Paper vs. Screen (Summer Writing Group: Week 4)

Our topic of the week comes from JaneB (thanks, JaneB!):

What balance between physical and electronic forms of drafts and physical and electronic writing media works for you? For example, some of us probably write drafts long hand, others use word processor software to write then do major edits with a pen on a paper copy, others do the lot on a computer… pros and cons?

Other questions that relate: What tools do you use when your writing is really moving? What do you use when you get stuck? Why do you use what you use?

Feel free to answer any of the questions above, and as always, comment on others’ comments when you can. I’ll leave the comments sections open through Monday, mostly because it’s summer (at least for the northern hemisphere folks), and partly because commenting on other people’s posts is a great way to procrastinate my way into working at the start of the week.

A reminder of the check-in format: 1) Goals, 2) Accomplished, 3) Analysis, 4) Goals for next week, 5) optional Next check in date, if you’ll miss a week or two or three.

Roll call:

Amstr [complete dissertation]: for real this time, finish The Chapter.
Aria
[something ??]: make some progress
Becky
[journal article]: Read more for the section I’m working on.
Contingent Cassandra
[full draft of J by 7/21; progress on P project]: work on J article on Tu, Th, and Sat. mornings. Do *not* let other things interfere; better sleep schedule. Accomplish one ancillary task, and make progress on the other.
Daisy
[finish thesis]: vacation!!! celebration!!!
DEH
[finish and submit MMP and article]: 1500 words.
Elizabeth Anne Mitchell
[progress on diss or article]: Begin reading WYJA in hopes it will light a fire, although I’d settle for a candle. An hour a day on dissertation or article.
emmawriting
[2 articles submitted; work on 1 of 2 articles]: Work on EOCP every day
GEW
[draft of new chapter; edit article]: 50 more pages of primary source reading, 500 words of writing for Chapter 2, and some notes and quotes for Chapter 5.
humming42
[complete book MS]:  first two sections of chapter 1 complete
JaneB
[chip away at writing backlog]: rewrite ComplicatedPaper with co-author comments; and email revision to non-replying co-authors. Finish drafting the text to go with the analyses I have so far for NextBigPaper; work out exactly what additional analyses are needed. Rough out the latest version of Paper With MSc Student. Make notes to go along with the preliminary analyses and send those off to those collaborators. Prepare for intensive summer field week of teaching.
jenk
[submit article; materials/methods + research sections of thesis]: Spend an hour and a half with the thesis
Kirstin
[rough draft of journal article]: WYJA Week 3; email Zsuzsi.
kiwimedievalist
[article]:  week 3 of WYJA, and at least 60 mins a day working on one of the articles (possibly alternating)
luolin88 [finish and submit journal article; start next article]: Make writing a priority. Work first thing on MTWThF. (next check in: 6/22)
Matilda
[2 of 4: paper, 3 presentations]: finishing a first draft, using WYJA.
NWGirl
[revise 2 papers for publication]: finish reviewing the related literature.
psycgirl
[R&R MS; submit MS#2; outline review article]: Write Results of MS#2. Edit section 2 of MS#1
rented life
[2 solid book chapters]: Read 4 chapters (or 3 chapters and some of the DVD), apply to one job (due next week), moving stuff. Bonus: write 1 page, even with pen and paper.
rocket
[article & old project submitted; prelim new project]: ??
Ruthie
[chapter; book proposal; 2 articles]: Write 5 pages before Sunday evening. Write each day, first thing, for three hours before leaving to do fieldwork. With fieldwork, keep calling people until you find someone willing to let you shadow them.
Sapience
[complete diss; decide scope of new idea]: 10 more articles, this time in preparation for my summer seminar; start editing the diss. Perhaps allow procrastination in the form of more job market material revision.
tracynicolerose
[P&P and LM papers ready for conference mid-summer; drafting TS and BE papers]: Finalize the LM presentation based on co-authors’ comments and send it off to the session moderator; finish activities in WYJA using the second presentation paper (P&P) for the activities. Begin Week 3 in WYJA. Edit my section of the findings section of the TS paper.
Trapped in Canadia
[2 diss. chapters; 1 turned into edited book ch.]: (next check in: 6/22)

58 thoughts on “Paper vs. Screen (Summer Writing Group: Week 4)

  1. Sigh my first attempt to answer didn’t work on my phone. Short version is progress was not made but I should have anticipated that considering some other duties I had to handle, not to mention being on “vacation” – but sleep and rest are good (as is finally having a break from the migraines) so its ok -so next week doesn’t have a goal because I am spending the weekend with good friends (who are actually also good sounding boards about my topic so some thinking may occur- then I have a conference the rest of the week – so that’s that…

    Regarding paper/electronic – I’ve always written notecards by hand but not drafts – though I’m trying to go all electronic by using a notecard app on my ipad- seems pretty good so far and it’s a lot easier to tote it than a bunch of notecards and printouts!

