the grid

the grid

Sunday 28 May 2023

Session 2, week 3

Greetings all!  This is an odd time of year when different universities are markedly out of sync; it was fun reading about how some TLQ-ers are starting their summer, but makes me very aware of how long there still is to go for my context (and how much teaching/administrative work stuff needs to happen in the summer in the UK, sigh).  It's also very odd to be seeing some of the students who were new during the most remote-heavy parts of COVID getting ready to leave us - it feels impossibly far back in time, but also as if they just arrived a few weeks ago.  On top of that, summer weather is suddenly here in my part of the UK, and it's a Bank Holiday Monday so a long weekend, both of which make me very reluctant to work even though I need to!  We're all also dealing with other transitions, processing the loss of EAM and other loved ones (it's been a hard year so far), living in 'interesting times'...

These sorts of unsettled, transitional times are something I know writing helps me process - writing as thinking, writing as a means of emptying out my head and seeing what is actually in it, writing as a way of working out what I actually feel and what echoes of past experience and mental furnishings are flavouring my reactions to the moment.  This is writing with no intentional public future - it mostly happens in a scratch notebook or journal, and sometimes it distills into a poem, but often ends up in the recycling pile or on the fire before the day is out   However, when things are unsettled, I can be particularly forgetful about writing, or struggle to get myself to do it - I know it works, but actually DOING it doesn't always follow on from knowing I should and will benefit!

For this week's prompt, lets think about the tools we use to keep ourselves writing or to bring us back to writing when we've drifted away - whether that's a habit like a particular time of day or week when you always write, an environmental factor like a particular drink or cup, or a choice of sound, or a place where you work, or a refresh of some sort, like switching mode from screen to paper, clearing off your writing space, a literal or figurative thinking cap, new supplies (my inner child is convinced that what I really need right now is new supplies...).  



  1. Two conference talks (write and give - hahahaha)
  2. Write and submit small grant application
  3. Write and give a bunch of reports for association stuff
  4. Talk to lots of people at conference and have fun

Dame Eleanor Hull

No goals set

Heu mihi

  1. Read over proofs of article for collection
  2. Make more progress on ch. 2--trying to get the draft in reasonably good working order by 5/31
  3. Enjoy the outdoors--irises, lupine, and day lilies are blooming; the May apples are peeking out from under their umbrella-leaves; my late-blooming lilac is about to; and the sweet William should be in full glorious color in a week or so
  4. Allow myself some flexibility on routines. Treat them as menu options rather than requirements.
  5. Get ready for parental visit this weekend
  6. Make 5-10 pages


  1. Get to ¾ completed for Boredom
  2. Wrap up Spring!
  3. Outline conference presentation for Squares
  4. Finish reading current review book


  1. self care. baselines again - recording what I actually do, making some brainstorming lists, and sort through the Pile On The Chair and the Pile In The Hall.
  2. Researcher. Focus is Wish-we-never-started project - at least 5 hours of work. Also at least three "small jobs" (there are 5 or 6 on my rolling list).
  3. Teaching: If I do quit the MAB then I have marking to occupy my time! On top of that, contact my summer-only MSc project students, make a summer list.
  4. fun. hopefully play D&D this coming weekend (this one was a no-go because of the dread exam season for most of the players), and work on the 'Lithrops' blanket.


  1. Maximise time in different set of archives Monday and Tuesday (I'm now in Burgos, and thinking of Susan especially, as it's full of people doing the Camino).
  2. Claim expenses for trip.
  3. Upload photos and write up notes before I forget what everything is.
  4. Get ready for holiday next week.


  1. Finish almost complete task that was officially due on Friday.
  2. Sort out reading assignments for the book prize
  3. Be kind to myself and to my brother and sister.


  1. Hi all, well, it's given up on the nice summer weather today, that was very short lived! The joys of living in the UK - variable weather (that's not sarcastic, I like the variety).

