the grid

the grid

Saturday 17 September 2022

2022 Third Session, Week One

First, the basics, including dates: 
  • We'll start goal-setting for the session and the week with this post. 
  • Please also introduce yourself.
  • If you want to set an intention for the session, you are welcome to do so.
  • We'll set goals each week until 10 December.
  • We'll have the session wrap-up on 17 December, a week before Christmas Eve (though I would enjoy hearing about your holiday goals at that point!).
  • We'll try for a midterm collection of goals with any necessary re-setting around the end of October (the 29th will be week 7).

And now for the shameless borrowing from previous sessions/hosts/writers:

The format will be the same as ever. Goals can be in any aspect of life although the key focus is often 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! 

This week's prompt: 

  • Spirals. Through time, space, household clean-up; in art or spiritual practice; or any other context that is meaningful to you. 
I look forward to being in the TLQ space with you once again.


  1. Hi! The extra bank holiday announced rather late has caused some extra work chaos as it means we had to squish all the Induction content into four days instead of five, with all the negotiating over who uses which room when, changing all the catering orders etc. And I've been less than well again - and am still trying to negotiate a more manageable semester to come, with fewer days on campus. I'm burnt out, grumpy and struggling!

    So I really need to focus on TLQ in work and personal life!

    As tomorrow IS a bank holiday, and I accidentally fell on the bed with a novel for the afternoon instead of working, I'm putting off the planning stuff until then!

    1. Books have a way of tripping one! I'm glad you fell into a comfortable spot, but I'm sure it's wise to stay put till you're sure nothing is injured, or else until you recover from any book-caused injury. ;-)

    2. Yay for some comfortable book time, hope it is a fun one!

    3. It was a full reread of The Goblin Emperor. Theory was a reread would be readable in chapter sized bites, but... didn't work that way! So it was fun indeed!

    4. I love that book. I enjoy the ones about the witness for the dead, but I wish Addison would do another one about the court, maybe focusing on Maya's empress.

    5. Yes I agree, that would be wonderful! Or Csevet,

  2. Once again, I'll borrow a previous introduction: I'm a late-career medievalist, hence my nom de blogue, still working on my first book (I got tenure long ago on articles, which is or was more common for medievalists than for many other areas in "book fields"). I live with Sir John and two cats in a 1970s split-level with a huge yard.

    Session intention: calm.

    Session goals:
    - grade efficiently and return comments in a timely manner
    - complete article that will also be a book chapter or part thereof
    - maybe do NaNoWriMo or a private follow-along
    - take care of at least one Life Task per month

    This week:
    - Add 1000 words to essay
    - Finish reading C&C book
    - Finish grading undergrad paper set
    - Grade grad paper set
    - Prep for Dead Language Group
    - Work on tidying bookshelves in my study

    Spirals: periodically it seems I need to revisit my past, via diary entries mainly, sometimes with a side order of Google-stalking people who were once significant to me, and I did some of both this week. I think it's a way of checking on how I'm doing w/r/t not just other people, but how I respond to them and to stuff from the past (nothing too major, really, but I was such a drama queen when I was young that I treated some things as Big Hairy Deals lots longer than I should have). I now feel a lot more settled and comfortable than I did the last time I went down that rabbit hole, more peaceful about those long-ago events. Sometimes spirals take us upward, not just down the drain!

    1. Glad you have the upward spiral feeling! A good place to start the session. I'm selfishly hoping you get to tell us a little about the NaNoWriMo along the way, I always find that process fascinating but have been far too chicken to try it!

    2. I tend to think I "shouldn't" revisit the past, but sometimes it really calls to me, and then it's great when I discover that my attitude or circumstances have changed in a good way, that I'm not just ruminating on old hurts.

      As to NaNoWriMo, JaneB has actually done the real thing. I'm more likely to try to follow along privately, mainly because I don't want the pressure of having to produce 1600 words a day (or whatever it is) and I'm not that motivated by getting the sticker at the end. But if I did a couple of hundred words a day, that would be fine, and I'd enjoy feeling that I have company even if I'm lagging way behind the front-runners.

