spent all day Thursday prepping for Friday. Plus I have been sick all week. The chapters remain unread. I considered posting this Friday but was holding out hope that I'd somehow get it done on Friday evening or sometime on Saturday, but it hasn't happened, and today I'll need to start working on prepping for next week. My course proposal isn't finished, either. I'm keeping the goal of reading the intro and the first chapter and hoping to find a way to fit it in in smaller chunks throughout the week.
I confess that I find it difficult to fit in research around teaching generally, and especially in semesters when I am significantly rethinking a course as I am teaching it, which is something I'm doing this semester. So pacing is very much on my mind as something I need to figure out quickly.
@ Britomart - I'm not sure how to respond to individual comments (yes - another luddite attempting the tech-y thing), but wanted to thank you for your comments. I've been hearing the same from just about everyone I've asked. This week's goal part two - look at Macs ;)
- I will be late checking in this week; travelling and time zones got me confused. Will get back to you on Monday afternoon, Australian time.
@Notorious, thank you very much again for your comment! Making a modest plan for a couple of weeks would work for me this time, especially I have several other things to do(I remember 'handling multiple tasks' discussion in the summer session). Reading your comment, I realise I need to be more realistic, and it surely helps me to understand what I can and what I cannot. Thank you very much again! - Matilda
So yeah, I'm in the weeds. I did a few things on my list yesterday--I polished up a section of the introduction, and I read through an article related to the chapter 3 issue but then decided that my original explanation of the events sufficed. And I opened up a scrivener file for my conclusion.
My problems: this past week probably isn't representative, since I was out of town until Tuesday evening, had to use Wednesday to prep for Thursday classes, etc etc. But I am realizing that I need to be more aggressive about getting to the dissertation. I'm notoriously bad at multitasking within a given day--in other words, I can work for long stretches of time but I find it difficult to shift gears and move from the diss to course prep or vice versa.
As of last night, I think I've come up with my sacred diss hours: M/W: 12-3. This makes me nervous, b/c that's taking up a large chunk of time on days when my mind is focused on prepping for the next day's classes. But I can't do anything substantive on Tuesday/Thursday after classes, and Friday's my day off, which I'm making sacred as well. Saturday, I find I'm still moving slowly. I intend for that to be a diss day, but that day alone won't cut it. So we'll see. I'll attempt this schedule this week, and see what happens.
Goals: begin revisions of the other problematic chapter (chapter 1); start working on the mini-section my advisor wants added to the introduction; read this major work that my advisor wants incorporated into the introduction.
I too found the 'pacing' stuff really helpful this week. The panic/impending doom thing as the end of the week approaches is definitely a good description of my general modus operandi, along with what Digger called the avoidance/guilt/avoidance spiral. I find slow and steady very difficult, but I was getting there, until this week threw me totally off. My goals were a little bit on the optimistic side, but I might have done okay had I not been OBE (another useful phrase. Here's the summary:
- Reread the dissertation chapter: done, with some ideas about how to restructure
- Read one relevant article per day: managed three, but they are not yet noted
- examine journals (no longer the technical journal, thanks to a gentle nudge from Dame Eleanor): not done
- freewrite: I managed it for four days of the seven, but alas NOT about my topic. I freewrite as a kind of journaling process, and try to do it every day; it's supposed to lead me into working but this week I was completely focused on other things.
- work on structuring the argument: a brief conversation with my writing partner (well, listening partner, really).
What I see--and summing it up like this is also very helpful--is a complete lack of actual writing, and as a cause/result/contributing factor, a lack of engagement. Yes, I had to focus on other things this week, but I could still have managed 15 minutes or even half an hour every day.
This week is going to be crazy, as I am returning to work (non-academic job) for the first time since May. For the next couple of weeks I will be working long hours, but will probably have ample free time during those hours. Concentration tends to be difficult in that environment, but I will try. So my goals for this week are:
notes on read articles;
read at least 3 more;
write a minimum of 15 minutes a day;
work on basic argument.
Sorry for my absence last week, all!
Thanks so much for the message about pacing. I've been moving at a snail's pace on the chapter that I'm trying to pull together, trying to make sure that each thread is woven tightly before moving on to the next one.
In the past week, I've outlined each section of the chapter, jotting down notes on (1) my overarching goals, (2) my major arguments, (3) the data that I'm using to support those points, and (4) the theoretical analysis I'm adding on. I like the structure that I have so far; the next steps will be filling in the blanks.
This week, I'd like to finalize 1 out of the 4 sections for this chapter. Classes start back on Thursday, my mom is in town, and we'll be off doing fun touristy things, so I know my output will be a little on the low end, but as long as I do a little something each day, I'll feel like I'm making progress.
