the grid

the grid

Sunday 29 May 2022

2022 Second Session, Week One

Welcome back everyone to our goal-setting week!

This session runs until mid-August, which makes it a 12 week session (mid-point = 2-3 July, last goal setting post = 13-14th August, wrap-up session = 20-21 August) - useful to keep in mind whilst setting goals.

Last session we created a dream cabin to retreat to.  After the last couple of years, I think we all really need those cabins or other mental spaces!  Reading over last week's comments, I felt there was a common thread around self-kindness and refinding ourselves and our directions, in our academic and/or personal lives, whether that is building a garden, readjusting from crisis mode to something more sustainable, or re-evaluating our personal research landscape and journey.  That led me to conclude that this session is not the right time for exploring landscapes or going on journeys, and that focusing on gentle, thoughtful preparation for the semesters and years ahead - so let's get back to basics and think about the supplies we need for thinking and writing, whether that's physical supplies, inspirational touchstones, or valued advice.  

For this week's prompt, if you choose to respond. let's start off high-level.  What sort of writing are we collecting supplies to tackle in the next few semesters, and how are we currently getting on with our writing, professionally, personally or both?  Is your relationship with writing an easy partnership, like picking up a well-practised instrument, or like luring a shy and potentially bitey creature, digging around a dusty attic for something you're sure you used to have, or towing a stubborn toddler up a steep and rocky hill?

As Dame Eleanor explained last week: The format will be the same as ever. Goals can be in any aspect of life although the key focus is often research and writing tasks that are personally and professionally important but that never quite tip over into important AND urgent. Urgent things sometimes find their way in here too, which is completely okay, and process goals are also most welcome. Each week we'll try to have a discussion topic or prompt to write about if you feel so inclined. We’ll remind everyone of their big session goals about midway through the session.

Anyone new or old is welcome to join. It would be great if you invited a friend or acquaintance or colleague to join in. We would be thrilled to welcome new guests and expand our circle. So if you've been following along silently and wondering about joining in, please do!

And finally, don't worry if you miss a few check-ins. Life happens. This is a supportive, generous space with no intimidation factor so enjoy it!


  1. Hello! I'm technically still on sick leave next week, but have allowed myself to be guilted into doing some relatively urgent grading & attending a few meetings - possibly including one about how to plan a phased return, but I'm not holding my breath as that involves a notoriously slow part of Northern Uni's administrative system...

    Writing - I love writing and I think it's one of my strengths - but how I get on with it varies depending on the kind of writing.
    Things I used to write but currently don't: blog posts, poems, words towards a novel sequence. I miss those things, and want to find some space for them in some combination.
    Things I currently write and enjoy, things which are downhill syllabi, curriculum planning and all kinds of self-paced learning documents, class activities and assignments; first drafts and major rewrites of journal articles; emails/comments to students/mentees/collaborators/good colleagues (an entire genre which I write in most days for up to 2-3 hours, I reckon!); DnD game plans, lore and plot points/scene notes; whiny journaling and omphaloscepsis; some kinds of letters
    Things I currently write and find hard, things which are uphill-with-uncooperative-weights the later stages of editing journal articles (when there are other people involved); anything to do with grants at all (too much criticism-sensitivity and anger); anything to do with central administration (too much expectation of Being Wrong, not being a mind reader); emails etc to difficult colleagues; things which have to be very concise.
    Things I'd like to write, or do related to writing something book-length related to my work; learn more about editing as a systematic professional skill; learn more about pedagogy of writing (when embedded into subjects since my department doesn't have writing modules or units explicitly).

    I love words - reading them, writing them, playing with them, speaking them. Most of my issues with writing are around the context or audience or feeling like I don't know the expectations and will be wrong whatever I do - or not having enough time for the work I have. Which is actually quite a healthy place to start preparing from! That's nice to have thought out.

