Lena Corazon

Flights of Fancy

Tag: dissertation (page 1 of 3)

#ROW80: Momentum, At Last

Happy Sunday, friends! We’re on the verge of a new week (not quite sure how that happened), and I finally feel like I’ve gained the momentum I need to keep rolling with this dissertation. Huzzah!

3 Things I Loved This Week.

1. My family was in celebration mode this weekend, with a combo belated Mother’s Day & 23rd birthday celebration for my little sister. We all went out for afternoon tea at the glorious Rotunda restaurant at Neiman Marcus in San Francisco, and had an awesome time.

2. Even though I’m approaching 30, my inner-five year old still likes to come out and play. I still haven’t managed to get rid of my stuffed animal collection, and yesterday I added a new one to the mix. I initially picked it out as a birthday gift for my boyfriend’s niece, who celebrates her first birthday on May 22nd, but the minute I picked it up I knew I wasn’t going to be able to let it go. #trueconfessions

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3. My dissertation advisor agreed that I should walk in the June commencement ceremony, since I’ll be defending by the end of the summer. I haven’t wanted to make a huge deal about it–after all, I’m not technically *done*, so why bother? But my announcements came in the mail the other day and suddenly it all feels incredibly real. I’m gonna graduate, guys! And even if it *is* sorta symbolic, it’s symbolism that counts.

(Yup, that’s my not-so-secret birth name you see printed there!)

Progress.

I finished Chapter 4, “Origin Stories,” a few days later than I had initially intended. But! It is 36 pages long, and over 11,750 words, so WHOOOO.

At the moment, I’m about one week behind on my writing schedule. It’s not terrible, but cross your fingers I can finish drafting Chapter 5 by Wednesday, May 27th. 

This next chapter, “Transplantations,” explores the complex dynamics that Catholic sisters faced when they arrived in San Francisco during the 1850s. As I wrote in my not-so-official summary:

“Transplantations” is a chapter about a bunch of European nuns who sail to San Francisco in the 1850s, only to find a lot of crime, poverty, and pretty deplorable conditions. But because they were a bunch of badasses, they battled religious and ethnic bigots, built dozens of schools, established their own hospitals, and saved a lot of people from cholera.

I’m really excited to work with this chapter, partly because I get to dig into all that archival data I spent over a year collecting, and partly because I wrote about it in an article I published in the peer-reviewed scholarly journal, U.S. Catholic Historian. Given the audience, the article is pretty heavy on historical description, and less so on sociological analysis, but it will provide an excellent jumping-off point for rewriting. (Shameless self-promotion: if you’d like to read the article, here it is, published, once again, under my Very Official Academic Writing Name.)

-oOo-

And there you have it! I’m a little wiped out from burning the candle at both ends last week (up early each morning to write before work, then to bed super late so I could write after work).  Because I clearly write and think better when I’m rested, this week’s goal is to write till 10 pm, read something fun for 30 minutes or so (that way I hopefully don’t have a repeat of Wednesday’s stabby stabbyness), and then go to bed by 11 pm.

I’m a little behind on answering comments and blog hopping, but I am totally rooting for everyone! Don’t forget to wave a friendly hello to the rest of this week’s ROWers.

ROW80: This is the Chapter That’ll Never End

I tried, you guys. Seriously, I did.

I gave myself a hard deadline of Sunday to wrap up the dissertation chapter I’ve been poking at for the last four months. Then I extended the deadline to late Monday/early Tuesday. But now it’s Wednesday, and the chapter is like 11,000 words long (is that too long? short? I HAVE NO IDEA). and it STILL ISN’T FINISHED.

Like I mentioned earlier on Facebook, I’m feeling stabby and violent and would like to burn this chapter with fire… but California’s in the middle of a drought and something like 12 million trees have already died from lack of water. I don’t want to add to the problem.

So, basically, I hate deadlines right now, because they never seem to be quite realistic enough. And trying to write after a full day of working, or before a full day of working, or somewhere squashed in-between my halfassed attempts at exercising and a full day of working, is SO. DARN. HARD.

