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Help me to plan my research this summer, please?(16 Posts)
I apologise in advance for the length of this post. I've tried to keep it brief.
So my background is:
- I'm in the Humanities
- I have bipolar disorder (it started 10 years ago after DD2 was born). It's had a terrible impact on my functioning at work, and especially my research. For example, in the last REF my submission was reduced to 1 output due to all of the sick leave. Even just a moderate episode can knock a month off my writing time.
- My confidence has taken a big hit because of this. I'm mortified by how bad my CV looks. I've got myself caught up in a cycle of getting stressed over my lack of outputs, struggling to write due to the stress, which triggers an episode, which results in prolonged sick leave....and repeat.
- My Dean is really supportive and hasn't placed any pressure on me, although I think that at some point people are going to get pissed off.
My situation now:
- I have a book to complete & I need to make good progress this summer. I have 50K words written, but none of the chapters are finished. I've been focussing upon getting my ideas down, having a structure to everything etc. I'm happy with what I have got done.
- I think I've got about another 25k-30k words to write.
So my question is: what would a 'normal' person in the Humanities expect to achieve over the summer (in terms of number of words written)?
- My teaching has finished, but I will have all of the usual marking to do over the next month. I will have approx 1.5 days per week to work on research until the end of May. I will be completely free to work on research during June, July, and August.
- I'm really bad at overestimating how much I can do, which makes me stressed, which stops me writing...you get the picture. I need to get out of this cycle and manage the stress more effectively, but I really don't know what's a reasonable target--it would be great hear what other people aim to achieve. And any tips on stress management would be helpful!
Do you have a realistic deadline of when you’d like to finish the book? Is it end of summer?
The deadline was about 2 years ago -- that's no joke -- so I just have to get it done as quickly as I can. As I said, my Dean has been very understanding, but this book needs to be finished as it's been hanging around my neck for far too long.
However, I don't want to put a deadline down if it's unrealistic--I'd rather start with a realistic target for producing (for example) 5 000 words. Then I'll work out a deadline from there.
It would be helpful to hear from those in the Humanities how many words they aim to write each day, or other ways that people plan research and stay on target.
I can write about 1000 rough words a day, if I've already done the data collection and crunching, and need to turn it into an argument. That's on a good day. I can't sustain more than about 3 of those a week.
If I'm revising work I already did, then I can redraft into cleaner copy about 5,000 words a day, assuming I'm not running around looking things up.
But I'm very productive, very efficient, very experienced, and I don't have bipolar disorder to deal with. If you can manage half of that, I'd say you're motoring.
I'd advise you to keep a productivity diary, of how many hours of genuinely productive work you manage per day. Not to beat yourself up with, but to learn your pattern and learn to accept it, and grab the good days when they come (some people have one good day every three or four days. I'm really lucky, I pretty much alternate productive day and faff day. If you only get one good day a fortnight, it will be a slog). On your less productive days, there are all sorts of things you can do fiddling with footnotes and improving the prose, which is not time wasting but not ready creative, and it's important to allow that time for your subconscious to be working out what to do next.
Take proper breaks, go for a walk, don't forget to eat and drink. Try different places to work (in certain frames of mind, I work in a cafe best, or in the library best, or in my office or on a park bench. Do whatever your brain needs).
Many thanks for those suggestions ommmward--that's very helpful. It reminds me that I used to write around 800 words a day, but that no longer happens. It's a good suggestion to spend the crap days working on references etc. That would help me to feel a bit less shit about getting no where. I tend to find that I can't write for longer than 4 hours a day.
I aim for 500 words a day. But maybe you could start at 250 words a day - that’s just one A4 page.
The other tricks are:
Find the best time in your day to write and use it. Don’t feel bad at doing other stuff after you’ve done your 1 or 2 pages.
Turn off the internet. I use the Freedom app and I schedule it so that it just automatically shuts down my browser for 3 hours in the morning
I sometimes find long train journeys get me thinking and reading in really deep productive ways. So I make a point of an archive visit by train every fortnight or so. I do good reading on the 2-3 hour journey there, a days work, and sleep coming home. A good day’s work.
I aim for 500 words a day. But maybe you could start at 250 words a day - that’s just one A4 page.
