Summer Writes: Week 5


Old Bulgarian alphabet, a precursor to the modern Cyrillic alphabet. Read more here. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)
Old Bulgarian alphabet, a precursor to the modern Cyrillic alphabet. Read more here. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

I’m going to keep it short and sweet this week. But as we head into Week 5, think about what you need to do between now and the end to meet your goals. Maybe it would help to set some intermediate deadlines building to your overall goals? Similarly, if you’re not making progress on one part of your project, think about breaking it down into smaller, more manageable chunks, and work those into your weekly goals. And happy writing!

Weekly Goals:


To do this week: It is really down to the wire for when things need to be in to my advisor and then the committee for the defense. I am trying to stay calm.

1) Empirical Chapter 3 revision. Still take out any remaining points that sound causal, replacing it with associational language, add elective affinity, and keep going with the reordering. Also spend some time doing within-type contrasts and adding whatever I can say about gender to the within-type generalizations.

2) Empirical Chapter 2 revision based ideas about varied roles of state, non-profit cooptation, and state withdrawal I set up in the intro, visions of citizenship in the intro, and table from the chapter before. Needs more within-type contrasts; talk about how there is the most contestation in one type in particular.

4) As time permits, work on conclusion more.

5) Remain calm overall; I can’t get upset about any difficult feedback now; hopefully committee members will understand 3 full weeks in advance isn’t possible.


This week I’m going to be in the archives at Chicago, so writing may be a challenge. My idea is to do a 50-minute pom in the morning before I go to the library and one in the evening, M-F. This week I’d also like to finish the section I’m working on, which is the final substantive section of the chapter/article. I’m setting a deadline for finishing revisions to this thing by July 4th, so I can send it to some trusted readers for feedback, and move on to other projects.

Chez: – complete revisions on dissertation that came out of the defense
– complete formatting of full dissertation
– start planning possible articles coming out of the dissertation, based on committee members’ feedback

Meg: Now the focus needs to be on turning around this R & R and finalizing my research statement for job applications before I start mapping out a second chapter.The word count goal worked well for me last week, but won’t work so well for these types of activities, so I am going to try the 50-minute poms that are working for others, aiming to do between 4 and 6 each day.

Melanie: I am going to do additional research for my very rough chapter 1, and start filling my outline for chapter 2 in with research I’ve done so far so I can get a better sense of the gaps. Hitting the archives every day and doing a little writing every day, as I am finding I have too much research momentum at this point to take full days off to write.


Summer Writes: Week 1


Welcome to the beginning of the third installment of Summer Writes! I’ve listed our goals for both the summer and the week below. At the end of the week (Friday, Saturday, or Sunday—whatever constitutes the end of the writing week for you) come back and update us on your progress in a comment to this post, and let us know your goals for week 2. I’ll collect those into another post for week 2, and so it goes until mid-August. Remember that specific and manageable goals tend to work best for keeping momentum and morale up!

Roberta mentioned using SelfControl to block out distracting websites. I frequently use the Pomodoro Method (and specifically and app called Focus Time) to help myself stay on task, and recently I began using Evernote to implement the Getting Things Done method. Are there any other tools you’ve found useful for writing or organizing your work? Let us know in the comments!

And if you’re on the fence about joining us, go ahead and leave your goals in the comments as well. It’s never too late to join. And, as always, happy writing!


Steph: Revisions for manuscript due by August 29th. This requires some more reading as well as cutting/adding. My goal is to work on 10 pages a day of cutting/revising.

Dylan: Picking up a semi-dormant research thread–that means interviews and archives for a few weeks, then 2-3 hours per day of writing. My goal: an article-length piece I’m not ashamed of by the end of August.

Meg: For the week: Oh, and next week’s goal: return to data analysis and start mapping out chapter 1. Writing schedule: MWThFSa 9am to 2pm.

For the summer: 1) Two chapters of the dissertation by July 31. They can be sloppy, and I’m not starting from scratch on either of them.
2) Finalize job application materials for ye olde job market.


My goal for the summer is to have a full draft (minus intro and conclusion) of the guts of the dissertation no matter how messy. I have moving parts of the work but not in any coherent narrative so while not from scratch, it is a major undertaking. While I will post specific goals for each week, I have an overall plan of writing M-F from 7:30am-11:30am using a modified Pomodoro method of 4-50 minute sessions with 5 minute breaks in between. I will use the SelfControl App during those hours to avoid the temptation of surfing the web or going down rabbit holes. Those hours are WRITING and not other tasks like mini research session or entering/tagging sources into Zotero. That work will happen each afternoon in preparation for the following day.