*Whew*

That is my tirade for the day. Probably the only positive thing to come out of this is the fact that I have succeeded at writing for at least 45 minutes for the last five days, and sometimes (most of the time) much longer than 45 minutes. So… Huzzah?

For fun, here’s the first two paragraphs of this chapter, which discusses the “origin stories” of the 5 religious orders I’m studying for my dissertation: the Sisters of Mercy, the Presentation Sisters, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, the Sisters of the Holy Family, and the Daughters of Charity. The decision to follow one’s spiritual calling to serve God by serving others placed the founders of all 5 communities in challenging, difficult, and sometimes dangerous positions, but few of them faced the same stakes that Mary Ward, founder of the Institute of Mary, did.

 In 1609, Mary Ward, a highly educated Catholic woman whose family fled England for the European continent, succeeded in establishing the first order of religious women rooted in the Rule of St. Ignatius, the foundation of the famed Jesuit order. Ward was “related by blood or marriage to most of the Catholic aristocracy of England” (Burke-Sullivan 2009:177), many of whom joined her congregation, the Institute of Mary. Together, the community adopted an active life similar to the Jesuits, one that eschewed cloister for an active life of ministry. Ward and her religious sisters worked in education and healthcare, and even disguised themselves as domestic servants in England “to draw back into faith many who had fallen away” (ibid.). But in 1630, Ward was imprisoned by the Church, her order officially suppressed. She “was charged with (but never granted a trial or hearing for) heresy, schism, and rebellion” (pg. 178). Her crime? Stepping outside the tightly prescribed boundaries that existed for women in the seventeenth century and creating a religious institute that went beyond the approved tradition of cloister.

Ward’s example serves as a reminder of the deeply precarious position that women occupied when they sought to transgress the narrow rules that governed women’s lives, both religious and lay. However, she also demonstrates the incredible feats that women could accomplish if they had the faith, resilience, and strength to persevere. Despite her imprisonment and ongoing persecution that she faced for the remainder of her life, she continued to work throughout Europe, founding schools in countries like the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, and Austria, traveling often on foot. When the persecution of Catholics in England ended, she returned, creating free schools for the poor, visiting the imprisoned, and working with the sick.

Mary Ward, and all of the other women in my study, are the ones who keep me going, even when I want to give up on this stupid dissertation. These women–ordinary individuals who managed to do extraordinary things–deserve to have their stories told.

And that’s my Wednesday! I’m going to be relaxing this evening with a cocktail for my weekly happy hour date night, and afterwards I’ll be back on the writing grind. Don’t forget to say hey to everyone else who’s checking in today.

ROW80: It’s Time to Get a PhD

Hey friends! It’s been ages since I’ve participated in a Round of Words in 80 Days, but here I am, in the final push to finish my dissertation and get a PhD, a massive goal that’s been almost 7 years in the making. I’m in major need of accountability, so here I am, ROWers, joining in for the remainder of Round 2.

I’m going to try and keep check-ins simple, so I am more likely to actually do them, so I figure I’ll share 3 things I loved from the week, and the progress I’m making towards my goals.

3 Things I Loved This Week.

1. This song is a little dated (which shows you all how often I pay attention to the radio these days), but my Hot Hula instructor used it for one of our routines, and I’m a little obsessed.

2. I saw THE BOOK OF MORMON a couple of weeks back, and holy heck, I haven’t laughed that hard in a really, really long time. The musical was co-written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone (of South Park fame), and can be a little offensive during certain parts, although I thought the satire was really, really well done. The best part about the whole experience? Getting to take my cocktail into the theatre with these awesome reusable sippy cups!

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3. Now that I’m earning a paycheck that let’s me do a little more than just pay the bills, my boyfriend and I have been trying to do a handful of cool events that we’ve always wanted to attend. This past week, we went to the Conservatory of Flowers‘ Annual Gala, and wow! Talk about an awesome, super fun event, complete with open bar, gourmet food stations, and live music. The Conservatory of Flowers is extra-special for us, because we went there when we first started dating (it’s where he first held my hand!). So yay for being able to get dressed up and do something awesomely fun during the middle of the week!

