Friday, July 22, 2011

Writing group Check-in week 8

Well, I did get my paper done, and then took a few days off to visit with an old friend who lives on the other side of the Pennines from Leeds. Then home yesterday to a pile of admin stuff. So OBE has hit again -- that and not counting on things like travel and forgetting that I owed my dean a pile of work. So that needs doing Saturday, and the paper will have to get sent on Saturday. Then I will be taking stock of what needs doing before classes start again. The long-term goal for me has stayed relatively the same: I've finished two conference papers, and am trying to get drafts sent to a journal and a volume editor by the end of August. But in the meantime, there is definitely some shuffling going on, and I will absolutely need to take a few days off somewhere, just to sleep.

In the meantime, I'll be adding some more thoughts on recalibrating in ways that don't mean dropping things entirely. That and why I set goals that don't include any time to spare or time to spend resting. In the meantime, I am wondering -- What are people's teaching loads, and how much time do you spend on research during the academic year? I ask because I think I overload myself because of the fear that I only have the summer to get things done, and that's probably why I don't plan any holiday time. Ever.

This week's goals:

ABDMama [Draft of an article MS]: begin cutting, 1,000 words this week
ADM [conference paper for Leeds; revision of paper after]: Get paper submitted to MFF
Cly [revise article for publication & draft chapter for book]: Finish revisions
Dame Eleanor [Revising a conference paper into article MS]: Keep expanding; including actual words on the page (NPhD: got a word count in mind?)
Digger [drafts of two book chapters]: Finish Mash chapter – for real!
Dr. Koshary [work on book MS]: Excused absence: moving this week
Eileen [First draft of a dissertation chapter]: finish current section & map out final section
Erika [Review-ready draft of an article MS]: edit 1 page/ day, write 500 words on conf. paper or freewrite 500 words on second article
Firstmute [chapter draft; send out article]: get back to chapter draft, with a daily writing goal of 3 hours a day
Frog Princess [rewrite Chapter 3; get another draft of the introduction]: make a plan for the remainder of the summer; start dealing with chapter 3, and go through the papers of a subject held at the university library for relevant information
Gillian [an article that needs writing]: planned incommunicado for another week
Godiva [First draft of diss. chap.]: write 500 words/day & basic outline of whole chapter
Jeff [Review-ready draft of completed dissertation]: Get a version of ch. 2 ready to send to committee
Kit: [Write the first draft of a dissertation chapter]: ((specific goal for this week??))
NWGirl [Revising a conference paper into an article MS]: draft section 3 and conclusion
Sapience [Prepare presentation of full dissertation for department]: Keep working on the presentation/ introduction, especially in terms of organization; shift to revisions of the main work if feedback comes in.
Scatterwriter [Complete expansion/revision of an article MS]: write up final point suggested by reviewers, then make last passes through the manuscript as a whole
Scholastic Mama [Revising a conference paper into an article MS]: excused absence for faculty seminar, but will use the time to do some reading
Susan [Revise & polish two chapters of a book MS]: either continue on the current (interrupted) chapter, or go spend a few days on the introduction
Tigs [Completed diss draft]: finish edits on chs. 3-6; complete draft of ch. 7 (NPhD: wow – that seems like a lot for a single week…)
Travelia [prepare book MS for review]: take stock of book ms and create a master to-do list of necessary and desired revisions, making detailed notes on the strengths and weaknesses of each chapter
Zabeel [Complete draft of an article]: one-week holiday planned

Awaiting report:

Audie [working on transitioning a dissertation chapter to an article]*
J. Otto Pohl [Complete draft of 2/3-finished book MS]*
Jen [Revising conference paper into article MS]*
Matilda [Draft of a publishable paper]*
Mel [Finish dissertation!]*
Zcat abroad [write an article]*


zcat_abroad said...

Signing in early! I arrived home on Sunday, with a head-cold and jet-lag, and term started the next day. That I've actually managed to achieve some writing this week I count as a win.

