Sunday, September 21, 2008

Structure or No Structure??

During a symposium I attended this weekend, we were talking about how we worked best. It reminded me of discussions I've previously had in the blogosphere (I especially remember T.E., What Now, Heu Mihi, Hilaire, Squadratomagico, and Sisyphus El Cog being part of it; but there were certainly more!). We were talking about the mechanics of how we worked: which pens and paper we liked, how we organized our thoughts, how we took notes, to outline or not to outline, which new computer programs helped, etc.

But this weekend, the conversation moved toward whether you worked better when you were teaching or not - i.e., did the structure of teaching help you structure your research time as well? This is definitely true of my friend A, who deliberately teaches summer school because 1) it pays well, and 2) she gets tons of work done having the structure added to her day.

I used to think this was true for me as well - until this year. It seems like I got SO MUCH work done this summer - I had no trouble imposing deadlines on myself and I loved just writing and researching at will. Lately, I have to constantly stop whatever bit of research I'd started and do some work on some service-related thing (i.e., curricular reform, blah, blah, blah) or I have to go over my SGGK notes once more for class. These are not hugely time consuming, but there's a lot of them. It's like a dense cloud of buzzing gnats - one is no problem, but a million of them is gross.

We have recently been told that we will get jr fac leave here at the Dream Academy (thanks to my and my friend's proposal, actually) - and I can't wait for that semester the year after next when I can take off and do some great, unimpeded research with a summer tacked on (either to one end or the other).

My remedy for now will be to find a way to dedicate at least one day a week to research and only research. I'll prep my classes early (I've taught them all before anyway), I'll grade, comment on theses, write proposals 'til I'm blue in the face, etc. all in the service of giving me that one day off.

What say you bloggys? Do you find the school year gives you better structure for research or not?


Hilaire said...

I'm afraid the structure thing doesn't work for me. Having lots of other work just gives me excuses, excuses to not work!

squadratomagico said...

I'm a total tunnel-vision writer. I can add tidbits into a ms. here and there while teaching, but to really make progress, I need to be able to write for eight hours a day -- and then I write faaaast. I pretty much wrote my first book in nine months (it's about 350 pages), including tons of revising... but I did nothing else during that time.

Fifi Bluestocking said...

I'm currently also trying to have one day a week for uninterrupted research, although currently it's being taken up with writing a tedious grant application, which is not as much fun as actually writing. I find that not opening my email is key - I check it at the end of the day and set aside half an hour or so then to deal with anything urgent. Anyway, good luck with this project!

Contemporary Troubadour said...

Hi there, Medieval Woman ... I've been reading your blog for a while but haven't ventured to say hello till now. I'm teaching for the first time this semester, and I've definitely found that the structure has made me much more focused! Having students also keeps me from getting unnecessarily mired down in my writing since I have less time to obsess over it. That said, I do try to work my teaching schedule around so that I have less student work to deal with when major deadlines loom for me.

medieval woman said...

Hi, CT - welcome! I'm glad to hear that teaching is offering some structure - here's to a good first semester for you!

Good Enough Woman said...

I have my first sabbatical this semester, and it's been hard to avoid wasting time. Now that the kids are in school and the husband is back to teaching, perhaps I can get focused. But it's so easy to get up from the desk and feel the need to tidy up, do some laundry, or check e-mail and blogs. Still, those distractions are not as consuming as committee meetings, campus politics, and grading.

sexy said...