the grid

the grid

Saturday 24 June 2017

Week 6: Working the Problem

Several topics for discussion come to mind this week: current favorite writing spots, anticipated pleasure reading for this summer/winter, best habits for establishing deep focus on TLQ matters despite looming big things (like kids' birthdays, international travel, or a dreaded meeting). But instead of these, I just want to share an observation. In a way, it continues on with the topics from the previous weeks, so I apologize if I'm beating a dead horse.

Lately, I've spent some time listening to a podcast about science fiction and fantasy writing, and on this podcast (The Coode Street  Podcast) the hosts interview SF writers. I've been amazed by the matter-of-fact confidence of these writers. I'm not sure I've ever heard writers talk the way these writers do. They say things like, "Well, I only have about 10,000 words left to finish the book, and I know where it needs to go, so I should be able to do it in about four days." Or, "I was really having trouble with the story, but now I've solved the problem, and it's good." They also get commissions for stories. An editor will say, "Hey, I'm putting together an anthology of robot stories, will you write one?" And the author will say, "Sure, I can write a robot story." And then they do.

I've also been reading some books about writing. I started re-reading Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, and I also re-read Ann Patchett's long essay, The Getaway Car. I'm struck by how much more matter of fact Patchett is about her work. She takes a butt-in-the-chair, work-the-problem approach that I like, one that reminds me of the SF writers. (Of course, Lamott's "bird by bird" philosophy also suggests the "work the problem" approach, but her book focuses quite a bit on the "tortured writer" identity/experience.)

Reading and listening to these writers also makes me think back to the final days of my thesis writing when, three days before submission, my supervisor told me that my conclusion struck the wrong tone and needed to be re-written. There was no room for writer's block or despair. I just had to work the problem. In fact, the whole last month felt like that. I remember saying to my husband that I felt like an Apollo 13 astronaut (with much lower stakes, of course).

When it comes to writing, I am trying to take these SF writers and Patchett as my models right now. Butt in chair. Make progress. Practice. Get better. It doesn't have to be perfect. Work the problem.

I don't have a specific prompt for this topic. In your comments, you can riff off my observation, or share one of your own. Or maybe you can talk about how you've successfully "worked a problem" this week. And I highly recommend The Getaway Car.

I hope DEH and heu mihi's travels are going well! (Anyone else traveling that I've forgotten?)

Contingent Cassandra
--work in some kind of activity -- garden, swim, weights, walk -- on at least 4 days. 
--look at upcoming 2 weeks or so for opportunities for full break days (July 4 weekend should yield some, but can I find another 1 or 2? I really need them). 

House: long list . . . do as much as possible, type the rest of the list and send it to Sir John.
Teaching: finish Blackboard stuff for summer course.
Research: plan UK work, answer an e-mail.
Self: keep up stretching, cardio, weights; dentist, haircut, massage.
Get on plane Friday night with passport and suitcase.

Elizabeth Anne Mitchell
Walk forty minutes a day.
Hydrate and keep track of it.
Finish annual review (quickly becoming TRQ).
Pack and plan for conference (also quickly becoming TRQ).
Touch sabbatical outline and application every day.
Follow book plan for the week.

1) Finish emptying study and paint it to suit its future resident (my son). This will involve taking a LOT books to my campus office, etc.
2) Make belated father's day photo album for my dad.
3) Yoga 2x, Swim 1x.
4) Read a little of "Bird by Bird." Write 3x for 15 minutes.
5) Read two short stories.
6) Visit mom for an hour. Find a night to invite parents over for pizza.

heu mihi (for post 7/10)
1. Read through chapter 5; revise as needed
2. Read through chapter 2 and sketch out revision plan/ideas
3. Make progress on the Mess At The Heart of Chapter 2 (MATHOC2)

1 write 5x
2 read 5x
3 set summer goals and deadlines
4 do more yoga

1) clear off my desks at home and at the office
2) condense the various lists on postits and in scrappy bits of notebooks into ONE LIST
3) send emails about all the meetings on the various lists
4) outline ProblemChild paper 2 for both parts
5) resist sugar, go to the gym once

Finish the marking! (not strictly TLQ but will make me feel soo much better)
Hold 30 mins on Friday for planning, 30 min for reading, 30 min for writing.
Make a visible change in house or garden (weather dependant) over the weekend.