    I did stop taking part in the Marking and Assessment Boycott - I asked around, and I was the last person I could find who was still doing it (local union branch couldn't tell me who was taking part etc., and the academic committee members weren't themselves, which says something about how little support there has been locally and how little planning there was - strikes are just easier, and when you are in a small and notoriously disorganised branch, well...). Some of my supposedly union active colleagues, it turns out, were also actively undermining my action by doing some of the things I should have been doing. So I was very, very fed up for chunks of this week. Doesn't help that one of the marking things I needed to pick up was a resubmission of a graduate thesis (which went back for major revisions) and although it is better, it's still not very good, which is always depressing - I'm nibbling away at it in small chunks, but they're all tedious ones. Also had a Dr's appointment and now have to make another appointment for more blood tests, and have an optician's appointment this week. Life is just rather uphill at the moment, but not everything is bad! The multi-author paper that was submitted back in March has come back accepted with minor revisions from a very good journal from a journal group I've never published in before, so that was nice, and I got a heartfelt thank you email from one student who was pleased with their mark from a module (they earned it - excellent mark, partly because they actually took the advice I gave them on the draft, which is always reassuring that I do actually give decent advice...).

    last week's goals:
    self care. baselines again - recording what I actually do, making some brainstorming lists, and sort through the Pile On The Chair and the Pile In The Hall. wobbly again - no, no, no

    Researcher. Focus is Wish-we-never-started project - at least 5 hours of work. Also at least three "small jobs" (there are 5 or 6 on my rolling list). three hours, and 1 small job

    Teaching: If I do quit the MAB then I have marking to occupy my time! On top of that, contact my summer-only MSc project students, make a summer list. marked quite a lot and did more administration of teaching. Contacted the students. No list made

    fun. hopefully play D&D this coming weekend (this one was a no-go because of the dread exam season for most of the players), and work on the 'Lithrops' blanket. Did play D&D and finished the 'Lithrops' blanket after... years (of mostly neglecting it, but yay, a finished project!)

    I don't entirely know where the week went - I logged enough work hours, there was just a lot of email and slow checking of things. Had my appraisal which was as ever disappointing in terms of actual action agreed or any help in terms of priorities, but "I am doing very well" (my appraiser didn't even check against my official KPIs, I think realising that even in their workload model I have 1% of my work time allocated to research made them feel a bit iffy about actually checking my RESEARCH TRACK KPIs (since I'm still not permitted to transfer to teaching track, despite, well, it being 99% of my official work time even in their calculations (which I think are wrong as they are based of this year when we have a couple of one year teaching fellows taking some of the actual work, but hey...).

    1. Next Week's Goals:
      1) Self-care: baselines, optician's appointment, make next Drs appointment, Pile On Chair and Pile In Hall
      2) Researcher: Wish-we-never-started project - at least 5 hours of work. Meet about and do my action steps on returned paper. two "small jobs"
      3) Teaching: Keep up with marking process (mostly administration and a few very late pieces may come in this week - mostly that will be next week). Meet with all new MSc students for an hour to get their planning started. Summer list.
      4) Fun. Might play D&D - if not, do some D&D planning. Read something. Do some thinking about the next large-and-simple blanket crochet project. Start mini project (I'm trying a sun hat pattern next).
      fun. hopefully play D&D this coming weekend (this one was a no-go because of the dread exam season for most of the players), and work on the 'Lithrops' blanket.

