It’s Summer Writes time again.

Ah, summer. We work hard on teaching and service from September to May, putting off research and writing projects until that magical season when we’ll have time to drill through a stack of pleasure reading, work out every day, cook through our weekly share of CSA vegetables, go down the shore, visit a baker’s dozen archives, and somehow still have time to write from morning to night (on days with sixteen hours of daylight, no less!), churning out numerous journal articles, chapters, and book proposals. Then late July hits, and we realize we slept for half of June, read part of three books, and spent the better part of July recovering from an ill-conceived adventure with tequila shots on Independence Day. Then we spend all of August being paralyzed by a) shame at having accomplished so little and b) dreading the fall semester. By Labor Day, we’re seriously considering faking our own deaths and starting a new life raising alpacas in the lower Andes just to avoid running into our advisers.

Or maybe that’s just me. I suspect it’s not. Let’s stop the insanity, y’all!

You know what would help? An ONLINE WRITING GROUP. So we’re doing one! And not one just for historians or just for academics, but for anyone plugging away at a research or writing project. We officially kick off a week from today, on Monday, May 27th. Between now and then, leave a comment on this post to introcuce yourself, tell us your overall goals for the summer, and what you’re going to do during the first week. Before the beginning of the following week (i.e. between Friday and Sunday), I’ll put up a new post. In the comments, let everyone know how you did, and what you want to accomplish the following week. Repeat 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 only works 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 going to read some books or articles? Spend a day in archives? Look for grants and fellowships? 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.

And that’s it! Simple, right? At the end of twelve weeks, you’ll have accomplished more than you would otherwise, and you’ll have a record of all the work you did during the summer!

Now let’s get it started like it’s 2004 and the Black Eyed Peas aren’t yet obnoxious! Leave a comment on this post telling us a little bit about yourself, your goals for the summer, and your goals for this week. Here we go!

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About droyles

Historian of the recent American past.
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12 Responses to It’s Summer Writes time again.

  1. droyles says:

    Hi, I’m Dan, and I run this. I’m working on finishing up my dissertation on African American AIDS activism in the history department at Temple, and I’m also a dissertation fellow at the Center for Historical Research at The Ohio State University. I’m also working on an oral history project with African American AIDS activists.

    My goals for the summer are necessarily ambitious: revise three dissertation chapters, and write one remaining chapter and the conclusion. The end is in sight, yet so far away. I also need to write a book proposal for the edited collection I’m planning to do based on my oral history project, and I’m teaching a class at OSU. To get all of this done, I’m going to have to be super diligent, and stick to the timeline I’ve laid out to get all of this done. That timeline calls for me to have the first chapter revision done by May 31st, the end of our first week, so that’s my big goal for the week. As for my daily goals, Monday through Saturday, I’m going to do four pomodoros on chapter revisions (moving to chapter two once I finish my chapter one revision and send it off), two on research and outlining for my unwritten chapter, and two on course planning and prep for my class that begins June 11th. That adds up to four hours of work a day, which doesn’t sound like much, but I don’t want to jump into a hectic summer work schedule too quickly, so eight pomodoros a day it is. Sunday is going to be my day off, because I do think it’s really important to plan some time to recharge. Knowing how my work process usually goes, my big challenge is to stick to the pomodoro timer and not let my breaks stretch out to be even longer than my work periods. During week two I’m going to be leaving for a digital humanities conference in Canada, so I really need to stay on top of things this first week so that I don’t end up having to write my entire syllabus while I’m in Victoria.

  2. brennainphilly says:

    Hi, I’m Brenna and I’m also working on my dissertation out of Temple’s History department. My dissertation is a cultural biography of Philadelphia merchant-turned-banker Stephen Girard (those of you who live in Philly know of Girard Avenue… yeah, that guy), which traces his family life and business practices to refine an understanding of capitalism in the early American Republic. Thankfully, I do not need to finish the dissertation this summer, but I do need to make some serious progress in both research and writing.