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All dolled up, and feeling a little like Cinderella.

The Goal.

My goal is simple: I need to finish my dissertation, tentatively titled Sisterhood on the Frontier: Catholic Women Religious in San Francisco, 1850-1925 (yes, it is a sociological study of historical nuns!). To do that, my plan is to write 1 chapter every 2 weeks, through mid-July. Then I have maybe 1 month to revise and overhaul the entire thing, so I can defend and file with the Powers That Be by September 8th. I’m trying to write for at least 45 minutes, 5 days a week.

Progress So Far:

I’m just about finished with chapter 4 of 10, which will hopefully be wrapped up by Sunday night and sent off to my advisor, along with my end-of-year progress report (ugh). Once that’s done, I can embark on Chapter 5 (whoo!).

-oOo-

That’s about all from me! I’m looking forward to brunching with my boyfriend’s family to celebrate Mother’s Day, and then hanging out with my family Sunday evening. Don’t forget to swing by and wave a friendly (and encouraging!) hello to the other ROWers checking in this week.

 

ROW80: Getting Into Gear

Happy Sunday, friends! It’s been a slow start to the weekend for me, as I spent most yesterday bundled up in bed with an unexpected round of chills and sniffles. I’m not sure what it is, but as soon as the weekend rolls around, my body breaks down and all I can do is rest till I feel better. The rest, I’m sure, is necessary, but I can’t help but get irritated about all the plans that get derailed as a result.

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Because of that, today will be my writing day. I’m all set up and ready to go: I’ve got a bagel and one of those fancy new Chestnut Praline lattes from Starbucks (my early verdict: pretty darn tasty), and even better, I’ve got a pitcher of winter sangria chilling the fridge. Right now I intend to use it as a reward for accomplishing everything on today’s to-do list, but there is every possibility that I may cave and start sipping it a little earlier than I intend. 😛

Beyond my weird 24 hour bug, the last few days have been good ones. I actually wrote a non-ROW80 post, a short piece about classical composer Aaron Copland, who would’ve celebrated his 114th birthday on Friday. And yesterday I made the Target run that I’ve been wanting to do for weeks now, and picked up all those small things that are total essentials in my life. Brand new mascara FTW!

Given that I just jumped into the ROW80 ring on Wednesday, I don’t have a ton of progress to report, but I’m proud of my tiny baby steps:

Dissertation

First, a recap on my project, since it’s been a while since I’ve discussed it. My dissertation is a sociological study of the Catholic sisterhoods in the San Francisco Bay Area, between 1850-1925. Women religious during this period established some of the earliest social service institutions (orphanages, hospitals, schools, etc.), and they did it while facing countless challenges–lack of funds, opposition from secular and religious authorities, the sexism that ran rampant in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, among others.

More specifically, I’m looking at these sisterhoods from a sociological/institutional logics perspective, which means I’m interested in questions of organizational identity (how sisters defined themselves, as a group and individually), authority/autonomy (how they asserted themselves within a space that could be intolerant to women in authority), and anything else that may emerge as pertinent.

So right now I’m trying to push forward with my writing, and take a closer look at the data I’ve collected so far. It feels so daunting, but every little bit counts.

For the week to come:

  • Start a list of notable historical moments for each religious order. Here, I’m looking for any conflicts that sisters had with male authorities, both secular and religious; moments when sisters were forced to reevaluate and define their purpose, mission, and goals; and anything else that touches on the questions I mentioned above.
  • Work on a chapter. There’s a section I’ve been trying to write, about the roots and origins of the Catholic orders in my study, looking specifically on the women who founded those orders. I don’t want to spend too long on this, but I do want to get it done so I can send my advisor something in the next month.

Blog

I made my goal of 2 posts for this last week, so yay! Even better, I’ve got a post lined up for tomorrow that I’m super excited about. Hint: there are sloths involved. And I’ve been tinkering with themes and widgets and whatnot. I think I’m pretty pleased with how things are looking around here.

