Tag Archives: Academic Writing

Week Three: Summer 2017 Online Writing Group

It’s week three of the Summer 2017 Online Writing Group and you guys are getting it done. Nice work!

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Image via Giphy

Here are our third week goals.

Week Three Goals:

Anne:

I’m sure that we all know that this is a major asset. The perfect writing area, created:

Anne's Office.jpg

Anne’s newly organized writing space!

Are you asking: is that a active writing stool? Yes. Is that a giant 4G screen with the correct software installed although right now it shows a picture of a boat? Yes. Are those shelves full of writing books? Yes, and some family pictures. I think it’s perfect. The writing notebook is the next project, for when I can’t be in my writing space.

Bev:

This week, I got three chapters from the new textbook revised! Hooray! Also, I began researching agents and turned up two prospects. Sadly, I need to spend some time rethinking my query letter, which I will be doing this week in addition to researching more agents. And doing at least two more chapter notes and lectures.

Cynthia:

This week’s goal is as follows:

Collect research sources to supplement evaluation plan abstract for Library Research Methods course. Begin to collect resources for Law Librarianship annotated bibliography.

Laura:

I started a new story last week, so this week my goal is to keep working on it. I also need to write a couple more blog posts documenting my trip to the Netherlands, so I’m adding that in for this week as well.

Lisa:

Progress report: My trip interfered greatly with my progress this week. I wrote zero pages 🙂 (Yes, but Lisa, you spent quality time observing children in their natural vacation habitat, so you can count that as “research.”)

Next week: I hope to catch up and write five pages.

Mike:

Week Two Progress: Wrote about three more new pages of the book (against my goal of ten). I’m realizing my goals need to be a little more granular than “write x more pages.” I’m not having issues with what to write necessarily — since I’m working from a true story, I have the built-in crutch (if I’m not sure what to write next) to just tell what really happened. What has slowed me down so far is the impulse to focus on the individual scenes I’ve started and making sure they’re compelling. This week, I realized that the narrator’s voice wasn’t quite working. I switched what I’d written from third-person to first, and I realized quickly how easy it is to make a young Lithuanian woman in the 1930’s sound robotic, since the easy impulse is to take out all contractions and idiom from their language. I went back to a few books I love that have interesting narrative voices, whether it’s a non-English speaker or a contemporary of my narrator to make sure I absorbed what they did well. So Long See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell is going to be my constant companion throughout the next few weeks of drafting this out.

Week Three Goals: Complete drafts of two early scenes — one of which I’ve started, and one of which I have yet to start. Also, review some of the research materials I have on the story (a conversation I recorded with my dad a few months ago talking about his mother) as well as an online repository of info about the kind of Swedish ocean liner that brought my grandmother here (since the middle portion of the book will be on-board the ship).

Rachel:

Last week, I was supposed to learn more about the landscape of what’s already out there for my book idea. As I suspected, there are already some books out there around the topic that I’m thinking of, but none from the perspective of someone with my background. So this week I’ll start outlining the book chapters. I am also considering revising my big summer goal, but I think I need a week to think about it, so that will also be on my docket for this week.

Robert:

This week’s goal was 7,000 words. I wrote 6,815, so that’s good enough. My current total is 35,700 words.

Next week the goal is another 7,000 words.

Sarah:

Coming soon…

Ted:

Coming soon…

 

This week’s post is inspired by John Gardner’s book The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers.

In this book, Gardner argues that while “there are techniques — hundreds of them — that, like carpenter’s tricks, can be studied and taught” (8) there are no real rules of literary (non-genre) fiction. Writers must trust that they can tell the good from the bad, and this knowledge will come from two things: 1. practice; and 2. reading a lot. Like, a lot.

I have no doubt that everyone in this group is a good reader. We’re here, aren’t we? We’re here because we love to write and we love to read. But Gardner also talks about the benefits of a higher education for a writer, because it is in a college or university setting where a writer can encounter a literature course in which the professor leads the students through a close reading  of Macbeth, looking at each line, each word, and analyzing how and why Shakespeare made the choices he did, why he didn’t include stage direction, why he made the loss of the Macbeth’s child so subtle when making it clearer could have increased sympathy for Lady Macb. You don’t get that when you’re just reading it yourself.