    3. I really, really want to do NaNoWriMo again this year, I love it - but the day job :-(

    4. Maybe we could do the TLQ mini-NaNoWriMo together.

    5. Oh, I'd love to do a mini NaNoWriMo with this group!

    6. That definitely sounds tempting! November has 30 days, so 334 words a day would lead to 10,000 words written, or 200 words a day would lead to 6000 words, and would feel more doable...

  3. Thanks to Dame Eleanor and JaneB for getting another session started off! I’m an early-ish mid-career prof in a physical science field and I just moved to my dream job at a wonderful small university with excellent undergraduate graduate degrees in my field. I’ve been trying to get a job just like this for the last 10 years and being here is wonderful! I have my favourite co-authors in the department, and master’s students, and the undergrads are lovely and for the first time in years I can teach in my actual research field and specialties. Honeymoon definitely ongoing…

    My first thoughts about “spirals” were all very negative – spiraling downwards, death spirals, spiraling out of control or down the drain… Which kind of surprised me, I’m usually more positive… And then it dawned on me that spirals go in two directions, they can also spiral outwards and upwards… So I’m going to think of all the changes from the last few months as an expanding spiral, getting me to new places, new people, and a bigger canvas. It goes nicely with my intention for the session; patience… A spiral has to start from a central point, and it always circles that point, so getting the basics right keeps the spiral steady and then one can add things as it gets bigger.

    Intention: Patience… Accept that not everything will or has to get done right away, the transition to a new place will take time, do not try to do all the things immediately…

    Session goals:
    Massive grant application. I will hate every minute of writing it but it has to be done.
    Write and submit 3 papers – one new as first author (a bit out of my field), one new as co-author, and one rewrite of a big joint effort.
    Set up new lab to be able to do some basic stuff for research
    Keep kid happy with transition to new place.
    Be patient with everyone, including me.

    This week’s goals:
    Open big joint effort paper and see if I can start the revisions on my own
    Order lab supplies and pay lab bills
    Pick one section of grant application and write it

    Wins that happened in the space between sessions:
    Submitted the paper that’s been knocking around forever, yay!!! It is really good, I’m happy we did the extra work on it even if it did take basically a whole year to finish up!

    I GOT MY CATS!!!! They are two absolutely darling torties, about 6 moths old, sisters, got them from a shelter last weekend. They are settling in very well, still keeping me up with 2am kitty parties every night, but are so sweet I don’t mind. We’re working on how to behave with things like curtains, and power cords, and shoelaces, and all those fascinating things… The new house feels much more like home with them!

    1. Yay kitties! That is excellent news! It's also good that you got your paper submitted, but it's important to keep that in perspective . . . the cats will help you concentrate on the important things (them!).

    2. Yay for cats and double yay for torties - they really do make a house a home!

    3. CATS! I want cats. I miss cats. I had a dream the other night that I was snuggling a darling little monkey named Moby who, I realized upon waking, was actually a kitten (he purred). We plan to get a cat or two in January when we're back in the States....

  4. Hi. I'm Julie, I'm new here and hoping it's ok to join even though I don't have a blog of my own. I've read posts on here a few times, and really like the supportive/accountability idea of these sessions.

    I'm a mid-career academic in history at a university in the UK which is high-ranked but not Oxford or Cambridge. So good students and colleagues, nice place to be. I've been here eight years, but it's my first permanent post after about a decade of fixed-term contracts so I still feel as if I'm playing catch-up in career terms (e.g. a second book is probably overdue, but isn't happening any time soon). Covid played havoc with my research, as it did for everyone, but in addition I was widowed 19 months ago and am now a single parent to two kids. So there's a lot of emotional stuff and life admin to get in the way of everything else. The spiral prompt initially resonated with me in a negative sense of feeling overwhelmed, dragged down etc, but I really like Daisy's reformulation of it, so I'll try and keep that image in mind this week.

    Session goals:
    I'm coming back to a full teaching load after research leave for a year and a major admin role before then that limited my teaching. So the main goal is perhaps to survive the first term and just keep on top of the teaching, but without letting the research slide again.
    More specific research goal: do a significant amount of research for an article and preparation for a big grant.
    Teaching is mostly stuff I have done before, but to do enough revision to the module I will be teaching next term that I don't have it looming over me at Christmas. (I haven't taught it for 5 years, so it needs quite a bit of revision).
    There's a lot of ongoing house, financial, life stuff to sort out - one task a week.