For the week to come:

  • Keep answering comments and making the rounds to visit all of my other friends. It’s so nice to see what everyone is up to!
  • Finish at least one post, to be published either this week or next.

Self-Care

Self-care has been sort of enforced for the last day or so, because I’ve been feeling yucky. But I’ve also done some practical things, like stock up on extra lotion to keep at my boyfriend’s house (no chance of eczema outbreaks because I forgot my lotion at my parents’!), and pick up a couple of magazines so I can relax a little.

For the week to come:

  • Read a novel. I’m 16 books behind in my Goodreads 2014 challenge (50 books or more by the end of the year!), but I think I can catch up. I’ve got a few historical romance collections on my Kindle that I’ve been dying to read, and I also just picked up K.B. Owen‘s latest book in her Concordia Wells Mysteries series, UNSEEMLY AMBITION.
  • Write daily. Setting aside 30 minutes to write each morning has made a really big difference in keeping me centered, so I’m going to try and keep that up this week.
  • Maintain my exercise regime. My mom and I have been taking Hot Hula every Monday, and going to Zumba every Tuesday and Thursday. I’ve been pretty sporadic in my attendance, but I’ve been going regularly for the last few weeks. I am finally seeing a difference in how my clothes fit, which means I feel way more committed to the routine.

-oOo-

So that’s the state of affairs right now! I’m looking forward to starting this week with a little more clarity and serenity than last week. Don’t forget to stop by and see how the rest of the ROW80 gang is doing!

 

ROW80: The Train Has Left The Station

Hey there folks! I missed Sunday’s check-in because I was in the midst of a research trip (SUCH an awesome experience! More about it below), so I figured I’d post something today. Gotta keep working to stay accountable, right?

I know there’s only one more check-in left for this round, but right now I feel like I’m just gaining steam. Last week was a really good one in terms of stoking the creative fires and taking baby steps to integrate self-care into my life. I did a lot of thinking about TELL ME NO LIES, my steampunk murder mystery project, and realized that it’s not nearly as incomplete as I’ve been telling myself, and everyone else, for the last year. My mom and I did two days worth of Zumba classes, which means I’m starting to feel a little more fit and active. And I had the BEST RESEARCH TRIP EVER to the Sisters of the Holy Family’s archives.

The SHF motherhouse is located in Fremont, not too far from Mission San Jose, founded by Spanish missionaries in 1797. While the Sisters originally lived in San Francisco, they moved to Fremont in the late 1950s, and built their motherhouse on the property of Palmdale Estates, a historic property that dates back to the time of the California Gold Rush. The place is absolutely exquisite, and I got the chance to take a walk Sunday afternoon to clear my head before going back into the archives.

 

Motherhouse, Sisters of the Holy Family

Motherhouse, Sisters of the Holy Family

 

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Two of the English Tudor-style manors on the property, built in the early 20th century.

 

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A view of one of the ponds on the property.

I’ll be doing a couple more overnight stays this summer, and I’m really looking forward to it. In a lot of ways, I feel like this research trip (my first archival jaunt in almost a year) is exactly what I needed to get me back on track with my dissertation. Between the stresses of work and life and change and such, I’ve fallen into a real malaise when it comes to writing. It’s the usual–not feeling good enough, doubting every word, depending way too much on the delete key. But this past week I was also reminded of the glories of the zero draft, and how true passion for a topic can produce something that has crazy potential, despite inconsistencies and mistakes and huge gaping plot holes.

So I’m thinking of my dissertation as a zero draft, and reminding myself that there’s no pressure (right now, at least) to make it perfect. And hopefully that’ll help me lock my inner editor away, and liberate the creator in me, and I’ll actually get something done.

Here’s the week’s progress, in a little more detail:

Dissertation

  • Data Collection: Spent Saturday night and Sunday in the archives, read roughly 20 years worth of historical annals, and made some plans for how I want to start coding my data.
  • Dissertation Chapter: I didn’t read the 3 chapters I had planned to, but I managed to do a lot of thinking work. The new goal is to actually use my words this week. More specifically: Write 250 words each day, and GET THIS CHAPTER DONE.

