An Ambivalent Milestone; or, How’s the Book Coming?

The fear that hangs over all of my writing is that I will never finish the big projects. Actually, it’s even worse than that: I fear not knowing how to finish. Shorter things, I can do. I can whip out a blog post in a couple of hours, even quicker if I’m writing about something that pissed me off. (My most-read post on this site, with nearly 400K views, was one I rage-wrote at the Asheville, NC, airport in under two hours.) But longer projects paralyze me, and I get to a point where I literally wake up in the middle of the night, with an anxiety knot in my stomach, and wonder if I will ever be able to finish them.

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Naming My Fear

I am an academic-in the Humanities, no less-so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I sometimes act irrationally. Hell, seeking an academic career in itself is pretty much an irrational act, yet many of us are stubborn or committed or devil-may-care enough to do it anyway. By and large, I’ve embraced my propensity for seemingly irrational behavior. Getting lots of tattoos over the last 25 years? CUSTOM PAINT JOB. Writing right-handed but eating left-handed? HOW I ROLL. Espresso at 8 PM? SURE! Rooting for the Cleveland Indians? YES. Reading poststructural theory for fun? PART OF MY CHARM.  Continue reading “Naming My Fear”

My Best Worst Writing Advice

Challenge Accepted.
Challenge Accepted.

November is here, and with it comes #AcWriMo, the month-long Academic Writing Challenge. (PhD2Published started this party a few years ago; if you’re unfamiliar with it, check it out here). I signed on this year, hoping to jump-start a coupled of stalled projects that need to get done so I can move into my new book manuscript. November will be crazy–POD Conference next week, travel over Thanksgiving–but the #AcWriMo challenge will hopefully keep me writing daily, even if it’s just a little bit. I’ve blogged about keeping a writing schedule before, but it bears repeating: We all know that the best way to write productively is to schedule our writing time and fiercely guard it from interlopers, and to do it daily. To get Ass In Chair and WRITE. It’s that simple, as I’ve learned by trial and error (mostly error) writing my dissertation, several articles and chapters, and my first book project (staggering to a close as we speak). But I didn’t always know this good advice on consistent and productive writing. In fact, I was the classic prototype of a binge-and-purge writer throughout grad school and into the early years of my career. If you could do it wrong, I did it wrong without fail. If there was a way to make it more difficult, by god I would find it. Yet, I thought I had it figured out. I wrote good stuff, so the process that got me there had to be the optimal one, right? *Cringe* Well, this got me thinking–what if I had written an advice-to-writers piece during that stage of my writing life? The very thought made me chuckle, and since I’m all about cheap laughs, I thought I’d write it out, just to see the train wreck that would ensue.

So here you go. In honor of #AcWriMo, I give you: My Best Worst Academic Writing Advice.

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How I Learned to Love the Calendar

DayPlannerCalendarScreenShot
I stare back at you…silently mocking your good intentions.

In my undergraduate years, I took pride in never using a calendar, planner, or other sort of organizational method to keep on top of my work. Of course, I also took pride in such dubious feats as skipping 67 classes the Spring semester of my freshman year (We had a competition; I won going away), failing Calculus (not once, but twice!), and numerous engagements in petty larceny.  So “things I was proud of as an undergraduate” is not a list of academic success items, to say the least.  Continue reading “How I Learned to Love the Calendar”