  2. I tend to draft on the screen (I’m in love with Scrivener for early drafts, but do most of my revision in Word, since that’s what everyone comments in), but I tend to revise by hand. If I’m stuck, I always need to print out and go to the coffee shop to get some perspective. I have a very hard time seeing my work as a whole when it’s on the screen.

    For notes, I’ve taken to making a separate page for each article/book and typing notes in the order they appear with some kind of introductory tag. I’ve tried programs that mimic notecards, but I find that I work better if I can get a quick sense of the whole article/book by skimming through the notes.

    My other essential is an annotated bibliography for each chapter. When I have the time, I should really copy my annotations into my bibliography program (I’m using BookEnds right now) so they’re easy to access when I need to pull sources together for another project.

    I chose what to use based on two factors: 1) not losing anything, 2) making forward progress. I find that switching back and forth between paper and screen helps me get new perspectives on my work.

    Now to check in:
    Goal: for real this time, finish The Chapter

    Accomplished: YES!!!!! The last couple sections need to be more focused, and the conclusion is a mess of something, but the chapter is “complete” and sent to my advisor.

    Analysis: The start of my kids’ summer vacation definitely freed me up mentally to be able to get done what I needed to do. I didn’t have to worry about which day I needed to make cupcakes or how to get the kids to practice well for their violin recital. And I don’t have to drive them to and from school. This week of having babysitters come for my morning work time (combined with getting in the pool regularly) has been fantastic.

    There’s definitely more I could do for the draft, but I’m taking the weekend off to celebrate my birthday with family.

    For next week: 1) do a first revision pass on Ch. 3, 2) read comments from editor on article-version of Ch. 2 and decide what to do, 3) make notes for Ch. 2 revision, 4) write an introduction to the Ch. version.

    I’m happy for any advice on my article conundrum. I just received an article back that I submitted for a book (after a long delay and some miscommunication with the editor), and the editor framed her response as a “revise and resubmit.” The book has a publisher, so it’s on a timeline. I haven’t yet read her comments, but once I do I will need to decide whether I should revise and resubmit, or withdraw the article. A lot will depend on whether I think the changes she wants will help my dissertation chapter version, or whether it will distract me from finishing the dissertation this summer. I would hate to back out, but I can’t afford not to graduate in the fall. Advice?

    • Congratulations on finishing the chapter, and happy birthday! Finishing (even finishing something a bit rough) in time to celebrate sounds like good timing.

      The revise and resubmit on the article/book chapter sound like less-fortunate timing. Your plan makes sense to me, but I don’t have enough experience to know whether withdrawal at this point would be taken badly. The ideal would, of course, be the revision that works for both projects. If that isn’t available, then I’d be inclined to consult with the book editor to see what the timeline for the book project actually is (especially since, if she just sent out a bunch of such responses, she may be in the process of receiving a number of responses from other authors, with varying complications and timelines of their own). And I’d definitely be inclined to consult with a trusted advisor (formal or otherwise) about the relative value of the two projects (I’m assuming the diss will win out), and the most graceful/professional way to deal with the situation.

    • Happy Birthday and congrats on the chapter!!! Well, I am not sure but I think you might find some way that dissertation and book can go together?

      • Thanks, all! I had a great birthday. My kids even sat through a lovely dinner at a great Indian place nearby for me.

  3. Goal: 1500 words.
    Accomplished: 1800 words (still the companion-piece), plus a lot of mooning over pictures of MS pages.
    Analysis: Airplanes are great, as is the Biona Camp for Wilde Wommene and Colony of Enditers (http://dameeleanorhull.wordpress.com/2011/08/04/writing-retreat-2/). My cats are ruining my career. Being able to get up at first light and write for a couple-three hours without having to feed, medicate, entertain, and adjudicate feline disputes—OMG priceless!!!
    New goal: Finish draft of the MMP-companion-piece essay, recognizing that there will be holes to fill in when I have all the necessary books and so on.

    I like to compose on the computer but make corrections/revisions on paper, and I write paragraphs on paper when I’m stuck or just somewhere without my computer. Also I do most planning and outlining on paper.

    • I find planes a bit too cramped for writing (reading, maybe), but Amtrak (particularly the quiet car) is one of my favorite work spaces.

      And the writing retreat/Camp sounds wonderful. Enjoy!

  4. I tend to do everything electronically, unless I need a really different perspective, in which case I might print it out to do a read through and editing.

    Last Week’s Goal: read 10 more articles, this time in preparation for my summer seminar; start editing the diss. Perhaps allow procrastination in the form of more job market material revision.

