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When students only have read a few poems, in exclusively academic contexts, they often approach poetry with what the li...

Friday, March 30, 2012

Forty Hour Week

Forty hour week.

What I was saying yesterday. You can work a full day and also get your writing done. Have a routine in which writing is a part.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Rule #13

You will not be less busy in the future than you are right now.


This rule addresses the illusion that there will be a less busy time than right now, located somewhere in the future. I know a guy who plans on writing his book when he retires from teaching! Many people tell themselves they will start working on something once the present business is over, but it never is. During my busiest week I often get an article to review for a journal. I still do it that week, because it is easier to get a lot done when you are already very busy. When it's harder to get things done, paradoxically, is when you don't have as much to do.

By postponing tasks to supposedly less busy times in the future, you are essentially making those hypothetically less busy times more busy, cluttering them up in advance. Do you really want to do that?

Rule #12

Treat writing as part of your job.

Many academic writers see their writing as something to be done after hours, as an add-on, once they have finished every other duty. It is extra work for vacations, weekends, evenings, breaks. I propose that you see writing as part of workaday life. In fact, you could work from 8-5 five days a week and incorporate writing into that day.

If your contract says you should be spending 40 per cent of your effort on research, that should apply to your daily routine as well.

If writing is not truly part of your job, and actively discouraged, you should still treat it as part of your job. Just fuck'em.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Rule #11

Don't Write More Than 3 Hours a Day.

The next set of 10 rules have to do with time and task management.

You don't need to write more than 3 hours a day. Not only that, you probably shouldn't. The reason is that you need to be writing everyday, so you will burn out if you do that and also give your brain no time to rest. By all means go to the library and get research materials or do a planning session when not writing, but don't sit down in front of the computer all day long to write. Remember that your project is a marathon made of individual stages or legs. You don't need to run a marathon every day.

I, personally, have intense powers of concentration, but I think 3 hours is pretty much my upper limit most of the time. There seems little point in trying to write for 5 hours a day. I am getting enough done already. If you write a few hours in the morning, you will have done your work for the day and you don't need to worry about it till the next day. That is a wonderful feeling.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Rule #10

Be briilliant.

Rule #10 is to work smart, read more than everyone else, think things through more deeply. It's hard to have, as a rule of scholarship, that you should be smarter than the next person. Maybe you just aren't that smart? But intelligence can be developed and cultivated like anything else. You could see it more as a habit than as a quality.

See, also, this post on Research as a Second Language.

Rule #9

Festina lente.

The idea here is "deliberate haste." In other words, you should be in hurry to get your research done, with some sense of urgency, but you shouldn't rush yourself on any particular day. Or you can sprint on a particular day, but without forgetting that your writing is a marathon that consists of many individual "legs." The don't have to be fast if you are steady (slow and steady wins the race). Speed is a by-product of endurance, since you won't be able to write an article in a single day anyway.

If you can manage the balance between speed and slowness, you will be the master of time rather than its slave. Small windows will open up where you can get a disproportionate amount of work done. You will have free evenings when you don't have to write at all. That is why "festina lente" is one of the top 10 rules.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Rule #8

Well begun is half done.

Rule 8 involves putting special effort into the beginnings of things. Front-load your efforts. I've rarely not accepted an article that had an exceptionally good introduction, or accepted one that made basic mistakes in the intro. A bad title, a bad opening sentence, undermines the reader's confidence in the writer. It is easier to forgive a writer who slips later on, if you already have confidence in him or her.

Rule #7

Rule seven is "Develop and refine your prose style." All of scholarship in my field is communicated through the medium of prose. Everything I do involved writing, even a lecture delivered orally. Every manuscript or grant proposal I evaluate, everything in someone's tenure dossier, is written. If you can't write well, you are at a disadvantage. If you write exceptionally well, you will do very well indeed in the profession, as long as you can get the writing done.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Rule #6

Rule six is Finitude.

