Wednesday, April 22, 2009

MMAP Update April 22: Decisions and Revisions Which a Minute Will Reverse

It's April; seemed apt. ;)

Today I worked from 9 to about 10:45 (I stayed until 11, but the actual steam ran out of the productivity a bit earlier). Although I worked longer than I had on other days, today's output is still the same: one paragraph reworked. Perhaps the solution, since I only finish revising one paragraph no matter what, is to only work on it for 15 minutes? Then I would be making incredible progress ---- a paragraph every fifteen minutes (spread out across days) and have lots of free time to get other things done! Somehow, though, I don't think it will work this way.

The paragraph for today is a short one, too. But today's work also involved typing in a whole bunch of other quotes, realizing that I needed to talk about them in this other paragraph and moving them, then deciding that this move meant I could rearrange the structure and put today's paragraph first, and then changing my mind and putting it back where I was. Twice. Such exhaustion for so little effort! Who called thinking "the moving about of great secret trunks"? My attic-brain doesn't look any different, unless you notice that the silhouettes of dust on the floorboards are different from where the great big boxes are.

Ah well. Things proceed apace. A pace slower than the glaciers are melting, but still. They're galloping along pretty quickly these days.

In other news, I had decided that this year is the year of Getting Some Shit Published and that I needed to get all my stuff out rather than distract myself with pretty shiny conferences and things. I have lots of conference presentations on my CV and I think I use them a bit as a crutch --- as a way of feeling productive while managing to avoid dealing with publishing (or writing my dissertation, back in the old days.) And besides, being all impoverished and soon-to-be unemployed and whatnot, it just doesn't make sense for me to go to any conferences this year.

Except. Someone in my dept. told me that the UPenn calls for papers website was back up and has an RSS feed now. So I have it on my bloglines and now check it regularly as I'm catching up on you-all's lives. And it is making me all sad and nostalgic and desirous of going to my usual conferences ---- for some of the ones in my field I have been following long enough to feel like they are "mine." And though it's too late to get in on my usual haunts I keep thinking to myself that maybe this was a bad idea and I've been wanting a vacation to someplace cool anyway and I should just up and send something in somewhere. Sigh.

I could end this post by asking you all what you think the best course of action is --- in keeping with today's theme of indecisiveness --- but I really think I need you folks to talk me down and keep me committed to my first plan. I'll miss not seeing people this year but I have conference lines on my CV; I need to get some pubs on there too. Tomorrow though I think I will be asking about how to create a "research agenda," so you can direct my waffliness then.


Susan said...

I'll fall for your bait. I think there are far too many conferences, and yes, they are used as a substitute for publishing. Believe me, I can crank out a conference paper much more easily than a publishable one. Publishing will pay off much more.

And a paragraph is a paragraph!

Dr. Crazy said...

You're on the right track, Sis - at a certain point, an additional conference presentation adds nothing to the cv. You've proven that you're engaged with the profession through participation in conferences. Another conference or two next year will not enhance your cv. It sucks to have to think about intellectual pursuits as "lines on the cv," but this is the world we live in.

And if it makes you feel better, I'm not going to do any but fairly local conferences next year, because the likelihood is that I'll have no travel money to support conferences. And yes, that means no Prague next June. And yes, I'm bitter about that.

I'm interested to read a "research agenda" post from you, and to see what people have to say. Mine has been so haphazard... I wonder whether others ever actually compose a research agenda that they then achieve :)

Word Verification = workesp. I think that's my theory of the research agenda (work ESP).

Ink said...

I also concur that focusing on publishing is a good idea (and also good on the bank account during these times not to have to pay for travel)! Yay, Sis!

Shane in Utah said...

I've always heard the "write every day" advice, but it's never really worked for me. Even when I've had fellowships and hence the luxury of endless unstructured time, there were days and even weeks when all I could do was read and take notes, and there were days when I would revise but not try to do any original writing, and then there were days when I would write 8-10 pages in a single mad outpouring. I managed to write my dissertation fairly quickly that way. And that rhythm (or lack of rhythm?) has worked pretty well for me on the tenure track also: during the school year I mostly just read and take notes and revise stuff that's already written, but when I get a week or a month or a summer free, I write like crazy.

I guess my point is: I'm suspicious of people who give universal rules for succeeding in grad school or academia. You have to find your own pace and your own style of working.

Sisyphus said...

Shane, I think that reading for the project counts unless you are someone who has a tendency to use reading as a crutch to avoid writing, like me.

And my friends who have done the "I can't work when I'm teaching, only in the summer," have had bad results, in that they do _nothing_ except throw themselves into their TAship over the whole year, and then feel so overwhelmed and behind during the summer (and out of touch because they haven't even been reading on their topic) that they get very little done --- and then get kicked out of my program when their guaranteed teaching is up because they have not made fast enough progress through the program.

Anyways, some of these days I have done very little besides reread my draft and maybe make a couple changes in sentences, but that means that I don't have to spend hours every time I come back to the project just to figure out what stage my draft is art and what I need to do next or even what I am arguing. I think in that way, keeping it fresh and at your fingertips really does help.

But, you know, I'm not done yet, so ask me once I mail it off again!