Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Little writing update

I haven't been keeping up with my writing goal counter very well lately, in part because most of my writing has been a) on articles, or b) not contributing to my word count (e.g. REWRITING a chapter, which is now 1000 words SHORTER than it used to be).

However, I just tallied up my manuscript, and I've got 85,000 words.

So that's 5,000 shy of my goal for the year.

Which means that, pretty soon, and maybe even almost now, I'm going to have to direct my attention quite fully on replacing all of the wrong words (approx. 78,000) with the right ones.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Boomerang/Zombie/Indefatigably Persistent Article


I finally heard back from the 4.5-month R&R journal on Monday (the second day of our lovely beach vacation). There was no mention of what the reviewers thought of my extensive revisions. HOWEVER, there is now a THIRD reviewer, who recommends R&R with a whole DIFFERENT set of concerns!

OK, that's worse than it sounds. It is an R&R. It is promised to be the final R&R. And the concerns are primarily about clarity. To which I say, fair enough--although I haven't looked at my article since I sent it off in early April, I've been really struggling with and working through the ideas that it's developing, so lack of clarity is a real possibility.

On the bright side, Reviewer 3 appreciated my mastery of the secondary literature, much of which is in a language that I'm not very comfortable with and that I spent all of the spring semester slogging through. So that's something. In fact, I'm pretty pleased about that.

Initially, though, I wasn't pleased. I had that sinking feeling of rejection all afternoon, despaired of earning tenure, etc. Why does an R&R feel so crummy?

In this case, I'm also just out of patience with this dumb article (which isn't really dumb, I don't think, and which is the exploration piece for my second book, so I need it to be acceptable--and accepted). Here's it's history:

  • Spring/summer 2011: Article drafted.
  • August 2011: Submitted to Big Journal 1.
  • September 2011: Summarily rejected by Big Journal (BJ) 1.
  • January 2012: MLA talk given on radically revised version of argument.
  • January 2012-May 2013: Article completely ignored (by me).
  • May 2013: Acknowledgement (by me) that article is total crap, but that MLA essay had something going for it.
  • July 2013: Dramatically revised article (arguing the opposite position of its previous incarnation) sent to BJ 2.
  • January 2014: Query sent to BJ 2. Editor had misplaced submission. Editor sends it to a colleague, who reports that it isn't "sharp enough." BJ 2 rejection.
  • November 2014: Radically revised/rewritten article submitted to BJ 3.
  • February 2015: BJ 3 rejects article--accompanied, this time, by a thoughtful, detailed reader's report. Progress! But reviewer doesn't buy the argument.
  • Fall 2015: Article is now taking a totally different approach. Maybe 5% of original draft is still in there, mostly in the footnotes. Sent to writing group, who offers helpful advice.
  • December 2015: Submitted to BJ 4.
  • January 2016: First R&R from BJ 4.
  • January-April 2016: Agony, struggles, rewriting, etc. Resubmitted.

And here we are. Problems solved: The argument is no longer alienating my readers, and I have accounted for the secondary literature. All of it (or so it seems).

Soooo, tomorrow, I will print my essay and start the new revisions. I HAVE TO FINISH THIS F^%#@*$ER.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

How Long?

So I'm in this really annoying limbo right now with two journals, both of whom gave me revise-and-resubmit verdicts, and both of whom have now been looking at my revisions for some time.

OK, in one case, it's been about a month. But it's been four and a half months in the other, so the second journal is suffering (in my mind) from the sins of the first--I simply can't deal with not hearing about EITHER ONE for ONE MORE DAY (something that I've been saying to myself for weeks and weeks now, of course).

Anyway. No substance, no plot, no resolution. I'm just getting impatient. (And I did contact the 4.5-month journal a few weeks ago. The editor sent my email along to another editor. And I wait.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

It's Just My Ovary!

--by which I mean, not something in my ovary, but literally my ovary, which, for reasons that are not at all dangerous or pathology-related, is in a somewhat funny place (atop my somewhat funny-shaped uterus, whose funny shape is also neither dangerous nor the result of something pushing on it).

