Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Cog in Review

My biggest problem is time. Well, time and my memory. (What about your unemployment and current job search? --- Shut up, shut up! You are distracting me from my point and making me talk to myself. I mean, ahem. I didn’t hear anything just now.)

Yes, my biggest struggle is managing current time and remembering what has happened previously. I blame the trauma of my field exams, which radically altered my brain cells and turned me into the pile of eccentricities and neuroses I am today. (Perhaps all those crazy and eccentric professors in our dept. really were normal as grad students. Perish the thought.) Or perhaps the second exam and going ABD, which leaves one feeling unmoored and at sea in a very unstructured environment. Couple that with a very big project (the dissertation) and it’s hard to distinguish the days from each other, month to month.

Profgrrrl did a semester wrap-up post a little while ago, which I thought was an excellent idea. I’m not going to steal the exact same format, since I’m not on the tenure track and dealing with the balance of research-teaching-service (scary!), but I love the idea of periodically looking back and remembering one’s projects and accomplishments. Otherwise I assume that I have been doing no work at all, since my dissertation was not finished instantaneously, and then I really do get no work done because I am depressed and disheartened. You all reading this blog might think all I do is take naps, pet my cats, and complain about not being finished writing yet --- which is true! --- except I do find some time to get real work done as well.

Not only do I have this blog, but a few years before I started it I began a “bitching log” ---- a journal where I tried to keep tabs on my problems and how I was feeling about them (as opposed to whining about the exact same problems to my dissertation group every day). So I’m looking back over it and picking details out of it, as well as my old planner (no I don’t ever remember to throw anything away --- I will be some future historian’s archival dream, if s/he is studying the procrastination patterns of grad students.)

So with that, let’s review the past year:


It’s not in the bitching journal but I remember having a horrible and emotional meeting with my advisor right after break ---- basically a meltdown over last year’s job market. Advisor said she wouldn’t let me drop a chapter and graduate right away since I didn’t have a job waiting for me, and we had a lot of … conflict and misunderstanding about my options for work and funding. On the more positive side I turned in my chapter.


I started this blog around this point, got a completely useless “readership” grading for a class ---- lots of work for not a lot of money and my fees weren’t paid by it either. I did a lot of rereading and rewriting for an article that had been rejected (it came back right in the middle of getting job rejection letters --- that was fun!), researched and wrote a conference paper, and then went to that conference.


Ok, it doesn’t look like I did do much this month. Oops. I continued grading for my readership and kept banging my head against the brick wall that was the rejected article. I did go camping, though.


With Spring, I managed to grab an actual TAship, and started reading and gathering my research for Chapter 4 --- I may have even started prewriting. Sometime around this point I finally decided that the (really harsh!) readers’ reports were right and this article was not salvageable ---- a lot of it was derivative and the most interesting stuff I had to say had recently been scooped. So I put it aside, reluctantly. --- And in a side note, I learn everything by doing it wrong the first time. You should hear about all the things I learned about how not to do research or how not to have an advisor-advisee relationship during my senior thesis. Now, I feel like I learned a whole lot more, and eventually am doing a lot better, than some of my friends who had a very smooth and easy time doing a more manageable senior thesis with a more “hands-on” advisor. But as the job market and tenure track and all of academia gets more competitive and professionalized, the stakes for “fucking up as a learning strategy” get more and more dangerous. I’d hate to think that a combination of rocky diss writing and steep publishing learning curve, combined with funding cuts and raising bureaucratic bars, might push me out of academia. But perhaps that is a rant for another day.

(And I have a note that as of April 23rd my chapter is done. That must be the day I got the whole committee signed off on it.)


Still teaching and grading, still reading and gathering chapter material, and I started pre-planning my summer course (I think I had to apply for it back in Jan). Then I wrote another conference paper and went to that conference, where I mocked some people cruelly for their appearance (that would be on the blog, not in person). My panel, I should add, was highly attended.

This month would actually be a year anniversary of being dumped, but there’s no notes about it in the bitching log, so I guess I was too busy to care. (Ha, take that, dude!)


This month I started revising one of my chapters into an article and was buried in end-of-the-quarter grading. I was still checking out books on chap. 4 evidently too. I also had the brilliant idea of how to get work done while exhausted, but it backfired.


A very productive, if boring, month --- I revised and sent out the article, plus revised the conference paper into an article and sent it out. Despite the occasional need for a nap, I was still reading background stuff for chap. 4 and preparing in earnest for my summer class. Oh, and probably sitting around on the beach too. But it was highly productive sitting, I’m sure.

I also had a minor freakout at the thought that one needs to plan out academic stuff a year in advance, as well as wondered how to juggle all the different academic deadlines. So I asked you all about it. You provided the advice, I brought the pretty pictures.


That summer course kicked my ass! I even stopped filling out any of my datebooks or journals after a while. I had no energy to do anything outside of teaching, grading, and prep. Heaven help me if I get a job somewhere with a high teaching load and each course takes that much work to set it up.


Finished the class and started right into the job market prep. I must have chased down and harassed my letter writers for a month straight. I also wrote another conference paper. Once I get to that spot in my chapter, I’ll unearth it and splice it in.

I asked the blogospherians for lots of advice, and you all delivered. What follows is my nifty Compendium of Job Search Advice and General Bitchiness, and no, you can't really have one without the other.


Full-on job market craziness. I should have kept a job-materials word count like with the international dissertation writing month count. I updated my letter and abstract, rewrote my statement of teaching philosophy, and applied for over 60 jobs. I asked the blogosphere about the usefulness and competitiveness of postdocs, and so far I’ve applied to one. Unfortunately, nobody counts or cares how many words you produce in the process of applying to jobs, even though it feels like the job search is a course load’s worth of work in and of itself.

Other job-search related discussions included how shitty expensive the whole process is, when you should go out on the market (ABD or PhD in hand? I think the answer is that you're fucked either way, but differently. Go figure.), and what I should do with those stupid piles of teaching evaluations. Oh, and a response to the debate over "it's a first job" vs "it's your one and only job you just married it and now you can never leave you sap."


Still reading for chapter 4 and still dealing with bits of the job applications, this is the first month I actually sat down and produced my chapter outline and pages of prose. This is really important for me to remember, because I keep thinking that I was intensively writing the chapter since January, not pulling the research. And then I think that this chapter was the only thing on my plate all year and start kicking myself for not being done. Really, I’m moving along and making some progress.


Well, that’s where we are now. You should be caught up. (Or you could just look over there to your right and see the word meter. I have another chunk that I’m revising into drafty sentences and will officially count them as soon as they no longer sound like stream-of-consciousness.)

Ok, so now that I've written out all my accomplishments I feel like I worked hard this past year, but damn if I'm not incredibly boring and pitiful ---- I have no life! Great, now I've just switched the topics to be upset about.

1 comment:

Belle said...

Wow. Just... wow. You get chapters accepted? Cripes, that would've helped. I am fairly sure that no one on my committee ever knew what I was doing until they 'read' (because I'm not sure they did) the final product. I base that on the comments of 'oh, is this what you were doing???' that greeted me the day of the defense. They either trusted me, or didn't care. I prefer to think the former.

You're doing a lot; don't beat yourself up so much. It'll get done.