The 'write 500-words a day' exercise is working really well. I've actually got words to work with - to chop, re-arrange, etc. Hurrah!

This semester, I have Mondays and Fridays with no teaching, which means I am going to be dedicating those days to writing and research - and will NOT allow myself to be guilt-tripped into wasting that time 'catching up' with family and friends. That's what weekends are for. (Though weekends also appear to be for cleaning, washing, and getting caught up on marking.)

This next week, I'm going to work on structuring an argument, and building up the word-count.

Looking forward to hearing how people balance teaching and writing and research.

Cly said...

Right. It doesn’t feel quite like a week. Thanks to Notorious for her comment about re-grouping rather than apologising. To complicate things further, I’m now in a new archive-city working on a collaborative ongoing project (this was supposed to happen after I had finished my other projects.

Instead of panicking about how much my computer troubles have set me back, I’ve been trying to re-evaluate and come up with a realistic plan for salvaging some of my research time. Instead of reaching goals, I’ve come up with lists of what needs doing and how I might do it (I won’t bore you with specifics).

Anyway, my goal next week is my article (untouched since before Leeds). Most pathetic, I know.

Sapience said...

As a grad student, I have a pretty light teaching load most of the time. When I'm teaching comp, I have a 1/1 load (20 hours a week is what it's supposed to work out to, and it usually does). When teaching lit, it's 2 classes a term, and last semester I still managed to get a lot of work done once I got past the first few weeks of the semester where I was overpreparing in order to keep myself from panicking about teaching lit for the first time. This next year, I'll be on fellowship, so I won't be doing any teaching at all.

I didn't really do much work on the introduction this week. First, I got comments on Chapter 3 (very positive) and did some revising work. I also got feedback on my job market materials and revised most of those and sent them on to the next reviewer. But the real hindrance this week was that I've been feeling a really strong pull to work on the next chapter, though I can't tell if it's because of my advisor's mild suggestion or if it's just my way of procrastinating on writing the introduction (or, to frame it more positively, my way of giving my brain some space to puzzle through the elements of the intro that aren't working). So, I spent this week digging through EEBO and then realizing that wasn't going to work for what I want to do, and then digging to find scholarly editions of particular works. I'm currently reading my way through Gerrard Winstanley's pamphlets...

Goals for next week: read widely and in depth to figure out which authors and which texts I want to focus on in chapter 4. Write at least a paragraph about each text I plan to cover, explaining what use I think it will be to my overall argument.

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Sapience, that's a great way to build, I think!

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

The report: I seem to be in some combination of summer doldrums and Insomniac City---OBE doesn't perfectly cover it because there aren't any events, as such. This week I kept working on the outlines in small increments, mainly because I had to send something to my RL writing group, so they got all the thesis statements/ topic sentences for the mini-essays, and while I was cutting & pasting all that, I managed to strengthen some spots that needed it. I also had another day of working obsessively on an idea that is not on the summer list of stuff to do, sort of a spin-off from this essay. My hope is that by writing down these ideas and doing a little research while I'm all fired up, I may be able to make progress on them at some later date, rather than later thinking "what was that idea? Damn, it was all clear in my head then, but it's gone now." Anyway, I've had a lot of trouble sleeping this week, which resulted in another day of wandering around in a fog (must stay awake till normal bedtime . . . no naps . . . no) and getting nothing at all done.

Since you said "Dame Eleanor [Revising a conference paper into article MS]: Keep expanding; including actual words on the page (NPhD: got a word count in mind?)" I wasn't sure if the question was for me or for NPhD, but I'll answer anyway: this feels like a big essay, probably 9000-10,000 words, though I may be able to get some of that into footnotes to keep the main line of argument clear. That means sending it to a journal that doesn't mind that sort of structure.