    2. And on the prompt:
      Habits are not something I'm very good at - the old brain squirrels just can't stick to them,and now I know I have ADHD I feel much less pressure to try & train them to do something they just aren't designed for. But making sure writing is always on the options menu is useful - one thing I've done is split my bullet journal planning system into two books, one for work and one for everything else - there's not much actual planner content in the everything else volume each month, a few trackers and a calendar, but I use the space for list making and brain storming and journalling and having a whine to myself, and because I check the calendar/habits most days, I'm in the writing space with a pen so it's an easy option to take. Which is sort of an environmental factor too.

      environmental factors come and go for me - but I always like new stationary or picking up a good fountain pen, and need a bottle of water (and generally a cup - that way I can keep the cup half full or less so there's less risk of cat spit and spillage...). And of course the coming and going leads to regular refreshes - a new preference for font or music or kind of tea. Music can be good - I try to build cues for certain tasks, by playing the same music when I do the same task, so that when I don't want to do the task I can use the music to help (example, there's a Dead South concert recording on youtube which is almost 45 minutes, which makes an excellent block of marking time & served me well this whole academic year, and if I'm mardy about admin I currently put Miracle of Sound's Ode to Fury on repeat and it gets me through a block of checking numbers are correct or something like that that needs precision but not much thought).

    3. Love the idea of repeating the same music for tasks!
      Good luck with the marking and getting to the small research tasks - they might be small but they are so satisfying when done!

    4. I also like the idea of repeating the same music and getting a conditioned response to it going (DEH: Google thinks I'm signed in but I can't get the comments form to recognize that).

  2. What a brilliant week! The conference was fantastic, far exceeded my expectations and was really great scientifically and socially. Came away with a new project, many offers of help for current project, and lots of good networking for me and students, and for next year’s conference. I'm insanely behind in everything else but it was totally worth it.

    Conferences are always good for getting me back into my research and writing, the enthusiasm is infectious, and if other people are interested in what I am doing it feels like a nice restart.
    For physically sitting down and writing I like putting on music (always headphones so I am not disturbing office company!). Some tasks need BBC Radio 3, some need a bit more popular stuff but it really does help me focus. I rarely listen to music (as a musician my head is filled with the stuff all the time…), so it feels like something reserved for specific tasks.

    Last week’s goals
    (all conference-related so it feels like cheating to list as done, but whatever!)
    Two conference talks (write and give) THEY WERE EXCELLENT
    Write and submit small grant application DONE
    Write and give a bunch of reports for association stuff DONE
    Talk to lots of people at conference and have fun EXCELLENTLY DONE

    This week’s goals
    Redo ALL existing summer plans to fit in new opportunities
    Submit ALL expenses for both trips this month
    Renew two sets of software licences
    Order last bits of kit for lab
    Work on samples! NEW samples!!! Yay!! (aka do actual science with actual samples)
    Sit down with wine and write down everything I said in conference talks for paper outlines

    1. Yay for a really good conferences! There's nothing like a really positive meeting to remind you why science is worth it...

      Enjoy the wine and note-taking...

      And I hope you didn't bring home any conference crud (I pretty much always get sick when I fly or conference - post-award finance have seriously messed up a project fund which was going to pay for my travel to the Big Event in my field this year, and I'm not 100% sad about that given COVID risks (and it's somewhere HOT and TOURISTY in the HOT months during the school holidays so expensive and stressful for me).

    2. You sound so infectiously enthusiastic! I'm glad that you had such a great week.

  3. For some reason, a second comment will recognize that I'm signed in. So here I am as me.

    I was curious to see what goals I had set! Oh, right: none. The end of the week was excellent; about the beginning, the less said, the better. At least now the only medical thing I have to do for the next ten months is get my second shingles vaccine next month. Well, and another Covid booster before the fall term starts, though for now I'm assuming natural immunity from last winter's bout will continue.

    Stuff I did:
    Took my car in for service, met with grad students, finished the fiendish jigsaw puzzle, re-read two favorite books from childhood (The Far-Distant Oxus and Escape to Persia), read a Sharon Shinn fantasy and the second Mitford Mystery, timed the current draft of my conference paper, read about 1000 lines of Relevant Romance, tidied three shelves of the bathroom cupboard (but gave up on the bottom shelf with my Big Box of Stuff), went out to dinner, baked a cake, talked to two friends on the phone, found and printed a form for changing my TIAA-CREF contributions, sat by water for at least 20 minutes (usually longer) five times, made Very Long Lists of things to do this summer, which I will try to think of as menu options rather than requirements.