    Accomplished: reading 10 articles. Technically I worked on revising the dissertation and my job materials, but…

    Analysis: My brain seriously rebelled and shut down this week. I was trying to figure out why I wasn’t making progress, and I realized that I’ve been pushing pretty hard since last July, and haven’t taken any breaks from working on either the dissertation or various smaller projects in that time. I need a break. The dissertation is *close* but putzing around on it with no brain power behind it isn’t going to get me anywhere productively. And since I have my 5 week summer seminar starting the 18th, I’m giving myself next week off from everything but advance reading and packing.

    Next week’s goal: at least 10 more articles for the summer seminar.

    • Knowing when you really need a break, and taking it, is an absolutely necessary skill, I’m convinced, and pays off in the long run. Of course one can’t always take a break even when one really needs one, but getting an idea of work (and exhaustion) rhythms, and becoming a better predictor of what will and won’t work, is a useful insight as well.

      Enjoy your reading, and your seminar. The diss will be there when you get back to it, and it will probably be easier to edit once you’ve gained a bit of distance.

  5. I’ve turned all-electronic, and all MS Word, too. I’m kind of OCD about it—I don’t work well with programs like 750words or onepageperday (although I’ve used both) because I need to have everything in one place. And yet I wrote by hand for years, and still advocate for the embodied experience of writing on paper that is different from typing because you actually form the letters and words you are writing.

    I will typically print out a draft and edit by hand at two stages—first, when I can’t sort out all the material and need to organize what I’m writing (sometimes a literal cut and paste, but always an elaborate numbering scheme), and second, as a final edit, knowing that I read differently on paper than I do on the screen.

    goal: First two sections of chapter 1.

    accomplished: I have a very solid first draft.

    analysis: Gratitude to the group—I don’t think I would be at this point without y’all. Being accountable gave me the motivation to sit down yesterday and put things in order, adding new material and reworking some of the existing material. It evolved quickly, reminding me that I can only get writing done when I actually write.

    next goal: Like Amstr, I’m celebrating a birthday soon (Happy birthday Amstr!) and my gift to myself will be to send off chapter 1 to the editors for review. Then I can celebrate that with decadent shopping.

  6. Goal: WYJA Week 3 and email Zsuzsi

    Accomplished: WYJA Week 3, Day 1

    Analysis: My goodness, Week 3 is tough! But what an insightful chapter. I realized that, though my dissertation made “arguments”, I’ve not often thought about academic writing the way Week 3 claims it should be. I spent about 2.5 hours reading, thinking, jotting down notes last weekend after reading Week 3, and then I didn’t do anything all week (other than let my brain subconsciously process what I had read). Today (Saturday) I’ve spent a good amount of time going back to recent literature on ethnic identity development and have been reading about different ways to conceptualize it. I realized that I need some more information about what the lit. says about my topic before I can really situate my study and figure out what exactly my argument is. I am feeling much better about it today after reading articles and taking some notes.

    The only other thing that was kind of frustrating this week is that the WYJA assumes you have a piece of writing that you’re working with already which is more or less journal article-length. A 200 page dissertation is so far from that, and I don’t have anything shorter to work with, so in order to move forward with this I think I kind of need to throw something together that more closely resembles a journal article from it. It would be much easier if I were writing an article based on one of my 20-page final papers from my master’s program!

    I didn’t email Zsuzsi because I was feeling kind of overwhelmed with processing the Week 3 stuff and I think I want to be a bit further along before I email her so I can more intelligently communicate what I think I’m doing to her.

    Next Goal: Finish WYJA Week 3 (which feels like a huge goal right now!)

    • It sounds wise to get the article argument settled before going to your advisor. Good for you for pushing through the hard stuff of Week 3! For this week, just remember that you might have to stop at “good enough,” and you can always come back and tweak what you’ve done.

  7. I suggested the prompt partly because I’ve been trying to remember what works best for me. Y’see, working on the computer becomes a habit, and not always a useful one. Dropbox saves me from having to constantly carry stuff around, and words typed are beautifully legible. My data analysis is done on a computer. However, computers encourage a very linear sort of writing, because of the scrolling-through-one-long-document experience, and because it’s hard to add pictures and comments etc., it requires a change in pace and in tools (keyboarding is fine, mouse-using tends to feel rather fiddly). Applying pen to a print-out to edit or reorganise, or using lovely blank paper and a fountain pen to write my way out of a stuck patch, feels much more open to non-linear approaches. Yet I seem to continually forget this and have to relearn it, battling away on the computer (and fully utilising the computer’s many distraction-options) until I get really stuck, then having a lovely writing session with an actual pen, then somehow forgetting all about it again.

    Goals:
    a) rewrite ComplicatedPaper with co-author comments; and email revision to non-replying co-authors.
    b) Finish drafting the text to go with the analyses I have so far for NextBigPaper; work out exactly what additional analyses are needed.
    c) Rough out the latest version of Paper With MSc Student.
    d) Make notes to go along with the preliminary analyses and send those off to those collaborators.
    e) Prepare for intensive summer field week of teaching.