    This week's goals:
    Prep for various meetings relating to new admin role in the department (a small role, but requires getting to grips with new processes)
    Write a draft of an application for a pot of university funding to send to my mentor by Friday.
    Read a PhD student's chapter
    Work through a set of 18th century accounts I'm using for an article I want to submit by the end of the month.

    1. Welcome Julie! Happy that you are here! No need for a blog to join, just yourself and lists of things you want to do. We're a friendly bunch as you have noted, it has been great to have virtual company for what can often be solitary work!

    2. As Daisy said, no need for your own blog, and we're glad to have you join us! I hope your example may encourage some other on-the-fence folks to join in. I think all the old-timers have found the accountability very helpful in moving projects along. I'm sorry to hear about your personal challenges and hope we can help you get to grips with those tasks as well as research and teaching---as you say, one thing at a time is a great way to chip away at what seem like mountains of tasks.

    3. Thank you! Such a nice welcome. Looking forward to the virtual company this term.

    4. Hi Julie, wonderful to have you here! I hope you find this group helpful...

    5. Welcome. Julie! It's lovely to have you join us.

    6. Hi Julie, it's nice to meet you! I have a blog but I haven't touched it in years, so if it were a requirement, I think that I would have defaulted by now. I'm sorry about all the challenges that you've been facing, and I hope that this group can bring a little light in for you--it certainly does for me.

  5. As ever, I’m humming42, a professor teaching in the humanities at a mid-sized third-tier state school in the US Southwest. I’m recovering from my failed summer-as-student but with the goal of figuring out the differences between need to and want to, and how I can manage them more effectively. For the moment, I’m putting Poet Me in the corner so I can focus more coherently on Scholar Me and Prof Me.

    I’m also going to keep my session goals on the Need To, so if there’s time for Want To, it’s totally a bonus. But making a commitment to folly has only led me to not doing the things that should be my focus. I’m rolling my eyes as I think about the class I just taught, full of many examples for using concrete rather than abstract language. Then I show up here and am basically cryptic. But I know I’m in a space here where I am known and where the abstract can still work well.

    Session goals:
    1 finish Food chapter
    2 finish Boredom chapter
    3 finish Dark chapter
    4 create new online class
    5 draft and submit program proposal
    There are other things, but these matter most.

    This week:
    1 catch up on grading (already!)
    2 write 1000 words for Food chapter
    3 create module structure for online class
    4 catch up on emails and organizing online files

    Looking forward to being here with you all.

    1. good to see you! I struggle a lot with need versus want around the less obvious stuff, especially work things (everything feels vital when I get stressed, so it's all ESSENTIAL...)

    2. It sounds like you had an interesting summer, anyway! Was it you or was it Karen who talked about "spiraling" as a method of house-cleaning?

    3. Oh, maybe it was Elizabeth! At any rate, it is something I do, too, and though it *seems* inefficient, I think it makes sense as an approach, unless your aim really is to fix/tidy a single room and not care about other spaces in the house.

    4. Absolutely my take on housecleaning! Many decades ago, I read an Erma Bombeck piece that opined that starting to clean house in the same room all the time meant that eventually one would have to saw off a room. It's true I start in the same place, but I'm not trying to make it perfect before I move on.

  6. Hi all, I'm a mid-career STEM-adjacent academic in the UK, and I had a bit of a breakdown at Easter after a really stressful couple of years which I'm still slowly recovering from. I'm back to working 30 hours a week (what I get PAID for - I'm 80% FTE), but anything more than 35-40 is just leading to me then being unable to do anything for a few days, so it's not really a good idea. Unfortunately, COVID work load was around 50-55 hours a week and now we're back on campus, that also adds c. 8 hours a week of commuting if my timetable remains as is (teaching just about every single day). My boss is being supportive & wants me to get it down to 2 days a week on campus. Oh, I also somehow got backed into taking on a new admin role (NOT the one I wanted) without much more workload allowance and without giving up any of the three I already have. SIGH. I think overall it will work out well... if I can make it through the next six months. IF.

    Rant rant rant!

    My word from the session is still Kindness. The world needs more of it.