Out Damn Spot

And why didn’t she just use this soap? I mean, it says there right on the label that it’s just what she needed.

Along with a great reading experience like that, though, might also come something else that Gardner argues is essential to a writer, and that’s the ability “fully understand the other side of one’s argument” (10). Because that same Shakespeare professor, or (more likely) another student in the class might argue that the three witches Macbeth encounters are really time traveling robots. Sure, okay. Let’s get into it.

It’s much more likely that in higher education, however, that you won’t engage in too many arguments about Shakespearean robots (though if you do, please, please give me a call and invite me to the conversation). But you will engage in robust debate about the contemporary relevance of the philosophical questions set forth in The Handmaid’s Tale; about the effectiveness of using multiple first person narrators in Marlon James’s A Brief History of Seven Killings; about whether it is better to use simple syntax (Salinger) or complex syntax (Woolf) for a slowly paced story; whether it’s a grotesque violation of the audience’s trust or a brilliant violation of genre when a writer does not reveal who the killer was at the end of a literary mystery novel (if you want to know who this writer is, let me know; otherwise, no spoilers).

And it is by examining and arguing about these things that will help you understand how other great writers write and how you, as a young writer, can mimic the greats — how you can set forth a philosophical question in a way that will transcend history; how you can frame a story within a story as a way of developing the character of the storyteller; how you can violate genres and expectations.

But because it may not be realistic for all of us to immediately enroll in a college level literature class, your homework this week is to read something and then discuss it with someone else.

I have two text options for you (though of course you can choose your own): one creative and one academic.

The creative text is a short story called “The Swim Team” from Miranda July’s 2007 collection No One Belongs Here More Than You.

No One Belongs Here More Than You

As you read the story, please think specifically about these three things:

  1. What is the story about? Why do you think that?
  2. Why doesn’t July use quotation marks for dialogue? Are there other writers you’re familiar with who use this style? Do you like it or not? Why?
  3. How does July tell the story? Does she use traditional first-person narration? Does she embed stories within stories? Why does she do the things she does? Do you like it or not? Why?

The academic text is a chapter from Michelle Fine’s 1991 book Framing Dropouts: Notes on the Politics of an Urban High School.

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Image via Goodreads

As you read Fine’s chapter, please think specifically about these three things:

  1. How does Fine incorporate creative writing into her work? Is it only in the passages she includes as references, or is it her style as well? Does she reference creative texts differently than she references scholarly texts?
  2. What kind of relationship does Fine seem to have with the subjects of her study? What about her writing makes you feel that way?
  3. What kind of relationship does Fine want to have with her audience? What about her writing makes you feel that way?

Anyone who wants to chat about the text they’ve read can do so in the comments on this post — have at it! What do you think? Why do you say that? And is there anything you can take from these writers and mimic in your own work?

Have a great writing and reading week!

 

Gardner, John. The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers. Vintage Books, 1985.

 

 

Week Two: Summer 2017 Online Writing Group

It’s the second week of the Summer 2017 Online Writing Group!

We have a new member of the group this week: Ted. Ted is a colleague of mine in the English Department at MCC and someone I’ve exchanged work with over the years. He’s an excellent reader and has given me consistent and helpful feedback. He primarily writes poetry, but he can carve out some mean prose. Welcome, Ted!

Here are our second week goals.

Week Two Goals:

Anne:

I did review Save the Cat. I’m going to continue with organizing my writing space, organizing my writing notebook, reading the next Save the Cat book and taking notes, and generally psyching up.

Bev:

Last week I was working from 8 to 5 at a summer science institute for K-8 teachers. It was tons of fun, but the only writing I did was three lectures and a bunch of cut-down lab handouts.

Onward! This week I will make up for last week by finding two agents and sending out query letters. I mean it this time!

Cynthia:

This week, I am working with my group mates in my MLIS course to develop a library evaluation plan, and we are writing the abstract and outline this week.

Laura:

I failed to meet my week one goals; I kind of lollygagged and putzed around all week, getting over my jet-lag (bad excuse), reading a good book (slightly better excuse, but still not good), and watching television (nope, I just went backwards). My goal for week two is to write every day and to find somewhere to submit my new essay. Same as last week.

