Friday, May 27, 2011

Playing Catch Up

My dear friends, I'm sorry I haven't blogged recently. There's been a ton going on. In the words of Inigo Montoya, "let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up."

  • I had terrible tooth pain for weeks, finally went to the dentist, waited for three more weeks for my appointment to roll around, and then had a root canal. Icky. I feel diseased. (And I have not yet had the usual cleaning and diagnostics to tell me what other nightmares await me in the teeth realm.) I'm still on pain meds. It absolutely ruined our weekend last weekend along with. . .
  • AL has been on call at work. It's over now, as of today. But he's gotten up in the middle of the night so many times I swear he works more at night than during the day. This made root canal weekend even worse because he was too tired to take care of Tot. Even still, he tried. We managed.
  • My sister fell off a horse and actually fractured her spine. She had to have spinal fusion surgery. She's at home now, trying to manage the pain. She's going to have to wear a brace for six months. It's awful. Which has also led to. . .
  • My mother came back up from the deep to send me text messages about my sister. The latest ones are all about whether I know whether my sister knows the recipe for my late grandmother's "Miracle Soup." As if I would know. As if my sister, at home alone because her husband and kids are at work and school, respectively, should be making herself soup rather than having someone else make her soup. As if my grandmother's soup was anything more than Whole Foods vegetable soup powder with an awful lot of vegetables in it. Finally, I stopped texting back about that one because it's just so stupid. I really liked it much better when my mother wasn't talking to me for reasons I'm not sure about but can guess. I'm sick of the hot and cold with my mother. It finally occurred to me, because I'm incredibly slow, that not only have I been putting up with the same kind of BS from my mother for my nearly 40 years, but that I'm tired of it and have no more energy to invest in relationships that merely drive me crazy and don't pay off in any way; in fact, I'd be stupid to invest what little time I have that way. As AL said so well, our lives are so busy with full-time jobs and an active toddler. My mother could be a support, something that adds to our lives. Instead she takes away. I'm no longer going to invest time in the minus column of my life.
  • I've decided to start Tot in Montessori in July. We've observed the class, we've talked with the director, and I, at least, am looking forward to it. Tot, on the other hand, seems to love his current daycare, though all I have to do to firm up my resolve is to come in at snack time when some deranged parents think it's a good idea to pump their kids full of donuts and cupcakes. (Sorry if this is insulting to you, dear readers. AL says I shouldn't judge. But really: sugar, fat, and likely trans fats and GMO. Oh, and I realize this is a trivial consideration: no actual nutrition for kids' growing bodies. I'm not against the occasional fabulous dessert, but donuts from a coffee place as a kid's everyday snack? Bringing in a giant cupcake snack for a whole room full of early preschoolers? I feel especially responsible for bringing tasty and healthy snacks when it's my turn to feed the entire room. Am I the only one?)
  • Tot has started asking to be with "other kids." Which means that I'm concerned that this long weekend isn't going to be as fun as it should be. AL and I are determined to do nice things for ourselves beyond the usual laundry, dishes, trash. Unfortunately, it looks like it's going to rain all weekend, when the things we want to do involve being outdoors and eating outdoors. We might try to take Tot to a restaurant, something we've really stopped doing because he is so active.
  • The Farmer's Market started up last weekend. Thank God and Hir's wee angels. It was rained out the day it was supposed to start.
  • I hate the quarter system and especially my Uni's academic calendar that makes me way off of every other academic's calendar. The good news is that I have today off, though it's only week 8. Which means. . .
  • That today is the day I.simply.must.make.amazing.progress.on.the.article I now owe to Grad School Colleague and will soon owe to a professional workshop thing I'm scheduled to go to (but can't quite imagine since I have to leave AL and Tot here) AND to my regularly scheduled writing group.
I've decided that there is no earthly reason why I can't write two articles per year if I just put in the time. I've been doing other really useful reflection, like that I really do feel like teaching, which I value amazingly, does get in the way of my regular work on my scholarship and I find that annoying. Which is how I've come to realize that while I really love teaching and would love to be in a place where I'd be able to teach courses across the range of an English generalist, I'd not like the heavy load, unless class size were really limited. So while there are lots of things I don't like about my job -- the calendar, the lack of majors, the focus of my bread-and-butter teaching -- the teaching load is certainly one of the amazing perks. Another thing I really dislike is the lack of an academic community where people discuss things. Now I realize there are plenty of big and small departments that for whatever reason don't foster a sense of intellectual community. Mine certainly does not have intellectual community because most of the people in my department live elsewhere and commute in (which amazes me in the winter, but I grew up in a place where people start driving wonky in the rain -- snow would be impossible). I need to go seek it out -- at conferences and other schools around the state.