    1) SURVIVAL - self care, saying no, balance
    2) TEACHING - focusing on kindness to myself and students, and remembering that my "scraping by" is actually better than some people's "standard practice" in teaching. Doing enough, basically, not even trying to be "the best"
    3) RESEARCH - two goals right now, getting one paper submitted (incorporate comments from multiple co-authors, finalise, submit) and a second drafted (another multi-author thing and I'm not the lead which is a bonus).
    4) CREATIVITY - hand crafts, art, writing fiction or poetry - making space for fun stuff. Eyeing up NaNoWriMo even if I set a lower goal for myself...

    1) survive chaotic Welcome Week
    2) get ViLE pages set up for next week
    3) touch one of the papers
    4) do minimum house chores that got lost last weekend.

    1. SPIRALS - I have two thoughts about spirals and neither is negative (I don't see myself as spiralling downwards, it's more slipping downhill or sinking in my imaginary). The first one is that a spiral is a wonderful shape for a meditation labyrinth, and a constantly recurring component in Celtic art and Pictish symbols and the like - and the megalithic 'temples' of Malta come to that, and prehistoric art of other kinds. Spirals are meditative and soothing.

      The second thought is that a spiral in three dimensions is easily turned into a helix, and that in learning or teaching spiralling around is really important - the old plan do reflect cycle with lets you deepen and grow and expand your understanding.

      Oh and now pea plants and vines are coming to mind.

      So a positive and interesting symbol or shape - I like cycles, the cycle of the year, the cycle of the academic year, the arc of a narrative... which makes me think that I should start trying to see the repetitive nature of housework (cat tray shovelling, dish washing, hoovering) as cyclical, spiral, meditative. Something to explore there...

    2. This afternoon I went for a walk with a friend who had just walked the labyrinth at her church---a nice coincidence! So that was definitely one meaning I thought of. I like the way a spiral adds another dimension to circling, so you're not just going round and round, but also up, getting a different perspective on the situation.

    3. It's really okay to scrape by at work. Sometimes, especially, the extra effort doesn't result in corresponding benefit or recognition--so if it's dragging you down, don't do it. (Easier to say this than put it in practice, I know.)

  7. First, my introduction, once again stolen from earlier sessions. I’m a late-career Rare Books Librarian in upstate New York at an R1. I live with a husband and a Jack Russell/Poodle puppy rescue. Three of my four kids (and all seven grandchildren) live in northern Indiana; the youngest lives a few miles away while he completes his Ph.D. here. 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 at the moment focused on English and French women translators in the 16th century.

    Spirals made me also think downward at first, but then I realized that I tend to wander in spirals while doing most of my writing. My habit of writing a broad outline, then returning to fill in the gaps, making those gaps smaller and smaller, means that I revisit the entire piece several times in a spiral-shaped sort of way.

    Now that I think about it, I do the same sort of thing with housework. I start at the top of the house (there are five levels in the house), grabbing all the trash and taking it down to the fourth floor, circling through all the rooms, and on down to the basement. Then I repeat with recycling, and then reverse the process with stuff that needs to be shredded, because the shredder is in the garret office.

    I have pared down my session goals to one:
    Communicate with kindness

    I need this goal, because I have been pulled back out of my comfort zone into providing support for the two staff remaining in my broader field of expertise (out of the six transferred to a different department in November 2019). Like many other universities, my shop has been losing faculty and staff to retirement or burnout at a scary rate. Everyone is stressed because the provost thinks our libraries are fancy study halls, and she is refusing to hire anyone until we prove we benefit the students (sigh). Another administrator at the VP level asked if Special Collections is where we keep the duplicates of materials in the main library. (bigger sigh). Therefore I need to communicate without losing my temper, or my mind.

    Next week’s goals (or the few days left):
    Create 20,000-foot plan for the session;
    Hone some ideas for a couple of articles.
    Continue physical therapy and go to doctor’s appointment.
    If time allows, free write on a few other possible topics.

    I plan to continue the “done” list, which I find very satisfying. Thank you to JaneB and Dame Eleanor for hosting for this session. I hope to be more present, and present earlier, as well. Float like mist, everyone.