My goal for the first week is to make one final research trip to DC for 5 days to read, scan materials I was unable to get to last summer. The writing sessions begin on May 27th.


Two main goals for the summer: turn one of my dissertation chapters into an article and submit for publication, and get a formal proposal for the edited collection based on my oral history project. Monday of this week I’m not setting a writing goal because I have other things to do, but the rest of the week I’m setting a goals of eight poms Tuesday through Friday. Specifics to do this week:

– read through the relevant chapter for holes and revisions
– go back through my notes in Scrivener on this chapters to see what I planned to do with it post-defense
– condense the two separate book proposals I have into a single document

Nicole: Get dissertation submitted to  committee by mid June. The defense is in early July. There are a lot of things that need to happen first to get it in shape and vetted by my advisor (some is, some isn’t yet).
This week I need to:
1) Get co-authored paper in for conference Monday, so all the last minute stuff has to happen tomorrow. Joint decisions, transitions, spell check, reference check, formatting check, etc. If this can be done by 2 pm, that would be great. (Then I need to a make plan to turn paper into short talk with coauthors so this does not eat up too much time now.)
2) Get as far as possible revising diss empirical chapter 2, by filling in info on the cases, now that I have restructured the argument and lit review.
3) Do the methods chapter– this will not be that bad but has been delayed. It is mostly fusing together existing writing.
4) Expect critical feedback to get back to me about empirical chapter 3. Hopefully it will not be dire. I have to avoid being discouraged by this.

Melanie: My goals for the summer are to turn in the first half of my dissertation (meaning I will revise two chapters, and write another) and to finish the research as best I can during my two month stay in Chicago (which, writing-wise, I think will mean rounding out summer with a pretty good outline of the latter half of the project). While in Chicago, I’m shooting to spend some part of MTThF doing archive work, and making sure that Wednesdays are a writing and processing day so I don’t get burnt out and overwhelmed. I am also working on a conference paper for early June and beginning collaboration for turning it into a co-authored piece but I am keeping my writing goals pretty focused on the dissertation.

Chez: I’m defending my dissertation next month, so I’m pretty narrowly focused on that, as well as a collaborative conference paper. Goals for this week (likely spilling into next week):
1) Major revisions to my introduction and literature review. Currently, it is very rough, so this is a big task that requires reading, synthesizing, and writing.
2) Write conclusion
3) Format dissertation in line with Graduate School requirements (due June 1st)
4) Complete conference paper (today!)
5) Work on conference powerpoint/presentation
Schedule: Today is devoted to the conference paper. Tuesday is filled with non-work things I’ve been putting off. Wednesday-Friday work 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Announcing Summer Writes III


April may be the cruelest month, but May comes in with the full vengeance of end-of-semester deadlines. However, after all of the grades are turned in, reports filed, and end-of-year events attended, summer begins. Of course, that doesn’t mean we get a break: summer is the time when many of us try to move forward on the projects we put off throughout the rest of the year. How to best make use of that time? How about a writing group? A week from today, on May 19th, we’re kicking off the third edition of Summer Writes!

Here’s how it works: we each decide what we want to accomplish during the summer, and set weekly goals to help us get there. Each week, we report our goals to the group, and a week later tell everyone how we did, along with our new goals for the new week. Along the way, we might spice things up with some Twitter workblasts or other virtual boot camp-y things, but that’s totally up to the group. And that’s it!

So if you want to join us, between now and the 19th, leave a comment on this post to introduce yourself, tell us your overall goals for the summer, and what you’re going to do during the first week. On Monday, I’ll put up a post with all of our weekly goals. As the week comes to a close, come back and let everyone know how you did, and what you want to accomplish the following week. We’ll repeat that for the following eleven weeks. The point of the group is to keep ourselves accountable to incremental tasks building to our larger goals, so it works best if we post every week.

When you’re setting your goals, be specific and realistic. Instead of saying, “I’m going to write every day,” let us know how long or how much you’re going to write, on which days. Are you going to write two hours each day? Four pages a day? Five pomodoros? Are you shooting for a #graftonline? Keeping Historiann‘s cloister-like schedule? Are you going to read some books or articles? Spend a day in archives? Look for grants and fellowships? Write a journal article in twelve weeks? Let us know! The more specific you are with your goals, the more you’re likely to get done. And instead of planning to write a trilogy of monographs in twelve weeks, set goals that are challenging but attainable. They don’t even need to be writing goals! Maybe you want to finish up all of the research for your dissertation. Maybe you want to launch a website based on your project. We are here to affirm your choices! Just make sure that your goals are realistic, or you’re likely to get disappointed and burn out.