Dropping out. I'm realizing that what I really want from a writing group is the opportunity to talk about *what* people are writing about, rather than just the writing processes (interesting as those are). I kind of want content, and that's been a useful thing for me to learn this week...
Digger: And that guilt-avoidance spiral is at a different place for everyone… and for every task. I'm currently guiltily avoiding something I'm supposed to do, just like I did last time I had to do this thing. Perhaps I'll learn this time.
Britomart: I use a reward system myself, but nothing that tangible. I have periods of time that I have to work, and when I finish that, I get to take a break and do something – read a chapter of a novel, check my e-mail, take a long walk, etc. Whatever keeps you moving forward.
ScholasticMama: Good to set aside those sacrosanct times. Have you thought about how you're going to enforce those boundaries? Do you need to relocate/close a door/turn off a phone/send a child to play with friends? Create the conditions that will help you succeed.
Lucie: Don't dread (although I sympathize, as I was there myself). As I said in a comment above, this week is, in part, about recalibrating, and figuring out what we actually can do per week while we're in the thick of the semester.
Jennifer: A lot of people talk about personal life events, travel, etc. as "obstacles" to writing (or whatever), but that's just self-sabotaging. You've done the right thing here by looking ahead to your week, seeing a day-gobbling event, and planing around it. Doing this will keep you productive and make you able to enjoy the things you should be enjoying.
Amstr: I think your definition of what "counts" is perfect. What it means is that your word count will bounce up and down quite a lot, but as you say, "reduced guild leads to more progress overall."
Antikate: I used to not be a daily writer either. But then I adopted my own version of Amstr's "what counts as real writing" and set less ambitious daily goals (that I almost always exceeded without planning to), and all of a sudden it became something doable, and something that worked for me.
Contingent Cassandra: Sounds like much of your OBE this past week simply goes back to the issue of recalibrating to align your goals with your current reality. In other words, this week, your progress was in gaining knowledge of how you're going to set your pace going forwards so you make goals you can meet. This is a Good Thing.
Forthright: Sabbaticals are indeed scary. We think that they should be havens for research and writing, and they are. But they can also sabotage us with their lack of structure. So maybe do what ScholasticMama is doing: admit that you may work any time, but set aside some daily (or weekly) chunks of time that are sacrosanct.
Scatterwriter: Your last paragraph is one of the main reasons that I wanted to continue this summer writing group into the semesters: to prove to ourselves that we CAN research and write during the semester, even those of us with high teaching/service loads. Certainly we can't do as much as in the summer, but we can keep moving forward. But sometimes it takes a group of us getting together to do so.
Also known as Elizabeth
Last week's goals: read one new relevant article; change “I” conference speak for more academic language.
I read the article, and started removing the conference speak. I had a family crisis on that put me well OBE by the end of the week. (I really like FBE, by the way!)
This week's goals: insert article into lit review; finish ridding the piece of "I'. I am setting aside 1/2 hour a day on the paper. I want to see if this works better than a word count.
NakedPhilologist: I don't have you on our roster. If you're under a different name, please let me know. Regardless, I need to close the comments Sunday nights -- ADM and I are trying mightily to keep up with the group, and the only way that we can do it without it becoming a full-time job that impinges on our ability to get our paid work done is if we restrict our group-leading to the weekends.
And regarding names: The name you signed up under is the one we'll look for you by. So if, for example, you have a different WordPress ID, then make sure that somewhere in your comment/check in, you include your alternate ID, to make sure that we can find you and update your status.
...as belledame/Elizabeth just did!
And Belledame, this is one of those things. Sometimes, as in the case of conference travel or family gatherings, we can plan around Events so we can avoid the "Overcome By" feeling. But sometimes they ambush us. At that point, the best thing to do is accept, roll with it, and move on to the next week. Life happens.
Ooops! Somehow I skipped a bunch of you in the middle! Here we go…
Frogprincess: First, good job figuring out a few hours that are for the dissertation alone. Now, I'm going to make a weird suggestion that you may or may not find helpful for setting aside your anxieties about class prep. Find a object. Something small. Before you begin to write, put that on the table with you. Tell yourself that this object is your course prep: your obligations, your ability to do it, and the content. It's all right there. Now, say to yourself, "I'll be back to you in three hours, I promise." Then put that object away, in a drawer or something. You've made your obligations a promise, and put a timeline on that promise, so now you don't need to worry about them or even look at them until that timeline comes due.
Opsimathphd: First of all, your name is unpronouncable. ;-) I think that right now, as you're reading, the "notes and journaling" approach is best to keep you engaged. You can promise yourself more substantive writing later, as you know more.
Jamila: See my comments above to Jennifer about planning for Events so as not to be Overcome by them. This is what you've done, and you've figured out a way to stay engaged every day, even so. So that's good.
