Reading and Writing (Summer Writing Group, Week 10)

This is a writing group, but academic writing requires reading. I haven’t been reading much lately because I’ve been pushing to finish some drafts. One chapter in particular is feeling stale, and I feel like I need an injection of scholarly talk about my subject to remind me of how to think about it with complexity. Reading is definitely in my future.

How does reading fit into your writing life? Do you write first and read later? Do both at the same time? Read first, then write? Do you read quickly? Slowly? Are there moments when you know you need to stop reading? Or start reading?

Please check in by noon on Monday: 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.

The List:

Amstr [complete dissertation draft]: 1) 18 final pages of Ch. 3 revisions, 2) proofread Ch. 2 and send to advisor, 3) re-read article version of Ch. 1, outline, make a list of things to research, attempt to write a bad introduction, 4) use work time well and work 2 evenings.
Becky
[journal article]: Keep reading. At least one paper a day.
Contingent Cassandra
[full draft of J article by 8/24; make progress on P projects; continue freelance work]: reacquaint myself with the J article-in-progress (begun); re-read J sources; start writing. Finish another freelance piece.
Daisy
[finish thesis]: ? write 2 hours every day
DEH
[finish and submit MMP and article]: polished draft with notes and formatted to journal style, printed out for final proofreading before submission.
Elizabeth Anne Mitchell
[book chapter proposal; writing 4 days/week]:  Write an hour and a half four days a week.
emmawriting
[ EOCP full draft sent to collaborator, MC paper results section done, MUL data collected, MC5 fully prepped]: EOCP: 1st paragraph of Discussion, look up & skim new articles for Intro topics; MCP paper: MC3 write-up finishing, Analyze MC2 and write-up or collect more data, prepare for MC1 analysis; MUL: Look up manipulations, prep for data-collection help; and some teaching/committee work.
GEW
[short draft of new chapter (10 pages)]: Read and annotate one article that I’ve been itching to look at.
humming42
[complete book MS]: chapter 2 fully organized (next check in: 7/20)
JaneB
[chip away at writing backlog]: complete some refereeing, write research plans for my summer students and for the next piece of fieldwork, and make progress on at least two of the items in the last list (next check in: 7/20 or 8/3)
jenk
[good draft of main project; figures + results of side project]: 2/3 of Figures + captions. More work on the results. (Reminder to self to have something to show the adviser at the beginning of next week.)
Kirstin
[rough draft of journal article]: Finish WYJA week 3, start week 4
luolin88
[finish and submit journal article; submit 2nd ms to new journal]: 1 hour MWThF; get through the editing for organization. Get to bed on time. This probably means avoiding the computer after dinner.
Matilda
[2 of 4: paper, 3 presentations]: finalizing my new plan to November; writing up my presentation report.
NWGirl
[revise 2 papers for publication]: 1) Finish revisions on article #1, 2) Work on structure of article #2
rented life
[2 solid book chapters]:  Read 1 chapter. Try again with the 10 min a day writing. (Starting Tuesday). unpack.
Sapience
[complete diss; plan for one project for fall]: finish this round of proofreading in preparation for sending the whole thing off to someone else for a good look (possibly 7/20 or 27).
tracynicolerose
[draft of TS and analysis for BE]: Continue reading for LM; start reading for another paper; look at the data for the TS findings; finish the analysis memo for the BE paper.
Trapped in Canadia
[2 diss. chapters; 1 turned into edited book ch.]: ?? Finish the annoying book review. Complete Week 1 of WYJA.

42 thoughts on “Reading and Writing (Summer Writing Group, Week 10)

  1. week’s goalcomplete some refereeing, write research plans for my summer students and for the next piece of fieldwork, and make progress on at least two of the items in the last list
    accomplished:refereeing done! One student planned for. Fieldwork SORT of planned. Made progress on one list item, the paper with the MSc student, and did one off-list item, responding to referee’s comments on another paper that was submitted in the Spring (accepted with minor revisions! Yay!)
    analysis: I was doing quite well until today when my car had problems which needed to be fixed urgently so that I can tax it. And I got a parking ticket. And basically I Gave Up on things like writing. Life Happens, basically, but I’m happy with how the MSc paper is shaping up (see below), so we’ll settle for that.
    goals: write a conference abstract and a four page Application For Workshop Session, both due next week. Whilst I’m in the field. Oops! Bad planning/
    next check in: 7/28 if wifi is good at the field site, else 8/3

    reading and writing: I’ve reached the stage in my career where I’ve been working on a couple of problems for nearly 20 years now. In my core research areas, reading is an ongoing thing not linked to a specific piece of writing – I get tables of contents of key journals in my email, click through to relevant articles, print off the best ones and e-file the others, and then skim the reference lists to see if they’re citing anything I’ve missed. All from my desk! Such a change from when I started… but on the other hand, my grad school PI used to pop into the library every friday morning and read the tables of contents of all the new journal issues, so the strategy is unchanged.