The goal: Keep on trucking. Write a crap mini-essay draft just to get words on paper. (I bet I can trick myself into doing more if I just start, but I'm not letting myself know that's the idea.) Just one crap draft of a 2-3 page essay. Undergraduates do that all the time!

Since this is so long already, I'm going to tackle the research-while-teaching question in another comment.

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

The answer to your question about research: my course load is five/year, with the fall being my 3-course term. I have finally learned to work with that structure, and try to have an R&R or a nearly-finished essay to work on during the fall (something that doesn't require a large investment of either research time or creative thinking, but can be worked on somewhat mechanically in small bursts). Then spring (2 courses) is for something along the lines of one of those ideas-for-later, where there's a base but not so much already worked out as for a fall project. In practice, this often means conference papers, because I have this awful habit of getting signed up for both K'zoo and another conference within a month of it---I wish I could stop that, but I've only recently got involved with some people who always have a conference in the spring, and they're people I really want to be talking to and working with, so I need to work out a way to manage this neatly.

Then summer is for new research and for big get-it-done projects like the essay I signed up to work on.

During the academic year, arranging writing dates with a friend works wonders. Even if it's only 2 hours a week, it's a time set aside for writing, and where someone else will be disappointed if I don't show. I have also been known to ignore stacks of grading for a couple of weeks if I have a genuine deadline, and I often skim committee paperwork at the last minute. I do not actually recommend these as regular strategies. Putting in 15-30 minutes first thing in the morning, before checking e-mail or otherwise starting to respond to Other People's Needs (including cat-people) is also really helpful.

I get frustrated with these techniques (hence my happy indulgence in whole summer days devoted to a new shiny idea), but they do produce writing. I can be spared for half an hour most mornings before I have to start teaching and committee-ing. I also often use weekend mornings, while Sir John is sleeping in. I'm not the sort of writer who likes taking off weekends; I'd rather do a little every single day, and have writing a daily thing like brushing teeth.

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

Just noticed the journal you're submitting to, ADM, & wondered if it was edited by Comrade Physioprof. :-)

Matilda said...

Hello, everyone,

I have missed my check-in last week. Somehow I was not able to post my comment even I tried 8 or 9 times over a few days. My post just disappeared. What confused me was that I did exactly the same thing I had done before, but it went wrong this time.

Anyway, I have worked through Week 7 and 8 sections of WYJA. Task 1 seems very slow to proceed. The problem is that still I am revising my argument. This has started to make me suspect whether I am working on a right paper. Do I have to think of giving up this and starting a new paper?

A good news is that I have nearly done all part of the draft of task 2. It is good to have a written draft, even if it is still a first version and needs to be polished.

Finally I started reading necessary literature of task 3 and have realized that this is more difficult than expected. I should have started earlier! Am I really going to finish it by the deadline? I'll do my best.

I have read several Leeds reports, ADM's included, of course, and started to think of reading a paper at Leeds next year. Then, a proposal is necessary, that means still another task to be worked this summer???

As for the topic this week, I am not sure I can say something, so I will only enjoy reading what other people say.

For next week: working through Week 9 section of WYJA; re-writing again the argument and introduction of task 1(this WG paper)- even there are still some parts I doubt about. I need to proceed and it can be useful to write what I can write; submitting task 2; starting to write a draft of task 3.

Susan said...

So, in some ways this is a week that was OBE, but some of the OBE was professional (not the day devoted to waiting for a delivery, then taking stuff back to the construction warehouse). I said that I might work on the intro, and instead I started a brief (3000-5000) word essay related to the big project, which is due at the end of December; and then I got invited to respond to a meretricious essay being published in a big journal, and decided, yes, it's just 1500 words, but must do that -- and drafted about 800 words of that. And I did bits on the chapters I'm working on. So in some ways it's been bitty, but I've probably added about 3000 words over the course of the week. Also, today I was reading soemthing that feels to me as if it's a key to the chapter I'm working on now, which is kind of exciting. Of course, that will require some reorganization of stuff, but I like putting this piece at the center of the chapter.