(1) make cake
(2) finish writing plan and work on the first tasks
(3) progress on knitting
(4) exercise each day - physio exercises and walk of 2 - 3 miles. Yes, irrespective of the heat, do it before 11 am or after 10 pm if necessary!

1) Revise Chapter 1.
2) Revise the outline of Chapter 2.
3) Continue to work on the main material on Chapter 2.
4) Make it a habit to do 5- minute-exercises several times a day.
6) Continue to try to find more ‘my own 15 minutes’. When I can find my time?

Notorious, PhD
1. Writing: 2,500 words on Hot Mess Chapter. This will bring me close to the projected word count I need. I'd like to do more, and I think I might be able to, but I want to keep this one achievable.
2. Research: ONE source collection combed through. This was a very valuable thing this week.
3. Body & Mind: 3 yoga + THREE morning meditations. This quieting the mind in the morning can only help with the writing.
4. Decluttering: Toss or file another 30 things, this time tackling the stacks of important documents at home. 

1. Good draft of both syllabi for the fall, and library reserve lists in
2. Get desk organization back in shape.
3. Return comments on grad student papers (I graded to get grades in, didn't provide comments)
4. Get myself moving more.
5. Keep reading
6. Do something fun this weekend

1. Finish RSA presentation and practice it to death
2. Review med student’s paper
3. Revise NIH grant (since I am transferring it to my new university - I have to revise it for that university; I want to get this done this week so that the funding doesn’t get delayed)
4. Write search string and run searches for other scoping review
5. Keep trucking with first scoping review (this is a beast - 8000k+ publications that I have to sift through)

Saturday 17 June 2017

Week 5: summertime, and the bugs are a-buzzing...

Hello everyone, I hope you all had a good, productive week with a little fun here and there!

The UK is having one of its hotter-than-normal few day spells (we nearly made it to 27 degrees C/ 80 degrees F today, and that's a scorcher by local standards) and my cat wants the back door open constantly so she can lie in "outdoors sun" and sniff the air whilst still being cosily settled on carpet (also to show off her power over her human).  I indulged her, and of course several flies decided to come in and are now refusing to leave again.  Add to that the constant niggly itching of a few midge bites from having an outside drink one evening earlier this week, a fruitfly problem in the microscope lab at work (why students put banana skins into the sharps bin I will never know, but it happened again, and this week has been one of constant swatting in there as a result) and a swarm of honeybees deciding to occupy a tree in our building's courtyard on Friday, and it's perhaps not surprising that when I came to write this week's prompt, my favourite of all the writing group inventions came to mind - Dame Eleanor’s Mervaylous Anti-Bugge Power-Writer Spray:
if you’re having trouble with annoying buzzing from obnoxious voices telling you things about being lazy, not good enough, etc., or if you are visited by Saint Anthony’s Demons of Temptation suggesting that you should just spend ten minutes doing something else and then you will write better, squirt some of this on the little buggers.  Both demons and disembodied voices just shrivel right up
Our discussion topics so far this session have all been about the writing mindset - considering when we feel competent and powerful, imagining alternate selves, finding a drishti, setting goals - and have been focused on positive thoughts.  So this week let's talk about those habits of mind that really deserve a good dose of Anti-Bugge Spray to help us make mental space for the positive things we've come up with in earlier weeks.   ___________________________

Last week's goals:

Contingent Cassandra (carried over)
get pool pass
lift weights 1x
work in garden 1x
pinpoint some potential days off in the June/July calendar, and plan to protect them

Dame Eleanor Hull
Keep packing.
Keep working on the garden.
Do necessary TRQ stuff like pay bills.
Keep on with the process of getting estimates and scheduling stuff that needs to be done to the house.
Do a bit more about the summer course.
Do some research: 2-3 hours. Try changing venues.