    When I then come to write something specific in those fields, I usually start by pulling up a few (3-5 typically) recent papers on related themes which I found compelling and skimming through them to refresh my memory of the conversation, then either go straight into writing or do a very focused article search using something like web of science to find particular things then write. I do need to do a fair bit of tidying up and checking at a later stage, but typically in draft writing I’m including notes like (reference, that paper by Maurice in Beach Studies about 2 years ago) or (insert Norwegian example, Nigerian example), because I pretty much know the literature and the stories. So second or third draft, I go and do a bit more reading to check I’ve got those things right and to flesh out the notes.

    In other cases, I’m working in new areas or tangential areas I haven’t worked in for a while, so I get to start with a lovely dive-in-and-read session. I really enjoy this bit, and don’t get to do it enough. I do have to be pretty disciplined or I’d just go exploring….

    I find that having a few ‘inspirational’ articles or chapters for each thing I write is useful. These might be pieces which spark ideas about particular topics, which are constructed along similar lines of argument (so give me an reference point of what is publishable in the area/journal, especially useful for new topics) or just ones which I admired which relate a little to the thing. One method of unsticking myself or getting myself back into the groove of an article after a break is to skim-read one of these ‘inspirational’ pieces. Writing a one-paragraph summary of such a piece can also be a great starting point for writing my own introduction (the piece of an article which I most dislike writing).

    reading reminds me I’m a student and a scholar, as well as an academic Under Pressure To Produce Publish Or Perish style, and it’s a nice part of the job. But there’s always one more thing to read…

    • Congratulations on having your paper accepted!

      Thanks for your detailed comment about reading and writing–it’s inspiring and is helping me think through my practices with more clarity.

    • I think the habit of reading the TOCs of key journals is an important one. I’ve never developed it, but it’s clear that some very successful people in my field do it regularly. I need to develop a similar routine; thanks for the reminder.

      • Yes–one of my advisors recommended that practice. When I was at my uni we had a lovely reading room in our Renaissance Center with all the recent journals spread out on a side table. I didn’t take advantage of them often enough (though I didn’t exactly have a dissertation topic at the time, and so no limit to my field of study).

  2. Goals: 1) 18 final pages of Ch. 3 revisions, 2) proofread Ch. 2 and send to advisor, 3) re-read article version of Ch. 1, outline, make a list of things to research, attempt to write a bad introduction, 4) use work time well and work 2 evenings.

    Accomplished: All of it!

    Analysis: I love the feeling of sending things off. That Chapter 2 has been hanging over my head for a while now, and it feels great to have it off to my advisor. It still needs lots of work, but I couldn’t really see what work it needed until I did a full read-through of a full draft. I’m also happy to be able to move on to Ch.1.

    I left myself a wonderful present: I parked on a very steep downhill slope for Ch. 1. I have a detailed outline, some paragraphs I cut from the article version that I can add back in, and some clear areas to research.

    I’ve done better with actually working when I’ve set aside time, and I did work two evenings (though I fudged on one and counted the hour I did during the kids’ swim team practice as an evening).

    Next goals: 1) type of Ch. 3 revisions and fix the 9 things left, 2) draft half of Ch. 1 (cutting and pasting lots), 3) do research on three areas of Ch. 1, 4) work at work time + 2 evenings

    Reading + Writing: I haven’t quite figured out my rhythm with reading and writing. Most of the time I tend to spend too much time reading, but this summer I’ve erred on the side of not enough. JaneB’s comment gives me hope: right now it seems impossible that I will “master” my field, but I suspect that even by the end of the dissertation I’ll have a better handle on it than it feels like I do now.

    • “All of it” sounds great, as does getting back to something which you’ve parked on a downhill slope. I need to think about doing that more. In fact, I’m beginning to think that I should create files representing the chapters for my projected (and currently only projected) P-project book, and brainstorming/dumping stuff in those. That might make the prospect of writing a book while teaching a 4/4/2 load seem a bit less daunting.

  3. I’ve always said it’s impossible to write-write-write unless you first read-read-read. One thing I’m enjoying about working on the MMP and its companion is that the secondary reading for these essays overlaps considerably, so that I’ll be reading in order to write a paragraph for one, and say, “Ooh, must remember to use that for the other!” I’ve also been feeling very aware, lately, that I need to do more primary reading. Scholarship is ever increasing, and one does need to be aware of what’s going on, but a better way to new insights (IMHO) is to expand awareness of the other literature of one’s period. As the Little Professor’s perusal of bad religious 19th-century fiction adds to other people’s understanding of the 19th-c canon, so . . . oh, now, wait, I can’t follow up on that comparison without suggesting that some medieval writing is just bad, and I don’t want to go there. 🙂 Anyway, there are some good, fun, interesting medieval works that I’ve not read, or not read in their entirety, or not read since grad school, and I really want to get (back) to them, to see what they might add to my understanding of the area that I normally focus on.