This was what the radiologist told me; I won't hear from the doctor until tomorrow, so it isn't official, but I'm pretty sure that I can sleep easily tonight.

So, well, sorry for the panic!

It's Probably Nothing

I just got back from the doctor's office for my annual exam.

I have a new doctor, of course, because I just moved here a year ago. I like her, and my impression is that she's very thorough.

So as she was feeling around on the outside of my stomach and abdomen, she thought that she felt something.

It could be food. It could be stool. It could be a cyst. And it could be worse.

Now I'm filling my bladder with water in preparation for an ultrasound. I should hear back from the doctor with the results tomorrow-ish.

It's probably nothing. I'd just eaten lunch an hour or so previously, and I've had cysts before, and I've had pap smears annually and they've always been normal.

But I'm still scared.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Okay, Full Disclosure

So I was thinking about it, and my last couple of posts have this "My Life Is Perfect" rosiness to them that even I find a little loathsome. And it's not entirely accurate. So this is intended as a partial corrective to that...

...because there are definitely days when I'm cranky and sluggish because it's hot and humid and our air conditioner is broken, or my research seems stupid and boring, or my four-year-old's incessant whining is driving me up the wall--seriously, he whines over things that are in no conceivable way problems! He'll be like, "Mamaaaaa, I want to play with my traiiiinnnn," and I'm all, "It's right there--go play with it already. And stop whining." Followed, of course, by an exasperated sigh and maybe a little grumbling. Perfection is pretty well out of the game.

But I'm trying--not for perfection, but for peace and presence. It is an aspiration, after all.

Quiet Aspirations

In yoga, we often do a pose called Aspiring Warrior. (It's also called by various other names, such as Reverse Warrior, Sun Warrior, etc.) In this posture, you stand with your legs wide apart, the toes of (say) your right foot pointing straight ahead and with your left foot turned in, your right knee bent at a 90 degree angle and your left straight. Your hips face forward--wow, okay, describing yoga poses is hard. Here's a picture:


It's a posture in which your legs are very strong--indeed, often very tired--and your upper body leans back and over with, hopefully, a surprising lightness. It's quite a lovely pose and fun to do, I think. Most of the time.

My quick image search revealed that most people call this Reverse Warrior, and that's the name that it had in most of my classes, too. My current teachers call it Aspiring Warrior, however, and I've come to like that; it shifts the focus away from the militant connotations of the Warrior and into the idea of aspiration, of yearning and seeking, that the posture entails.

A few weeks ago, as we were moving into the pose, my teacher asked, "What is your aspiration?" It was a question that she'd asked before, but it struck me differently on that day, six weeks into summer. What is my aspiration? At that moment, it hit me: It wasn't to publish more, or be more, or anything like that. It was to live my life--specifically, my life this summer. To live the summer. To be here, to feel it, experience it, enjoy it. To live more.

So I've done a few things. When I'm not too tired (and this flexibility, in itself, is quite remarkable for me), I get up early and meditate on the deck for half an hour, with the sun already high at 6 am and the birds clattering all over the forest. Then I read until the house wakes up, maybe with a cup of tea in my new birch-bark teacup from the recent craft festival.

The deck, with zafu

My cup. Isn't it pretty?

That's one thing. I'm trying some other stuff, too: spending more time on the deck at all times of day, taking naps when I can, doing fun outdoors things with my son (and sometimes even my husband!). Paying attention. Being there.

I have no illusions, really, about the likelihood of my keeping all of this up come fall. But it would be nice to borrow a few summertime habits during the semester. And maybe, simply by making them habits, I'll be able to do that.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Um...a (technical) question

According to Blogger, as of sometime last month, my blog has been receiving over 1000 hits a day. This is up from, you know, 50-75 when I actually post something. (Note that, before Friday, I had last posted about 6 weeks ago.)

I can't imagine that this is accurate. Anyone have any insights into this? Or has Blogger's viewing counter gone haywire?