Yes, this. Setting yourself a small manageable target takes the pressure of. I often find it hard to start writing at all because the task seems overwhelming, but breaking it down into tiny chunks makes it seem doable. Usually, I'll tell myself I'm only going to do one small task - , compile possible 10 sources, read one chapter, write 250 words, or similar - but then once I start I can do far more. It's like that saying about how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
Also, making lists, then ticking off each item as it's completed.
I’d strongly suggest reading the book deep work by cal Newport. I listened on audible. It’s got a lot of important ideas about how to go this kind of work (he calls deep work).
Many thanks for the suggestions. I like having lists and a plan. The problem is that I am always too optimistic about how much I can get done. Beansandrice, 250 words should be achievable.
saskia I will try to follow that suggestion. I've been looking at this as a way to organise my thoughts and break my writing into sections (I'm a sucker for nice stationery) www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07BK7MW33/ref=ox_sc_act_title_2?smid=AVEQDWGZS5G7M&psc=1&tag=mumsnetforu03-21.
One of the problems is that I am juggling writing the book with writing an article (I've been pushed to write this by work--I wouldn't be doing this otherwise), and some impact work that hasn't moved forward for ages.
I know I work best in a coffee shop and I need to start writing before doing anything else. The only snag is I end up spending a small fortune on coffee. I cannot write in my office at work and it's difficult to work at home as DH is a SAHD so there's a lot of distraction and noise once the DD's get home from school.
museumum, thanks for that suggestion--I'll take a look.
I've restarted my yoga practice and some meditation as it does help with stress--I'd got out of the habit with such a busy semester.
I know this sounds a bit obvious but could you get some noise-cancelling headphones and work at home for just an hour at a time. I am also of the 'very little but very often' persuasion, I find I get much more accomplished from 7 x 1 hours (split into 2 x 25 minutes) than one whole day of 7 hours, four of which I feel sleepy for!
I just think if you say I can only write in a coffee shop, it will slow your progress. That's not to say don't aim for the coffee shop- I also find that you get more done when trapped outside with nothing else to do, but I'd try to find that one hour window every day. If you can then do more, great, but it's amazing what one hour, with absolutely no other focus (so no internet, email) can achieve in terms of pushing you on.
50,000 words under the circumstances you describe is impressive, the book is there for the finishing.
I am also writing a book - have about 80k and need to generate about that again or a bit more (very big book!). Make a spreadsheet with a column for your target total each week and make it achievably small so you can satisfyingly beat it. Have another column for your cumulative actual count. Very satisfying and motivating I find! I also have a spreadsheet with totals for each chapter so I can update regularly and see the overall total tick upwards. Also my top tip is to go first thing to a coffee shop that only allows limited internet (eg an hour) and don't turn it on for the first hour. Write for an hour then turn it on to check things / do email etc. Also in the past I've had a slack group with others with us all posting our writing target for each week. Good luck!
Many thanks for the replies springisallaround and kalidasa. I think I need to sit down and spend time deciding how much time I (realistically) need. I'm terrible for being too optimistic. One thing I'm going to try is to have a reward (an extra riding lesson) if I meet my writing target--although I need to get DH on board with the cost of this
The rest is a rant, please feel free to ignore!
Today is my first full day for research in ages & I'm feeling particularly lost as to where to start. I wasn't well over the weekend so decided to try to work from home, even though DD's are off school. DH is a SAHD so I've been able to shut my door, but I've nevertheless struggled to get going. I can't work in a coffee shop right now as I need more books than I can carry. So I may have to force myself to try writing on campus. The issue there is that I end up spending the better part of 2 hours to travel the 10 mile round trip into work. The buses are painfully slow. I hate spending so much time sat on a bus when I don't need to. <<rant over>>
Have you tried using commuting time to think historyrocks? I don't mean just stress about your work but actually think through possible structures of a chapter or what your argument is on some sticky bit. I often have good ideas when swimming or in the shower. Being in a writing phase is not just about the time you're actually writing so some dead time most days could actually be really helpful/creative if you can get in the zone. Doesn't work for everyone I realise!
Sorry one more thought - are you trying to work every day? Ime there's no way you can do creative work like writing every day, days off are as important as days on! Of course you can push through if you're really within a few days of finishing but anything else and you need a proper weekend to be at all effective during the week.