Elizabeth Anne Mitchell (carried over)
Walk a half-hour a day or more.
Write five sentences daily.
Journal daily.

Good Enough Woman
1) Make major progress on the study. Empty desk drawers. Put daybed/trundle online for sale. Take books to office.
2) Swim 2x. Yoga 1x.
3) Write 3x, 15 minutes each.
4) Read two short stories (along with other reading).
5) Visit mom.

heu mihi
1. Totally finish and print ACLA and Norway; print and organize all travel materials.
2. Totally finish and upload tenure statement and all research-related stuff.
3. First round of revisions to ch. 5
4. Read and incorporate last essay for ch. 3.
5. Survive Saturday's birthday party.

This week:
1 write 5x
2 read 5x
3 finish outline for workshop
4 yoga, even if just 1x

1) polish up my SCConference talk for the regional workshop
2) Spend some time on GrantINeverShouldHaveStarted (say 2 hours)
3) rough outline both of the ProblemChild paper 2's.
4) stay away from sugar!

(1) make progress on the printing project.
(2) finish the marking
(3) make a cake
(4) make progress on knitting project
(5) do something with one of my single author papers

1) Finish the important book.
2) Revise Chapter 1
3) Revise the outline of Chapter 2
4) Work on the main material on Chapter 2
5) Make it a habit to do 5- minute-exercises several times a day
6) Find more ‘my own 15 minutes’

Notorious Ph.D.
• Write 2500 words on Hot Mess Chapter
• 3 days yoga + 1 day morning meditation
• finish reading 2 major source collections (messy medieval handwriting and all!)
• Toss or file 30 things

1. Do minimal draft of assessment report
2. Turn to violence paper
3. Walk in the mornings - its about to be fiendishly hot here (40 degrees C, over 100), so the morning is the only time to exercise
4. Read
5. Do at least one fun thing over the weekend

1. Write out my RSA presentation script into ppt notes and run analyses
2. Review methods paper and send to first author
3. Run other searches for scoping review
4. Figure out methodology for OTHER scoping review (ugh)
5. Methods for PTSD paper
6. Do online trainings for new university
7. Resubmit aging paper

Saturday 10 June 2017

Week 4: What Makes You Feel Powerful?

Today, I'm going with my family to see Wonder Woman. I haven't read many reviews, but I've seen hints of controversy on twitter between those who find the movie empowering and those who are annoyed (or worse) by suggestions that the movie is "feminist." Either way, this has gotten me thinking about times I have felt powerful. And I'm realizing that some of those times involve things that are repeatable (or that can even be habits) that I'm not doing but that I could be doing. For example, I think the most physically powerful I've ever felt (or maybe confident is a better word?) was when I was surfing regularly. I felt amazing both during and after, yet I haven't gone surfing in years. I'm not sure that's exactly what I need to do, but I know other forms of physical activity could make me feel more confident. I'm sure I can think of work/research-related things, too . . .

So, for this week, what accomplishments, life moments, or behaviors have made you feel powerful or confident? Is there a way to introduce more of that into your TLQ?

Contingent Cassandra
--get pool pass
--lift weights 1x
--work in garden 1x
--pinpoint some potential days off in the June/July calendar, and plan to protect them

*Keep packing.
*Keep weeding and mulching.
*Make calls about estimates for repairs.
*Look into other help with garden and/or house.

*Finish setting up Blackboard for summer course.
*Review one chunk of translation.
*Write 1000 words or spend two hours taking notes etc.