Lisa:

Coming soon…

Mike:

Week One update: my original goal had been to write 15 pages of the new book. However, I underestimated how long it had been since I’d tried writing from a completely blank screen with no outline, structure, etc. I wound up writing a little over two pages, which I’m happy with as a start. They also provide a clear path to breaking out into two longer opening scenes. I edited a few pages of an old short story (which had not been part of my original plan), and then interrupted that to write an outline and few key lines of a completely new story that came into my head. Someone posted on Twitter over the weekend: “Taking a break from not finishing one story to not finish a completely separate second story,” which for some reason seemed very fitting.

Week Two goal: write a full draft of each of the two scenes I started with from my work this week, ideally, winding up with about 10 total pages from them.

Rachel:

I definitely did not make any headway on my week one goal so consider my week two a copy-paste of week one. 😟 (I have a very similar update for this week: no shame, no shame!)

Robert:

My week one goal was 7,000 words, and I wrote 8,669. For week two: my goal is 7,000 words. Currently the novel is at 27,885 words.

Sarah:

Week Two Goal: I have to finish my week one goal, you take late work right? (YES I DO, SARAH.) So finish my article on STEAM initiatives and start an article I am currently calling “Postmodernism: what the hell is it.”

I am struggling to focus on work with all this sunshine and fun. So I am also starting to read a new Ross King book. Reading, even historical fiction, helps me focus.

Ted:

In an effort to be more pragmatic (odd, uncomfortable feeling) my eight week goals are to be thoroughly re-committed to three separate pieces of fiction, which I’ve begun and re-entered in erratic fashion. I don’t see myself completing any of them necessarily — to find them irresistible would be perfectly fine.

I also want to pull existing poetry into different configurations pf manuscript — again, with a notion of establishing momentum (and discipline).

Well: we shall see.

 

These sound like excellent goals — thanks, writers!

This week I wanted to write briefly about pace, which, as the dictionary defines most appropriately for our context, is “the speed or rate at which something happens, changes, or develops.”

Pace is important for all writing, academic and creative. It should be considered for scenes, chapters, and sections, and it should also be considered for the entirety of a piece, no matter how long. It’s essential to have a pace that matches the kind of story you’re telling, and it’s essential to know how to regulate your pace: how to slow it down when you need to spend more time on character development, and when to speed it up when you’re trying to convey something quick like action, or to summarize rather than detail exposition or main ideas.

Okay, so how do you figure it out? How do you determine if your story — holistically — is moving too quickly or too slowly, if you’re moving past important information without giving your reader enough time to think, or if you’re boring your reader with scenes that feel like they’ve got their feet stuck in puddles of cold syrup? My advice for this: know the scope of the piece you’re writing, and then ask yourself if it’s possible to write a well developed, thorough piece in that amount of time and space (developing your characters, ideas, and themes well enough to heighten conflict, get readers caring about your story, and to reach a believable resolution).

If you’re writing a novel or a series of books, then you’ve pretty much got all the time and space you could ever need. The book I’m reading right now (as part of my procrastination activities last week) is the second in a series and it picks up directly where the first book left off. The writer, Hugo Award-winner N.K. Jemisin, clearly had a big story to tell and an enormous world to describe, but she didn’t want to rush it or overwhelm the reader with a 1,200-page brick, so she gave us a 468-page first book that moved through this new world and all of its characters and plots with a pace allowing the reader time to absorb everything smoothly and evenly (like a really good makeup foundation [yep, I just did that]); and her second book, which is about the same length, is consistently paced to match the first.

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They’re good. Read them. (Image Credit: Amazon)

So if you have a big story, give yourself some room. If you’re trying to tell a big story in a short-story format, considering either narrowing your story to a single scene — something that can feel like a complete story with a conflict-crisis-resolution but that fits into the world of your larger story (J.D. Salinger did this with his Glass family stories; William Faulkner did this with the fifty or so stories he set in his fictional Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi; and I’m sure there are a bunch of other writers [more contemporary, less male, less white…?] who have done and continue to do this as well). If you try to fit too much into too small of a space, your pace will suffer. It will be rushed; your characters will be underdeveloped; your resolution will read as unbelievable, or flat, or both.