    Last week’s goal: polished draft with notes and formatted to journal style, printed out for final proofreading before submission.

    Achieved: I have yet to print, and on Monday I need to add one page number from a book I can’t access till then, but other than that, DONE. No doubt in the proofreading I will find more journal-style items to tinker with, but I expect that, and I have certainly done a lot of formatting so far.

    Analysis: I’ve been back to carving out time, because this week’s schedule was all over the place due to field trips and a visiting friend, not to mention loud students in college, but all the same, I kept plugging away even on tired days and now I feel very satisfied that the essay is finished bar the final proofread. In less than a week I will be at home (which I both want [miss my cats and husband] and dread [overwhelming list of household tasks, service work, class prep, writing tasks, and not enough time before fall classes start]), so I am trying to maximise use of libraries here before I go. But after today I basically have 3 mornings I can spend in the library and that’s the end of it, so I’m not sure what is going to happen to the MMP. I also have to give some attention to the translation project.

    New goals: print out, proofread and polish the companion-essay, and submit it. Return to the MMP, see where I am with it, make a plan, and carry out some part of that plan. Spend at least 2 hours on the translation project.

    • Finished bar one page number sounds pretty good to me, too. And spending the remaining time on a combination of research and planning sounds wise. It’s important to do the big-picture stuff, like planning, when one isn’t being nibbled to death by a thousand little obligations, I think.

      And I agree that primary-source reading (and re-reading) is a valuable activity (and probably one of those that we have trouble justifying, perhaps even to ourselves, in an increasingly hurry-up world. Plenty of people have read these texts, right? It’s not as if we don’t know what’s in them? Except that much of the endeavor of the humanities involves seeing the past anew in the light of new present questions, new juxtapositions, etc., etc.) And I’m also a fan of the LP’s blog, in part because her areas of investigation lie fairly close to mine (give or take an ocean). In fact, that’s an interesting addition to the reading question: how important is reading blogs about projects in progress becoming? I haven’t found reason to cite the LP yet, but I may one of these days, and I do have one of those “cite x here” notes to myself in the J article that will probably lead to my citing a project-in-progress blog (because the article will be done before the project being blogged about is). That leaves me wondering whether I should be blogging my own project in process — except that I have limited time to write, and that seems like One More Thing To Do. Also, I know of at least one academic publisher that emphatically does not want to print things that have already appeared in substantially similar form on a blog. I am going to be doing a web site as part of the P project that I expect to be a long-term work-in-progress, and might incorporate a blog. Or maybe I’ll just tweet about additions?

  4. Goal for week: reacquaint myself with the J article-in-progress (begun); re-read J sources; start writing. Finish another freelance piece.

    Accomplished: in last week, wrote 2000+-word freelance piece; added c. 2000 words to J article (about 1800 words considerably-better-than-shitty draft, and added to the balance of notes/rougher draft/brainstorming stuff by 200 words; I also deleted some of this sort of stuff); did some work on P project.

    Analysis: I worked on the J project every day, at least a bit, from Saturday to Saturday. The beginning of the week was painful; I just couldn’t seem to get into it, and Monday was one of those awful days where I spent most of the day meaning to sit down and work on the project, but not getting around to it (and not, sadly, getting much productive procrastination in either). I’m not sure exactly what was going on, but the fact that I’m working with a set of fairly short primary sources (rather than a single longer literary work, which is more what I’m familiar with doing), which all have their individual quirks, and that I need to keep reacquainting myself with them to feel on top of things, probably played a role. So did the feeling that, if I was not working on other (non-writing) things I’d planned to deal with in favor of getting back into the J project, I should be making some progress, dammit. But I kept plugging away, and did *something* each day, and things started cooking on Tuesday, and have been going very smoothly ever since, in spite of the fact that I also had a freelance piece to finish this week. I’m not sure exactly what to take away from the experience, except to keep beating my head against the wall until it cracks (the wall, that is, not my head, which is the problem with that metaphor). The somewhat-more-pleasant takeaway, and one is that in keeping with this week’s theme (which I’ll expand on more below), is that it pays to spend time re-reading primary sources, and even one’s one draft, even if that feels like wasted/nonproductive time. I made a note to myself, in bold, in my writing log: when in doubt/distress, consider re-reading the primary source(s).

    At the moment, things are going smoothly enough that I don’t feel the need to set a goal other than to keep up the momentum. I’m quite confident that I’ll have a full rough draft, and maybe something even a bit better, by Aug. 24 (or maybe I’ll spend some more time on the P project once I have a full rough draft of the J article; I’m feeling comfortable going week-by-week by how things feel at the moment. I’m also pretty sure, by the way, that if I hadn’t picked up the freelance work, I could have met my original goal of a full draft of the J article by yesterday. It’s good to know that goal was realistic, even if was OBE.