Finitude is the recognition of limits. For the writing to get accomplished, it must be accomplished in a particular time and place. From this principle, many others follow. If writing seems infinite, it will also seem possible. You should know how much work you can get done in a day, and hour, a month, a year.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Rule #5

Rule 5 is Plan, schedule, plan.. The more planning and scheduling you can do, the better. You can plan your time at the level of the day, week, month, semester, or year. That never hurts. If you write in the morning, do a planning schedule in the afternoon for the next day's activities. Constantly review and revise your medium-term plan. Find places where you can improve it. Shift back and forth between short, medium, and long-term thinking.

I do a similar thing with my finances. I find that I can pay a bill early, so I do it. I have a list of financial goals that I look at every day, and I often discover that I can meet one earlier than expected. After my ***** is resolved I will be completely debt-free though I will still have some monthly financial obligations.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Rule #4

Precrastinate.

Instead of telling people not to procrastinate, I prefer to tell people something positive to do instead. Forget about deadlines and meeting them. Instead, plan your time moving forward from now rather than backwards from the deadline.

Most people:
MLA talk. I know I have to have it done before the MLA. Ok, so classes end on December 15, so I have three weeks. Once I turn in my grades, I can start the talk. I might finish it on the plane to Boston.

Jonathan:
MLA talk. It is April and my abstract was just accepted. I might as well write the talk now since it is fresh in my mind. I will look at it again in December to see if I need to change anything.

Why start absurdly early? Because I can. Why do I assume I will be less busy in December close to the deadline than I am now, in April, or mid-March? Maybe I will have something I want to do more in December.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Rule #3

Cultivate a healthy relationship to your scholarship.

Tend your scholarly base.

Write every day.

Rule #2

Rule 2 is "Cultivate your Scholarly Base." That seems to follow logically from the first rule, which is about the healthy relationship of scholarship to your body and mind.

So maybe rule 1 could be "Use your scholarship to cultivate mental and physical health."

25%

I've been told I might have a 25% chance of becoming a DP.* That seems wildly optimistic to me, but I'm fine with that. The nomination will go forward tomorrow, then I will wait for many months.

___

*Distinguished Professor

Rule #1

I need a more elegant formulation of that rule. "Scholarship can destroy your health, but it doesn't have to." That's not quite it. "Proper application of rules 2-100 will improve mental and physical health." Nope. I'm still not getting it. Maybe I won't understand this rule myself until I can formulate it succinctly and convincingly? What I think I might mean is that the ways people destroy themselves through scholarship are somehow unnecessary, that there is a path that leads to fulfillment as a scholar and excellent mental and physical health.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Scholarship Rules

The book I once wanted to write will now have the title: Stupid Motivational Tricks: Scholarship Rules for Happy Productivity. It will be a list of "rules," 100 of them, that will synthesize my scant wisdom. I will try to develop the 10 fundamental rules first, then work downward toward others.

The first rule will be: "Don't assume that scholarship requires you to ruin your mental and physical health."

When You Break the Chain

What I usually do when I break the chain is to simply resume another one after a single day, or two at the most. What I want to do is to break it on purpose, rather than because I simply can't write one day. Then it won't be a failure but a deliberate move. I am planning to not write on Tues. and Wed. of next week, when I am taking my daughter to Indiana University. I plan to work when I get back, on Thursday. Then the rest of my spring break will be full of work.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Concentration Secrets (ii)

You don't really need to worry about concentrating per se. As long as you put in the time, you can be as mentally distracted as you *want.* The concentration will eventually just "kick in" after a few days of doing it. I am very distractible by nature, so I know what I am talking about.

Of course, there are ways of removing distractions, like turning off your phone or email while you are working. You can deliberately avoid multi-tasking if that is helpful. What I am saying is that you don't have to worry about the concentration per se. Regularity of working habits is the main remedy, not some internal concentration mojo that must be cultivated on its own terms. In this way concentration is similar to inspiration: neither has to exist before the work happens.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Not Breaking the Chain

I got up at 6:45, drove to St Louis (5 hours), then had a difficult meeting with attorney for two hours. I ate dinner. Then went to see my daughter play in the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra (Mozart, Stravinsky, Debussy, Rimsky-Korsokov), from 8-10 p.m. I got back to a place I could actually write around 11:15 in the night. It would have been the easiest thing in the world to break my Seinfeld chain today, on day 41. But I decided to open my document and give it a try. So the chain is still alive. I actually came up with an idea crucial to my project, something I had overlooked until now.