    New goals:
    - Keep 10-3 as "work hours" and do exercise, house stuff, errands at other times
    - Finish editing conference paper
    - Start reading through tenure-review file
    - Process grad applications
    - Aim for one creative, one house, and one garden task from Summer Lists

    Of course I love paper and pens; I've been doing a lot of processing in a paper journal in recent weeks. For getting back to academic writing, it helps to set the bar low (something like reverse-outlining a draft, or reading it aloud to see what pops out at me). Writing dates also help. It's remarkable how much I can get done in an hour when someone else is there working, as last week when I met with my grads, even when I massively Don't Feel Like It. For someone who professes to be so introverted, I am certainly motivated by the presence of other people---at least, when it's the right people!

    1. I know what you mean--even if the other person/people can't possibly tell whether I'm working or not, their presence means that I have to stay on task!

    2. I'm a pretty strong introvert, and I also find occasional in person writing sessions are very productive (occasional, because I do need to be doing the right sort of task) - in fact, a colleague and I run the final year project modules in our department (multiple - one per named degree programme) and we've been hosting optional timetabled class "write-in"s for students every few weeks (this is supposed to mostly be an independent study module so they don't have much in their timetable in the way of classes, they meet their supervisor one to one as needed - the ones who choose to attend really value it, and my colleague and I "model" focused writing behaviour during it - i.e. we also use it as writing retreat time in a teaching week - which feels somewhat naughty but also productive and satisfying.

    3. Love the student writing day idea!! I am going to try something like that for grad students next term!

  4. Hmmm. Writing: I don't journal, and have lots of notebooks that get used for notetaking, but it depends on which I have with me. Today's excavation of my desk turned up 4 of them that have been used this spring. I've managed my life with this chaos for years, so I'm not going to stress about it! I write on the computer mostly, because I'm a touch typist and can keep up with my thoughts. When I'm doing research, I always have a file of "random things that are interesting where I stick odd ideas.

    How I did:
    Finish almost complete task that was officially due on Friday. --- Yes, a week late, but done.
    Sort out reading assignments for the book prize - DONE
    Be kind to myself and to my brother and sister. DONE

    I mean, the week was exhausting, but we (a) cleaned out my mother's apartment, which had lots of STUFF and (b) had a very nice memorial on Thursday. I've begun the administrative stuff related to death, obituaries are published, some people notified. I insisted that the stuff be dealt with before my siblings left, and it mostly was. (I've got books and pictures to send to my sister in Paris, but that's really it.) Today I managed to clear off my desk, taking advantage of the holiday to just do it. I can now begin to see the surface and all the stuff I need to do.

    I am extremely grateful that I had 68 years with an extraordinary mother, and that my siblings and I were/are able to work together. It made it much easier. (Though my sister managed to break her finger the night before the memorial, so I ended up writing the eulogy in the ER (A&E for those in the UK). I know I'm lucky.

    Goals for the week ahead:
    The real agenda is to slide back into a semi-normal life, though part of that will be dealing with more of the administrative part of the estate.
    Research - scholarship
    1. Read 1 draft essay and one revised essay for Big Collaboration
    2. Read 2 articles I agreed to review even though I should have said no.
    3. Start reading for book prize
    4. Read book (that I want to read) for review that was due in February or March

    Admin for work:
    5. Work out schedule for summer program for new grad students (due last Friday)
    6. Draft budget for next year
    7. Get people to work on seminar series for next year
    8. Get last people for small task forces
    9. Schedule for next spring

    10: Mail books to Paris
    11. Ship pictures to Paris
    12. Clear up last bits of clutter
    13. Do something nice for myself/ with a friend

    This looks like more than it is, I think: several of the tasks are 5-10 minutes, but I like listing them.