Friday, June 10, 2016

On my writing goal for the year

In updating (after a long break, as you can see) my Writing Goal 2016! box in the margin over there, I noticed a month-old comment from Flavia asking where I came up with my goal. (I'm trying not to apologize anymore for being such a terrible blogger, but wow, I'm a terrible blogger.)

Flavia asked how I decided on 80 days at 500 words/day or 40,000 words for the year. Those words are all on my book manuscript, by the way, so the gaps don't mean that I haven't been writing--just that I've been writing and working on other things (such the Article That Will Not Go Away And Stay Away, By Which I Mean Get Published).

The answer is not particularly scientific. As of January 1, I had written, I think, about 50,000 words of this manuscript. Many of them are the wrong words, but they are, at least, words.

In my wildest dreams (yes, I'm that crazy!!), I will finish this MS in 2016.

A good length for a monograph is 90,000 words. Hence: 40,000 to go.

As for the 80 days/500 a day? Well, 500 a day seems like a reasonable clip (on average), and not too intimidating. At that rate, it'll be 80 days of writing. Out of 366 (it's a leap year!), 80 is not very many at all--hardly 1 in 5 days. So when you put it that way, I have no excuse for not finishing the book this year--except for all that pesky, you know, reading and research and thinking and stuff that also has to go into it. Also revising. I have had days when I've worked and written a lot and only added 12 words to the word count (or even had it go down)--don't we all?

So that's that. I'm afraid that the answer isn't terribly exciting.

But maybe this is more interesting?: Breaking the book down into words and days is part of an overall project of re-framing how I see academic writing, and just making it into part of my daily work. This past semester, I think that I managed to write--not just read, but write, even if it was only to revise a sentence or two--on all but two work days, from January through early May. I've never even come close to doing that before. And I did it by making the writing work much more concrete: creating endless lists of very specific tasks, keeping track of the time that I spend working, using an accountability check-in website (as well as my own chart and even, to a much lesser extent, this blog), talking to other people about my work. I think that I'm succeeding in making it a thing that I do, rather than a big scary amorphous hovering threat.

Of course, this is the first day that I've managed to do any writing since before Kalamazoo. I was on a week-long research trip, then two weeks of vacation (of sorts) with my husband and son, and we got back late on Wednesday night. So today is my 40th birthday, and one of the things that I asked for was a couple of hours to work...and I got it, and I did! (See sidebox.) Now I think that I'll read something academic and wait for the guys to come home bearing lunch.

Thursday, April 21, 2016


So here it is, the annual writing of the conference paper that I proposed the previous summer and no longer have a great deal of interest in/feel is particularly relevant to my current research/find especially plausible. And then the annual attempting to wedge whatever I really want to write into something that roughly matches my accepted paper title.

When will I get smart about this, and start proposing abstracts for already-written (unpublished) work? Like chapter drafts? I have chapter drafts; I have them in plenty. (Well, I have about three.) What's wrong with me?

That said, I am looking forward to Kalamazoo, which I love, at least when the weather's good.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Why hello there! How are you? I'm fine.

Well, this has been a pretty pathetic semester, blogging-wise.

But let's cut to the chase. I'm supposed to have been blogging about the transition from a resource-poor 4/4 SLAC to a public flagship 2/2 R1, yes? So what on earth do I have to say about that, now that the year is (yesssss!) almost done?

Point no. 1, which I think I've made before:
I'm not less busy than I was in my last job, but (for the most part) I'm happier about that with which I am busy.

I go up for tenure (again) in Fall 2017, so these are the years of saying Yes. I'm now on...5? 6? graduate thesis/exam committees, I participated in a very labor-intensive year-long seminar, I gave an hour-long public talk in March, I was a respondent for a graduate student symposium, I'm co-chairing a committee--yes, yes, yes. The good news is that I'm actually interested in most of what I'm saying Yes to. The bad news is that I'm busy, but I'd be busy anyway, so whatever.

Point no. 2:
I feel like I have a professional trajectory again. Truly, changing jobs IS the cure for the post-tenure/mid-life crisis. Except that changing jobs is impossibly hard, but you all know that already.