Sophylou: Perfectly understandable. Since we're so multi-topical here, we have to be process-based, rather than content-based. A suggestion: if you're having trouble finding a real-life group, why not start a topic-based group of your own, online? And good luck to you on your project!
Last week's goals: 30 minutes with bibliography (building stacks) for the new article.
Report: Mostly OBE, in the form of getting run over by a wicked wicked cold, and finishing other deadlines that can't get ignored. It was a ROUGH week over here.
I did accomplish a few bits of progress on this project though. My panel built around this article got accepted, so I have a built-in deadline in my field, and I met with my chair about this project, and he was entirely positive and supportive.
This week's goals: 30 minutes a day again, in which I complile all the many pages of Thoughts & Jots I've accrued into one document and see what emerges from all that freewriting.
My goals for last week were to reread my seminar paper, make a rough outline of what a revised version might look like, and to review some historiography and write a 2-page historiographical summary.
I managed everything except making the outline, because I realized, in rereading my paper, that I'm nowhere near ready for that. First of all, I've been reading articles almost exclusively in my research language, and have lost any grip I ever had on how successful English-language articles are structured. Second, my paper is a mess of ideas that I think are promising, but that I wasn't able to fully develop as I was writing it up at the absolute last minute and several hours past it (I'm following the discussion of pacing with interest).
In the next couple of weeks I'm going to have to do some serious thinking about how best to crunch and present my data. I'm also moving to research country this week, so I'll be trying to set modest goals (again) in order to prevent myself becoming completely Overwhelmed By Events.
My goals for next week:
1) Identify and look over subset of sources that are actually relevant for this article.
2) Articulate in writing a set of concrete steps to take for dealing with data.
3) Reread 2-3 English-language articles that I remember as making persuasive arguments with attention to structure rather than content. Take notes on this.
All this said, however, I'm not sure I'm going to have internet access come next weekend in the immediate aftermath of my move. I'll do my best to check in somehow, though!
Goals: re-read original paper, revisit bibliography and determine what is next. Start on Intro.
Reality: OBE, death in the family. Very mixed feelings about everything right now.
Goal for this week: Re-re-read original paper. Try to decipher notes from last week.
Marie, I've just had a death in the family myself, and will be tearing off to Another Country for the funeral W-F. Trying to figure out how to not have this derail my entire week...
Just re-read my comment, and realize it comes across pretty callous about the death in my family. Read "not getting derailed" as figuring out how to miss and mourn them while still staying functional and productive. Oh, and reasonably sane.
Guys, dealing with death or other serious stuff among those you are close to is more important than writing in any given week (or however long it takes). If working or writing helps take your mind off it for a few hours a day or week, then go for it. But: Our work should not make us feel guilty for being human. Ever.
right -- checking in before the comments close. OBE a little this week, as both health and academic issues jumped in. Managed to get the main part of the week's plan done, i.e., re-reading the papers, but at present I'm in a 'research on weekends' mode, so I need to figure out how to thing about setting my goals for what I can do by Friday, rather than by close of comments.
And honestly, plowing through comments and editing them down to simple goals took over three hours last week. So if you are reading this, please think things through as much as you want -- that's good and necessary -- but it would be much appreciated if you could provide a short and consolidated set of goals at the end of the post.
so, my goals for this week are minimal, since I am on fluids only on one day, and will be sedated on another. Finish up with last week's goals ('chunking' the paper and putting it into scrivener, starting to read the review book, and especially the ILL requests)
I finished the primary texts, did some database research, and read the intro of a book of criticism. I did not put together a bibliography or order sources from I'LL. Still, I feel really good about what I got done since, last year, it started to seem impossible to get reading and writing done during a full-blown semester. But this week, I prioritized my reading and research. I did a little bit everyday--some days for 15 minutes and some days for an hour. And if felt so good to make progress, regardless of how small. And I still was able to go the beach with the kids.
This week, I'd like to read 50 pages of a novel (primary source), the first two chapters of Descartes's First
Meditations, and one article, taking a few notes on each. But right now, I need to get to work on 35 essays that I wanted to return tomorrow. Bah.
My goals for last week were to finish a class proposal, outline a chapter of my dissertation, and finish a chapter on Presbyterian abuses, so that I could move on to the two dissertation chapters that are my actual goal for this writing group. However, reality and an extremely hectic schedule kicked in last week and all I managed to finish was the first goal, which will hopefully land me a paycheck for next semester.
Things will be back to normal this week, though, so I am trying not to feel like an absolute failure about being way behind on the abuses chapter and trying to keep reminding myself that I can do this. The pacing post really helped. I normally work in spurts, but I'm really trying to get in the habit of writing every day because I have this giant dissertation to finish and I have finally realized that it won't get written (at least not well) in spurts.
