Friday, August 20, 2010

The middle ground of writing

In the spirit of positivity and John Steinbeck, I'm going to start the morning not with a warm-up letter to my editor but with a warm-up post.

It's that time at the beginning of the semester when no matter what you are writing, there's a voice in your head screaming "Must stop now! Must work on syllabus!" If you're working on a syllabus, it screams "Must stop now! Must get writing done lest Boice descend and strike you dead!"

But there's a middle ground for all this: manuscript reviews for journals or presses, book reviews, letters, colleagues' proposals, and so on. For those, there's a clear path: You read the materials. You bring your critical judgment to bear. You write it up in a helpful manner. You send it. You move on.

You feel better because it is a professional task and you did it. Somehow, you can tackle the other stuff again. And also--here is the big advantage--you get to cross an item off your list, a sweet reward in itself.

I have more of these to do, of course, and plan to get at them in a minute. But every one I complete is a step, and I'm envisioning this process as being like those cartoons where a character stands stock still, then takes a halting step or two, and then is off and running.


Ink said...

You are so right about that Syllabus Voice. Ack!!!!!!

Musey_Me said...

I am definitely experiencing syllabus voice right now! And, I totally agree about that middle ground stuff. It gets done - it makes you feel good etc. But, I always wonder whether I take it on because of that (e.g., should I be saying NO more so that I have more time to deal with the Writing Voice and Syllabus Voice?)

Nicole said...

I'm with you. What I've been trying to do is (Boice) work on the soon to be due handbook chapter draft in the morning and the syllabus in the afternoon when I'm dead... 'cuz the syllabus HAS to get done. I'm happily ignoring my other research obligations at this time lalala I can't hear them.

I think I'm done with one of the syllabi (the multiple section core I "get" to teach every year), but the other one (the elective) is causing me trouble... despite moaning and bellyaching that the class wasn't offered last year, only four students are signed up for it this year, which makes it difficult to do debates and other interactive activities (if it makes!), which means a total overhaul which makes me depressed. Unless a handful of students suddenly sign up for it at the last minute. But the other syllabus is so polished I can't procrastinate on it anymore.


Nicole said...

Forgot to add-- I'm totally getting that referree report out today. Yay small accomplishments.

undine said...

Ink, I wish I could silence it!

undine said...

Musey, that's a problem. The standard advice is to turn some down, but I'm usually flattered to be asked and say "yes," although I turn down some things that are far from my areas of interest.

Nicole, I like that morning/afternoon divide. That's frustrating about the number of students, because it's hard to run a course with just four.