I haven't been successful at consistent research and writing during the semester; I tend to do things that have deadlines, and not work to a schedule. But like Dame Eleanor, I find it's important to not have to do lots of creative thinking in the semester: I can fill in pieces, but I don't usually have great ideas. I have a ridiculously low teaching load (though for a variety of reasons it's mostly been outside my main research area for the past few years), but a ridiculously high service load, which means that meetings have often interrupted my "free" days. I'm working on keeping Fridays free regularly, and most Mondays. We'll see :) When I get home, there are parts of the chapters I've been working on that I'll be able to finish from paper notes, and then I have a reading project which will engage the next chapter.

For next week, my last full week in London, I'd like to figure out if my great idea from this afternoon will work. And do some of what's needed to make that happen...

QueSera said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
QueSera said...

I had a really great week. The summer doldrums are hopefully in the past now. Instead of 1,000 words, I cut 2,200 words and added about 1,500. The first half of my article is clean and in good shape. It's exhilarating to be back on track again. I was afraid I wasn't going to want to look at the dissertation material and revise so soon after submitting, but it has been "fun" to cut to support the article's argument.

Next week: Revise the second half of the article and have it set for peer review. I'm cutting myself slack on proper footnotes and word count so that I can get this out to people before the school year begins again.

I'm in limbo land right now in terms of academic work, so I don't have anything to add to that conversation. I hope to some day!

Erika said...

Okay, I nailed my goal this week! Progress has been made on all fronts: my conference paper has been added to, I've got 3,300 words for my second article project, and I've managed to edit 5 pages of my journal article (my summer project for the group). I still don't really feel like I'm making any progress, but I clearly am. I suspect that, with a little coaxing, I can finish up this article draft by next weekend.

I need to keep at all three of these projects because of looming deadlines, but I really need to prioritize getting this article done. So, my goal next week is to edit 2 pages / day of this article draft.

My teaching load is 2/3. This year I only have one new prep, and it's a good thing considering how many projects need to get off my desk in late August and September! I'm a little bit (read totally) spooked about getting real writing done during the school year, because I pretty much only met deadlines last year. I have really loved the ideas I've heard here like Dame Eleanor's about writing for 30 minutes before tending to others, or working towards a daily word count like Notorious, and I hope that kind of structured writing time will produce progress this fall.

Travelia said...

My teaching load is 2-3 with a one-course reduction for an administrative job. Last year was my first in that position, and it was a challenge to continue to research and write in spite of the reduced teaching load. The problem was not so much the time taken by actually doing administrative work, but dealing with the increased claims on my attention. My plans for dealing with this are what many have already mentioned: setting aside specific times of the day or week for uninterrupted writing or research, using deadlines to guarantee progress. I don't really know how well those strategies will work.

As for goals this week. I did complete the work I had set for myself. For next week I need to work seriously on revising the introduction to my book ms. I have only three weeks till school starts, which is not enough time to finish all the revisions I want to do; however, thinking about the reality of limited time is likely to be discouraging, so I'm just pushing forward and trying to accomplish as much as possible. In other words, I'm in denial, but that may be necessary right now.

My Museology said...

Since Chapters 1, 2 and 3 are in their second-draft forms and are approaching their third and final draft, it's become clear I'll also have to refine the appendices for my dissertation, so that's what I've been working on over the last few days. Like I said in the last (late! and _very_ recent) update --- posted in the entry for 8 July --- the steps forward seem to get smaller and slower. This I attribute to their representing the final, critical and not-exactly quantifiable phase of what a final draft is.

Other progress: updated the website I'm using to track my writing progress and drafted an abstract for the dissertation.

Goals for the next week:

Finish the third draft of Chapter 1
Finish the final draft of the appendices
Edit Chapters 2 and 3 on paper

Notorious Ph.D. said...

W00t! Great to hear about so many people meeting goals for the week, and overcoming the midsummer slump!