Creative Writing

  • Poetry: I didn’t write anything new, but I did post an old poem in response to a really good prompt. Rereading my other old poetry reminded me that the only way I’ll be inspired to write poetry is to read it, and so I’m trying to add that to my reading repertoire. And I would like to write 2 poems in the next week, at least 1 haiku and maybe (if I’m inspired), something longer.
  • Novel: I’ve got a working outline of Chapter 14 of TMNL, so this week I’m going to finish the chapter. Woot!
  • Reading: I read THE IRON DUKE by Meljean Brooks, and ohhhhh mahhhh gawwwd. So. Friggin’. Hot. So dark and glorious and wonderful and on-the-edge-of-my-seat action, along with scorching love scenes. I think I will start doing book reviews in April, and I can’t wait to write this one. For next week, I’m going to start Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series. I picked up the box set, so that’ll keep me busy for  while.

My main goal for this week: to try a new system where I  complete 1 item on my to-do list in the mornings, and 1-2 on my list in the evenings. The trick is to not overwhelm myself with the fact that OMG I HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING I AM SO BEHIND, which usually results in me reading celebrity gossip columns for hours and hating myself. Self-hate = bad; self-love = good, therefore I am going to aim for fewer gossip columns, and more gettin’ it done.

Whew! That was a lot. How’s the week progressing for everyone? East coasters, has spring reached you yet? I’m dreading the drought that is currently spreading through California, but… ugh, I’m kinda loving the summer-ish weather, especially when it gives me sunsets like this:

The oh-so-glorious Pacific Ocean.

The oh-so-glorious Pacific Ocean.

Don’t forget to wave a friendly hello and cheer on the rest of the ROWers. We’re just about to the end of Round 1!

ROW80: All About Baby Steps

Happy Sunday, folks! It’s evening here in San Francisco, and I am feeling very thankful that I have tomorrow off. I’ve been a little out of sorts the last few weeks, in that odd, uncomfortable, disjointed period that accompanies all transitions. Creating the space to have daily “me” time has been difficult, but I’m taking baby steps to get there! I’ve promised myself that I’m not going to leave the house at all tomorrow, which should give me a chance to work and rest.

I declared my intentions to participate in NaNoWriMo on Wednesday, but I’m not attacking my WIP with nearly the same sort of vigor as I have in years past. The act of writing after being silent for so many weeks is a decidedly strange feeling. Sometimes I feel like I’m watching words form and drop onto the page, and it’s a little crazy to see tiny ideas growing, connecting, deepening, expanding. It almost makes me feel like I am a beginner all over again, but a beginner in the best of ways: able to appreciate the magical alchemy of the creative process, to feel inspired (and, to a certain extent, humbled) by the story being woven out of thin air.

My writing ambitions received a bit of a boost this week with a shipment in the mail from The Goulet Pen Company, an awesome company that sells fountain pens, inks, paper, and tons of other supplies.

My first shipment from Goulet Pens.

My first shipment from Goulet Pens.

I received an Ahab Flex Nib pen by Noodler’s Ink, along with five ink samples as part of their monthly “Inkdrop” subscription. I’ve just filled the pen with my favorite peacock blue ink, and whee! I am going to have fun working through the next set of scenes for THE GILDED CAGE.

Practicing my autograph with my new Ahab flex pen by Noodler's, filled with Pilot Iroshizuku's "Ku-Jaku" ink.

Practicing my autograph with my new Ahab flex pen by Noodler’s, filled with Pilot Iroshizuku’s “Ku-Jaku” ink.

 

With that, here’s how I’ve progressed over the last few days:

DISSERTATION:
I only worked one day this week (Tuesday), but I made a teeny bit of progress on the very-overdue-proposal. More to come tonight, and lots more tomorrow.

