Saturday, May 29, 2010

Inspired to Work, not Travel

I'm not sure if it's the great meeting I had with my mentor or the great feeling I have from having a plan (get those articles drafted and out: you've got 2 years. ready? go!) or if it's something about thinking about the way I'm going to talk about my work in my annual report, but I've been working on my article in drips and drabs, mostly collecting articles to read. I'm really excited about reading some of the stuff I've printed out as well as working on my annual report, so much so that I'm taking those two things with me as I go to Urban Home City for my sister's wedding. I hope to get time to work on them, which I know is terrible, but there it is.

My mother has been totally over-the-top bubbly about it all (sending me text messages at 3am is so not cool, Mom), while I'm just trying to live through each day, get things organized (renting a car when you have no money is no fun), and get it done. I honestly hadn't even thought about the prospect of fun until she mentioned it. Maybe it's just that it feels disloyal to have fun without Absurdist Lover and Absurdist Tot, who are both staying here because it's just too expensive for us all to go, not to mention that I think we'd have a terrible time flying with Tot, despite that his daycare providers say he's the happiest baby they've ever seen and he never cries there. Well, he cries plenty here. He's been tantrum-y lately, pulling my hair and grabbing at my glasses. Maybe I just have a bad attitude about my family, or large parties, or saying the same things over and over again. ("Yes, I like my new job." "Yes, I somehow survived the snowy winter." "No, I'm not looking for a job anywhere near here.") Maybe it's just that I have to wake up way too early, fly, land, visit people, and drive all around way before I'm ever going to get any real sleep. And since Tot has been having a hard time sleeping lately, so have I. I'm pretty zombified.

I'm going to go and try to get 3-1/2 hours of sleep before I have to get up, take a shower, etc. Maybe more blogging on the road.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

On Why Writing Daily May Not Be for Me

Undine and Kathleen Fitzpatrick over at Prof Hacker are talking about writing again and the old writing-in-the-morning game again. I know that this conversation, while inspiring, may not really be for me. Yes, I can wake up and plunge into something, but the brain that plunges is certainly not my best brain. Not to mention, one's time with an active nineteen month-old is not one's own. But I'm sure I have friends who'd simply wake up before the Tot and get much done. But here's the thing: when I do wake up before him and focus on work before I get him, I don't really want to stop. And I'm not sure I really want my brain to be in work stuff and wanting to be in work stuff when I really should be with him with my whole head. Especially now as he has just vaulted into some incredibly annoying phase where his favorite things are all things he's not supposed to do: standing on the chair, climbing over the sofa, and sitting on the bottom shelf of the entertainment unit. These are all things he's heard "no" to a dozen times, so he does them while watching us with that smile. I don't know if he can truly understand "no" yet, but he spent a lot of time today in his playpen, which is the punishment for naughty things. Is he too young for that? Are we still supposed to be doing distraction? Any thoughts?

Anyway, back to writing. After a horrendous week where I actually got some strange sickness leaving me very very weak but without many symptoms, I was determined on Friday to get some scholarly work done, especially because it's Annual Review time and I have that my scholarship -- or lack of published verification thereof -- on the brain. So I worked and made good progress. I did not actually write. I read a vital source for my article and took copious notes and really allowed myself some time to wade around in those ideas. It was great. When I was done, I didn't really want to stop. I didn't want to work on the backlog of student marking I have to do. I didn't want to prep for Monday. I couldn't make myself sit still to do those things either. I wanted to do research, Annual Review things like work on the report, or chat with colleagues.

This is my problem with the whole writing in the morning idea. It works really well for people who are better at transitions than I am. I suck at closing something up and going on to the next thing. My brain really wants to stick around in the research. Which makes it hard to focus on even the most worthy student project.