So if you want to avoid having a major OH SH!T moment around August, come join us! We’ll help you stay on track.

Spring Writes: Week 12


Here we are, at the end of the first Spring Writes! I hope everyone found the experience to be at least somewhat useful. If you haven’t added your goals for our last week yet, do so in the comments! And next week we’ll have one last post for any final thoughts before we take a break. Summer Writes will start up in May, so watch this space for updates!

Weekly Goals:

Nicole: Move on to the next thing this week too (probably methods and intro). Defense is still being scheduled but it could be pretty soon so I need to wrap up/ do intro, conclusion and methods chapters that are outlined.

Meg: This week’s goal is to make big headway on a book chapter that is due May 31st on ethnographic fieldwork and prisoner reentry activism. (I must set aside the other stuff as my advisor won’t be able to weigh in on that until next week at the earliest). So far I have a detailed outline of this chapter. Mini-goals for this week:
Monday (today): finish drafting one section (how I entered into the research setting) and re-read a few key articles that will spur my thinking about the other sections.
Wednesday: read through analyses of my field notes and start mapping out my data sections.
Friday: start piecing together a brief lit review on others’ approaches to fieldwork on reentry, institutional barriers to reentry, etc.

Dan: Tuesday I’m going to come home and do eight poms from 3 to 730, and then do eight poms each Wednesday through Saturday, working 1 to 530.

Spring Writes: Week 11

Your writing destiny: fulfilled.
Your writing destiny: fulfilled.

We’re in the home stretch, Spring Writers! This is the week to buckle down to meet your writing goals for the twelve weeks, so set your goals accordingly! And if you’re short on time, think about keeping your writing short, as Danny Heitman recommends in this Opinionator post. (jk-writing succinctly takes a lot of work!)

Weekly Goals:

Meg: I have a deadline of April 28th to finish this paper for a bigger conference. So, I’d like to do that this week. Desired work schedule toward this goal: Monday 11-2pm
Weds. 8am to 1pm
Friday 8am to 1pm
Secondary goal: continue piecing together a book chapter I have due at the end of May. Any time I have left over needs to go toward that.

Nicole: This week’s task is to get the religion chapter into shape from its half-written status; also I need to read about evangelical familialism and at least one other book I don’t want to get too lost in that.

Melanie: Write up outlines.

Dan: Write from 6 to 9:15 (six pomodoros) on Tuesday, 1 to 5:15 (eight pomodoros) on Wednesday, and 1 to 5:15 (eight pomodoros) on Thursday. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, I’ll be in Paris because I’m running the Paris Marathon on Sunday! Those pomodoros will include work on three job applications, a blog post, work on a book proposal, and revisiting a dissertation chapter to turn it into a journal article.

Spring Writes: Week 10

We (set writing goals) flawless(ly).
We (set writing goals) flawless(ly).

Sorry for the tardiness in posting! I entered my thirties on Monday with an awesome head cold, so I’ve been a little out of sorts and playing catch up all week. Next week we’ll be back to our regular schedule, I promise.

In the meantime, check out this time management post from Natalie Houston at ProfHacker. I’ve been interested in the GTD method for a while now, but (ironically) can’t seem to find the time to learn more about it. I’ve been using the pomodoro method for some time now, along with very long and detailed to-do lists, but we all want to be more productive, right? So, any GTD aficionados out there? Whether or not you are, tell us about your approach to time management in the comments!

And now, your weekly goals:

Nicole: My goal for this week is to actually make empirical Ch. 3 of my diss. coherent. I had to redo some of the analysis. I am still trying to make it clear and logically follow the last one better. Also, getting from concepts to measures has to be clearer. Separate goal: do the writing for my joint paper, writing up what we laid out in our meeting.

Meg: My main aim for this week is to firm up some analysis I’ve been working on for what will eventually be a diss. chapter. I’m presenting this analysis at a grad. student conference on Friday. To do this, I want to commit to myself to work on my stuff tomorrow (Monday) from 11am to 3pm, Wednesday from noon to 4pm, and Friday morning before the conference.