But you'll notice that none of this is helping me get my article done. So here's what I'm going to do:

  • I'm not going to panic.
  • I'm going to take my outline and dump in the various discussions I've been working on into it. Had to do a course correction, but done!
  • Then I'm going to print it out and do some handwritten revision. Thwarted! Our printer is so close to out of ink that it's giving me very choppy unreadable pages. GAH! Okay, I could go to work or I could go to my friendly nearby Staples. Since I have laundry in the communal laundry room, I suppose Staples is the smart choice. Done.
  • My goal is that I'm going to get one of the five sections of the piece written through today. Done.
  • But before I do any of that, I'm going to read that blogpost from the day I calmly wrote that article. I have done it before, and I can do it again. But I just need to remind myself how. Done.
I hope y'all have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend! And if you're already done with your academic year, well, remember that there are those of us who are not so fortunate. It is your responsibility to have more fun, read for pleasure, be nice to yourself, and take more soothing naps and, above all, as my professor grandfather said and AL last night quoted: don't should yourself to death.

ETA: I just figured out that my organization is not going to work because, as always, my points are intertwined with one another. Instead I'm going to group the discussions together differently, which of course means I've spent some of my productive time on important discoveries that don't yield actual pages. Sigh. Back to it.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Article Breakthrough: It's Real Now

There's been radio silence over here because of super-busyness and some really good things: AL got a new job and enjoys it (the uncertainty over all that was what caused the weekend of suckage) and so we're looking to rent a house. I'm quite obsessed over this last point actually.

But what I want to note right now is that I've been agonizing over the revision to my article -- and think I've had an epiphany. I work and work and work, researching bits and writing out possibilities and thinking through different choices. But I don't actually revise an article by adding to it or toying with the existing draft -- at least one I completed so long ago (Chapter 1 of my dissertation). I just can't do that. Instead the old draft becomes what I call a feeder document. It becomes bits and pieces I can cut and paste into the new article, which has to be a new document. I think of it like this: to build the house that is an article, the framework has to be new. I can then use existing pieces to paint and even build ductwork and all that, but the framework (by which I don't mean a theoretical framework) has to be new. I did my dissertation this way, using other stuff I'd written but connecting it together with a new articulation of the main argument. Only when I figure out the movement of the article (how it will flow) can I realistically think about keeping a word count or anything. Until then I'm writing-to-think or working out issues or doing bits and pieces that will end up in the piece (after all, I have to do all the research that I will cut and paste!), but not actually tallying up pages.

The nice thing is that when I do finally write it through, the pages accumulate quickly because so many of the pieces just need to be tweaked. (When I started really humming on my dissertation and I'd do six pages a day, it was always like this, though I'm sure everyone thought I was actually writing all six pages and that I was some kind of fast writer -- yeah right. Instead, it takes me ages to collect all the crap together and write innumerable comments before I can get to this stage.)

The good part is that I think I'm at that stage. I've reduced the scope of my argument and worked out some of the biggest kinks, I hope. I've managed 438 words in a new fresh document, though mostly it's still notes. But it's a start. And it feels real now. Cross your fingers that the pages will accumulate quickly because my May 22 deadline is right around the corner. And I'm teaching and looking for houses and then there's the Tot's terrible sleeping fiasco. I should ask y'all what to do about that at some point. For now I have to go. I hope all y'all's semesters are coming to an easy and happy close. Whimper whimper whimper for those of us on the quarter system!!!!