Here’s an example from something else I was doing last week instead of writing: watching television. (Are you really surprised? You know me by now. Don’t be surprised.) I started watching the Netflix series Dear White People, which is based on a 2014 film by the same name. When the film came out, I was eager to see it. It sounded clever and timely, and it took place on a college campus, which is a setting I love for stories of all mediums. But I thought that Justin Simien’s debut feature didn’t live up to its potential, and I believe it’s because he was trying to tell too large of a story — the intersections of five (primary) young people navigating contemporary race relations at an Ivy League university — in too short of a time. The movie was rushed and the characters were kind of flat and I didn’t feel connected to them or to the story.

But the series is different, and it’s because Simien, still at the helm, now has space. He’s able to devote thirty-minute episodes to developing the same story from different characters’ points-of-view, giving background and perspective that a single 108-minute film just can’t do. The pace now fits the scope. Success!

Unfortunately, as far as figuring out the actual, technical pace of your story and each scene within that story, the ball is in your court. There is no magic formula, no matter what well-meaning listicles may say. You have to read a lot and ask yourself, “How is this writer giving me exposition? How is she balancing that exposition with action? With character development? With conflict development?” And then, if you like what the writer is doing with pacing, mimic it as best you can. And if you don’t like it, analyze what they’ve done and avoid that at all costs.

And watch t.v. and movies, too, because they’re great for figuring out pacing. If you’re ever confused about a plot point or a character, odds are that the story’s pace is too fast. Fix it, re-write it in your head, and then remember not to make that same mistake.

So your homework is to read and watch t.v. and movies and pay attention to pace. Apply it to your own writing and see how it goes.

Oh, and I guess you should write, too. Yes, please do some writing.

Good luck, all, and see you here next week!

Week One: Summer 2017 Online Writing Group

It’s the first week of the Summer 2017 Online Writing Group and I’m already behind schedule!

So, really, things are working as they usually do.

This is week one of our third summer online writing group (holy cannoli we’ve been doing this for three years!) and as usual, we have a great group of writers. So far (we may have a late addition or two since I neglected to send a reminder email [who’s not surprised? me.]…) they’re all returning members, which means they’re familiar with my shenanigans and are willing to deal with me for another summer! Ha-ha, suckers! (j.k. you’re not suckers; you’re all great and I’m really glad you’re in the group again!)

 

To give you a refresher of how the group will run, please notice that below you’ll see two lists of goals that each participant has submitted:

  1. A list of big picture goals–what everyone hopes to achieve by the end of our eight week session
  2. A list of first week goals–what everyone hopes to achieve by the end of our first week

As we continue on each week, I’ll only include everyone’s weekly goal, but please come back here for a refresher on each writer’s big project goals.

Big Picture Goals:

  • Anne: My goal is to continue with the study of Save the Cat, reading the next book, Save the Cat Goes to the Movies. I also want to make a notebook and a planning board for using that method for planning scripts.
  • BevMy goals for this summer will be modest because we are getting a new edition of the textbook we use for one of my classes. My life this summer will be completely ruined by course revisions, which are going very slowly so far. However, I am going to commit to finding at least one agent and sending out one query letter for my memoir each week.
  • Cynthia: My eight-week goals would be to research and write giant paper about the future of law librarianship giving the increased use of technology in both fields.
  • Laura: My eight-week objectives are to write every day (no word count or page goal, just writing every single day); to submit a short essay I wrote in December out for publication; and to start and finish a new short story.
  • LisaEight-week goal: First few chapters of elementary level chapter book.
  • Mike: I’m pretty sure about my overall goal — write a first draft and then do at least one round of revision on 100 pages of a fictionalized account of how my grandmother came to immigrate to America. (Mike is also taking an online workshop through the Southeast Review and has promised to share any good tidbits he learns!)
  • Rachel: I have a medium-term life dream to write and publish a nonfiction book before I turn 40 (seven years from now). For this summer, my 8-week goal is, broadly, to figure out how to do that, and specifically, the output will be an outline of the book by chapter plus a written draft of the first chapter or introduction.
  • Robert: My goals are to write a thousand words a day. I’ve been doing that for the past few weeks and I’ve written 20,000 words of Love and Numbers.
  • Sarah: Big Picture Objective: I am reworking my Humanities Through the Arts course to run without a textbook in the fall. To make this work I have a lot of writing to do. I have articles to write for topics within the course that I cannot cover with outside sources and lectures to script for some depth of content.