    Accomplished:
    a) done!
    b) struggling here. I have made a little progress
    c) roughed enough out to start to wonder again if I am doing it right. THink I need to talk to someone else about this.
    d) done
    e) done

    Analysis: Considering I had two bank holiday type days and limited other commitments at work, this wasn’t great. I had a couple of bad days – the sort where you just stare at the screen and wonder what the point is – there was politicking in the corridors and I’m stressing about the field week, so overall, I need to celebrate what got done and not obsess about what didn’t.

    Goals for next week: teach the intensive course, which is essentially 9am – 5pm most days and 9 til 6ish on one day, although I have to leave my post-doc and Outside Expert in charge whilst I go to examiners’ meetings for a few hours on two days (one of those times the students are working on group projects applying the skills we hope they’ll have acquired on previous days…). So I’m giving myself one writing goal – to put together some notes on the paper with the MSc student explaining to myself why exactly I’m struggling with it,work out who to talk to about it, and arrange a meeting.

    • I think you’re right to not obsess over what’s not done, and move forward to figure out why it’s a sticking point. The intensive course sounds, well, intense! I hope it goes smoothly and you can get some good thinking done in the midst of it.

      I like what you say about linear vs. global/non-linear thinking. I think that’s why I find revising on the screen so difficult. I can’t get to where I want to move a chunk of text, or to see where it even might go.

  8. I write everything and do most editing on the computer, but I print it out when it’s become too old to see newly; seeing it on paper is like reading a stranger’s article and I can edit much better. There also often comes a point, after a few drafts, when major reorganization / thinking is needed, and then I print it out, cut up the paragraphs and tape them together again in a way that makes more sense, with connecting parts written in. Taping it up on 17″X12″ paper makes me feel it as a whole!

    I also really like the website http://750words.com/, and highly recommend it to all of you if you’d like a place to do private (but rewarded) brainstorming and thinking while being free of the Word file. But still typing. 😉

    1) Goals: Work on EOCP every day. “Stop babying myself.”

    2) Accomplished: Just-about-yes! Except for one day; but other days this goal really helped me make some progress at least, and once had me staying up late chasing down a logical path that I wouldn’t have started without this goal and writing group.

    3) Analysis: I am moving forward, but need to keep working on putting the writing first. I also need to see if I can rush myself a bit. All week I worked on hypotheses and analyses for one section of the results, when I had originally hoped to have this paper done already. I think I’m being slowed down by the satisfaction of perfectionism, and losing the big-picture planning (which I always have trouble with anyway): the eventual goal to have SEVERAL, not just this one, article out by the end of the summer. I have a hard time figuring out how to actually get an article DONE by working an hour a day– I just have no sense of when this article will finish itself. Can I map out a schedule for the different parts, set myself separate deadlines? I might try it. It might be depressing or panic-inducing, but if I’m gentle enough with the deadlines I might get parts done early, and then hopefully that sense of accomplishment could help me get it out the door faster.

    4) Goals for next week: Work on EOCP every day; try to do it first thing in the morning when getting into the office / turning on computer.

    • It sounds like you’re making good progress. Would it help with the perfectionism to think of yourself as trying to get out several *drafts* of articles this summer, with a couple of revising/editing weeks built in at the end?

      I like the idea of trying to figure out how much you can accomplish by working for a certain amount of time in a certain way. I think that does become more predictable over time (though I’ve yet to reach that point). And knowing what you can really, realistically do, and planning accordingly (rather than creating an unrealistic goal and then beating yourself up for not reaching it) can be a real gift to yourself (well it is one for me, anyway).

  9. First, Happy Birthday, Amstr!!!

    Last week’s Goal: 50 more pages of primary source reading, 500 words of writing for Chapter 2, and some notes and quotes for Chapter 5.

    Accomplished: Maybe 20 pages of reading and notes for Chapter 5.

    Analysis: After I left London, I needed a mental break, and I didn’t work on the plane. After getting home, I focused on my daughter’s b-day and doing my share around the house.

    Next week’s goal: Finish reading primary source (novel) for Chapter 5, typing notes and quotes.

    I have almost always begun on paper in a notebook. I have a large Moleskin-type notebook for notes, quotations, outlining, and brainstorming. In the past, I have also just used spiral notebooks. The good thing about this method for me is that I can easily brainstorm (write, list, cross out, circle, draw arrows, etc.). The bad thing is that it’s not a very user friendly archive. But often what happens is that, as I’m reading something and see an important quote or have an important idea, I’ll write it down in the notebook (b/c it’s handy and quick). Then, before long, I’ll develop it in typed text.