    I’ll be traveling at the end of this coming week (a combined archival research trip and public-history type presentation on the P project — my first foray into that genre), and also intend to take tomorrow off, since it’s been a while since I had a day off and I need a break, so I don’t expect to make as much progress as I have been. I’ve also cut back a bit on the freelance work, which is definitely serving its purpose of allaying some financial anxieties, and is re-familiarizing me with some material that provides context for both of my projects, and is certainly giving me practice in writing a good deal by a particular deadline (and simply stopping, both reading and writing, when I have enough, which is also, I think, a good thing). However, it’s taking time away not only from the more serious professional writing, but also from other household/financial projects that might do even more good for my financial bottom line. So I don’t have another of those due for several weeks (the people with whom I’m working are, fortunately, flexible, and happy that I set and meet realistic deadlines, so, although the per-hour rate is never going to be high, I think this is a mutually satisfactory arrangement, and one I want to continue).

    Goal for the next two weeks (next check in Aug. 4-5): Continue progress on the J article; prepare and give P project presentation; plan and conduct a day of P-project archival research (and network with people at the presentation); do some preliminary research/writing for the next 2 freelance pieces (but concentrate mainly on J, P, and household/financial projects).

    Next check-in: Aug. 4-5 (as mentioned above, I’ll be traveling next weekend. I’ll probably have internet access, and might come by and comment/reflect, but I think it’s easiest to think of this next chunk of time as a 2-week one).

    I’ve got some further thoughts on reading and writing, but need to get dressed for church, so I’ll add them in a reply later today or tomorrow.

    • Momentum does, indeed, feel good.

      On reading and writing:

      First, I wanted to say that I’m pretty sure that it was someone here (but I can’t remember whom) who pointed out that value of re-reading primary sources here in an earlier check in, and I wanted to say “thank you.” There’s definitely a danger to researching too much and never getting to writing (perhaps especially when one is writing a dissertation), but there’s also a danger of not reading enough, and getting out of touch with one’s sources (perhaps especially when one is trying to create new scholarship that engages with primary source s — both as the main sources of evidence and as context for those sources — and the scholarly conversation, all while juggling teaching, service, family/household work, etc., etc.).

      Although I don’t always take the time I should to do it, I’ve always recognized the value of reading primary sources (and, for that matter, of reading secondary sources with the goal of finding leads to additional secondary sources). I have more trouble with reading secondary sources, perhaps in part because my dissertation project involved trying to apply to different “studies” approaches that didn’t, at the time, talk much to each other to a thematically-defined set of texts (to which both approaches were in fact, quite appropriate). Ideally, I suppose, I would have had an advisor well-versed in each approach, with some knowledge of the other; in practice, the closest I had to a functioning advisor had very little knowledge of either approach (and tended to assume both were simpler than they were). So perhaps there’s some leftover trauma from that (one way and another, there seems to be a good deal of leftover trauma from my dissertation, and I seem to be writing about it a good deal here. Maybe that’s what happens when one begins to resume active research and writing a decade or so after a traumatic dissertation process). I definitely recognize the value, and the necessity, of engaging with the scholarly conversation; I just don’t always feel like I have something to say that will interest others. So I tend to gravitate toward analyzing relatively-unexamined primary texts, and making my own points about them, engaging more, at least at the moment, with historical scholarship that helps to put them, and the ideas they contain, in context, than with literary scholarship. Maybe that’s a bit of a cop-out, and it definitely limits my choice of subjects, but it seems to be working with the two projects I’ve got at the moment (one focused on a little-studied author, the other one little-studied works by a better-known author).

      One thing I like about the freelance pieces is that they’re forcing me to quickly acquaint myself both with some potentially-useful contextual primary sources, and with recent scholarship about them, and then move on. That’s good practice, since, to answer one of the questions in the prompt, I tend to be a very slow reader of both primary and secondary sources, mostly because I keep stopping to take notes on ideas I have (usually for at least 3 different projects — some new, some old).

      • I, too, am focusing on little-studied texts, which is both liberating and challenging, but mostly exciting (for me, anyway). And, I too, read slowly.

      • One of my best graduate experiences was a course that took theories back to the primary sources. Up til then courses covered the theory, mentioned the original study, and we all knew “what happened” but none of us had ever read the real deal–we were too busy drowning in all the other research we had to read. That course was great; it was so helpful to put it all in perspective.

  5. Goal: Read 1 chapter. Try again with the 10 min a day writing. (Starting Tuesday). unpack.

    Accomplished: Some unpacking. No reading for project. Writing: Mon: 10 min, Tues: 0 min, Wed: just over 10 min, Thurs: 60 min, Fri: 25 min, Sat: less than 10, but forgot to check clock.