I'm not sure that I have any more points at the moment. It's Friday. The weather has (finally) been pleasant. I just drank an extra glass of wine (define "extra" as you like) on the deck watching the sun go down through the pines, listening as the evening bird noises gave way to the frogs racketing away in the marsh at the bottom of the hill. There is street noise here--a not-very-busy road in the near distance--but the traffic starts to settle once the sun sets. For the first time in a very long time, it feels like a Friday.

I'm going to enjoy it.

Have a good weekend, and I hope to be back soon.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Words, but no words


The newborn baby of a dear friend died on Friday.

She was born three weeks ago. But her birth was extremely traumatic, resulting in brain damage so severe that her body more or less shut down.

I'm not going to write a lot about this here, at least not right now, but this weekend I was with my friends, her parents, and with the baby's body. I sat with her for much of last night, and she was buried--a green burial, so no casket or embalming--this morning.

It was the first time I'd seen a dead body.

Seeing a dead body is not scary.

At three o'clock this morning I felt it as an honor, to be allowed to sit with her in the stillness of the night. She was very cold. I sat for a while in the early dawn with my hand on her brow, just to make her a little bit warmer.

Her skin darkened and settled visibly in the night.

My friends are not okay, not right now, but they're strong, and they will be.

And I can't stop thinking about my own little boy, and how impossibly hard it would be to say goodbye to him.

Rest in peace and love, little one. Peace, peace to your parents, who are so good. Love to all.

I'm canceling class tomorrow. I need sleep and some time to be still.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Your Writing Brain is a Three-Year-Old Child

As I mentioned recently, I'm part of a mutual mentoring team with a grant, and the main thing that we're spending money on is a writing coach. We all have second books that we'd like to see through to completion, but, like everyone, we're afraid of getting sucked into the vortex of service, teaching, family obligations, and simple procrastination.

We've met with our coach twice, and she's already changed my thinking about writing in profound ways.

What I've found so stunningly helpful, despite (or because of) its simplicity, is the need to break things down into manageable, visible tasks.

Obviously, a lot of writing work is unmanageable and invisible--at least, as tasks. Coming up with an interesting argument. Providing sophisticated analysis. Thinking original thoughts. Etc.

But, when planning your writing time, you can't have on your to-do list, "Come up with an interesting argument about X." (I know; I've tried.) Instead, you need to think about what you do to get there.

Painfully obvious, maybe. Yet to me, spelling this out was somehow revolutionary.

Now, a part of me (a small part, because I do love me some lists) rebels against this way of thinking. "Writing isn't just performing a series of discrete tasks!" I complain. "I need freedom! I need to think!"

Sure, of course. But here's an example.

I just got an R&R on an Article That Will Not Go Away. One of the things that I need to do is think through some tricky conceptual stuff in the introduction. So, as my writing task for Monday, I had, "Think about conceptual problems."

"Hm..." said the writing coach. "How will you do that?"

"I don't know."--the honest answer. "Maybe I should read some things first? Or make the easy corrections?"

"Could you do some generative freewriting on one of the problems for 15 minutes?" she asked.

Just like that: it became a task that I was likely to do, instead of one that would wind up on the semester-long to-do list and gradually get kicked over to next year's day planner! And freewriting works well for me. Doing it is likely to help me think more clearly about the essay as a whole.

Last night, it occurred to me that this is exactly like what we do when we're doing our best at dealing with Bonaventure: we provide clear, recognizable parameters.

At dinner, for example, if we say, "Eat some more of your green beans," he needs to know exactly how many bites or else it turns into an endless back-and-forth ("I did eat more!" "No, more than that." "But I did!"). If he's watching a show, we're able to get him to stop watching if we tell him in advance how much longer he can watch. If we don't, there's chaos. If we do, compliance.

I really think that my own brain is exactly like this. I need to know what the limits are, what the next activity is, and when I'll know that I've done enough in order to stay happy and compliant. When I don't, I get anxious, unsettled, stalled--in short, writing becomes impossible.