1) More b-day planning since daughter's actual b-day is Thursday (when we'll have the family dinner/celebration). I think the goal is to prepare without letting it consume my week. She had her big weekend, so things can be low-key now.
2) Write for 10 minutes, 5x. One of the sessions should be a creative writing exercise. Another should be about an academic point of interest.
3) Read two articles by a scholars with good style. 
4) Swim once + one yoga class (minimum).
5) Clear out office cabinet to make way for it to be exchanged with bookshelves.
6) Visit mom for a couple of hours. (She is walking with a cane, now!)

Elizabeth Anne Mitchell
Walk a half-hour a day or more.
Write five sentences daily.
Journal daily.

heu mihi
1. Revise Norway (because that's coming up real soon)
2. Work on ACLA: Research time.
3. Reread/revise tenure statement
4. To-do list for ch. 5.
5. Get through first 15 pages of ch. 5.

1 write 5x
2 read 5x
3 finish book review
4 write outline for workshop

1) ProblemChild Part2 paper1 draft (which is at least Real Writing Towards A Publication)
2) GrantINeverShouldHaveStarted should at least have an hour, even if that is split into bits
3) Gat at least half the externalling done (or it will be TRQ next week)
4) be kind to myself, and don't spend my whole not in the office day either in front of the computer or lying around reading trash fiction and eating crisps (Sooooo tempting, but I know I feel more rested the following day if I go for a walk and cook something healthy)

(1) finish the marking by 5pm Sunday
(2) keep house tidy and organised
(3) submit conference abstract and paper proposal.

1) Revise the outline of Chapter 2.
2) Work on material 1 for Chapter 2.
3) Meet with my mentor on Chapter 1 with good preparation.
4) Find more ‘my own 15 minutes’ in a day.
5) Make it habit to do 5-minute exercise several times a day.

Assessment report
Library list
Last set of book orders
Read Violence paper
Read for fun/ do things for fun

1. If possible, resubmit relat paper (may not be possible due to collaborators’ turnaround times).
2. Get a good draft of RSA presentation done (possibly except for results)
3. Work on aging paper R&R
4. Pubmed search for scoping review

Saturday 3 June 2017

Week 3: Imagined Selves

Last week I misread drishti as Drizzt and sparked a bit of conversation about imaginary selves.  I'm sure I'm not the only person who sometimes wonders about how her "parallel universe selves" are doing - the ones different by a single decision, such as the one who took history and Latin instead of maths in high school, the one who put a newish boyfriend first over undergrad friends and ended up married to him, the one who took the post-doc position I rejected (I went for the longer contract), the one who got help when she was first depressed rather than assuming it was her own fault to be remedied alone, and the ones different by something larger, such as not being bullied and lonely throughout primary school, falling in love with her high school best friend (the male one, or the female one, requited or unrequited), being a golden child to some mentor and thereby getting onto the grant-winning track at an early stage, not being highly sensitive to things (dietary intolerances and anxiety and easily startled and wearied by crowds are all part of the same thing, I currently think)...

Yoga is something which has never appealed (logic says otherwise, but feeling says yoga is for skinny cool people who were never made to stand on one leg in front of the class in gym just so everyone could laugh at them for falling over because the gym teacher assumed I was deliberately "not trying" - I was TRYING, I just had permanent sinus problems, hip dysplasia and high-level physical incompetence.  Feeling presents an extra barrier to starting a practice, so the eastern mind-body art I occasionally practice and always intend to do more with is tai c'hi, not yoga), but daydreaming and imagining TOTALLY appeals.  And it's summer, what better time to daydream a little?  I recently read this GREAT short story, from a link at delagar's place (delagar causes a good chunk of my fun reading amazon bill), along the same lines, so these ideas are in my head at the moment.