    Analysis: Instead of freaking out about my project, I let myself write the stuff I needed to get out of my head. I’m hoping this will allow me to move forward on my actual project, and I do think it was helpful. Sometimes I think I just need to get something out and stop fighting it.

    Thursday went so well writing wise–I was at my mom’s (doing laundry). I had quiet as I was the only one home, no ability to have my normal distractions and procrastination, and I had her nice shiny Mac (not that that’s a good excuse, but it was fun to test drive it as I’m looking for options for myself. It was the quiet, calm place to write, but knowing that I only had an hour before anyone came home meant that if I only got so far it was ok. I think I need to find a way to give myself more uninterrupted (procrastination/other things) time.

    New goal: Continue with 10 min a day of writing.

    Reading: for academic pieces it really depends. Sometimes I need to write first in order to see where it’s all going before I look for articles to know what I need. Other times I need to read first because the idea is so small it needs feeding before it can be written. For fiction writing reading gives me new ideas–how are others describing things? How are they using words to create images, emotions etc? However I’ve not been doing as much of that kind of reading as I should be.

    • Sometimes just writing the thing that needs to get out of one’s head most urgently does, indeed, help.

      And identifying some aspects of a writing environment that works is definitely a useful thing. Household distractions, as DEH points out above, are a very real hindrance, and they’re especially hard to avoid in a small space (says the resident of a studio apartment). Do you have any coffee shops or libraries or other public-space options available to you that might replicate some of the conditions at your mom’s, if they prove too hard to replicate at home?

      • I think mom’s worked so well because there was nothing there. They live in the county, the TV isn’t in the same room (and frankly they don’t get the channels I tend to watch.) There’s no “chores” unless I want to clean their house…which I haven’t resorted to that yet. And there’s less clutter. (yeah, that one could be in my control here at home and I’m working on it, but a nice already clear space is good.). Oh! And no crazy cats demanding attention, food, or just getting into trouble.

        I’ve never understood those who could work in public spaces. I tried a few times over the years–especially last year when I could get drinks for free at the local coffee shop. Music from the venue, other people coming in and out, chatting or working, completely distracts me. I know tons of people who work well in those places, but as soon as I have something else to watch/listen to, I’m out. (Concentration has never been my strong point. It happens to be something people with depression, *ahem* struggle with.) The local library has been…well less than friendly –we stopped in recently–it was weird. I love the idea of getting away somewhere, but have not mastered tuning it out. I don’t own an MP3 player, so I can’t exactly tune people out that way, not to mention sometimes even music you like can be distrating.

        Right now, I’m trying to set up a desk in the corner of our bedroom. There’s no TV in there (and we’ll never put one in there, so that’s safe.) There is good lighting. If I can keep it clutter free, it might work, I just have to try it. If not…well for now, going to my mom’s every now and again isn’t too bad. Not a long term fix, but if it finally helps me get the ball rolling, as I’ve been so very stuck lately. (and free laundry to boot!) I’ve never focused so much on writing before now (this last year), so I am experimenting with what works and doesn’t.

      • When I moved this spring, I had to give up my study for a desk in the corner of the bedroom. It works, for the most part. The times it doesn’t are when my husband decides to keep me company and gets chatty. At those times, I respectfully throw him out.

  6. goal: have chapter 2 fully organized.

    accomplished: halfway there.

    analysis: I didn’t manage to do as much work as I had intended while on vacation, and I’m OK with that. And while I had books with me to read for the manuscript, I also had novels with me and read those instead. I did read some academic articles and read through a methods book written for undergrads, which was a pleasant semi-distraction. I appreciate the reading/writing discussion, as it’s something I should think about more. I read haphazardly, and it seems that it would serve me to organize the reading related to writing. I’m struggling with this a bit, in the process of diss-to-manuscript transformation, because the core idea of the manuscript has a different focus than the dissertation.

    next goal: With Fall looming ahead, I’m looking to start on course prep and continue working on the manuscript. There is no way to finish the manuscript this summer, but I will work on it while waiting to hear back from the editors on the writing sample. I have a conference presentation and a chapter to submit in September, so I will start work on those this week as well. The goal then will be to work at least a half hour each day on the manuscript and on one of the September projects.

    • Good for you for letting your vacation be a vacation! (and for getting a little bit of reading in here and there) I hope it proves to be rejuvenating for you.

  7. 1. Goal: Read the article I’ve be itching to get to.

    2. I read about 2/3 of it this morning.

    3. We are still on vacation, and we’ve been at two different locations since last weekend. At last check-in, we were at my mother-in-law’s (mother’s-in-law?) house. Then, father-in-law (where my daughter came down with strep throat). Now, we are in a cabin by a beautiful river, and it’s not easy to focus on work. Instead, I’m reading the book “Nothing Daunted.”

