Saturday, January 20, 2018

My time is (not) your time

A while back, before the endless year of 2017, we were talking about keeping track of time (me and these happy few, this band of sisters on the blogroll) and productivity.  At the time Laura Vanderkam was making a splash by making excellent use of lots of money to hire help to do the work we do for free her "productivity journey" of logging every second of her day.

Gwinne asked in a recent post about how to find "high-energy time" for the work she needs to do.  That seems to me to be more the issue: not how to find time, because you can always get up at 4:30 a.m. or some outlandish thing to go to the gym, but how not to do a faceplant into your desk at 10 a.m. when you do so. Time is finite. Energy is finite. Put them together, as you must to do anything creative, and they seem to diminish in exponential proportions.

I was thinking of this recently because of something to do with an ongoing collaborative project and a document. Said document has been edited ad infinitum and back, but we had added something and needed to do a bit more. My collaborators are lovely, but the part we needed to edit was exacting stuff, requiring energy, logic, creative thought, and all those things I would usually save for writing. Add to this the fact that some in our group don't feel that they've done anything unless they've changed a word for its synonym (i.e., changes that don't make a difference).

So I clocked in and out in my little notebook. Time going over the sections to discuss: 2.75 hours. And then I mentioned it in my response, phrasing it positively as reminding ourselves of the work we're doing collaboratively and its importance.

Asked whether I would go over it again before our conversation, I said that I had the hour before the meeting to look at it. "Will that be enough?" they asked. "It will have to be," I said. "That's all the time I can allot to it."  The meeting went well, and we're still positive about the project.

What difference did it make to keep track of the time? Or to mention it?

It made me feel as though my time was not in a giant vat somewhere that people could dip into and out of as they needed to. I gave them a measure of it and let them know when it was enough. It still cut into my writing--after that, and class, I had no brainpower left--but I felt in control.

Pace Rudy Vallee, it's not so much that my time is or isn't your time (sometimes it is), but realizing that I can keep track and limit it makes a huge difference.

Monday, January 08, 2018

Random bullets of MLA 2018

What was memorable?
  •  New York City! How can you not love going to NY? Maybe it's different if you already live there or near there, but it's an exciting place to be even if you are among the hayseeds (that would be me) rather than the cosmopolitan cognoscenti. Going to a museum and becoming transfixed by a painting. Seeing a Broadway show (yeah, guess which one!). I had been there this summer in the same area and so was less prone to getting lost than usual. Yes, even on a grid system some of us will not know what direction we're walking in until we get to a corner.  
  • The "bomb cyclone," because "snowpocalypse" is so 2016. Yes, it snowed a lot on Thursday, and a lot of people weren't able to get to the conference because of the wind and cancelled flights. If you were there and didn't have to get anywhere, though, it didn't seem so bad--that is, if you're used to snow and cold of 8-10 degrees. There were snowplows, shovels, and enough salt on the sidewalks to bring Carthage to ruins again.
  • The conference hotel(s): Hilton and Sheraton. The hotels seem finally to have gotten the message that we'd rather grab something fast in a deli-like setting than sit down for a meal, and the Hilton had the perfect spot for that. Also: a real fridge rather than the dreaded mini-bar  whose sensors charge you if you move a bottle. This being NY, there were plenty of great restaurants as well as delis and supermarkets.
  • Conference rooms: Decent room temperatures, lots of water to drink, and hotels very close together. Also, the wifi password was in the PMLA program this year, and the wifi worked!
  • Mostly good sessions, with a lot more 4-person panels and roundtables than there used to be. Nobody grandstanding (that I saw) and droning on past their time. No one had to use the Hook. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see the BLM session with Harry Belafonte.
  • Everyone loves to complain about people reading papers. But I went to a panel in one of the new 3-session "working group" formats that was 75 minutes of people randomly chatting about theory.  There were pauses. There were random generalizations. There were lengthy readings from theorists. In its reorganization a few years ago, the MLA killed off several of its standing sessions on authors, periods, etc., and I get why they thought it was a good idea. MLA also wants you not to read papers but to experiment with other presentation modes. But I would have killed for some tightly argued, highly focused papers in this session with a spirited discussion to follow. And this format gets three time slots per convention, proving, I guess, that sessions expand to fill the time available.   It'll be a while before I return to a "working group" session.
  • The MLA is even acknowledging that it's becoming less central to the job market, now with Skype interviews and everything. That's a move in the right direction. 
Wait--I have been doing this for how long? Previous MLA roundups:

Monday, January 01, 2018

Happy New Year! Resolutions 2.0

Random resolutions, updated for what I hope will be a focused year.
  1. If I can't sit still in the morning but have laser-like focus to write from 9-11 p.m.--indeed, I get restless wanting to write at that time--I need to stop fighting it and go with the flow.
  2. Recommit to writing every day, which I lost in the various caretaking activities. All my strategies--Excel record-keeping, 750words, pomodoros--do work until the writing sets me on fire (in a good way), so I need to keep at it.
  3. Continue using my superpowers for good, though they are super in a limited way. "That office told you what? Doesn't sound right to me. Let me make a call to see if something can be done." 
  4. Realize--as in feel it--that I have a great job that I love, and that any one lousy day does not take away from the entirety of the experience. 
  5. Keep going even if something is difficult.  This NYTimes piece says that gratitude, not grit, will help with resolutions and procrastination because you'll feel responsible to others and want to show them your good traits. I'm thinking that's called "guilt over not getting something done" but am certainly going to try.
Tha's all for now. Happy New Year!