    I have usually just used MS Word. I have given brief test runs to programs like Note Bene, but I always get impatient with the learning curve. I just don’t have extra days to devote to figuring out the software. Maybe it would help me in the long run, but I just haven’t been patient with it. Recently, I’ve started doing some notetaking and drafting in iPages on the iPad, and I’ve also just starting using iAnnotate, which I think is going to be GREAT for me. I’m also just getting going with Dropbox, which now functions with iAnnotate. So I think that my iPad will become more and more central to my process.

    But, eventually, I type in Word. I often begin by typing things I’ve written in my notebook. Doing so helps me get over the whole “blank page” anxiety. After I have 15-20 pages, I usually need to print out the doc so I can review organization and do major editing. Then I go back to Word, repeating that process from time to time. Sometimes, If I’m really struggling with organization, I’ll go back to my notebook, pen, and paper.

    I think the thing I need to start doing is writing annotated bibs. It’s so interesting and helpful reading what everyone does!

    • Welcome back, GEW! I’m glad to see from your blog that the trip went well. And hurrah for breaks, bdays, and getting back to the primary sources — all good things.

    • I’m so glad your trip was a good one! Happy birthday to your girl!

      I love how our processes and anxieties are all so different. I find the blank page comforting (because I struggle with revision so much), while you’re the revision queen.

      I had two profs in grad school assign annotation assignments (one was our intro to grad class = one page summary/critiques of a zillion articles; the other for an 18th c. class = a basic lit review of our topic on a short timeline). I wish I had started the ann. bib. earlier in the diss process. It’s a great reminder of what I’ve read, it makes the lit. review sections go much faster, and it’s satisfying to see how much ground I’ve covered.

      I think at some point I’ll need to do more with the iPad, but for now I’ve got photocopies piled all over my office.

  10. Last week’s goal: Finish literature review for first paper
    Accomplished: Very little
    Analysis: The last couple of weeks have been slow going on this project. Some transitions in schedules, a paper presentation, and some other distractions (including some good news on another manuscript — reader reports were favorable for publication) have all slowed my progress. But I think I’ve cleared most of that away so I’m hoping for a more productive week.
    Goal for this week: Finish writing up my notes on the literature review and move on to Week 6 of WYJA, “Strengthening Your Structure”

    Great discussion question. I tend to work primarily in electronic form, drafting in Scrivener and then moving into Word as the work evolves into something resembling its final form. I do periodically print out drafts and review those in paper form. I keep my in-process files in Dropbox so I have access to them anywhere.

    One of the things that I’m struggling with at the moment is tracking citations. I’m using EndNote. Zotero wasn’t an option when I started on the dissertation years ago so I splurged and bought EndNote. I have one for the dissertation/book project. But I’m struggling with tracking citations for smaller projects. I’m afraid to create one master EndNote database for fear of losing the whole thing, but I’m finding it confusing to create multiple EndNote databases since I use EndNote for notes as well.

    I do use Zotero to track citations for my courses because I can easily share libraries with students. Maybe I need to just take the plunge and migrate to Zotero completely.

    I’ve also played around with Mendeley to track pdfs. I like the ability to annotate the files within Mendeley while keeping the original pdf clean. I’m also less likely to print out the file since I can annotate electronically in a way that works for me.

    Would love to hear from others about their process for tracking citations across single or multiple projects.

    Birthday greetings to amstr and humming42. And thanks to all for helping me to stay on track and accountable.

    • Congratulations on the favorable reader reports on the earlier project; that’s great news!

      I use Zotero, which has its own (limited) cloud backup (and, I believe, a new desktop version that could be backed up via dropbox or similar). But I can’t claim to be a power user. I’m really going to have to come up with a more sophisticated source/citation-handling system myself one of these days.

    • I moved to Zotero because I got fed up with paying to upgrade Endnote. I’m definitely not a power user, but I hadn’t really kept up with new features in Endnote that well anyway. I haven’t tried the new stand-alone version of Zotero. I do use the zotero cloud storage and pay for extra storage space.

      I was most worried about transferring my Endnote libraries and about my notes, but I did manage the transfer, including the notes.

    • Congrats on your MS acceptance!

      I’ve taken to just using one program for all citations, and I track which ones I’m using in an annotated bibliography. The program I’m using (BookEnds) does have a way to group citations, but I tend to just keep a big bunch and search when I need to. I kind of treat it like my own little MLA database. At this point in the dissertation I’m resistant to any change. I might do something different later, but for now, I just need to be consistent with my clunky systems.

  11. Goal for last week: work on J article on Tu, Th, and Sat. mornings. Do *not* let other things interfere; better sleep schedule. Accomplish one ancillary task, and make progress on the other.

    Accomplished: a very little bit of work (mostly reading) on the J article; some work on a new project (see below); slightly better sleep schedule; ancillary tasks postponed.