Fortuitously, I got an email from a Spanish friend wanting me to translate a poem by Valente about Lorca. I had forgotten about this poem, but I realized I should incorporate it into my chapter on Valente and Lorca (duh). So I copied it into that document and wrote some notes about metonymy and synecdoche in this poem.

In other words, there are few good excuses for not writing every day. I actually had resigned myself to breaking the chain today, but I didn't. (Or maybe I'm just a freak.)


DESDE Granada subimos hasta Víznar. Vagamos por el borde sombrío del barranco. —¿Dónde?, decíamos. Era el otoño. Los hermanos, las viudas, los hijos de los muertos venían con grandes ramos. Entraban en el bosque y los depositaban en algún lugar, inciertos, tanteantes. ¿En dónde había sucedido? —Lo mataron a él, decía la mujer, pero aquí también mataron a otros muchos, a tantos, a esos que ahora nadie ya recuerda. —Él ya no es él, le dije. Es el nombre que toma la memoria, no extinguible, de todos.

(Víznar, 1988)

From Granada we climbed to Viznar. We wandered by the somber edge of the ravine. --Where?, we asked. It was Autumn. Brothers, widows, children of the dead were arriving with large bouquets. They would enter the woods and deposit them somewhere, unsure of themselves, hesitating. Where had it happened? --They killed him, the woman said, but here they also killed many others, so many, those no longer remembered by anyone. --He is no longer himself, I told her. He is the name taken by the memory, inextinguishable, of all of them.

(Víznar, 1988)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Second Language

Thomas's blog has been especially brilliant in the past few weeks. I've been reading it with great interest but haven't had the time to process everything he has written or respond to it. But I encourage you to go over there and read what he has to say.

A Lot to Say

Someone I met recently asked my why I was writing two more books on Lorca. I said that I had a lot more to say about him. Even without doing more actual research, per se, I have a lot of ideas. When you have been reading, teaching, writing about a poet, for three decades you tend to have more to say, not less. I only decided to become a full-fledged lorquista in 2006. Before that, I taught his works, and did a little research in the 90s that didn't turn into very much, a few conference papers, some rejected articles. I had always taught Lorca's theater in introductory classes, and his poetry in a variety of settings.

I actually think I could write a fourth book on Lorca. I don't know what that book is yet, but I am sure it will emerge into my view once I write these two more.

***

You never say everything you know, anyway. What you publish should be the tip of the iceberg, supported by a deeper understanding that isn't going to be fully articulated. Then your work will have more depth to it. What you write will be a selection of your best ideas, presented in the best possible form.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

When You Aren't Doing So Well

So when I have not been doing well in the past... Oftentimes I haven't been taking care of myself, haven't been exercising, for example. Since I am happiest when I am also productive (and vice-versa), in my less good times I have allowed myself not to work as hard. It seems like an indulgence, but it is really like a deprivation. I've found it hard to deal with spare time, empty time. I have not reached out to people to help me through the difficulties. I've always been professionally successful, but in less good times I have dwelt on the few things in which I was not successful. My flaws seemed magnified. I was anxious, depressed.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Doing Well

I'm in pretty good shape now. I have been working out at the gym, meditating, getting massages. I even went to a yoga class over the weekend. I have a good psychotherapist. I rode my bike to school today.

My work is going well. I am writing every day and am being nominated for honors and awards. My colleagues respect me. I have the best conceivable job in the world: teaching Spanish literature. They pay me for this? You've got to be fucking kidding me. That 's like Norm, from the old "Cheers' sitcom, being paid to taste beer all day.

I am financially secure with no debts. I can recite Shakespeare and Lorca from memory at great length in order to impress women. I am charming, witty, and good-looking. I am at the height of my intellectual powers, in the prime of my life.