So, this week's topic: let's think a bit more about other selves and what they can teach us about TLQ.  it's easy to see this as pointless "if only" thinking, but various self-improvement things I've read suggest you should look to successful people, to someone you envy and/or admire, and seek to adopt their habits or attitudes, since that gives you a real, lived example of success, and thinking "what would person-I-seek-to-imitate do" can be a useful way of helping you see your own behaviours in a different light, and make different choices available to you  What better role model to pick than one of your more successful alternative selves? (define "success" however you like).  Even if I picked the unlikely one who kept to five year old me's dream of being a successful explorer, I'm sure there'd be bits of her I could borrow - I bet she takes photos or makes sketches of any little detail that catches her eye in her environment, for example, and taking a quick snap of a moment is a form of mindfulness I could easily adopt...

Last week's goals:

Contingent Cassandra
--continue work in garden (2-3x, depending on weather; how far I get toward meeting the standard I need to for the post-June 1 inspection; and how far I get with class prep)

--get updated pool pass

--swim *or* lift weights 1x

Dame Eleanor Hull
House: *Keep packing. *Keep on with garden, including more mulch-spreading. *Meet with real estate agent.

Work: *Review one chunk of translation.  *Write 1000 words (notes, questions).  *Prep summer Blackboard site enough to open it to students. *Take care of some other teaching admin stuff.

Elizabeth Anne Mitchell
Review and revise book plan for the month of June.
Finish the sabbatical research on what libraries have which texts.

Walk a half-hour a day.
Write five sentences daily.
Edit one page of Prudence commentary daily.

1) Read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

2) Write for 15 minutes at least 5x

3) Read at least one academic chapter or article (and likely finish current sci-fi novel).
4) Visit mom for a couple of hours.
5) Do all necessary practical and psychological preparations for daughter's b-day party, which is to be a sleepover at a hotel on Saturday night. It will be me and six twelve-year olds. Send good thoughts.
6) Swim or yoga 2x.

heu mihi

1) Spend 4 hours on ACLA, with the goal of an outline and a sense of direction for the paper.
2) Power through all (??) of the ch. 3 research stuff.
3) Service and Teaching portions of tenure statement.
4) To-do list for ch. 5 revisions.
5) Oh, and deal with the Incomplete student.

humming42 (carried over)
1 write 5x
2 read 5x
3 write Pop revision
4 sketch on preliminary outline for workshop

1. 1 hour on grass paper each working day, even if in cumulative smaller chunks.

2. Go to the gym once.

KJHaxton (carried over)
1. Recover from surgery (it was last week) and finish up the current rounds of treatment. Negotiate return to work.
2. Submit an abstract for, create a poster for (assuming abstract accepted) and attend conference at end of summer
3. Finish some knitting projects
4. Start and finish a printing project

1) marking stuff (putting it on here even though it HAS to happen because it needs to come high on the priority list each day)
2) ProblemChildPart2 (simulations need to be finished this week, and ideally the draft of paper 1 written...)
3) Plans for stuff that's coming up very fast need to be sorted - SillyIdea and Regional Seminar (which I'm hosting) both need a chunk of time spending on them
4) GrantINeverShouldHaveAgreedTo and TravelGrant both need serious writing attention this week.
5) Personal Habits - picking up, sleeping, sugar-avoiding, pausing between snacks not just keeping going, moving - need attention, but kindly.
   And PickyPaper really, really WANTS attention, so if I get bored/stuck on any of the above that would be better than procrastination or junk reading.

1) Finish the outline of Chapter 2, again.
2) Start writing/revising old draft first draft of Chapter 2, again.
3) Meeting with my mentor on Chapter 1, with good preparation.
4) Exercise for 5 minutes every day.

1. Finish assessment report
2. Request all reimbursements
3. Make three phone calls (dentist, house#1, house #2.
4. Library list of books
5. Book orders (these are late, so TRQ, but need doing)
6. go through bills, funding requests, etc., and either do something or get rid of them.
7. Read violence paper, start thinking about it
8. Walk, read for pleasure/not work
1. Submit trans paper
2. Get relat R&R done
3. Read articles for gender paper
4. Start on marriage paper? If not, figure out next project