    But this morning, instead of sleeping in, I started the article. I meant to finish it this afternoon after a family fishing trip, but when we got back to the cabin and sat down by the river, it completely slipped my mind.

    4. Finish the article. I’d like to plan for more than that, but soon we’ll be packing up and making the 2.5-day trip home, so I’ll keep my goals modest (or minuscule, as the case may be). Maybe, I’ll exceed my expectations!

    Reading and writing: Ugh. This is so hard for me. I have SOOOOOOO much I need to read, and I just do not have enough time. I started my research area from a real place of ignorance, and I am just barely digging myself out of that place. I have no idea how to read all of the things I have to read–long novels, all of the relevant journals articles, the critical books. Plus, since I’m kind of isolated (not living in uni town, or even uni country), I feel as if i’m always missing lots of important current scholarship. Even though I have three chapters drafted (or half chapters), I am still quite ignorant about my field in the broader sense. I plan to do a lot of contextual reading over the next several months (but it’s going to be a gnarly semester b/c of the ongoing college crisis).

    I find that I often feel as if I’m going down crazy rabbit holes of reading, but I do usually find my way out in order to write. It just takes me a lot of reading to really figure out what I’m doing. And I always end up having to read the not-so-relevant texts in order to figure out what IS relevant. Eventually, I’m ready to write a draft, and I get a better understanding of what more I need to read. And there is Just. So. Much. And reading really does seem to take the most time–more time than writing. And, as I’ve said, I’m kinda slow. So . . .

    • I’m impressed that you’re getting work done on vacation!

      After spending 4.5 years at my uni, and then 4.5 years away, I can say it wasn’t that much easier to keep up with current scholarship when I was there. It might have been different if there had been a regular reading group, or more grad students in my area, but I have as much access to resources here as I did there. (not that I’ve ever been good at keeping up with anything reading related)

  8. Goal: 1 hour MWThF; get through the editing for organization.
    Get to bed on time. This probably means avoiding the computer after dinner.

    Accomplished:
    30 minutes of editing on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, 10 minutes on Friday. I also spent some useful time Monday and Friday on more reflection and planning. I did not finish the specific task I set myself, but I made a lot of progress getting myself to commit to a focus and delete a lot of less relevant material.

    Analysis:
    It is still a struggle to get started, but the fact that I have been able to get started most days the past couple of weeks is a victory. Staying away from the computer in the evenings helps a lot, and bedtimes have been healthier most nights.

    Last Friday, I thought about declaring weekly themes for the rest of the summer for my non-writing life . The past couple of weeks have been “Family Heath Care” (mostly routine, fortunately). This week will probably be Clear Out Clutter for my house, my office (on campus and/or home), *and* my paper.

    Next Goal:
    1/2 hour editing on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday.

    • I might need more than a week to Clean Out Clutter…but I need to adopt that as a theme. Some stuff I’ve hung on to has prove useful, but other times I have no idea why I’m keeping things.

      • The problem in my office at the university is that I can’t access the things I need–mostly course materials– that are lost in the clutter, so my biggest task there is to get things put away.

  9. 1) Goals: EOCP: 1st paragraph of Discussion, look up & skim new articles for Intro topics; MCP paper: MC3 write-up finishing, Analyze MC2 and write-up or collect more data, prepare for MC1 analysis; MUL: Look up manipulations, prep for data-collection help; and some teaching/committee work.

    2) Accomplished: I did or worked on all the tasks. EOCP writing was basically accomplished, though I puttered through the new-lit-review and need to be a little more disciplined about taking notes or doing summaries, as I have an uncomfortable feeling of incompleteness. Unfortunately I discovered some complications with MC3 data that I haven’t been able to figure out yet (requires bright brain plus time, and may require re-analyses and re-thinking). Everything else was fine.

    3) Analysis: Some of my goals were a little amorphous, and I got the GTD-warning feeling that I was keeping my goals / ideas in my head and fearful that I might forget them (one of the GTD mantras is that if you get everything out of your head and onto a reviewable To-Do list that you KNOW won’t get lost, you will be freer to think more!). I am trying to use a WordPress blog to keep my weekly goals on-top / in-mind, but am right now experiencing weird things where links seem to be broken (e.g. the “help” link, the Visibility’s “edit” link for changing whether a post is sticky– neither of them actually link anywhere); grr!!

    Anyhow, I didn’t realize that “look up & skim new articles for Intro topics” actually included, in my mind, “and take notes in either the Introduction or on notecards,” and since I read on-paper and do notetaking on the computer things got a little lost in transition. I can fix that, I think, by making sure I do write down a notecard or two every time I read an article.

    4) Goals for next week:

    EOCP: Outline Discussion; Continue to review articles, & write notecards or brief summaries to put into Intro draft; write some draft sections of Intro, at least 1 paragraph

    MCP: Finish draft writeup of MC3, figure out problem
    Analyze MC 4

    Also some service & grading.