    1. GOALS FOR THE SESSION: Need to be modest, both because I need to be gentle with myself to get as healthy as I can after this last few weeks, and because we are supposedly being reorganised by the end of July, including appointing all new departmental administrative roles (although I suspect that that won't happen as tidily as proposed).

      1) Personal replenishment household rescue, reviewing my finances, thinking through some things, getting some counselling, moving more and eating better and working on my sleep schedule
      2) Reducing the pressures next year - I need to do as much teaching preparation as I can, in a more systematic way, especially for the heavy points in the trimester - whatever I can do to not have to work quite such long hours. If it happens, I will also be applying to be Teaching Tsar, which would come with a lot of work but also teaching reallocation. This one will also involve working on my campus space and on feeling safe and confident on campus, which is both about never having liked or enjoyed my current office which was never properly unpacked when I moved into it multiple years ago and the whole lack of COVID precautions and greater awareness of how unhealthy our indoor spaces on campus are (and worse anxiety about windowless teaching rooms).
      3) Minimising my research expectations I'm part of two research grant applications which will hopefully get submitted this summer, and have one paper where I'm lead and need to do a last round of edits/comment incorporating before it is submitted. I'd also 'like' to write a PhD student project application for later summer but that's not essential.
      4) Write for pleasure, read for pleasure, do something crafty, and play D&D.

      1) work no more than 10 hours
      2) do something fun each day of the long Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend
      3) make some lists for smaller things that fit under goals 1, 2 and 4 to pick from in future weeks.

    3. I am glad to see your session goals, Jane. I may be showing my age, but women are so socialized as caretakers of everyone but ourselves, in worklife as well as homelife. Despite the emphasis on intellectual work in this group, our physical/mental health, important in itself, is also crucial to being able to address the intellectual work.

    4. Thanks! It's been a real challenge the last couple of years - a lot of guilt at struggling at all because I'm child-free and should be able to carry more of the load for others, that old "I don't have dependents so I owe more care to colleagues and students than people with other responsibilities" rather than "actually, because I'm a household of one so don't share the work (even if I do avoid some challenges), I actually need to be MORE careful of myself because there's no-one else to pick up in busy weeks" mindset... it's odd, on the one hand there's the way I don't feel like I have much of an issue with the cultural expectation to nurture since for the moment my elders are largely self-sufficient and I don't have children/a partner, but on the other there are actually a lot of subtle pressures to do more for my students and colleagues since I am expected to have extra capacity as a "sad spinster"...

    5. I've always liked the term "spinster" because it honors some of the earliest independent women workers, but it's true that it focuses on the *worker* and not on the *independence* i.e. looking after oneself! I think it's important to remember that "selfish" applied to women generally means "not doing what *someone else* wants her to do." FWIW, I think you'd be a great Teaching Tsar.

    6. In the usual spending too much time scrolling, I came across a critique of productivity culture, although I am sent screaming by the idea that we need to do some kind of plan/work/checklist to separate ourselves from productivity culture. As I've indicated before, I am trying to learn how to say no more frequently, even though we are likely all acculturated to say yes, do All the Things, and pride ourselves on our "accomplishments."

  2. First, my introduction, stolen from earlier sessions. I’m a late-career Rare Books academic librarian in upstate New York. I live with a husband, two sons, and a Jack Russell/Poodle puppy rescue. I am ABD (and will remain so) in Comparative Literature with a Medieval Studies concentration, but my current research has moved inexorably later, and is now in the 16th century.
    I meant to post last week, but only had my iPhone, which didn’t let me sign into Blogspot—the Google/Apple feud is such a pain.
    In other news, the hospital trip was successful, in that my husband is lighter by one 1.8 inch kidney stone. However, it was rough. He did not respond to the pain medication, so was in Recovery for more than 4 hours. He is home now, and slowly feeling better, thankfully.
    As for session goals, I think my strategy last session will be helpful for this one as well, so I will continue the “guiding principle” trend:

    Session goals:

    This week’s goals:
    Create 20,000-foot plan for the session;
    Write and mail long-overdue thank you notes;
    Plan conference and remaining medical trips for the next month;
    Outline my nascent blog post ideas.