Notorious Ph.D. said...

And for the record: I teach a 3-4 plus a couple of M.A. students. During the semester I can generally do one (though not both) of the following:

a) research and write a conference paper (10-12 pp) from scratch, or

b) revise and expand and article- or chapter-length piece.

In addition, I get some piecemeal stuff done, like reading and taking notes, or transcribing and taking notes. But that all usually goes to hell around week 6 or 7.

NWGirl said...

I have a full draft of the article though the conclusion is still rough. I feel like I turned a corner this week, feeling more confident about this article.

Goals for the week:
* Revisions - Rather than setting a page or word count, I am going to set a goal of two hours per day (Mon-Fri).

* Finish introduction for upcoming conference presentation.

Last year, in a non-TT position, I had a 4/4, including one new prep. I also had a lot of thesis students.

This year I have a 3/2 teaching load and half the number of thesis students that I had last year. No new preps this fall either. So I want to make good use of the additional time I have for writing and research. I'm worried that all of that lovely time will disappear if I'm not careful. (Needless to say I accomplished NOTHING last year.) I plan to spend one day a week working from home on writing and research.

Like Dame Eleanor and Susan, I really cannot start something new when I'm teaching and directing theses. So for the fall, I have book revisions and a conference paper to work on. Both are started and I should be able to work on those even a few minutes a day. I have a shiny new project that I want to develop next summer so I will spend time in the fall and spring reading secondary sources, or at least identifying secondary sources to read.

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

I've already taken up enough real estate in this thread, but I wanted to say that I've written a post chez moi about writing groups, and why this one is the most useful of all the groups I'm involved in this summer. Thanks to both our hosts and to all of the participants! As with teaching, the chemistry is key, but there are things that can be done to foster good chemistry.

Digger said...

I won't have a teaching load, but will have a studenting-load in addition to the other research and papers I want to work on. I'm hoping (best laid plans?) that I can do my own work for a couple of hours each morning before heading to campus to tangle with school stuff (all my classes are at night).

Progress this week: none. Again. Too much OBE. And it feels like crap. Goals: tomorrow (Sunday) spend a couple of hours doing what I didn't do last week (go over notes, outline). Rest of the week: write at least two good pages of the chapter I've been avoiding.

Jeff said...

Okay, chapter two is sent out. I didn't exactly get it to where I wanted it, but as the end of the week rolled around I decided it was time to stop sitting on this and subject it to some feedback—so I just added little notes remarking on the biggest omissions and emailed it off to the committee. Yay!

And ... I'm not really sure what comes next. I'm still waiting for advisor feedback on chapter N, and now chapter 2, and the other pieces are pretty much done now. One thing that definitely needs to happen this week is getting all my ducks in a row (formatting and some paperwork), since there's a university deadline coming up. But I'm hoping that's no more than a day of work.

But there are some parts of both chapters that I know I need to fix, regardless of what my committee says. Okay, so here's a goal: the last section of the last chapter is a wreck, and I'm going to fix it this week.

On teaching: I'm at a major transition, at the moment. My graduate program has hardly required any teaching at all, by normal standards. So in the fall I'll have my first experience with real teaching demands. There isn't a nice numeric code for their teaching system; I don't think it'll be a very heavy load objectively speaking, but it will be very new to me. (Including teaching my first graduate course!) So after I defend I'm not really planning to do any more research until December. Whatever I manage to squeeze in is gravy.

thefrogprincess said...

So this week was less successful for me. I did some of what I set out to accomplish: I read through my entire dissertation and marked it up (more for content than for style), and I have a general sense of what needs doing. I also kinda-sorta started working on chapter 3. It's more of a disaster than I'd realized. But I didn't get to the special collections. I did start on course prep.

I'm at a weird place. My advisor's comments won't come for weeks (especially since I had to mail a hard copy across the Atlantic and did it the slow, cheap way so it could take two weeks to get there). I know it's not a good idea to wait for hir comments, but it's hard to avoid settling into that mode.

