Archive for January, 2013

Scholarship – Write First!

Posted on January 25, 2013 in Graduate School, Research

Dear Graduate Students,

Juggling the demands of teaching, family life, working a second job and struggling to pay your bills sometimes means that an entire day goes by, and we still haven’t managed to squeeze in an hour’s worth of writing and research. The most consistent, productive academic writers don’t feel the need to carve out large of blocks of time for writing. Instead, they do their most powerful, productive writing at odd moments for an hour or two  every day- even 15 minutes does the trick some days ! For some of us this means setting the alarm for 5 AM. On bleak, winter days in South Bend, this is no small feat but well worth the effort. Do you have trouble waking up early? Try “tricking” your mind into submission: laugh first thing in the morning as though you were absolutely delighted to be up while it is still dark out . And then, make a concerted effort to write first, before checking your email, dealing with student demands and frantic inquiries, or getting your daily NPR fix. (It can wait. You can always catch the  PBS News Hour later or the dulcet tones of the BBC late at night. ) This means we write BEFORE beginning other activities. If we need to prepare for class, or buy food, or respond to an important email, we write for one brief, timed session BEFORE that activity.

Here’s another effective writing technique: a psychology professor at ND reports that some evenings he writes out longhand — in complete, fully formed sentences — responses to scholarly articles and book chapters he’s consulting for his research The next morning he writes first, elaborating on the points he’d written out just the night before. In this way he ensures he always begins the morning with something fresh and  interesting to say.

For some people, it works great to write first thing in the morning. Here are some inspiring quotations to get motivated:
“When I am working on a book or story I write every morning as soon after first light as possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write…”

~Ernest Hemmingway, 20th Century American author and journalist

“When I interview creatives, I often ask them what advice they would give to the next generation, the up-and-comers. Curiously, there’s one incredibly important habit that nearly all of them possess that is almost never mentioned. So what is the secret ingredient in their productivity regime? It’s simple: They get up early.”

~ Jocelyn K. Glei, contemporary American writer,

“My alarm goes off at 5:51 a.m. I creep downstairs, trying not to wake my husband and, even more important, my two children … …I get out the primary materials for the third chapter of my second book, set Freedom for 55 minutes, and write as fast as I can. At exactly 7 a.m., I hear the patter of little feet. My children burst into my office with stories about their dreams, their hunger pangs, and their hopes for the day. I put my computer to sleep and do their bidding.”

~ Kathy M. Newman, The Chronicle Review April 1, 2012

Goal Setting, List Making, and the Sunday Meeting

Posted on January 16, 2013 in Graduate School, Research

For many of us with teaching responsibilities, it is the beginning of a new semester, a fresh start: an ideal time to reflect seriously on goal setting and effective time management strategies. Regardless of our teaching load, graduate school consists, after all, of much frantic reading, writing, and thinking, and so, learning how to minimize distractions and prioritize among competing tasks is essential. While meeting the high bar we set for ourselves professionally and personally can seem like a daunting task, the idea of the “Sunday Meeting” can help. So can regular list making! Always write out your goals and “action items,” so that you get a concrete sense of where you want to be and how to get there. Consider setting up a regular “Sunday Meeting” with a group of friends and congenial colleagues to brainstorm about your goals for the week and prioritize tasks. As Kerry Ann Rockquemore explains in an article from Inside Higher Ed, the “Sunday Meeting” makes it possible for us to stick to our semester goals by allocating blocks of time for different tasks. Too busy during the day to work on your dissertation? Consider setting the alarm for 5AM to get the bulk of your research and writing done first thing in the morning—before allowing yourself to check email or read the paper.

This quote puts the Sunday Meeting in the context of the plan for the semester. Kerry Ann writes,

“I encourage you to see the process of creating a semester plan as one where you identify WHAT your personal and professional goals are, outline HOW they will be accomplished, and WHEN you will do the work. From that point, the real secret to making a semester plan come to life is to use it on a weekly basis as the foundation for planning out your week.”

Kerry Ann Rockquemore:

Within this article you will also find a link to the first in the series, on making a semester plan:

Good luck to you as you begin to set your semester goals!