First Week Goals:

  • Anne: Start reading Save the Cat Goes to the Movies.
  • Bev: Finding the first new agent and sending out a query letter.
  • Cynthia: Start giant research paper
  • Laura: Write two new blog posts about my recent trip to the Netherlands, and start the new short story.
  • LisaFirst week goal: Get started! 3 – 5 pages.
  • Mike: Work on the draft and get something useful from the online workshop.
  • Rachel: For week 1: I should probably confirm that the book I want to write hasn’t already been written 🙂 I know of at least one book that is similar to what I want to write. So, I will do a thorough search of what’s already out there and then decide if I should move forward with this particular idea.
  • Robert: One thousand words a day.
  • Sarah: Week 1 Goal: I need to get in the groove of writing one article while editing previous ones. So this week I need to finish a draft of an article on the placement of the humanities in higher education from land-grant colleges to STEAM initiatives in the US, and edit the course outline.

As usual, we have a terrific mix work represented here, which I always love. I’m looking forward to hearing about everyone’s progress over the summer.

To get everyone motivated for the week, here is an interview with writer Susan Sontag from The Paris Review‘s “The Art of Fiction” series. Sontag is an interesting writer for us to consider, given the makeup of writers in our group. She has written about writing, about war, about photography (I saw a couple of her titles as I perused the book shop during a recent visit to the Foam Photography Museum; a little Sontag seed was planted and sprouted for this post!); she has written fiction and non-fiction. Her style is journalistic, personal, and creative.

So read the interview, get a little inspiration, and then write away!

Portrait Of Author Susan Sontag

Susan Sontag: Image Credit The Paris Review

Because this post is so late, I’ll be doing a quick turnaround next Monday. Until then, good writing, everyone!

 

Week One: Summer 2016 Online Writing Group

Welcome to the first week of the Summer 2016 Online Writing Group!

This is week one of our second summer online writing group (you can read about our first summer group here). We’ve got a terrific group of people participating this summer: some veterans of the group, some new participants, some of my MCC colleagues, some former students, some friends, some people I’ve never even met (I’m so excited about this in particular), and…wait for itmy mom! (I’m most excited about this one!) So welcome, everyone, to the group!

Just a heads-up: you’ll notice that I have four women beginning our list (which is organized alphabetically by first name) whose names look/sound/are alike. There is Alena, a former student of mine who just graduated from MCC and will be transferring to a four-year college in the fall to study creative writing; and there is Aliena, a former student of mine who, after leaving MCC, went on to get her bachelor’s degree at the University of Illinois at Springfield, graduated a couple of years ago, and is now planning to go back to graduate school to become an English professor (so, they’re obviously both dream students who are amazing young women and I want to give them one million high fives every second of every day).

Then, there are my Annes. Yes: there are two women named Anne in this group! Anne D. is a former student of mine who is finishing up her bachelor’s degree in creative writing at Columbia College, Chicago (another round of one million high fives!); and Anne H. is my English Department colleague at MCC who is getting back into writing for herself after many years of writing just for work. She’s also a fellow DePaul University MA in Writing alum, so she, too, gets one million high fives from me. I’m going to have a super sore palm from all of these high fives but I DO NOT CARE BECAUSE I LOVE HIGH FIVES FOR WRITING! HIGH FIVES FOR EVERYONE!

Okay, now let’s get into it. Below, you’ll see two lists of goals that each participant has submitted:

  1. A list of big picture goals–what everyone hopes to achieve by the end of our eight week session
  2. A list of first step goals–what everyone hopes to achieve by the end of our first week

As we continue on each week, I’ll only include everyone’s weekly goal, but please come back here for a refresher on each writer’s big project goals.

