Sciencewomen

InaDWriMo Week 3: And then it all fell apart

i-9dc84d4d9156dccb30d5f62466b4219a-swblocks.jpgHaving worked on my writing every day for the first two weeks of November, I concluded last week feeling rather optimistic about InaDWriMo’s success in getting me to increase my productivity. But I was also very tired. And in order to make time for writing every single day, I was working longer hours (i.e., seeing less of Minnow) and letting lots of other things slide (i.e., my lectures were terrible and let us not even describe the house). What I didn’t realize last Saturday was how close I was to the tipping point…

But by Monday morning I was a stressed out wreck, and then a logistical nightmare (totally my fault for not being on the ball) just pushed me over the edge. I already had a therapy appointment scheduled and I just vented and ranted and cried til my time was up. Then, the rest of the day I walked around with puffy eyes that reminded me of my morning. What I was able to articulate to the therapist is that I knew that my pace of work was unsustainable in the long-run, and I was feeling incredibly trapped because there are all these external deadlines that are independent of each other, but that I would lose professional face if I missed any of them, so the only thing that could give, bend, or contort was me, and that I was just about out of elasticity. What I didn’t articulate then, but I realized later in the day was that my plan of just working as hard as I could and then taking a few days off at Thanksgiving was also an unworkable plan, because as my morning jag had demonstrated I didn’t have the physical or emotional stamina to make it through another week and a half.

So I didn’t. Monday I worked on my teaching. Tuesday I taught and inadvertantly left my USB drive at school so I couldn’t write in the evening. Instead, I emailed my coauthors and told them I was considering asking for an extension from the journal deadline if they couldn’t promise me to turn around their edits on the paper in a very short window. Wednesday I worked briefly on a single figure, and Thursday I did not much more. At the end of the day Thursday, I wrote to the journal and told the editor that I needed another month. I haven’t heard anything back, but its fairly immaterial because it’s no longer possible for me to meet their deadline. By Friday, I was feeling good enough to actually tackle some text again, and I got a couple of hours of work in, but instead of working on the laptop in the evening, I watched a movie that I’ll show in class in a couple of weeks. Now, I am writing this post while Minnow naps. Tonight, I’ll probably try to work an hour or two on the text, but I am going to go to bed at reasonable time. I promise.

I didn’t make much progress this week on the writing of the figures, and my AGU poster is still a figment of my imagination (an increasingly scary one at that). But I did learn some important things: First, the world won’t split in two and swallow you up if you have to ask for an extension to a journal’s deadline. Worst case scenario, you have to submit to a different journal. Second, you can’t push yourself to your limit week after week after week, holding out a vacation as some distant goal. Sometimes, you need to take that break a bit earlier than the calendar might like. Either that, or you have to learn to get your work done at a sustainable pace, but I’m obviously not one to provide advice on that.

Comments

  1. #1 Kim
    November 22, 2008

    I know that setting goals is important for surviving in academia, but I’ve wondered whether the timing of InaDWriMo is good. It isn’t for me – November comes between GSA and final exams, at the end of a semester that has no breaks until Thanksgiving.

    (For me, May would be a better month, because we finish classes at the end of April. Plus the days are pretty long, and I’m generally in a better mood.)

  2. #2 Academic
    November 22, 2008

    Academia can feel like a house of cards at times. It’s a really good observation about not seeing your holidays as sustainers.

  3. #3 Sara
    November 22, 2008

    Sounds to me like you’re doing the right thing – set realistic goals, ask for help, and prioritize. The problem with ‘having no choice’ about doing A,B,C,… is that ultimately under stress the choice becomes ‘perfection/everything’ or ‘nothing’ – where ‘nothing’ is the inevitable nervous breakdown. Better to keep it human and still functional.

  4. #4 soil mama
    November 23, 2008

    hugs.

  5. #5 kiwi
    November 23, 2008

    I have had a hard time learning that sciencewoman does not equal superwoman, at least in my case. And even more, that when I have spent time with the kids, exercised, and feel at my chirpiest I am also generally much more creative and productive. Sadly, its hard to keep that up in the face of professional obligations.

  6. #6 Dr U
    November 23, 2008

    I agree with Kim. As a new lecturer this year I consciously decided to not participate in InaDWriMo, as I knew that there was no way I could possibly physically manage enough writing time for this considering all the teaching and other obligations that had to be met at this particular time in the semester.

    I vote for May or June instead.

  7. #7 Jenn
    November 23, 2008

    ((hugs)) sciencewoman. Take the time you need. If you’re not looking after yourself, things will get worse, not better.

  8. #8 JaneB
    November 23, 2008

    hugs. And welcome to the club. I ‘fell over’ in a similar way a couple of weeks ago and am really mad at myself for getting to this point AGAIN. But… it happens, sadly. Academia takes everything you offer it and yells for more, we have to learn what we can give and not give more, but it’s not easy (or am I just a slow learner??)

  9. #9 jo(e)
    November 23, 2008

    November is a difficult month. It’s when spring semester collides with fall semester, and deadlines appear out of nowhere. Just survival is heroic.

    Hugs ….

  10. #10 Jane
    November 23, 2008

    Hugs to you, sciencewoman! I learned the hard way recently that you *can’t* keep pushing yourself to the breaking point—something does have to give, and it will either be your sanity or your health if you’re not careful. It is so, so hard to say no, especially as a new-ish or untenured faculty member! But you do have to say no, or at least let go of perfection somehow—”ok, I need to get this grant proposal in, so this week my lectures will not be winning me any teaching awards. I need to work late tonight to meet this deadline, so I’ll go to bed early tomorrow.” Easier said than done, I know, but such a crucial skill. Hang in there and do the best you can, but please take care of yourself!!

  11. #11 amanda
    November 24, 2008

    Definitely hugs. I feel insanely busy as a grad student (and I just have a dog to take care of) and I can’t imagine how it would be to be a prof. “…you can’t push yourself to your limit week after week after week, holding out a vacation as some distant goal.” Really hit home for me as I’ve been doing that for the past couple of weeks (despite promising myself not to do that). Take care of yourself.

  12. #12 amanda
    November 24, 2008

    Definitely hugs. I feel insanely busy as a grad student (and I just have a dog to take care of) and I can’t imagine how it would be to be a prof. “…you can’t push yourself to your limit week after week after week, holding out a vacation as some distant goal.” Really hit home for me as I’ve been doing that for the past couple of weeks (despite promising myself not to do that). Take care of yourself.

  13. #13 Writer Chica
    November 24, 2008

    (((bighug))) Good job giving yourself some slack. Take care.

  14. #14 Zuska
    November 25, 2008

    Just wanted to say I’m thinking of you and it’s good that you gave yourself a break. Hugs from me, too.

  15. #15 retired science woman
    November 27, 2008

    Science academia will eat you alive and not care at all. For more than 30 years I worked harder, longer, faster, smarter and was worn out all the time. The toll on one’s health, family, and future is immeasurably bleak. Say “no” and mean it. Work at home a full day a week, if schedule allows, or at least take half days at home every week. Try to fit in a walk or swim instead of lunch at the desk most days. Accept less than the best from yourself. A poor lecture is OK every now and then. A less-than-ideal exam is fine; you already know what your students are likely to earn, unless you have auditorium-size classes. Publications and grants are important of course, but they can kill you sooner or later. The important thing is your time with your child and your own health. Take care of yourself!

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