CREATIVE WRITING:
Writing happened on two days this week, for the grand total of 2 hours, which technically satisfies my goal. I’d like to transition to writing as close to every day as possible, though, but baby steps, etc. Because I’ve done some writing by hand, I’m not quite sure what my total word count is, but it’s probably somewhere around 2,500. Again: baby steps.

EXERCISE:
My mom and I went for a walk + a bit of jogging twice this week, so yay! This week I’d like to add in a 3rd day of working out on my glider, but we’ll see…

-oOo-

With that, I hope everyone has a wonderful week! So far mine is shaping up to be a quiet one, with Monday’s holiday, though I will be putting in a few extra hours at work to tackle a big project. But as we move closer to Thanksgiving, I have to say that I am so very, very grateful for this community. Be sure to swing by and give a word of encouragement or two to the other ROWers who are checking in this week!

 

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ROW80: Rollin’ Along

Happy Sunday, folks! Time is really flying; I’m not quite sure how we’re in the second half of July, but here we are. My week has been busy with a mix of really fun stuff and some work. The fun stuff included a jazz concert on Sunday, and the world’s most epic 1920s theme party, both held at the Filoli estate about 20 miles south of San Francisco. Filoli is basically California’s answer to Pemberley, and whoa, I definitely felt like Elizabeth Bennet as I wandered around the property. I’ve got a whole post planned about Filoli, but here are a couple of photos, just as a preview.

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The front of Filoli house. If it looks familiar, that’s because it served as the Carrington mansion in the television show, Dynasty.

One of the smaller buildings nestled in Filoli's extensive gardens.

One of the smaller buildings nestled in Filoli’s extensive gardens.

Gorgeous, huh?

If things look a little different around here, it’s not your imagination. I’m experimenting with different designs and themes at the moment, so if you’ve got any feedback, I’d love to hear it.

Anyway, onto this week’s progress!

DAY JOB:
Okay, I haven’t been very successful here at all. I’ve done a little brainstorming about how I want to expand my dissertation proposal, but very little (and by little I mean “none”) actual writing has been done.

To do this week: Buckle down and finish editing the proposal.

WRITING:
I’m way behind on my Camp NaNo goals, to the point where I’m actually starting to think that completing my goal of 15k on SOMEWHERE IN THE WEST is going to be an optional. The story is an exciting one, but TELL ME NO LIES has managed to snag my attention.

I’ve edited 2 chapters for TMNL, and outlined the next 10 chapters, taking me about half-way into Act 2. I’ve drafted most of these scenes, so all I’ve got to do is expand, clean up, and edit. I’m actually really darn excited to dig into these scenes, because the novel is finally taking shape. Whoo-hoo!

To do this week: Edit at least 2 more chapters; maybe write a little something for SOMEWHERE IN THE WEST.

BLOGGING:
This week I managed to add a “real” post, a silly commercial starring Hugh Jackman for Lipton Iced Tea. If you haven’t seen it, you can find it here. As I mentioned above, I’m also working on an overhaul of my blog, starting with a new theme. And as far as blog-hopping goes, I got a chance to visit 10 ROWers this week. Yay!

To do this week: Writing my post about Filoli House, and visiting some non-ROW blogs.

How’s everyone else doing? Any fun summer adventures afoot? Don’t forget to check in with everyone who is ROWing along this round!

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ROW80: Better Late Than Never

ROW80LogocopyHeyyyy! Okay, I’m a couple of weeks late for Round 3 of A Round of Words in 80 Days, but I finally made it. Anyone have a cool drink to share? I need something to keep me cool during these unexpectedly warm summer days. 😛

It’s been a crazy few months, as most of you have been able to tell. But I’m happy to report that I’ve managed to wrangle at least few things in my life into some semblance of order. As far as the dissertation is concerned, I’ve completed almost all of my archival research, and my committee has approved my proposal. I wrote my very first academic journal article (whoo-hoo!) and while it still needs to undergo the review process, I got an early thumbs-up that eases a lot of my anxiety. And as far as my creative writing goes, I’ve finally been able to dig into TELL ME NO LIES, my steampunk romance/murder mystery/thriller that I’ve been trying to finish for two years now.