    Analysis: If I were a GPS, I’d be in “recalculating” mode right now. A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to pick up some freelance work semi-related to my field (writing copy for reference works). Since I need the money, and occasionally have dreams of supporting myself by my pen, I decided to take the plunge. It’s not, frankly, tremendously interesting work (a sort of writing-to-formula thing), and time will tell if I can do it at a pace that will make it reasonably lucrative (and whether I’ll be comfortable with the quality of work I can produce at that pace; while I’m currently writing about something I know well, if I keep taking assignments I’ll eventually end up boiling things down from secondary and tertiary sources about primary works I haven’t read to produce yet farther-from-the-source tertiary — quaternary? — works). Some of it may have my name on it; some may not; I’m not entirely sure whether I want it to (but if I think I’m really turning out truly disreputable stuff, attributed or not, I’ll stop). The original plan was to try to do the freelance work *and* work on the J article *and* keep teaching my current summer course. Right. It’s now pretty clear that I need to count the freelance writing as my “writing” for the next few weeks, then return to the “do both” plan (or decide the freelance stuff is not, in fact, a good idea) after I finish the online class and the planned collapse thereafter (which will not include freelance writing either; I’ve already made clear to my contact that I’m not available during the 10 day-2 week hiatus I have planned in late June-early July). Trying to fit in the freelance work for budgetary reasons also reminds me that there are some other, practical, things that I need to do for budgetary reasons (mostly dealing with stuff put in storage after an emergency move some years ago). The last few summers I’ve planned to juggle research/writing and the more practical stuff, and research/writing has won out; this may be the year when things have to go the other way, since the reality may be that I can’t do both well *and* get a bit of a rest (which I really, really do need).

    Oh, and the final complication is that the panel (which I’m also organizing) on which I was planning to present a version of the J article in the fall seems to be falling apart (one of those things where you think you’re doing a routine check-in to verify program copy and discover that your participants have encountered all sorts of complications that they’ve been meaning to tell you about). This is not disastrous (I’m on the program in another capacity, and so can get travel funding), but it’s yet one more complication in a week that was feeling pretty full of them already. And it somewhat reduces the urgency of finishing the J article, though not by much (I still want to finish and publish the *article* in the very near future; the conference presentation was never the main point).

    I don’t really expect to have a fully revised plan for the summer until the end of that hiatus; the next week includes conferences with all of my summer students, finishing one of the freelance projects, and writing (or just speaking) a short thing for a church meeting (which is a sort of “how my faith intersects with my work” thing, so it’s not completely unrelated), and the week after that includes another freelance assignment and grading for the summer class. There’s also a momentous and complicated and potentially joyful/potentially upsetting and/or otherwise distracting family/personal occasion smack in the middle of those two weeks.

    The one thing I do know: I want to finish a draft of the J article this summer. Realistically, it’s probably not going to be by July 21. I’ll figure out a new deadline during my “plan rest of summer” days (July 5-8).

    In the meantime, I’ve decided that the freelance writing *does* count as writing, at least for the moment. So,

    Goal for this week: finish one freelance assignment, start 2nd if time. Survive student conferences & family event (maybe even enjoy latter). Really try to eat and sleep at reasonable intervals, in part to facilitate above. Check in with J article material once or twice — probably just by doing a bit of reading — if at all possible.

    Apologies for rambling on. It really has been a week, and this was supposed to be the calm before the conference-week storm that is this coming week.

    Oh, and paper vs. screen? Like many of you, I’m a mostly-screen person (despite having started my writing life in the pen/pencil/paper/typewriter era, graduating to a primitive PC halfway through college), and perhaps becoming more so, but find it tremendously useful to print out and scribble on hard copy at key moments. I sometimes still like brainstorming/outlining that way, too, but am becoming increasingly comfortable doing that on the screen. I still prefer marking up sources — both primary and secondary — in hard copy, but that may change if/when I decide on — and decide I can afford — a tablet of some sort.

    • I think the freelance writing totally counts as writing. You’ve got quite a frantic pace, and letting yourself readjust your goals seems wise. I hope the family even turns out to be surprisingly good.

  12. Goal: Start reading WYJA in hopes of firing some synapses. Work an hour a day on the dissertation or the article

    Accomplished: Yes, somewhat. I did read the first chapter, which impressed me enough that I am going to purchase a copy, rather than making do with the ILL copy. I didn’t manage an hour a day, but I did get four out of seven, a big improvement over the week before.

    Analysis: Synapses did start firing, thank goodness. I outlined what I need to do/explore/find out before I go on the research trip,which will help me to make best use of the time with the primary texts.

    The best thing I did, however, was to allow myself some breaks and to connect with some writers who are good sounding boards for me. It helps with the doldrums to talk with people who believe in me without pulling any punches about my work. It’s what I found most invigorating about conferences and something I didn’t realize until now had left a huge hole in my confidence.