    I also very much like the “done” list idea, and am thinking of borrowing it. I look forward to sharing this summer session with all of you. Float like mist, everyone.

    1. I LOVE the done list. One of the habits I've really stuck with over the last few years has been using a diary which has the week on the left and a notes page on the right - it doesn't have space for a full hour-by-hour list, but I do those in my work bullet journal/commonplace book on days when I want them. I note down the main appointments and 1-2 priorities on the left as I plan, then fill up the right page with "done" lists for each day, and it's really helpful!

    2. Your poor husband! That sounds like a very hard time. I like your overarching goals/themes---very succinct!

    3. I wanted to reply to the prompt--succinctly put, your dusty attic is my relationship with writing. I have a literal dusty attic, and then there is my mind, which is yet another dusty attic.
      I also like Jane's breakdown of the varieties of writing, too. I also love words, their etymology, the use and misuse of them. I can write reasonably good essays, but have struggled with writing fiction, although I wish I could manage it. I used to write blog posts, and enjoyed it once I stopped worrying about what people liked or disliked about the topics. I have a few ideas that I may write up for the long-abandoned blog.
      I dislike writing grants all the time and group projects when I have co-authors who disappear for months at a time, or who are just Not Interested enough to contribute even when they are sitting right in front of you.
      I love doing research and piecing together the history of ideas, and how literary movements sweep across political boundaries and sometimes even across class boundaries.

  3. Hello!
    Thanks to JaneB and Dame Eleanor for getting another session started off! I’m a bit late to the party, but will definitely be joining in regularly, if only to come and find sympathy for my chaos! I’m an early-ish mid-career prof at a small, remote, undergraduate university, in a physical science field. I’m uprooting my entire existence in the next month to move on to basically my dream job at a wonderful small university with a graduate program, after trying to get a job exactly like this for the last 10 years! So it is wonderful and amazing, and also a huge change so there will be chaos for sure!

    I just opened a beer after a long day of meetings so I can think about writing and goals…
    Love the idea to think about the different kinds of writing we do, going to copy JaneB’s organization for this one…
    Writing I am doing: lots of reports on events/activities/associations, lots of instructional type things for a “how-to” guide with policies attached, an endless number of answers to questions
    Writing I have to do: all of the above, plus finish a languishing paper or five…
    Writing I like doing: I love having written more than I love writing… I get a lot of satisfaction from finished reports and such and don’t find those too difficult. I enjoy writing introductions, methods and results sections, don’t mind discussions and conclusions, detest abstracts, and am positively allergic to “global implications, make it relevant for anyone who has never heard of this” sections so often required by journals… As far as making figures is “writing” of a sort I really love that…
    Writing I wish I was doing: actual science writing and writing about new work, with enough space to actually think in addition to writing… Part of me would love to write something creative, I’ve never done that, all my creativity went into music, but I suspect that is one of those things that the back of my brain feels like it “should” want rather than being something it actually wants to do!

    1. Session goals:
      Pack up my entire life and office (ten years of rocks is a LOT!) and move…
      Get child settled in new place…
      Adopt cats – our 16-year old lady had to be euthanized a few weeks ago, she had cancer and it was time to let her go… I’ve been a hot mess working without my cat in a box/cat on screen/cat on my desk… As soon as we are settled in the new place there will be cats, I hate living without her!
      Finish one almost complete paper, preferably before the moving stuff really hits the fan and I start field work again because then everything else is off the table.
      Do a decent job on new project paper with colleague I really want to help.
      Finish conference finances and wrap-up reports for giant and totally awesome conference that just finished.
      Write conference how-to guide with all new hybrid meeting stuff.
      Field work and all attached writing things with student.