I'm also a little worried b/c we're getting close to the beginning of the school year. Like Jeff, my graduate institution required very little teaching, and there were no opportunities to teach my own course. This coming year, I'll be doing a non-TT 2/2, and I expect it will take up the vast majority of my time. The dissertation has to be defended this fall as well. So my worry is that the advisor's comments are going to take so long to materialize that I'll be forced to do major revisions during the school year at the same time that I'm applying for jobs at the same time that I am teaching for the first meaningful time.

The goal for next week: I really must look at these documents in special collections and I need to do some additional secondary reading to make sure I fully understand the political context on which Chapter 3 rests. I had included it in the first draft, but it was very undigested, and it's clear reading back that I don't fully understand what's going on. Also, if lucky, I'll start working on the structure of the chapter, which was one of the most frequent comments I received.

Godiva said...

OK, I more or less achieved my goals for this week. I've now got most of one section of the chapter - 3,500 words, but will be 5000 when I've finished it and tidied it up. Going to put that on one side for a bit and come back to it when I've done similar for the first half of the chapter.

So this week I'll write 500 words/day on my documentary sources, and do enough research so that when I go away next week I can be thinking about it away from books!
Additional goal for this week: check in to the writing group on time!

It's really interesting to hear how people balance teaching and research. As a PhD student, my teaching load is light, and I have to admit I had no idea how people manage to do all they do! But this coming year is a bit of a weird one for me, as I'll be attending classes as well as teaching some, so it's going to be busy and confusing. I'm pleased to see a conference paper from scratch seems to be a reasonable thing to have planned, as that is what I have to do! I think I'm going to set aside a whole day every week and do daily writing.

Another Damned Medievalist said...

[ADM: I read this email from Scatterwriter, then forgot to post! D'oh!!]

Let's see. This week, my article manuscript grew by another 238 words to 19,775. I wrote up most of the last minor point required by one of my readers; I just need to check one more book (coming through interlibrary loan) for a citation on that point. In the interim, I started comparing the current state of the manuscript to the original submission, so that I can tell the editor what I've added and what I've changed. I found a few places where I should expand or clarify my argument; writing by hand on a printout of the current version was really helpful for keeping track of the last few changes I want to make. Usually I love editing on the computer, but I think I lose track of the big picture when I do that. I also changed the title of my article to better reflect the revisions I've made. Goals for this week (knowing that I probably will not do them all, but I would be happy getting a subset of these done): add in the last citation. Finish making the last changes. Cut as much as I can. Find high-resolution images of the new paintings I'm referencing and add them to my illustrations file, and get it printed. Start drafting the letter to the editor.

I don't usually plan holiday time either -- except for the one week in the summer when I have a family vacation, and the one week in the winter when I am visiting my extended family -- but I do take breaks from research, not in a premeditated way, but more in a wasting-time-on-the-internet way, and afterward I don't think, "Oh, I guess I really needed a break, and it's good that I took it"; no, I feel relentlessly guilty about needing it in the first place, and thus begins the unproductive spiral that I sometimes find myself in, because the guiltier I feel the less I want to confront what I've been doing.

As for teaching, I teach five classes a year, sometimes 3-2, sometimes 2-3 (often but not always at my own discretion). I find that I am usually unable to focus at all on research while I am actively teaching, so I have three windows during the year for it: summer, winter break, and spring break. It doesn't seem to matter whether I am teaching 3-2 or 2-3. If I'm teaching 3-2, I need the extra time in the spring semester to recover somewhat from teaching 3 in the fall, and the research doesn't get done then. If I'm teaching 2-3, I can sometimes get some little things done on my research in the fall, but mostly I am just consumed by teaching, and then it ramps up in the spring and the research goes by the wayside.

Unknown said...

Sapience, that's a great way to build, I think>>

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