    Goal for next week: An hour a day on the article, using what I can of Week 1 of WYJA.

    Screen vs. paper: I write in Word, because I get an educational discount for it (blush). My writer friends love Scrivener, but I just haven’t convinced myself the learning curve and price are worth the benefits.

    I have a folder for each chapter, and date each iteration. When I think I’ve sucked all the marrow out of an early iteration, I delete it. I save things obsessively, on hard drives and servers at work, on a flash drive and in a cloud at home.

    At my previous university, I used RefNotes for all my bibliographies. I could have a citation in more than one folder for different articles. My new university doesn’t have RefNotes, and I will admit I miss the flexibility. I have plans to transfer all my bibliographies to EverNote, but I’m not looking forward to it, to be honest.

    Despite being a heavy technology user, I often outline on paper and I print out drafts to edit and revise. I use different ink colors for different needs–green for additions; red, deletions; blue, things to check in the manuscripts, or citations to check. I think some of my need to handle paper and ink comes from my technology heavy job–eight hours a day staring at a computer screen is more than enough, most days.

    • Congrats on 4/7! Every hour is progress. And connecting with people who can help with writing rather than hindering is essential, I find. On my trip to my uni in April, I had to prep myself for a meeting with a rather unhelpful (and sometimes toxic) secondary advisor. Shoring myself with feedback from people I trust, who are honest and kind and encouraging was the only thing that prepared me. (And then he turned out to be particularly helpful.) I’m glad you have those kind of people around.

  13. Goals for last week: an hour and a half with the thesis

    Accomplished: no focused time writing

    Analysis: This week was much busier than anticipated (though I’m put to shame by how busy some of you are) with many friends defending (our end of quarter is soon) and other friends giving practice talks for defenses that are this week…not to mention trying get these experiments done so that writing can get into full swing.

    Goals for next week (or actually the next 2 weeks): an hour and a half with the thesis

    Next check-in: the weekend of the 23rd/24th (My parents are coming to visit next week/weekend!)

    As far as paper/electronic goes, I have to get started on paper, which typically looks like an outline and a comical sketch of figures. I then type out the outline into normal headings and flit all about writing under which ever section I feel like writing about. This has only been used for working on a journal article and putting together talks…we’ll see how it works with a thesis. Like many of you, I also edit on paper. Elizabeth, I like your idea of using different ink colors!

    • I hope the parental weekend goes well.

      You might think about your hour and a half in smaller chunks, just to get you started. What if you did just 20 min. at four or five different times? Set a timer and see how much you can get done in one of those weird little breaks between experiments, or right after lunch, or first thing in the morning.

      As far as the change from articles to thesis, I’ve found that many of my strategies that work for getting me to write on the smaller projects work on the bigger one. It’s been the “thinking big” part and keeping track of all the details that has been the problem. I can’t hold everything in my head for a 200 page project like I can for a 20 pager. I think the STEM structure is a real asset for thesis writing.

  14. Goal: finishing a first draft, using WYJA.

    Accomplished: none. Sigh.

    Analysis: Maybe because I had been busy grading, class preparations and a two-day trip. I am sure but the biggest problem is that I have been still struggling to construct my argument.

    Next goal: the same again: finishing a first draft, praying to WYJA for help and inspiration.

    • I don’t know if it will help you, but the one thing that can get my unstuck figuring out my argument is to talk about it. Even explaining what I’m trying to do to my science/math husband helps me figure out more than I can on paper. I think sometimes even just talking outloud to myself would help.

  15. Thanks for all the good wishes and advice with new job! I’m going to have a lot of thinking to do in the next little while, and also some rearranging of goals and plans, but, for now, back to work!

    Screen all the way… I draft figures by hand first, but for writing I have a really hard time keeping track of notes and ideas if they are not typed. I usually keep documents for each project with ideas, methods, references to get/read and multiple documents to type in, usually divided by sections (methods/intro/discussion etc, the usual ones). Then I can work simultaneously on Intro and Discussion (for consistency etc) in separate documents without scrolling. When I have a paragraph or section that is done I change the font, that way I have an easy way to remember what is done and which bits I still need to work on. Works better than highlighting (hard on eyes) and makes it easy to be consistent between sections.

    Accomplished: a great trip, and good ideas for future work, also some work on data paper which is almost readable.

    Goal for this week: Finish the data paper and get it to supervisor, finally…

    Analysis: working at conferences/trips/planes is pretty much impossible for me, I was better off not trying and making myself crazy. Doing one thing at a time is nice every once in a while!

    • Congrats again on the job! I’m glad you had time to relax and celebrate.

      I like your changing-font trick. I might try that one!

  16. Since the comments are still open, I can manage a post-birthday party, pre-travelling check in.

    I have ever-so-slowly moved from all paper to mostly computer. I didn’t have my own computer until grad school, so I was used to wriring everything longhand and then typing it in.

