Summer Scorecard

This is the first summer I’ve had since my very first summer on the tenure track that I haven’t been a WPA. That first summer, I had a faculty research grant that has since been extended to all first-year faculty in order to jump-start their research. I can’t say that I gained specific publications from that first summer’s work, but I learned a lot about structuring a book and how to write a prospectus,both useful skills.

The next three summers were fraught with the busyness of administering a fairly large (100+ sections) composition program. I intended to write, I did write, but there is definitely a reason that our Director of Composition is a 12-month position. “Closing the deal” on the many projects I had was tough to do, with the exception of the anthology, Composing Ourselves, which was needed for the composition program.

This summer was different. I had two semesters of not-being the comp director in order to get up to speed and voila! Projects are finally getting done. This summer’s scorecard: 1 book delivered next week (MCR 2009), 1 book supposedly out in July (I’m a chapter author–didn’t happen), 1 book prospectus sent to fresh publisher (rhet/comp edited collection), 1 web article accepted, 1 print article completed and out next week in MCR 2009; and 1 invited book review posted here on Techsophist. Those are the outcomes.

New projects initiated: A slot in a co-authored book currently under contract; lead editor for MCR 2010 (link to call for submissions); convert rejected multi-authored print article to single-authored web article; reshape discarded girls’ studies article manuscript into modified-web version for a more general (but still college-educated) audience;  upcoming special issue of Computers and Composition Online on Open Source; and certainly not least, rework poetry manuscript to include best of 33 new poems. I’m still disappointed that my poetry manuscript didn’t get revised this time, but think that I can work it in before my next first-book contest deadline of September 30. Except for that, I finished what had to be finished and can now do my course preps for  fall.

Why am I quantifying things like this? In order to help me see, in the dark days that sometimes come, that I did accomplish something. I’m also doing this in order to reflect about how this was done; that way I can refine practices that were effective and toss out ones that failed.

My methodology was simple. I listed my to-dos in chunks and research/teaching/service categories  using Apigo’s Todo for iPhone. My meetings for projects with co-authors and co-editors and other appointments were managed with iCal, which is pushed to my iPhone. That was the easy part. The harder part was following through by getting up at 5:00 or 6:00 AM five to six days a week until things were done. At a couple of points that meant going back to writing to music, and Blip-fm was a big help there. I also gave myself accountability by using Twitter to self-admit writing goals. The support from other academics on Twitter helped beyond measure. So, despite the techy accoutrements, it added up to using a prioritized list, telling others my goals, accepting support/encouragement, and setting a schedule and sticking to it. I don’t know about you, but none of that is new. The hard part, as always, is doing it. Wanting to do it is a tremendous help, and I think the missing ingredient for many brilliant GTD (getting things done) schemes. If you don’t want to do it, you just don’t want to do it and pretty new planners or software won’t change your mind.

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Author of the poetry collection The Tethered Ground and Professor of English at Missouri State University. Contact me for readings or for workshops on writing/publishing and on teaching writing online.

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