    1. And I realize I left off the estate stuff from this list:
      14. One hour of work on estate or related stuff each day

    2. That sounds like a very productive few days, despite the broken finger - the exhaustion seems entirely justified! I hope this week is a bit calmer and you get to both tick off a lot of small things and fit in some nice stuff.

    3. Hang in there and take some time for nice things and rest... Emotional times for sure, glad you feel good about the memorial. I love your "extraordinary mother" phrase, any mum would be happy to be described like that!

  5. This is a helpful prompt for me, as I've taken some liberties with my to-do list in the last week (and especially over the long weekend, when my parents were visiting). I'm looking forward to getting back into parts of my routine! But it was very restful for me to step away from my day planner and drop a few things--nothing of real consequence, but things like taking time off from language study or walking instead of running one day. --To live more according to inclination than schedule, in other words.

    One of the writing tools that I have is my desk. It's a fairly small fold-top desk that my mother got in the 1960s (I have a matching dresser, too). It has nice little cubbies and drawers, and I've been using it since at least the late 90s, I think. (I've moved it many times, and it weighs a TON.) Because it's not very large, I have to stay pretty organized, which suits me fine. I just like writing here, even though I have a not-very-ergonomic wooden chair (I bought it at a yard sale for $2 and I love it!) and there's nothing particularly special about the space. It's where I wrote all of my papers for grad school, my dissertation, and books 1 and 2.

    --That said, lately I've done my best writing when stuck somewhere with nothing else to do (waiting for a new car battery, on a plane). But there's still something about settling in at my desk that glides me into work mode.

    Last week:
    1. Read over proofs of article for collection - YES (this was required and also pretty easy)
    2. Make more progress on ch. 2--trying to get the draft in reasonably good working order by 5/31 - YES, some progress, I can't say how much
    3. Enjoy the outdoors - YES, the weather has been spectacular, hard not to do this. I also took a four-mile walk on Thursday morning during which I saw no other humans and, for most of it, couldn't even hear any sounds of human life--just the wind in the trees (it was a brisk breezy sunny day), the birds, rushing water.
    4. Allow myself some flexibility on routines. Treat them as menu options rather than requirements. - Definitely did this! Let a lot of little things fall away.
    5. Get ready for parental visit this weekend - YES, not much choice
    6. Make 5-10 pages - NO, alas, I left this until the very last minute and then didn't have time.

    Well that's quite a lot, given that I thought I didn't do much!

    This week:
    1. Finish working draft of ch. 2 (there will be much left to do later, but time to move on, I think)
    2. Start working up a list of possible texts for ch. 4
    3. Make 10 pages
    4. Finish reading a couple of things that are sitting around (KM, FT)
    5. Maybe take a forest day???

    I'm also struggling with some profound insecurity about my project--I'm writing it so quickly, but that's partly because there's a vast amount that I haven't read or researched yet. I'm trying to reassure myself that I can still do that research! That's what revision is for! But I'm weirdly afraid that I'll just forget to go back and do that work, or something, and that I'll embarrass myself as a result. Good grief.

    1. Your desk sounds delightful! One year at university my room happened to have a small drop-front desk complete with cubbies and a "secret" compartment (part of the desk surface slid back to reveal a shallow hole, that was hidden when you had papers on the surface) which was pretty basic but was also at least 80 years old - I was a student when only the rich had their own computers in their rooms, and although there wasn't really enough room for my usual sprawl of papers, books and notes, I loved that little desk - the sense of continuity of the scholarly experience really pleased my imagination. And there's something very nice about being able to shut the front of the desk over all your work when you do all your living in one room as well.

      Sorry to hear about the insecurity gremlins - are you making a list as you go of all the research tasks which you can wave in the face of the gremlins as proof you won't forget things? Sometimes I think when things go well we assume something is wrong because we're so used to the uphill slog of the day to day in late stage capitalism's academe, and it's not healthy but it's very human!

    2. Old desks are the best, I love the idea that they come with history and stories... I have a modern glass one right now and have not connected with it much, looking forward to moving into next office with sprawling wood desk!