    My goals for the entire summer include finishing solid drafts of chapters 2 and 3, finishing archival research for chapter 4, a couple short pieces of writing (book review/encyclopedia), and, since I hope to go on the job market in the fall, a couple of application documents, i.e. Teaching Philosophy. I’m also a terrible procrastinator when I take breaks, so I’m kickstarting my writing this week with a Writing Retreat out of Temple’s Writing Center. My goal, therefore, is to have chapter 2 done and submitted to my advisor by May 31st. If I’m lucky, I’ll also finish drafts of the book review and encyclopedia article in these next two weeks too, but they’re less important than the chapter. Thanks to the Retreat, I’m being held accountable for writing time between 8:30am and 1:30pm every weekday this week. I’m not a pomodoro person, but find that setting aside the time strictly for writing works for me. Next week will be a little more difficult because the Writing Center opens and I’m working the summer session. Hopefully, Temple’s summer students won’t be as enthusiastic about their writing so I can continue to participate in the Retreat and be productive while at work. What I’m really concerned about is when I’m on my own, so I’m hoping that our friendly group will keep me on a similar schedule for the rest of the summer.

  3. Hello. I am Ryan E. Sometime ago, not long after the Pleistocene ended, I completed a Ph.D. in history at Temple University. Since then I have been lucky enough to travel the galaxy teaching at various institutions including Haverford College, The College of Wooster, and Central Michigan University. I just finished a one-year position in environmental studies at Macalester College (http://www.macalester.edu/) where I teach some of the best students ever. I will move to the history department for the next two years.

    I am currently working on an article titled: “Cultivating the Atomic Food System: American Farmers, Food Processors, and the Transformation of Civil Defense, 1957-1965.” This project examines how the USDA, the Office of Civil Defense, and the FDA placed food production (versus simply stocking “grandma’s pantry”) at the heart of civil defense planning during the late Eisenhower era and through Kennedy’s short presidency. What is interesting thus far, but not all that surprising, is the primacy of free market solutions to building a post-atomic attack food system. What I am starting to see is that there is little doubt that the America’s modern food economy was cultivated in part under civil defense. I am not sure where I am going from there!

    So I have read a bunch of primary sources and know the relevant secondary literature. I feel ready to write something.

    My goal is to crank out two pages per week, which would lead to a first draft by the first week of August.

    Thanks for setting this up Dan!

  4. carlygoodman says:

    Hi everybody. I am Carly Goodman, and I am writing my dissertation on the American diversity visa lottery and its implementation in West Africa. I am just finishing up a semester of field work in Ghana, and my head is kind of spinning. I have a conference paper to write to give on Friday. (Goal #1, I guess.) I will be in the air on Monday May 27 on my way home, so I will probably miss next week’s check-in. However, by the following Monday, June 3, I would like to come back to this space and state with some specificity and clarity my goals for the summer, as you all have begun to do here. I need to regroup upon getting home, and will probably have a lot of transcribing to do, and some figuring out what the heck I have been doing for the past few months. I also have some things I have been eagerly looking forward to getting back to America to do, like cooking fresh food, exercising, and painting – all these have been necessarily neglected in this sweltering developing-world country (and before this crazy semester, the crazy half-year preceding it, with comps, prospectus, and serious family problems), and so I am going to build them into my summer schedule. I feel like Angela Chase, getting my hair dyed red in preparation for my life to start happening.

    Finally, I object to the idea that there was a time when the Black Eyed Peas were not obnoxious.

  5. droyles says:

    Carly, I’m here to make all your dreams come true–the writing group doesn’t actually start until Monday, so go ahead and set some goals for next week. Maybe set aside some time each day to work on transcription? Block off all of Tuesday to rest and recharge? Schedule some solid vinho verde time?

  6. I’m Melanie, heading toward my fifth year at Temple and diving into the dissertation (finally). I am beginning research on the history of Cook County Jail, bastion of the localized carceral state, 1968- whenever. I am not changing my dissertation topic for a fourth time, so this is it.

    My goals for the first half of the summer are research oriented- I would like to do a bulk of my newspaper research (<3 ❤ ❤ proquest historical newspapers) before I go on a research trip to Chicago in late June. Since I'm not doing much else, working all day is not really a problem.

    For the second half of the summer, while I'm teaching my summer class on American women's history (if it runs), I'd like to start working on an article / dissertation chapter on Winston Moore, the nation's first black jail warden. I would like to write an article about a man while teaching a women's history class, yes, I said that. I aspire to complete a draft, even a very rough one, by the end of the summer. I would also like to come up with some chapter outlines at some point. If my class doesn't run, I'll probably take another trip to Chicago.

    As far as breaks go, I will be going to Vermont in July and to Seattle in August a week each, and I intend not to work at all. Otherwise, I will take days off as needed, but at present, I am rolling with a pretty vigorous and foolproof "wake up and work until I can't anymore" schedule. We'll see how that works out.

