Sunday, May 31, 2009

Getting my head in the game

Tomorrow is the first of June and, according to decree, the day I return to my book manuscript. In practice this probably won't happen until Wednesday--tomorrow I have a vastly overdue book review to write and Tuesday I start teaching my summer class. But the manuscript WILL NOT BE DENIED.

This is the first summer since I moved here that I'll mostly be staying put--weekend trips and time spent chez my gentleman friend excepted. And although I am teaching a summer course, it's just a five-week Shakespeare class, which should require virtually no prep other than grading. I'm hoping, in fact, that teaching two days a week will allow me to structure my time more efficiently than I've sometimes been able to manage when day after untold day of freedom stretches before me.

So I've got a rough schedule for the whole summer; a day-by-day schedule through early July (with the rest of the summer to be filled in as we see how the first part goes); one long-term scholarly relationship in play and already, amazingly, giving me great feedback (speaking of people with their heads in the game); and another friend or two with whom I intend to exchange more limited parcels of work later in the summer.

I'm ready! Except actually also I'm terrified.

In theory I know all the things I need to do--light revision on these chapters, massive revision on those, new work here and there--but although it only seems possible to attack one problem at a time, moving slowly and steadily through the whole, I worry that the logic of the overall project is shifting and I'm going to lose sight of how it fits together and what makes sense. I'm just not sure how to deal with a project this big and this diverse.

Thoughts? Strategies? Hand-holding and soft cooing reassurances? All are welcome.


Dr. Crazy said...

You know, I think in some ways it's different for everybody, but what I did, ultimately, was do the major changes first (new intro, expansion of analyses that were major, etc) and only after I'd done that did I read the whole thing through and go back and do the more minor tweaking. For me, that kept the project cohesive (and in some cases I realized that light revision I thought I needed either wasn't necessary or needed to be more major).

But you can do this! The only way to do it is just to make yourself start. Once it's underway, you'll feel much better. I promise!

medieval woman said...

I coo a soft reassurance in your ear....

And I also share my strategy for tackling the exact same thing this summer:

In a matter of days, I will complete my last and completely new chapter (I've been working on it for a while); then I will spend 2 weeks revising a chapter that will need some heavy work; then 3 weeks on the next chapter requiring heavy work (with a trip to see Medieval Pop worked in there); then 3 weeks to revise the introduction, do some extra writing for that, etc.; then I will spend 2-3 weeks doing an entire ms walk-thru, making sure that everything fits together with the introduction, suturing chapters together, revising the last 2 chapters that don't need much work, etc. Then a week or so on the conclusion, most of which is written. So, early September. This was the schedule writing facist put me on and it's making things seem manageable.

So, it's similar to Dr. Crazy's process - get the big stuff done and write the intro (to be tweaked later), and then do a read-thru to make sure it coheres.

And I second the notion that you can do this! It will be great!

life_of_a_fool said...

I have no useful strategies. I am, however, facing a fairly similar summer, and am also terrified. And that terror has kept me from making more progress up until now, I think. Which adds to my terror. And so on.

Sisyphus said...

You can do it! Rrrawr get pumped up! Go go go go!

Inspiration music!:

Here's hoping that you can attack a book revision the same way I got through dissertating --- just keeping my head down and doing it chunk by chunk.

You can do it! We're rooting for you!

Historiann said...

I found that leaving the ms. alone for a while was actually a productive thing to have done, in that when I returned to it after a long period of neglect, I could be more clinical about deciding what was good and what was tangential and/or just had to go, because it felt like someone else had written the book I was polishing up to send off to the press. (This isn't something I planned--I had just procrastinated a LONG time while dealing with other life issues.) So, returning to work with fresh eyes and a detached feeling may make you too a more ruthless (and therefore a better) editor of your own work.

Other than that, the only thing to do is remember your ABCs (Apply Butt to Chair) and get 'er done.

Doctor Cleveland said...

Manageable chunks every working day. Don't make your daily work plan too ambitious, or you'll demoralize yourself. But you'll be great!

phd me said...

Alas, no helpful suggestions for the big project, since I have no experience with book manuscripts, but I have absolute faith that you can manage this with style and panache.

Without experience, however, I vote for the manageable chunks strategy. I'm so guilty of writing "work on manuscript" on my to-do list and then counting two hours of fiddling with one paragraph as "work" so I try to be more specific in what I need to accomplish with my projects now.

Here's to you and your productive summer!!

Jack said...

Umm, how about the promise of end-of-chunk celebratory beverages?

That’s the best I’ve got as my strategy is apparently to pile everything I want to read and/or revise on the couch next to me (organized literally one pile per project, or in the case of the ms one per chapter). This means I can’t properly use the living room until it’s done and so really just wastes a room in my apartment. But mentally it makes me feel like everything still “fits together.” Maybe you didn’t want feedback from crazy people, though, huh?

Renaissance Girl said...

My diss was written pretty quickly using the one-paragraph-a-day rule. That seemed a manageable chunk, not too daunting, and it allowed me to have a life outside the book. I intend to revisit that rule myself, as we begin the Renewed Commitment to Work life together...

(My confidence conceals the same sentiments as LoaF expresses, above.)

Flavia said...

Thanks, dudes!

So my plan is to:

a) apply butt to chair,
b) work on manageable bits, and
c) take regular breaks to drink (with) Jack.

Oh, and to watch the video Sis linked to over and over again.

Excellent ideas, all.

Clio Bluestocking said...

Yes on a)! A professor -- not even in my field -- once gave me that as the "ABC" plan of writing. I liked it so much that I stole it from her and made a t-shirt out of it!

Anonymous said...

As they say:

Don't get it right; get it written.
Then get it right ... but first you've got to start.

Have reservations about the (c) part of your plan ...

Good Luck!