Things are definitely coming together.

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With that, here’s my list of things to accomplish during Round 3:

WRITING:

  • Complete edits for Act I of TELL ME NO LIES, and create a detailed outline for Act II
  • Participate in July’s Camp NaNoWriMo, and write 15k towards SOMEWHERE IN THE WEST

DAY JOB:

  • Finish archival research
  • Complete dissertation proposal edits
  • Start analyzing all the data that’s already been collected
  • Draft dissertation chapters 1 and 2

BLOGGING:

  • Aim for 1 ROW80 check-in and 1 regular blog post each week
  • Visit and comment on at least 5 blogs each week
  • Brainstorm changes for my blog, to put into action during Round 4

My biggest goal for this round, I think, is to ease back into things without crippling myself with anxiety or fear or any of the other things that have been holding me back this year. I’m feeling a lot more positive and excited about the work I have before, so hopefully that’ll translate into getting lots done!

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ROW80: When Life Attacks

All right, it’s official: this round of ROW80 is definitely the one that isn’t. Kinda like Round 1. And my April CampNaNo attempt. And my PROJECT DISSERTATE OR DIE! attempt.

Don’t get me wrong; I haven’t been completely useless over the last few weeks. Instead, it’s been all about Life Stuff, random accidents, and other nonsense. Case in point:

1. I have been scratched up, tripped, bruised, and almost strangled by killer weeds.

No, seriously. This is a fraction of the years’ worth of weeds that my parents and I pulled up on our hillside over the last week and a half:

IMG_2113This is more or less what the hillside looked like before we started:

IMG_2128This is how things look after over 100 ice plants were planted:

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However, the one good thing that the backyard has yielded are some lovely wild-growing calla lilies, which have made for pretty bouquets in the house:

IMG_2139 The moral of this story: Moving back home means that one gets implicated in all of the home improvement schemes that one’s parents decide to tackle on a whim. Brilliant.

2. I have had ALL the migraines and random accidents.

Really, I feel like… I dunno, the world?… is conspiring against me. My work momentum has been disrupted by days of allergies, days of migraines, days of random nausea, and (my favorite), the tumble down the stairs that I took last Tuesday, resulting in a bruised backside and the inability to sit/stand/walk/move properly. Seriously, it still hurts (wtf?).

Clearly, the only solution for this madness was the purchase of a new stuffed animal.

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3. My weird anxiety and irrational fears are cropping back up again.

Losing momentum is difficult not only because it’s so darn hard to regain it, but because it creates a vacuum in which my anxieties and fears can breed. Getting my work done over the last few weeks has felt like an uphill battle, and while I have a sense that I have had some success (I am slowly adding words to the WIP; the framework of my dissertation is taking shape), it just doesn’t feel like enough.

It’s frustrating, and worrisome, and messes me up so darn badly, because things that should be really simple (sending emails, taking notes on an article, writing this check-in) end up feeling WAAAAAAAY more laborious than they should be. So the cycle deepens and gets worse; my lack of words and productivity continues to weigh me down; the weight of worry makes it even harder to get started; the morass grows.

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So… yeah. My brain is a bit of a muddle at the moment, and getting back on track is proving to be more difficult than I anticipated. But, hey, it’s about taking things one day at a time, right?

I’ve been trying to write for 15-30 minutes each day on the WIP, because if I suspend the internal editor I can crank out roughly 500-700 words in a 15 minute session. And I am slowly dragging this dissertation proposal into shape; it’s just taking way longer than I anticipated as I am trying to learn this whole new area of study (organizational culture, whoo-hoo!) and ugh, there are way too many chapters and articles and such to wrap my brain around.

And don’t get me wrong–I have plenty of lovely things to be very happy and excited about. It’s just that when work + writing feel off-kilter, I feel like everything gets thrown off.

With that said, this week is all about trying, once again, to get back on track. I am going to finish the draft of this dissertation proposal, schedule a date to head to Santa Barbara to meet with my advisor, make all the research appointments I’ve been putting off for weeks, and maybe even take all the poetry fragments and bits of WIP ideas and pull them all together.