      This week’s goals:
      Finish association reports
      Open old paper to see what is needed, pick something and do it
      Research accounting
      Set up awkward meeting with current admin about moving my research money
      Pack up something substantial in house

    2. Great sympathy on the move! And good luck with the packing. Condolences also on the loss of your old cat. The house seems so empty without them. The question of what creative things one truly wants to do and what things seem like one ought to want to do (or just feels mildly curious about but doesn't want to commit to) is a good one. I sometimes wonder if I am more a reader than a writer, and if that's perfectly fine, because writers need readers.

    3. Oh, I'm so sorry to hear about the old lady cat - they leave such a huge hole, especially now when we've been working at home a lot so they've really become part of the fabric of every day. Active listening to music or reading stories or looking at art or watching plays is creative in its own way - creativity blossoms with a supportive audience. And there's a lot of creativity in, oh, writing constructive reviews that help other people find new pleasures, or in running a great bookclub, and appreciating the skill that goes into making stuff is valuable too!

  4. I particularly welcome the invitation to think about forward planning, not just for this session, but for future semesters and even years. Even from a relatively privileged position, it's easy to get washed away in the current of a busy semester and only barely manage to come up for air from time to time. This seems like a good moment to sit on a warm rock and contemplate the river ahead.

    As to writing projects, the big one is the book. That will make the most difference to my professional position. There's an article-length project related to the Huge Honking Translation, which I would write with one of my co-translators, if we can get to it; not clear what the timeline is on that, but I don't want to lose track of it. There's also a sort of left-handed essay that has been nagging at me for awhile. On the creative front, I've been developing background and recurrent characters for what could be a whole series of romance novels: maybe a retirement project?

    More immediately, I have these twelve weeks of summer in which I want to get my house in order (literally), prep next year's classes, and move the book forward, as well as gardening and doing other real-world non-screen activities that will be replenishing (I wrote a blog post about some of these, earlier today). On the teaching front, I think I need to work on one course per week, and rotate through the year's courses rather than sticking to a single one till it's done. Probably some similar approach would work well for the house and life stuff. I am happy to say that I have painted the guest room already, as well as reading the Spiritwalker trilogy by Kate Elliott (highly recommend!), so I've done one house thing and some fun reading.

    So, session goals:
    - keep regular office hours for research/writing and teaching prep
    - keep moving forward, rotate projects, don't get stuck
    - do one significant Life Stuff task per week
    - plan weekly Fun Activities

    This week's goals:
    - 3 days work on conference paper
    - 3 days work on spring grad class
    - find out what documents I need for new driver's license
    - finish weeding veg patch and plant veg/herbs
    - move stuff back into guest room

    1. non-screen activities and sorting out the environment you have to live in and do screen stuff in are really great ways to spend the summer! And I like the idea of rotating between classes - what I often end up doing is trying to do all of them at once and giving up!

  5. Hello all! It's taking me a while to get myself organized to make goals for the summer. I haven't actually articulated them yet, but I'm going to jump in here anyway, since it's already Wednesday.

    Writing: I'm back at the starting stages of a new project. Luckily, this time, I do have a few early pieces to ground me--three articles on the topic, although I don't expect to incorporate these directly into the new monograph. I'm a little intimidated because I will be doing archival research this fall, and I don't have a great deal of experience with that. I'm also not sure whether I'll find anything remotely useful; my project doesn't depend upon manuscript study, fortunately, but it would be really nice if the upcoming semester yielded...something.

    In general, I have managed to make writing fairly routine, and I can produce drafts pretty quickly (which then need an enormous amount of revision). At the moment, though, I'm writing prematurely, so the draft I've been producing feels pretty mangled and stupid. I'm trying not to think about it. I've also been away from it for about a week because other things required my attention. That's fine--I just need to keep touching back in, and KEEP READING, and it'll all get somewhere eventually. --I *have* learned to have a great deal of blind faith in my process over the years; that dates back to grad school, I think, when I remember simply trusting that somewhere in all that mess lay a dissertation; it was just my job to keep poking at it until the dissertation manifested itself. Which it did.