So, my goal for this week is to write 500 words a day on the abuses chapter and still manage an outline for my next chapter. It's a lot of writing, but, like I said, my schedule is fairly open right now and I need to take advantage of that.
Goal for the week: A thesis and 1 page of writing
Accomplished: A thesis, lots of notes on sources, beginnings of an outline.
So, I think I had a stupid goal and I fell into a pacing problem similar to Girl Scholar. I spent a lot of time on the project on Monday, a little on Tuesday, and then didn't get back to it until Friady. I also think I chose a poor goal. I have often thought that I wait to long to begin writing. So, I was using this goal this week to push myself to "write before you think you're ready." It didn't work. I kept just going back to sources and making notes instead of writing. I did figure out my thesis for the chapter and I have a good sense of where it is headed. So, that helps. I've decided to to go back to my former approach to writing. More brainstorming and pre-writing and outlining. Less staring at a computer screen. I need to get to the point where I can't help but start typing, it's all pent up inside.
This week's goal:
Finish a detailed outline of the chapter so I can start putting words to screen the following week.
Can I join? Goal for this week:
Assemble biographical sketches for grant (this means getting 2 missing ones and a lot of awful formatting)
Make sure I get 2 farmed out pieces of grant by Wednesday ... or bug those people such that they give them to me by Friday
Saturday and Sunday, write the last 2 pieces of grant.
Following week: budget, budget narrative, assemble, and print!!!
To submit ahead of internal deadline Oct. 5.
@ Digger and @ Marie -
I was part of this writing group this summer and was seriously OBE in my immediate family. Not deaths, like with yours, but serious, heartrending, life-changing events. They were completely derailing for my summer writing process. But, dealing with those issues was more important than writing. Now I'm back! It isn't easy. I guess I'm just saying, we hear you and we are with you!
Hey, everyone: I'm shutting down comments in about an hour. So if you're still out there and planning to check in, now's the time! But here's the latest batch of feedback:
Erika: There appears to be a nasty cold going around where I live, too. Good luck pulling together those thoughts & jots (that's what I've been working on, too).
Monks and Bones: Maybe you can spend this upcoming week sussing out what the most promising idea is, and focusing on that, then moving on to the next one, and so on. And if it works better for you to check in early, before the post goes up, then just pop an e-mail to me or ADM (who's going to be hosting next week), remind us of the situation, and we'll make sure you get included.
Marie: as I said before to you & Digger – writing is the priority of this group, but these emergency situations should rightly be your priority right now. If your check-ins for a while need to be in the form of "still working through personal chaos; will be back in the game soon," that's fine.
ADM: Troubling health issues are no joke. Like Marie & Digger, you need to take care of yourself first. An article is not worth your physical or mental health. (Nor is a writing group, so if you need me to step in and sub for you next week, let me know).
Good Enough Woman: "it felt so good to make progress, regardless of how small. And I still was able to go the beach with the kids." This is great. Remember that those 15 minutes a day (and more when you can grab it) add up. So good for you for staying engaged on a daily basis.
Trapped in Canadia: Absolutely do not feel like a failure. We're here to encourage, not berate. Keep focused on what you can do in the week to come.
Mike: When you say "I kept just going back to sources and making notes instead of writing," I think you're selling yourself short, because those notes ARE writing. Here's what you can do to take it to the next level: As you're taking notes, also note down your observations, questions, and areas where you need to do more work (those "thoughts and jots" that Erika speaks of). This will gradually move you into making your arguments.
Finally, to Profacero (as well as a couple of other people who popped in this week, but who aren't on our roster):
Because we've had such an overwhelming response (we've got twice as many people this fall as we did in the summer), we need to limit ourselves to the people who got in during the sign-up period. But if keeping track of all 50 enthusiastic writers for the next ten weeks doesn't turn ADM and I into puddles of goo, we'll have another call sometime in January. In the meantime, feel free to pop in and take part in the conversation, but to keep our workload managable, ADM & I will only be tracking and commenting on the participants who have already registered.
@Frogprincess, I want to note something important that you said, and that needs to be your mantra:"my original explanation of the events sufficed".
When you read dissertations, there are often loose ends, sections that are weaker than others because at some point it had to be done, and it's good enough.
A friend once likened a dissertation to a driver's license: you show you know how to drive, but you don't have to be perfect, or able to drive a truck.
And to those who have had family crises: What Notorious said. We are human beings, and in most fields (certainly history), I think the quality of our work is shaped by our humanity. You just need to be kind to yourself, and the rest of your family.
And I think Susan's note is an excellent one to end the week on. Thanks for checking in, everyone! Keep writing, and we'll see each other over at ADM's place next Friday!
Thanks for that, Susan. I do need to be much more willing to let things go, especially in the half of the dissertation that my committee (and I) universally agree are pretty damn good. Those versions will suffice!
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