    To stretch the other side of my brain, I've started reading 'Infinite Jest.'

  7. Holger Loewendorf says:

    A long, very long time ago, I vaguely remember starting the program with Ryan (picture head bowed in shame). I’m here because it is apparent that I’m not that good at the third R of dissertating. Research and reading are not a problem (and actually enjoyable), but the ritin’ is slow and painful. It also doesn’t help to choose a dissertation topic in year six and then devise a multiarchival project based on discourse analysis and far too much conceptual background noise in two languages. However, this summer is the first time in a long time without teaching, so the plan is to complete two chapters (both drafted way back when) and draft/write/submit a third chapter. This will hopefully create that mystical force my adviser Dr. Immerman calls “momentum” and propel me towards completion by the end of spring.

    One final note to Carly: I learned and refined my English through hip-hop in the early to mid 90s. The Black-Eyed Peas were a legitimate alternative to all that post-Tupac noise coming from the west coast. Their first two albums were good, but then the weasel went pop.

  8. Matthew Johnson says:

    Hello everyone. I’m Matt Johnson, and I just finished a two-year postdoc. Like Holger, I find ‘ritin painful sometimes, so I’m leaving for Maui on Tuesday to dull the pain. My plan this summer is to write a new opening chapter for my book on the history of affirmative action at the University of Michigan, revise an article, and plan a move to Lubbock, Texas. I just returned from a research trip, so my goal for next week is to organize some of that research on the plane.

  9. Megan Welsh says:

    Hi everyone!

    I’m Megan. Wow, you are all doing such interesting projects! I’m excited to bear witness to your progress (and hopefully mine, too) throughout the summer.

    I’m entering my fifth year in the criminal justice doctoral program at the CUNY Graduate Center/John Jay College. I recently completed fieldwork for my dissertation, which is an institutional ethnography of the public service bureaucracies that women coming home from prison have to navigate. I have grand plans for the summer: draft the first three chapters of my dissertation (intro, literature review, and methodology), make substantial progress with analyzing my data (mountains of field notes, assorted texts, and 50 in-depth interviews), and submit a publication-ready paper for a grad student competition by September 15th. Since I want this paper to grow out of my analysis, and probably be a chapter of the dissertation, I suppose that means I want to write four chapters in total. In three months. I may be aiming high here, but I’m up for the challenge, and time is of the essence because I anticipate the fall being shot with a heavy teaching load and other obligations.

    My main goal for this coming week is to map out a daily writing schedule that I can consistently stick with. My other goals are to draft detailed chapter outlines and to refamiliarize myself with the qualitative data analysis software I’ll be using.

    Onward and upward!

    Oh, and I don’t have strong feelings about the Black-Eyed Peas, but I will say that Fergie’s solo career was (is?) a total disaster.

  10. Sarah Robey says:

    Hi, all. I’m Sarah and I just finished my 4th year at Temple. I am in the very early research phase of my dissertation which examines changing ideas of citizenship and nationalism in response to the threat of nuclear war in the 1950s. It’s a big project with a national scope and it’s high time I dive into the archives.

    I have cleared out my summer schedule to travel and process. My list of trips is ambitious: NARA next week; at least a week at the Truman and Eisenhower Libraries sometime in July; a few days in Madison at UW and the Wisconsin Historical Society in August; a day or two at Yale; and maybe a trip to the Bay Area if I can squeeze it in. And also day trips to Princeton, the Presbyterian Historical Society, and Swarthmore’s Peace Collection. Planes, trains, and automobiles, y’all.

    I have spent most of May a little (lot) paralyzed by how much I have in front of me, so this week I have been trying to think of each trip as a series of manageable work categories: planning (scheduling travel/transportation), prep (contacting archivists, reviewing finding aids), physical time in the archive, and processing once I’m back home. I have gotten out of the Pomodoro habit, so I hope to revive that as a way to break up the work even further. Other projects include keeping my desk clean, updating a syllabus for a fall class, avoiding library fines, figuring out how to organize my digital files, and updating my progress on this blog, all of which totally count toward Pomodoros.

    My summer goal is to get as many of these research trips done before school starts again in the fall. My specific goals will be changing from week to week, but in general I hope to get in at least 8 Pomodoros of work in on weekdays.

    True to form, I’ve already missed the first deadline (wah-waaah). Hopefully you all won’t mind if I join up late!

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