Big Picture Goals:

  • Alena: My eight-week objective is to write a minimum of 60 pages. They can be from different stories or poems. School and work assignments do not count.
  • Aliena: EIGHT-WEEK GOAL: Begin plot work on weird Americana novel about a doppelganger town; begin work on script for sci-fi podcast (and make a demo first episode, but that’s unrelated to writing, sort of); write something every day, aiming toward a complete scene each day.
  • Anne D.: My big objective is to get something published this summer. I’m looking into various magazines and looking over older work and what will work. By the end of the eight weeks I will have a magazine picked out a solid draft of something to send in and a query letter. The query letter will be later weekly objective.
  • Anne H.: BIG PICTURE: I want to set the habit of writing every day, and, like our fearless leader Laura, I also feel that time or amount is not the key objective, but rather the EVERY DAY piece. (fearless? HA! but thanks, Anne!)
    SIDE BIG PICTURE: I have been working this spring on setting up my writing area, and I need to get that completed so that the space actually tempts me! It already tempts me, actually, but I have a few more steps to make.
    SIDE SIDE BIG PICTURE: I’m also wanting to continue my project from the winter writing session of going through books and magazines I have related to writing, especially fiction and poetry, since I have never done much of that. I’m making my own set of notes from what I read. I want to continue that. I also have gazoodles of podcasts about writing that I have downloaded. I’ve got back to listening to them on a few road trips the past few weeks, so over the summer I will continue with that and occasionally add to my notes.
  • Bev: My long term goal is to finish revising my memoir. I have eight chapters left, which works out to a tidy short term goal of one per week. I also want to write a post on my blog each week, but this is sort of a cheat goal because I do that anyway. (nothing is a “cheat” goal; it all counts, Bev!)
  • Emily: I am not teaching this summer, so I have a lot of writing goals for June and July. I hope joining this group keeps me on task! My big picture objectives are to: 1) draft three questions/week for eight weeks (twenty-four questions) for a book I’m writing called “100 Questions (And Answers) About Research Ethics”; 2) revise and submit a draft of a paper (on breast cancer screening) — I have a good draft but it needs some reworking; and 3) (once I’m done with #2) write a decent first draft of a paper on paying people to participate in research.
  • Katherine: My current project is a memoir that is essentially about the process of grieving a miscarriage. I currently have about eighty-three pages written. My eight-week lofty goal is to have a polished novel-length draft that could be sent of to publishers, agents, or editors. This is not an easy task considering I have a 9-month-old at home.
  • Laura: My eight-week objectives are to write every day (no word count or page goal, just writing every single day); to rework and finish a short story I’ve been working on for a loooooong time; to work on some Bitch Flicks articles; and to start working on the detective novel I got an idea for this past winter.
  • LisaDraft one chapter [of the children’s chapter book I’m working on] per week.
  • Matt: During the Winter Writing Group I completed the rough draft of my book, which consists of several stories and comics that tell a whole story. The first story in the book is both the oldest (at two decades) and the longest (at 150 pages). Now that I have made it to the “end,” I am in a better position to understand the aspects of the first story that properly pay off in the long run, so my main goal centers on that story, which needs the most work. I intend to identify places where this story can be made shorter, sharper, and more entertaining, to find what can be removed or replaced. As the first story in the collection, it needs to pull a reader in more successfully so that they don’t need to slog through two hundred pages before things get rewarding.
  • Ray: My big picture goal for the next eight weeks is to complete the story arc for at least one main character in the third book [Ray recently got a publishing deal for his first two books, so he is continuing with those characters], outline, plot, and written rough draft, for at least one main character. I have found that it is easier to write a whole book if you just focus on one character at a time. It lets me focus on that one character, get into their mindset, their goals, their ambitions and motivations for doing what they do; by thinking of one person at a time, you can write a series of small stories set against the backdrop of the “big” story that you are writing. So, one character complete, start to finish in the next eight weeks, I think that is a reasonable goal.
  • Robert: My 8 week objective: finish first draft of my novel. I currently have 65,000 words and I’d like about 85,000.
  • Rosalie: My goal is to finish the three tours that I am supposed to turn in to the Art Institute by July 15. I’ve already sort of given myself permission to be a few weeks late, but it would be so much better if I could finish on time. That would mean that I would have to create twenty-four lesson plans and three rather extensive tour outlines. So far I’ve done five lesson plans.
  • Sarah: During this eight weeks I have some writing to do for graduate school. I will be writing for the next two weeks on papers for my last two classes. For the following six weeks I will be writing my thesis and scripts for Non-Western Art History lecture videos.