Spring Writes: Week 9

Let's celebrate your writing successes at Coney Island.
Let’s celebrate your writing successes at Coney Island.

Week 9 is upon us, which means we’re barreling into the homestretch like so many roller coaster cars! Without further ado, here are your writing goals for the week:

Weekly goals:

Nicole: For the week of Sun 3/16- Sat 3/22: I want to finish or get as far as possible toward finishing chapter 3 on gender. It is partly written and the tables are done but everything needs to be tweaked, reordered, etc. Definitely I don’t need as many examples as I have, and the ones I do have I need to sink deeper into with more detail.

Dan: For this week, two applications to be submitted online and one by snail mail, which I’m trying to get out by Friday to avoid astronomical Interfolio prices. Monday I’m going to squeeze in six poms in the evening, from 5 to 830. I’ll even put it in my iCal as an inducement to stick to that schedule, and I’ll do the same thing Tuesday. All this is so that I don’t leave too much work for myself on the plane, because I find that to be really difficult. I have some things that I want to read for later in the week, so I’ll download those to my iPad for the plane, but I want to avoid writing in the air, if at all possible. Alternately, I may also edit some oral history transcripts on the plane. For Thursday I’ll set a modest goal of four poms throughout the day, because my schedule will be a little hectic, and Friday I don’t plan to do any work, aside from maybe some casual reading. Saturday I plan to do some quality brunching, work (maybe oral history editing) on the train to Philly, and then many poms of eating Santucci’s with some of y’all for my 30th birthday!

Spring Writes: Week 8

Our Lady of Weekly Writing Goals
Our Lady of Weekly Writing Goals

Welcome to Week 8! In honor of this week, here are Kurt Vonnegut’s “8 Rules of Fiction Writing,” taken from Bagombo Snuff Box. Number 1 most likely applies to everyone, whereas number 7 is interesting to read in light of Nicholas Kristof’s recent kerfuffle over the “absence” of public intellectuals. Number 6 may be unworkable for non-fiction writers (although we do all make narrative choices) while number 8 points to the “signposting” that my adviser always urged me to do, because readers can be quite lazy. In any case, check them out, and feel free to share your favorite writing rules, of famous provenance or otherwise.

Weekly goals:

Meg: Devote the 6 hours on the plane each way to “my stuff,” which means continued analysis of my probation and parole interview transcripts, making some sense of the data, consulting the recent lit on the topic, and starting to put together the framework for a dissertation chapter/future pub.

Sarah: 1) make the first round of revisions on Chapter 1 in preparation for a workshop later this month 2) process a mountain of scans from NARA from the last few weeks.

Nicole: This week my next huge goal is to try to finish the gender Chapter (3) which is a lot written out but not completed. That would be a great way to start spring break, considering I’m behind on my timeline of many more chapters!

Dan: 4 poms Tuesday and Thursday, wherever I can get them. Wednesday, 8 poms from 3 to 8, Friday 4 poms from 6 to 8, and Saturday 4 poms from 6 to 8 (I want to also get out for a ride that day, hence the modest goal).

Melanie: Put in some big work days on wednesday and friday to try to wrap up this first draft of chapter 3. and sending out this last fellowship out now, for real, I promise.

Mike: Wednesday: 8 poms on Dissertation Proposal, 4 poms on readings.
Thursday: 4 poms on readings for candidacy exams (prepping for a meeting that day)
Friday: 4 poms on dissertation proposal, 6 poms on Fulbright, 6 poms on reading
Saturday: 8 poms on reading, 4 on diss proposal, 4 on Fulbright (Grading in the evening)
Sunday: Grading students exams, 4 poms on Fulbright, 4 on reading

Spring Writes: Week 7

Sometimes  you have to get away.
Sometimes you have to get away.

This week, in honor of my trip to South Africa (PS—I’m in South Africa, y’all!), we turn to a different Knowles sister, who shot the video for her single “Losing You” in Cape Town. I’m posting the link below, but if you haven’t already seen it/heard the song, what are you even doing with your life?

One link this week: the Hemingway app which, contrary to the name, will not make your writing drunker/misogynistickier. I heard about this through Publication Coach, and I’ve previously featured Helen Sword’s Writer’s Diet, which serves a similar function in taking your writing “from flabby to fit.” Try it out with some of your prose this week, and see how it fares! Seems to me that this could be especially useful in trimming down a job letter or research proposal, since those have been on my mind as of late (i.e. the last eight months). And if you have a favorite web-based writing tool, post it in the comments!