    I have used Anne LaMott’s suggestion of cutting up a draft and physically re-organizing it when I’ve been stuck.

    Goal: Make writing a priority. Work first thing on MTWThF.

    Accomplished:
    I did not work first thing, unless that means “first thing after long bouts of procrastination.’
    Monday:

    Goal: Make writing a priority. Work first thing on MTWThF.

    Accomplished:
    I did not work first thing, unless that means “first thing after long bouts of procrastination.’
    Monday: 1 hour revising
    note: still don’t have a better plan, not even sure if I should be working on plan to et this paper out or plan for th summer…
    Tuesday: 1 hour revising
    Wednesday, thursday: nada
    Friday: 1/2 in the morning

    Analysis: An analysis of what worked/what didn’t
    I am annoyed at my procrastination. Staying up late and getting up early doesn’t help.

    Next Goal:
    1/2 revising Monday (today)
    1/2 revising Th and Fr after returning from trip.
    I’m not planning to work on my article while I”m gone.

    Next Check In : 6/22/12

  17. In many ways I need things on paper. Even if I type it up, I’m not very good at editing on screen, so I end up printing it all off. (Not terribly green, I know.) I’d say I do about 50/50 paper and computer. Then all the paper stuff ends up on the computer, but in order to really process and order things I print off drafts and edit/add by hand. I prefer not being tied to a computer too much as I’m tied to it enough with all my other job stuff. I’m not sure it’s better, it’s just easier for me to proces.

    Goal: Read 4 chapters (or 3 chapters and some of the DVD), apply to one job (due next week), moving stuff. Bonus: write 1 page, even with pen and paper.

    Accomplished: Read 2 chapters, watched 1 of 2 DVDs, applied to job, moved 1/2 of our stuff (and painted living room in new place. Had a phone interview.

    Analysis: I want moving to be done. It will be next week, but I don’t do well with the chaotic messiness of 2 different apartments. I like organization, which relieves stress for me. I haven’t been able to clear my head enough to read much or write because I’m thinking about all that needs to be done. After next week it should be better.

    New goal/Next Check-in: I will not check in until the weekend of the 22nd. In that time I will celebrate our 10 year anniversary, make the final move and hopefully unpack a decent amount. Goal: Do all the moving stuff, read 2 chapters.

  18. I’m impressed that you did any work at all while moving! I, too, find it really difficult to concentrate when some big unavoidable thing takes over and throws off my schedule and equilibrium.

    Happy anniversary! And I hope the rest of the move goes smoothly.

    • Thanks! Unfortunately I get so easily distracted by outside things…that’s really soemthing I need to figure out to better make time for writing–even after the move.

  19. Like some other people, I’m a fan of trying to write drafts in word, but if I get stuck, I have to print it out. I do most of my editing on printed out copies too. There’s just something about having paper in my hands that makes thinking and editing easier.

    Checking in:
    Goal: read more for the section I’m working on

    Accomplished: ugh…no progress. I got sidetracked on Monday by my boss with another project and spent my week reading about something completely different. Productive, just not what I wanted to be working on.

    Analysis: The good news is that I’m getting back into the groove of reading papers again. And I’ve updated my reference manager so that when I do get back to reading for the manuscript I’ll be ready.

    Goal for next week: The same as last week…to read more for the manuscript. Hopefully I’ll be able to make some progress there this week!

  20. Yeesh, I meant to comment earlier but am completely swamped this week. So glad the comments have been left open an extra day.

    Goal: Finalize the LM presentation based on co-authors’ comments and send it off to the session moderator; finish activities in WYJA using the second presentation paper (P&P) for the activities. Begin Week 3 in WYJA. Edit my section of the findings section of the TS paper.

    Accomplished: The presentation was finalized (although I didn’t get any additional changes so that was pretty easy) and sent in to the moderator. I did not finish the activities for Week 2 of WYJA nor did I start Week 3. However I did write an abstract for the P&P paper (one of Week 2’s activities) and I created handouts for the presentation on that paper. I also did some editing of my part of the findings section of the TS paper but didn’t complete them.

    Analysis: I feel like I did very little writing this week and most of what I did was only half done. I am stuck in the middle of creating an online class for the first time and goes live on June 25th. That deadline is hanging over me, especially since I will be away at the conference all next week. I doubt I’ll get much writing done until the course goes live.

    Goal for next week/time: I hope to re-read the P&P paper draft while at the conference and make a list of edits that it needs. I also hope to do at some reading for at least one of the three papers on my plate this summer.

    Next Check-in: I won’t be checking in next week since I’ll be at the conference but will check in the following week.

    As for the week’s topic, I rarely use pen and paper to write anything but To Do lists and cryptic notes. I do my best writing when my fingers are on a keyboard.

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