    1. I like the idea of a 20,000-foot plan for the session. And I'm sorry to hear about the staff loss--sadly, that seems to be the standard across--well, every sector of society these days. (I was just reading a former student's justified rant about the bookstore where she's worked for the last decade.) Communicating with kindness seems like a good goal.

    2. Much sympathy w/r/t clueless admins and the effort to keep your temper with them! I can be (almost) endlessly patient with students, because they are *trying* to learn, and I don't really expect them to know anything already, but I tend to think grown-ups with advanced degrees, or even just a bachelor's, should know some stuff, whether or not they learned it in college. As in, you keep learning from pieces in newspapers and magazines, maybe you use an encyclopedia once in awhile . . . you engage with the world around you and pay attention! Oh, sorry, I'm ranting. Just to say, I feel your pain and I wish you well with the effort to educate with kindness.

    3. Thank you both for your sympathy. At least most of my contact will be with people who want to learn--so like students, I can be very patient.

    4. I like thinking of that writing approach as spiralling - I do something very similar but I tend to think of it as layering, as a painting going from a rough sketch to blocking in to background to details to getting the tiny little brush for the individual dots of light sort of thing.

      Much sympathy also with the whole situation. I wish I knew why people who were perfectly decent colleagues, then move to admin, seem to forget reality in months - even if it's theoretically reasonable within a person's workload to do, say, 100 hours of marking, it's NOT reasonable if they only have a week to do it in - the difference between admin view - "you have the workload" - and reality. At least that particular one wasn't ME!

  8. Hello! As always, I'm heu mihi, a mid-career scholar of medieval literature at a research university in the NE US.

    This year I'm on sabbatical, and this semester I'm in France on a research grant. I'll be heading home right about at the end of this TLQ session, and I do think that I need some goals, because I have a dreadful fear of frittering this time away. And I'm going to have to account for the money spent on me somehow!

    With me in France are my husband (a minister who's currently between jobs, which actually worked out well timing-wise with this sabbatical) and a 10-year-old who has rather mixed feelings about being in a French school for four months.

    I've been having some trouble coming up with goals for the semester because it's such an unusual one, and because one never knows--or at least *I* never know, and I haven't a whole lot of experience with such things--what, if anything, archival research will yield. I talked a good game in my grant application, but now I look at manuscripts and often think ???.

    So here's an attempt at goals. #1 is an actual concrete thing that I have to do:

    1) Give research talk (IN FRENCH!!) at local university (Oct. 20).
    2) Develop paleographic skills by exploring manuscripts.
    3) Look at all (or nearly all) the manuscripts I said I would look at and write up my observations about each in some kind of coherent fashion--i.e., not scattered jottings in my notebook.
    4) Ideally find at least ONE thing that will help my project move forward.
    5) Get into a position where I feel ready to write in January: firmer prospectus/outline, a couple of chapter maps.
    6) Begin crafting chapter 3; sketch out an argument about BN.

    This week, I'm on a research trip in Darmstadt (ugly city, nice manuscripts). So my goals for the week are:

    1) Look at Darmstadt MSS
    2) On Friday, summarize my notes in a way that will make it easy to remember the important points of what I saw
    3) Have fun with friend (and my family) in Freiburg on Saturday

    1. I forgot to talk about spirals! I love spirals aesthetically and conceptually--the combination of circularity and linearity seems to describe so many kinds of development and growth.

      The spiral that I struggle with is obsessive thinking, which happens when I'm anxious about something. But maybe the problem there is really circling, and trying to shift into a spiral--moving outward and away, even if the source of anxiety still exists--would be helpful.

    2. Those sound like really good, practical session goals---you've done well creating measurable goals for your time in France. "Paleographical skills" covers a lot of ground, and it often happens that the skills one develops may not be the ones aimed at, but are there particular scripts you hope to become more comfortable with, or abbreviations associated with an era/ region/ professional area, something like that? Not that you need to modify your goals for us, but I'm thinking about what you might be able to put on your future sabbatical report!

      Time as well as space is an aspect of the spiral: maybe awareness of the way time will remove you from the anxiety could help start to provide some distance, a movement toward spiraling up and away rather than continuing to circle.

      And I hope you have a great Friday in Freiburg!

    3. Or rather, a great Saturday---I got carried away by the attraction of alliteration, I guess.