    I want to say that writing, for me, is like swimming in a choppy sea, but near the shore--I'm just in it, and have to stay in it, and sometimes a wave smacks me in the face and I get a mouthful of water, but I don't have much choice but to keep paddling along. However, that metaphor is far too dangerous, because I do have that aforesaid blind faith in the process. So maybe it's like swimming in a choppy wave pool? That's pretty lame. If anyone has a better suggestion, let me know.

    SO: Session goals. These are divided into Work and Life.

    1. Revise intro for WH and resubmit manuscript.
    2. Messy zero draft of chapter 1.
    3. Substantive notes regarding what might find its way into the other chapters.
    4. Letter of recommendation; tenure letter.
    5. ... all the things. Touch up paint here and there, paint counters, clean garage, clean workroom, dispose of all recyclable/donate-able stuff, thoroughly clean Bonaventure's room, wash windows and screens, make steps and path in the garden, stack firewood, clean EVERYTHING, and pack stuff away to make it hospitable to the renters.
    6. Car inspections, wash cars, possibly get "Real" driver's license (finally), move secondary car to mom's house.

    1. On an unrelated note, I have a meeting with my dean in half an hour, and I'm not really sure why? I suspect that she wants to ask me to serve as interim chair this coming year, but she knows that I'm going on sabbatical, so...? What's funny is that STILL my first and abiding thought is that I'm In Trouble, so I'm actually quite nervous about it! (I'm not in trouble. And if I were, the dean would not schedule a meeting with me to discuss it. --This is probably obvious to all of you, but it's the kind of continual reassurance that I'm giving myself....)

    2. Oh I forgot goals for the week. Here they are:

      1) Plan WH intro revisions.
      2) Touch up paint in basement bedroom.
      3) Finish two books that I'm almost finished with.
      4) Finish stacking wood.
      5) Clean upstairs windows.

    3. Welcome back! I still automatically feel guilty when summoned too... it's just One Of Those Things. I hope it was good news, or a request you were able to say a nice assertive friendly no to...

    4. Thanks, JaneB! It was a request to apply for department chair (post-sabbatical) and also some fishing for possible interim chairs. No one wants to chair our department--80some faculty, something like 9 different majors/programs--so this actually wasn't a surprise. I don't know that I want to chair upon my return. My problem is that I'm always Flattered to be Asked, and so I agree to things that are often thankless and involve a lot of work....

  6. How did it get to be Thursday already? Too late to set goals for the week, but I want to at least post session goals. The question for this week about writing supplies is a great way to start the session and the summer. I find that I am endlessly collecting things: books, ideas, drafts, contacts, opportunities and stacking them in places both physical and virtual. The result is overwhelm and disorder that needs to be fixed.

    1 edit summer online class
    2 outline fall online class
    3 complete spring online class

    1 submit abstract for lit-lit
    2 finish food chapter
    3 outline boredom
    4 lit review for dark
    5 draft cfp for mind
    6 write proposal for DQ
    7 write presentation for Life

    There’s a whole scope of creative things too, but it’s mostly about showing up for classes and doing the writing. There’s not an end goal or a project in mind. The long term is doing good work, sending it out for publication, and eventually having a chapbook. That’s an undefined path and I am happy with that.

    1. Your comment about collecting struck home with me--I have more ideas than I could possibly write about, and more books than I could possibly hope to read!

  7. Dropping in rather late to set goals (last week was travelling to be with family), so keeping it brief. I'm a mid-career academic, in a satellite campus of a regional university in the southern hemisphere (currently writing while sitting in front of the fire because winter is making its presence felt). This year I'm on a heavier teaching load, but still need to keep research moving. Outside work, I have two kids, a spouse who's in a busy phase at work, and a need to live vicariously through all your summer garden and outdoor things while we huddle down.

    Goals for this session:
    - Complete first draft of KL article
    - Grant application done
    - Start semester 2 with VILE eight weeks ahead
    - Keep attending to self-care