    Reading– I just talked to a colleague about this. His strategy, when working in an area he doesn’t know very much about, is to do a basic introduction covering the main literature he has found; and then do a good job on the data analysis. He’s found that if the data are interesting, reviewers will suggest literature that he has missed. (And this is practical too, since often whether or not your paper gets published will simply depend on who is reviewing your paper; so you might as well allow them to advise you on what they think is important to put in!)

    So basically, his advice was not to do as much work as the beginning as you would like to do, or that makes you feel that every possible criticism would be covered. In a new area it’s often hard to predict the criticisms, so write something that you personally think is interesting, and then see what the reviewers think.

    • I just saw that WordPress is having technical problems at the moment… hence my frustrations!! Back to Real Work instead of enjoying New Productivity Technology, a constant distraction…

      • Love this colleague’s approach – it reminds me that one cannot possibly anticipate everything and trying to do so is sometimes a handy tool for disguised procrastination. It definitely is for me, checking the databases just one more time for interesting articles from 1932 is probably not going to help me write faster!

  10. 1. Goal: Write an hour and a half four days a week.

    2. Accomplished: most of it.

    3. Analysis: I came down with food poisoning on Thursday night; our fridge was not keeping foodstuffs cold enough, but we didn’t realize it until we got sick. I was sick through Friday and some of Saturday, so that impacted writing.

    I don’t feel bad about missing the mark. At least it was truly OBE, not just procrastination or lack of attention, which are the usual suspects.

    4. Same goal for next week: Write an hour and a half four days a week.

    When I wrote my master’s thesis, I read voraciously for months without writing a word. Finally my advisor (RIP) figuratively shook me, saying, “Good God, woman, you know more about this text than anyone on the planet—go write the damn thing.” I wrote the 75 page first draft in 72 hours. It was not a pleasant experience, and not one I would recommend.

    My dissertation advisor told me to start writing long before I thought I was ready (my thesis story having made the rounds of the department). I may have taken her too much at her word, because my SFD has big markers of FIND CITE, CHECK THIS, AND SO???? throughout.

    I do think it has helped with my biggest psychological speedbump—how dare I read something differently from the scholars who have written on this text before? In thesis and dissertation, mind, I’m dealing with texts that no more than ten scholars have written on since the Middle Ages. It doesn’t matter. I still feel incredibly guilty of hubris and expect a lightning bolt to strike me at any minute.

    My experience is that reading secondary literature makes me wary of having a different opinion, which of course, goes against the entire point of the dissertation. I do believe that reading primary literature is extremely helpful in seeing trends, tropes, and rhetorical devices that I missed the first time through my text.

    • That food poisoning does not sound fun. I’m glad you’re recovered from it.

      I didn’t have to write an MA thesis, but if I had, I think my process would have looked much like yours. Throughout grad school, I was a three-day drafter. My advisor too gave me the “draft early” advice. It’s been a good practice for me, though I tend to re-draft instead of revise most of the time, but every iteration improves. When I met with my advisor in April, he said my mantra this summer should be “do it now.” Where I’ve got those “fill in here” notes, I should just stop and do them. It’s been a challenge to shift gears, but it’s definitely pushing me that much closer to done.

      It helps me to think of sources not only as the critical conversation, but as evidence–things that will support my argument, or things that I need to respond to in my argument. I think it helps me see the sources as serving me, rather than as overwhelming me.

      • Oh, yes, Amstr, I’m at that stage now, too. I find it rather revealing that I a) find rabbit holes to disappear down when I fill in the holes, or b) find it so stultifying that I would rather scrub the toilet in Testosterone Palace than spend a couple of hours tracking down citations.

        Several people have given me invaluable strategies for the future–thank you for the topic!

  11. Goals: write 2 hours every day
    Accomplished: I managed to do it for a few days. Then got completely OBE with the crazy house hunting trip and the toddler sick when I got back and in hospital a couple of days later. She’s perfectly fine now, but it was a little scary.

    This week’s goals: make a list of everything that each paper still needs, and pick something every day and do it. And up the 2 hours of writing to 4, I think I can do that this week.

    Reading and writing: At the beginning I read everything on my area/topic I could find. Then I found that as I progressed with writing, I went back to reading and saw things differently, and so writing and reading changed each other. In my field I think that too much reading can be paralyzing as some others have mentioned, “how could a mere grad student disagree with XYZ”. I find it helpful to read only the methods/results sections of papers if I’m looking for facts, and then to read discussions/interpretations only once I’ve done my own first version of discussing and interpreting.
    I wish I had done more note taking and summary writing during my early reading phase of this project – it would have saved endless rereading, but then, the rereading always finds more stuff so it is never wasted.