So, in sum, when you're planning your next writing project, remember that you're actually three years old. It really helps.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


I have a new addiction:


Do you see the sidebar over there? The one called "Writing Goal 2016!"? And do you see the two days in which I clocked more than 2000 words apiece? Those were WRITING RETREAT days.

The first--a three-hour deal with three friends, up on the special faculty floor of the library. I had just come up with a whole new framework for my book (one that I'm still excited about, by the way--and at 10 days later, that's probably a record), and in those three hours I drafted a brand new introduction to the beast.

The second--today--an all-day retreat at a Remote Location with about 8-10 folks, two of whom I already knew. Nothing very formal (we brought our lunches and other necessary gear). Somehow, sitting around a table with a bunch of other people--in silence--bending to our tasks--well, it helped me move forward. A lot.

There's no way that I could keep up this pace, even if the semester weren't about to start. For one (very important) thing, I need to do some reading and research in order to have more to write. But I feel great about the start of the year, writing-wise, and I've finally worked through some sticky places in my current chapter.

A tiny, secret part of me thinks that I might, just maybe, be able to finish a complete draft of the book MS in 2016. But don't tell anybody. Resolutions always start to wane in February....

Wednesday, January 6, 2016


What I really want, in how I live my life, is not to miss it. Life, I mean.

I want to live my life, moment to moment. I want to notice it. This is nothing new and nothing deep, but each of us, I imagine, has different barriers to that kind of present relishing of everydayness.

-worry about money (and therefore not enjoying what I inevitably spend it on)
-worry about being late (and therefore feeling rushed, harried, irritable)

I am not going to resolve to not worry about these things, as that seems ridiculous and impracticable. When I do worry, however, I will try to remember that this is my life, and that I don't want to miss it.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Year of Living Perfectly

I'll start by saying that the title of this post is tongue in cheek, of course.

Well, mostly. More or less. Because the fact is that I do fantasize about some sort of perfect, purified living--don't we all? Or rather, don't all of us who can enjoy the luxury of doing so while our day-to-day needs are (mostly) met?

And of course I'm playing with the phenomenon of the my-year-of-Xing blogs/books/movies/money-making machines. Who among you, O Bloggers, has not toyed with the idea of developing your own hook and cashing in on the trend? (Probably many, but surely I'm not the only one who's thought about this, albeit in a vague and totally un-committed way.)

So I'm thinking about the new year, which is something that I annually enjoy, and the fact that this is the year in which I turn 40, and that I would very much like to live life the way that I want to live it (within reasonable parameters, of course--one does have duties and obligations) going into this year. In truth, I'm pretty close already. I like my job and my profession. Since moving to Idyll, I've resumed a yoga practice that I had nearly abandoned during my eight years at Field, and regularly attend two classes a week; that feels like plenty during the school year. I like where I live, finally. I don't have any major dysfunctions to address, at least not that I'm aware of.

But there are always the Things That I Wish I Did Every Day. This year I did start working on Latin translations daily--on the days that I'm in the office, that is. But there are also the following:

  • Reading an awful lot more
  • Art/craft-type endeavors (e.g. book-binding, paper-making, more knitting that I already do, book arts)
  • Meditation
  • Maybe other exercise, although I'm pretty happy with my current schedule
  • Writing a heck of a lot more
  • Writing more interesting stuff in my journal
And I have this idea about just diving in completely, getting up early, scheduling the hell out of myself and doing it all. I know that I would hate that and it wouldn't work (I like sleep). But maybe I'll try...something.

To start, though, I'm going to get organized. I'm part of a group this coming semester that has secured funding for (among other things) a writing coach, and she's already helped me to think more productively about how to plan my research and writing. I love this--I love love love organizing things--and I'm excited to jump in. Our first small-group writing retreat is on Tuesday, and I can't wait to get started.

And I am going to read more. Somehow, somewhere, I will fit that in.

More to come. Accountability is another thing that I love love love.