I come from a very loving and nurturing family, full of brilliant people. I have many friends in the town where I live who hold me in high esteem. Brilliant, wonderful people.

Aside from some personal difficulties that persist, and that I cannot talk about yet in public, I am doing extraordinarily well. Just thought you ought to know that my project for restoring some balance to my life is proceeding very nicely. I feel tremendously grateful to everyone who has been kind to me, and also feel generous to anyone who would like my advice and guidance.

I know that it would be much cooler to be plaintive and self-deprecating, but I just don't feel like that today.

Taking the Pressure off

Another advantage of writing every day is that you can take the pressure off any one writing session. If you write once a week, then that writing session has to be a very good one. You will want to write 2,000 words and make very significant progress. If you are distracted, or if something interrupts you, then, you might have to wait another week.

Writing every day, I find that some days, naturally, are more productive than others, but I don't need to put pressure on myself to make every day count. Instead, I look at those seven days of writing, which will usually add up to a signifiant amount of work.

I don't have to take weekends off from writing, because I don't need to make them intensive days. I can relax and do an hour instead of 2. No pasa nada. Right now, my writing intensive days tend to be Wed, along with Mon. and Fri. if I am not traveling. On those days I get a little more than usual done, but generally I just plug away as best I can.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Everyday Creativity

The concept here is that you will get ideas through the everyday practice of writing. Instead of first getting ideas and then writing them down, you should be thinking about working on your project and getting new ideas in the process. Almost every day I come up with something significant, some idea that helps me along the way and helps me to understand my own project better, along with some minor ideas that simply fall into place in particular sections of the book.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Tanya Gets Tenure

It's official now. Tanya, the author of the Get a Life PhD blog, has been awarded tenure, passing the last step in the process, as I learned from Facebook late last night. No surprise here, since she has recently published three books.

If you want to take advice about getting your writing done, you would do well to listen to people who have actually done it in the face of the obstacles presented by life itself. I have been doing a grueling commute to St Louis to see my family on the weekends, for over 15 years. Tanya has a busy family life with her children. Yet we are among the most productive scholars at KU.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Promotion guidelines

My department has been trying to come up with some less nebulous guidelines for promotion and tenure. This is what I came up with this morning. This only covers the research part of the case, of course.
Typically, a succesful candidate for promotion at either level (Associate Professor, Professor), will have a book (or at a minimum, a book manuscript under consideration by respected outlet), as well as five to eight refereed articles or refereed book chapters. In most cases, a candidate will have other publications as well. Editing a collection of essays, preparing a significant critical edition of a literary work, or publishing a serious book-length translation of a major literary work, will be also be considered as serious contributions to research. Such materials will be considered on a case-by-case basis, as the equivalent of 1-2.5 refereed articles. In such cases, there may be fewer refereed articles in the promotion file.

In contrast, book reviews, encyclopedia articles, interviews, revisions of textbooks, translations of magazine articles or minor works (and other relatively minor publications) cannot compensate for the absence of major publications, even if there is a large quantity of minor publications. In fact, a large quantity of such material on a curriculum vitae could be cause for concern, since outside reviewers could have a negative reaction to such a profile.

The minimum standard for promotion, then, would normally be one book, five refereed articles (or other substantial publications deemed to be equivalent), and some other publications of various types. Candidates, however, should normally attempt to exceed expectations rather than merely meeting them.

In linguistics, where a book is not the “gold standard” for promotion at either level, the core of the promotion case will typically be serious, refereed articles published in prestigious journals, supplemented by other research production appropriate. Normally, a successful candidate would have 8-10 journal articles along with some other publications or instructional materials as appropriate.

For promotion to Associate Professor, a candidate should demonstrate intellectual growth beyond the dissertation and an emerging national reputation. For promotion to Professor, the expectation is a solid national and international reputation. The quantity of publications is not enough to ensure promotion at either level: stated in more holistic terms, the standard is a substantial and recognized contribution to research commensurate with the rank to which the candidate aspires.