    For general subject related reading I find it very useful to subscribe to the weekly updates from a number of favourite journals by subject area. They send out weekly notices of new publications. The weekly list usually has 2 -4 articles per journal (some duplicated between areas) which is a lot easier to skim through than monthly table of contents and it is also the most up to date. I find looking through the actual journal contents makes it too easy to get distracted by many articles, and then the next thing you know the day is over and I’ve downloaded and skimmed 30 articles not relevant to my current work. This would be lovely for general reading, but right now I don’t have the luxury of just reading for fun rather than a purpose.

    Once the thesis is finished I’m planning lots of wonderful reading to get into new applications and areas within my field at my new job 🙂

    • I’m so glad your daughter’s okay. That definitely qualifies you for an OBE pass.

      It sounds like you’ve found a really good way to limit your reading and still keep up in your field.

  12. Goal: Finish revisions on article #1

    Accomplished: Done. I’m just double checking citations. I’m happy with this article. I could probably make some additional changes, but I think it would better to submit this and see what the reviewers have to say.

    Analysis: I gained a lot of momentum and motivation from checking off two other summer projects from my list (a book review and a grant). I hope I can keep up the habit I have developed this summer to write everyday even if only for an hour or less.

    Next week: Submit article #1 to selected journal. Work on structure for article #2. I also need to get started on class prep because classes start in four weeks!! Eek.

    As far as reading and writing are concerned, I tend to do both. Moving back and forth between the two as I work on a project. Like others have mentioned, I have always been advised to start writing before you’re ready. When I was working on my dissertation, I found that I used reading as a reason to procrastinate. Well, I haven’t read EVERYTHING yet. Obviously that practice was not going to get me to the finish line. But I am better about starting before I think I’m ready.

    The other problem I have with reading is that I’m easily distracted. Rabbit trails are endlessly fascinating. For example, one of the women in article #1 (a 19th century writer) has some very interesting 20th century descendants: writers, communists, feminists, etc., etc. I had to keep reminding myself that my 19th century writer was the focus not her great nieces and nephews.

    • Congratulations on being done finishing your revisions!

      Isn’t it so easy to get distracted on those interesting trails of research? One of the blessings of being across the country from my uni is that I must order books from my local library’s ILL. That means there’s usually a week or so between when I think something looks interesting and when I get to look at it (for books at least). Sometimes by the time I get the source I can’t remember why I was interested in it in the first place.

  13. Goals: finalizing my new plan to November; writing up my presentation report.

    Accomplished: I had added some footnotes and a bibliography to my presenation paper to send it to my project leader. However, it seems that he wants me to make my paper into a ,much longer article and make it as a chapter of a book based on his project. I myself think the paper itself is ok as a presenation report of the whole project, and I want to research more enough to make it a reviewed journal article. Well, I need to negotiate with him.

    I have been trying to re-construct my research plan, but I have been working hard on only things just in front of me. I am thinking of writing a book in a few years, and so it is necessary for me to consider a research project in a longer perspective.

    Next Goal: again, new plan to November and a few years ahead/an article proposal

    Writing and reading: mmm. I wonder how amstr always finds so good themes? When I started to study my field, I worked hard to collect nesessary materials and always got panic how to read them all and how to write based on my reading.

    Then, I gradually I started ‘reading and writing’ way, that is, I read and write at the same time. For me, reading is enjoyable, but I usually forget the essence of the material really soon, though I made detailed notes. So I read some and if think Wow!, then I write down the particular sentences with quotation marks and where I find it, and I write some my own thinkings inspired by them in my own sentences. Most of my these writings go to a folder named ‘not used’ in my computer and usually never used, but I think this system has been a good practce to write, and importantly, for me, to read and construct my idea at the same time.

    • I too find that reading deepens my thinking about a topic. I like your practice of writing down what you think about a source. I’ve taken to annotated bibliographies, and some detailed notes, but not much of my own comment on it.

  14. I’ve been posting here later and later. I believe I have lost all track of days.

    Last Goal: Continue reading for LM; start reading for another paper; look at the data for the TS findings; finish the analysis memo for the BE paper.

    Accomplished: Read 1 paper for LM and 1 paper for my theory paper; finished the analysis memo for the BE paper

    Analysis: Not a great week for me. I am knee-deep in grading and dealing with students who have suddenly realized they are not going to pass the course (or get the grade they desperately need). I am also right smack in the summer doldrums, which makes doing any work–even the work I love–feel like the tedious of chores. The analysis memo went really well and I actually got more done there than I expected. I think I’m at the point of working on anything that can sustain my interest.

    Next Goal: Look at the data for the TS findings; read for the LM paper

    I think I’ve said everything I have to say on reading in previous comments. I struggle with it because it is the thing that is most likely to send me down rabbit holes. I consider it a part of my writing and so I include reading tasks as writing tasks. I’ve also learned to memo extensively as I read or I lose everything. Reading has to lead to writing and writing can’t be done without reading.

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