How’s everyone else doing? I’m slowly trying to get back into the rhythm of answering comments and blog-hopping, but know that I have been thinking about you all. <3 <3 <3

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ROW80: A Bucketful of Sloths. You’re Welcome.

Happy Sunday, friends! Before I get to my weekly ROW80 check-in, I’ve gotta say: I have the most amazing friends in the universe. Why? Not only are they supportive, caring, and a little crazy, they also fill my inbox with pictures and videos of baby animals and other silliness. Yesterday my Ultimate Best Friend Ever sent me this. Because I love you all, I am sharing it with you.

Be warned. It is epic.

BUCKET OF SLOTHS from Lucy Cooke on Vimeo.

(I rather imagine that this is what #teamsprinty looks like after the end of an intense writing sprint…)

DAY JOB:
Not much to report here. I skipped the archives for a second week in a row so I could recover from the flu. I’ll be back at it on Tuesday, which means my focus will shift back to the dissertation. I’d like to do the following:

  • Sketch out a timeline to have my revised dissertation proposal finished by mid-March.
  • Finish ACROSS GOD’S FRONTIERS.
  • Figure out the best way to start annotating, coding, and organizing my notes from the archive.

WRITING:
I’ve made some progress here, and I think breaking down my writing tasks in last week’s check-in was really helpful. I wrote a few thousand words towards TELL ME NO LIES, spent a few hours brainstorming, and took some time to go through previous drafts to salvage bits and pieces that I’d like to integrate into the final draft. I also wrote a couple thousand words of silly flash fiction pieces starring Pierce. They may end up becoming fodder for a romance novel one day, but for the moment, they’re just a fun exercise. For the week to come, I’d like to:

  • Take my list of settings and locations and continue to flesh out their descriptions.
  • Continue to explore supporting characters, like the Chinese crime lord who made an appearance in my brainstorming session last week (squee!).
  • Jot down any ideas that pop up for my other WIPs, but keep the focus on TMNL, for the moment, at least.

SOCIAL MEDIA:
Okay, people, I wrote three blog posts this week. I know, let’s count ’em: 3. Even better, I made my goal for commenting/sharing blog posts. Success!

Here’s what happened on Flights of Fancy this week:

  • knock-down, drag-’em-out fight between the baby platypus and the baby otter over my brand new Cute As a Sloth Award. There was a poll and everything, which is still open, FYI. Last I checked, the baby otter was winning by a landslide.
  • The Old Ways,” a mid-week poem sparked by Ash Wednesday, which is apparently going to become a new feature on the blog. I say “apparently” because I hadn’t intended to do it, but then my muse was like, “Hey, you should make this a thing,” and I sort of shrugged and said, “Okay”… and that is more than you needed to know about my inner dialogue. 😛
  • My long-promised book review post, with a list of my 5 favorite books (so far) from 2013.

Not only do I have a ton of ideas for future posts boiling around in my head, I actually have drafts written for the upcoming week. Yay!

SELF-CARE:
I’ve been working on being calm and relaxed for the last week, with mixed results. I’m mostly recovered from the flu, in that I am no longer feverish and dying, but I still get tired quickly. The last couple of days have been an exercise in not over-taxing myself.

I am partway through Natalie Goldberg’s WILD MIND, a wonderful book about writing and the writer’s life that I highly recommend. And because it’s Presidents’ Day weekend  here in the US, I am rewatching the HBO miniseries John Adams, based on the biography written by David McCullough. For those of you who like history, I highly recommend it.

-oOo-

So yay! Lots of good things are happening, I am feeling creative, and there are many more good things to come. As a reminder, one of those wonderful things is WANACon, which will be held next weekend. Pop over to WANAMama Kristen Lamb’s blog for more info about the conference and the recently announced PAJAMACON, the bonus 3rd day of the conference. Yes, it really is as epic as it sounds.

Don’t forget to give a shout to the other ROWers this week, and send along belated Valentine’s Day wishes!

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