Thursday, September 12, 2013


So here's my thing. I'm making this massive effort to produce some new academic writing this year.* Lately I've been wishing that I had a job that truly valued research so that I'd feel a little more incentive to do some; when you have a heavy teaching and service load, no colleagues in your immediate (or even adjacent) field, and no one ever talks about their research (in fact, you suspect, 80% or more of your colleagues don't do any), I do believe that it's objectively harder to get this sort of thing done.

I'm trying to be realistic. I'm division chair and the director of the Honors program; I have three classes (and three preps) this semester; and I have a young son and a husband with whom I like to spend time. I also really appreciate having a clean house and decent meals, so we put some time in on that stuff. However, I've been vaguely "planning" the "second book" for like 3 years now, with nothing much to show for it except a couple of semi-related journal articles. I don't want to non-write and non-publish myself right out of my field.

So I'm trying three new things, the first two of which are bound to fail sometimes--but I hope that I can be forgiving and just start again when I have to.

1) Grading happens in the office, and only in the office.
I have an outstanding track record for returning papers: They're back within a week, no matter what, and sometimes even sooner. It doesn't have to be that way. If I get papers on a Tuesday and they don't go back until the following Thursday, no one will care. So far, this resolution is forcing me to use my office hours productively, rather than just futzing around filing and shit. And it is so liberating to not even put grading on my weekend to-do lists!

2) I'm writing for half an hour a day.
Okay, I've managed this for four days now, which isn't exactly earth-shattering.... But dude! That's two hours of writing that I wouldn't have done! And I'm actually being pretty intense about it--mostly; since it's such a short period of time, I'm trying to jot down as much as I can very quickly, rather than screwing around online. (There is some screwing around, but it doesn't count towards my half-hour, so there's little incentive to engage in it.) If I keep this up, I could conceivably have a very crappy draft of part of a chapter done by the end of the semester!

3) I'm writing along with my junior-level composition students.
The junior-level comp class is focused on one major paper, which they spend the second half of the semester writing; in the first half, they summarize and synthesize academic articles, pursue bibliographic threads, and the like. I've told my students that I'll do similar assignments all semester (adapted to my own project, of course) and post them on the course website as optional models for them to look at--with the idea that I, too, will produce a 10-page (or longer) paper by the end of the semester. I managed the first assignment, and I'm a little ahead on the second (not due till early October). I think that this will both give me deadlines and let me see whether my assignment sequence is actually helpful for paper-writers.

So that's it. Wish me luck as I try to make my research actually important to me!

*To be fair, I produce new academic writing pretty much every year, and even get some of it published. My publication record is quite good for someone at my type of institution--a book and 5 peer-reviewed articles, plus book reviews. But it's not going towards some big, new, exciting project, and that's what I miss--the feeling of being caught up in something larger than an article-length argument.


What Now? said...

I do wish you luck, and I'm impressed! Good for you!

Psycgirl said...

Those are great plans - good luck :)

Dr. Koshary said...

I would think that, if you accomplish even half of this on a regular basis, you will make full prof in short order. From what you say of your department's culture, even half of these goals would yield you enough original research publications to stay 'in the field' even if things move slower than they used to.

You might also think about teaching Bonaventure how to read soon, so he can get to work filing stuff for you and earn his keep. ;)

Good Enough Woman said...

If you manage to get all of your grading finished in your office during the week, you will have to say more about how you accomplished such a feat and about how many hours you spent on grading!

Sounds like a great plan! Good luck.