So I have teaching prep to do tomorrow that I couldn't get myself to do on Friday, even though I stayed until 6pm. I don't know if other people have this problem. I don't know how to get around this problem either, because I definitely have to work on research on a regular basis, because this article I'm working on must be done by August 1, and I'll be teaching pretty much straight through until and past then. (We're on quarters, so we're still a month away from being done with this quarter, then I'm teaching in the summer.)

But I feel amazing for having finally read the source article and taken notes. Also, I met with my mentor, and we have a plan. I need to work on getting some articles out. There's even a timeline for this, if you can believe it. So I have to get serious. I am to learn to say no until I get these articles done and out. It's very liberating.

So I'm trying to figure out exactly how I'm going to get work done while I'm teaching. I had a mentor long ago who was one of those giving dynamic beloved rock-star professors who saved one day a week to focus on scholarship. Maybe I can do something more like that, since a half-hour each day may work for me when I'm revising, but not really in the earlier stages. And I hate feeling badly about teaching or taking care of the Tot because they're not research when my brain refuses to shut off and move on.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Trying to Honor My Emotions while Focusing on What I Can Control

So, there's a lot going on right now -- and as is usual probably for all of us, that which has been most tumultuous is pretty much unbloggable. But beyond that, I've been feeling pretty hemmed in by my life lately. AL drives me to work, then I'm inside my building teaching and running around until pretty much the second that AL comes to pick me up. Then we pick up Tot, and I'm mom again. What I'm saying is that I get very little time to myself. I guess this is what my chair meant when s/he said that being on the tenure track and having kids at the same time takes discipline. What's made it worse the last few days is that I've been grading, grading, grading -- and so even when I'm home, I'm holing myself up in the bedroom trying to get stuff done. I really don't feel well in my body and know that the answer is going to have to be to get some exercise, but I'm really struggling to figure out when I'm going to be able to do that. I know I'm not completely insane, because a colleague who is also junior faculty says that she doesn't know how I manage at all, because she's running around like a beheaded chicken without a child. Still, I'd really like to live to see my child grow up. And I really feel like I'm run down in a serious way. I'd rather not wait until the heart attack happens. But when? When am I going to fit in some exercise? And how without putting the entire household out? I'm sure that this one is going to take someone else to figure it out, someone who is not staying up late blogging after grading after a particularly hellish day.

Sometimes I don't know whether I'm an idiot for the choices I've made. I guess that's not a very productive thought just now though.

So I'm going to meet with my mentor about the big picture of what I'm doing from now until I go up for tenure. I have to say that lately I've been dealing with the minutiae, really just running from thing to thing and hoping it's enough to keep everyone happy. (Can I just indulge in my bleak mood for one second and say that my running around lately has not been focused on whether I'm happy? But then, that may not really be fair. I'm happy when I'm looking at the six goslings following their parents. I'm happy when I look into Tot's face. Sometimes I feel a wave of love for my life; I'm just tired now. And achy. And dispirited.) So the question of what I want to accomplish and how my goals for P&T fit into that has been interesting and productive. While I thought last year when I was writing out my plan that I really would write the weird fat book where I discuss three different related heads of the hydra, I've thought lately that even though the weird Three-Headed Hydra book would be super-cool, and there would definitely be productive and cool stuff to see when I put the heads together, it really would short-shrift each Hydra Head. And because of stuff going on in my midst lately, it's clear I have even more to say than I thought about one particular Hydra Head. Even in the diss, this Hydra Head was pushing at 50+ pages; one of my readers commented that he thought that the overstuffed chapter probably suggested that there was a book in there waiting to come out. So now I'm thinking of writing the obvious and more conventional book: One-Headed Hydra. It's hard to figure out whether it would actually sell, but I'm not angling for the book by tenure, only a realistic plan for articles by tenure.

There's another set of concerns I'm interested in -- and these I'm sort of collecting into a second book. So I can write aspects of either and still feel like I have a trajectory. I like this. I like feeling like there is a plan. Like I actually have something to say to my mentor. This is exciting.