And here are your weekly goals:

Meg: Goal #1: Research report is thisclose to being done. Send it off by 11am Monday.
Goal #2: Catch up on some work stuff I have neglected rest of Monday and Tuesday.
Goal #3: Devote at least from 8am to 1pm Wednesday and Friday on my stuff:
Subgoal A: continue data analysis for a paper that is due at the end of April.
Subgoal B: outline/figure out my angle for a book chapter that is due at the end of May.

Nicole: [re “chunks” of chapter two]: I am trying to get the first one, on State Absence, done today or tomorrow. I want to get the Gender one also out this time next week!!! I am behind on my outline, but it makes sense why, because this thing has so much freaking content (i.e. what are now these three chapters).
Also this coming week: after some volleying back and forth, I am going to get my R and R article back in my hands, update the page numbers on the memo, run it by someone, and hopefully get it back to the journal promptly!!

Dan: My major goal for this week is to enjoy the rest of my time in Cape Town! It’s been really wonderful so far. I do have a job app due Friday, so I’ll take care of that on the plane/on the train/once back in France, since I leave here late Thursday. Depending on how I feel, I may go to Paris on Saturday to film ACT UP Paris’ action for International Women’s Day, so I’m not going to set a work goal for then. Next week I’ll be back on the work horse in a big way, but until then, I’m taking it pretty easy.

Roberta: I will do my OWN, dissertation work four days a week rather than the three I’ve been averaging since joining this group. While 3 days a week is far better than the intermittent returns to the work over the previous 6 months, it isn’t good enough. I am trying to be realistic and realize that the daily goal isn’t working yet so I’m committing to 4 days this week with the determination to continue that after our Spring Break.

Mike: I would like to finish a thorough revision of a grant proposal, use the additional time to organize my notes for candidacy exams and hopefully finish up some loose ends within the readings. So my goal for this week is to complete said grant proposal. Today I’d like to look back over it and determine the areas of revision and plan accordingly. That should require two pomidoros.

Tuesday: 6 poms pn grant proposal and 4 poms on reading.

Wednesday: I’ll have some additional teaching duties that day so my load should be lighter on the reading, but I would like to get 4 poms on candidacy.

Thursday: 8 poms on grant revision. 4 on candidacy exams.

Friday: 4 poms on candidacy and hopefully only 4 or so poms on grant.

And, as promised, Solange:

Spring Writes: Week 6

"Gorl, how much did you write?"
“Gorl, how much did you write?”

Welcome to Week 6, Spring Writers! As we head into this week, it might be a good time to take stock of our goals for the semester, and what we need to do from here until the end to reach them. And remember, it’s okay to revise your goals!

With that in mind, here are your goals for the week:

Sarah: Round up the last few docs for UHA and send in the application; submit a proposal for an international conference in October; one day at NARA; and spend at least a day processing my recent archival research. Maybe if I’m feeling extra motivated, I might outline chapter 2.

Nicole: 1) Chapter 2. It is moving, but has gotten very long, and is overdue. Needs to get finished now.
2) Out of my hands still for the time being, but once I get my R and R article back, I need to get it to one more person and then send it back to the journal.
3) Need to do my own 2 par description of what I’m doing in the collaborative punishment paper, and assemble this with others they’ll send me into 1 doc.

Melanie: My goals are to finish the last of my fellowship apps, really and truly get this panel proposal submitted, and to do some Serious Writing on Monday afternoon and all day on Wednesday.

Dan: I need to take into account that I’ll be traveling Wednesday and Thursday, so I’m not going to set a writing goal for myself those days. For Friday and Saturday, I’m going to get four poms each day.


I will:
– Get my JAB conference paper drafted and turned in
– Send a final grant request
– Register for painting class
– Final CENFAD tasks/emails
– Send comments for writer in diss colloq class/attend

I may:
– Submit one or more cfps that have been hanging around on my list

Meg: Main goal for the week: complete and send off research report to one of my dissertation research partners (hopefully this report will serve as the starting point for one of my empirical chapters). To do this, I need to keep the following schedule:
Monday: Write from 8am to noon
Wednesday: Write from 8am to noon
Friday: Devote all day to finishing it up and sending it off.

Bunny: Post to three threaded discussion questions (initial and response), post three papers, tweak a PowerPoint presentation for a briefing to the commanders on Wednesday, and complete four reports for work!