First Step Goals:

  • Alena: My one-week objective is to proofread my novel excerpt for the Art on the Fox reading and to write a minimum of four pages of the short story idea I got from a nightmare.
  • Aliena: ONE-WEEK GOAL: Clear off a writing space in my apartment, acquire notebook for this group, write each day. (I LOVE THAT ALIENA HAS INCLUDED BUYING WRITING MATERIALS AS PART OF HER GOALS AND I’M GOING TO STEAL YOUR IDEA, ALIENA!)
  • Anne D.: This week I started a new job so I will try to get something done, but my goal this week is going to be figuring out a schedule. My computer is on the fritz and I work five days of the week so I need to give myself a week or so to figure out a routine to write with working. 
  • Anne H.: FIRST STEP: I’d like to take a shot at the “Prince” poem during the first week. I’ve almost never tried any poetry, but I have this inspiration from the night Prince died, a poem about being a child of the 80s, growing up from that, and not growing up from that — in my case, mostly not growing up from it — meaning not growing out of it — and how to be okay with that stuck-in-the-80s as a life choice — not stuck at all.
  • Bev: Work on one chapter of my memoir and write a blog post.
  • Emily: My goals for Week 1 include: 1) (not on my big picture goals but needs to get done) writing a post on my recent service trip to Belize for the Dept. of Medical Education blog (Steve [Emily’s husband] and I helped build a house with a group of medical students); 2) write three questions for the book; and 3) read through my breast cancer paper draft and make a plan for finalizing it.
  • Katherine: My Week 1 goal is to write the three topics that are sitting at the end of my draft as a to-do list: still holding on to my sympathy cards; why I don’t feel it’s necessary to name the child we lost (not naming the child doesn’t make my grief any less real or the child any less loved); and feeling like it’s my responsibility to shield others from the grief of a miscarriage.
  • Laura: My week-one objectives are to write our first online writing group blog post, to query BF about an article idea I have, and to read and start to evaluate what needs to be done to my story-in-progress.
  • Lisa: My goal is to write a draft of chapter one of the children’s chapter book I’m working on.
  • Matt: For the first week, I am focusing on one sequence. There is a scene close to the beginning that is not functioning as strongly as it should, and I’ve figured out some ways to make it work better. My goal is to scrape out all the connective tissue between this scene and the rest of the story, and replace it with something that actually matters in a way that its current iteration does not.
  • Ray: My week one goal will be to map out where I want that character to go, and what I want them to do.
  • Robert: My 1st week objective: 1,000 words a day for a total of 7,000 words.
  • Rosalie: My goal for next week is to finish my first tour, which means writing three or four more lesson plans and finish the first tour outline.
  • Sarah: By the end of the first week I will complete a mock grant proposal (four pages) as well as wall text (another four pages) that would accompany a show on American Art from 1800 – 1900.

As you can see, we have a terrific mix of creative and academic work represented here, which I find really exciting. I’m looking forward to hearing about everyone’s progress over the summer.

Since there’s so much good stuff going on in our lists, I didn’t want to give anyone too much more to read; however, I have an article to recommend for all of you writers (and readers) to read and think about: “Why I Taught Myself to Procrastinate,” by Adam Grant, writing for The New York Times.

I’m definitely one to procrastinate, so I was happy to read Grant’s article. I wholeheartedly agree with his thesis — putting off projects for a bit to allow yourself to think, brainstorm, and plan can be tremendously useful in getting the best results — and, were I not sure that my students would use this idea as an excuse for late assignments, I would promote it more in my classes (although making my students go through a quick game of Solitaire immediately after giving them an essay assignment might give them some interesting topic ideas…).

But I’m confident that all of you will understand that it’s often at times we’re not working that our best ideas pop into our heads. I know that I get great ideas when I’m thinking about a work-in-progress while Roo and I are on a walk through the neighborhood, or when I’m driving home from the grocery store, or when I’m washing my hair. So if you’re starting a new project, give yourself a little room to just think. Do something mindless, like watering your plants.

ProcrastinationsAnd be okay with the fact that if you don’t get any writing done, it doesn’t mean you’re not thinking about your project; in fact, giving yourself some space and time to think about different ways of approaching it might mean you’re going to end up with something that’s not only more thoughtful, but also more creative or efficient (or both).

Later this week, we’ll have our first guest post from Bev; and next week, in addition to everyone’s week two goals, we’ll get some new project management tips.

Until then, good writing, everyone!

Pear Carrot