Week 1: Savage Minds Writing Group Check-In

So…how did it go? How was the first week of writing? It’s time for our first weekly check-in. Please share your progress, accomplishments, and frustrations in the comment section below. If your first week was great, then fantastic and keep it up for week two. If your first week was somewhat rocky as (ahem) mine was, then work to find the energy and discipline to sink into a regular writing practice. Looking forward to hearing about everyone’s experience this week, and be sure to tune in on Monday for our first Writers’ Workshop guest author–Gina Athena Ulysse!

Carole McGranahan

I am an anthropologist and historian of Tibet, and a professor at the University of Colorado. I conduct research, write, lecture, and teach. At any given time, I am probably working on one of the following projects: Tibet, British empire, and the Pangdatsang family; the CIA as an ethnographic subject; contemporary US empire; the ongoing self-immolations in Tibet; the Chushi Gangdrug resistance army; refugee citizenship in the Tibetan diaspora (Canada, India, Nepal, USA); and, anthropology as theoretical storytelling.

38 thoughts on “Week 1: Savage Minds Writing Group Check-In

  1. I’ll get us started: I had tons of energy and adrenaline to write this week but it was also our second week of classes at my university, so I had lots of other things to occupy my time. I managed to write every day for at least an hour, or work on some aspect of writing such as read through old drafts and notes. All in all, it was a start, and I definitely would not have made myself write every single day if not for the group.

  2. I managed to write for at least one 25-minute block for four days this week (which sometimes meant just one or two sentences) and stuck to my ‘writing-only day’ today. I have just finished the final draft of one of my writing projects – the film review – so feel happy with that. I’m best when I work on one writing project at a time and have found that on days where I simply don’t have the time to write I nevertheless think about what I’ve done and where I might go next. I definitely think developing a daily writing habit is the way to go!

  3. My goal is to revise some of my past blogs, eventually for publication. This week I’ve been systematically organizing and correcting blog entries – about 1.5 hrs daily – and will continue this process next week.

  4. I wrote more this week then I would have if I hadn’t signed on to this group and I wrote every day (except for one when I was traveling). However I probably never spent more than an hour each time I sat down to write so I definitely aim to spend more time writing each day.

  5. I started mid-week after I discovered the writing group. I have spent a considerable amount of time the past 3 days working on my funding proposal,several hours at a stretch of each day, but that was only possible because the start of the teaching semester is still some weeks away. Overall, I am pleased with what I have accomplished but I still feel like I am binge writing, not the measured daily practice that I am aiming at for this year.

  6. I was able to spend several hours on my chapter every day, which translated into reading notes, going through data and composing a narrative structure. By result, I now have several pages of chapter outline, waiting to be replaced by actually written paragraphs (‘the bones need flesh!’). This strategy seems to work best for me – before I can start writing, I have to have a sense of where the text is going. Which doesn’t mean, though, that initial ideas do not change during the writing process. Rather, my chapters sometimes evolve in unexpected ways. I guess all in all, this week was not a bad start and I hope to continue my optimistic spirit next week.

  7. First, these comments are inspiring and I like reading the positive perspective everyone has no matter how much they were able to commit to and produce. Some is better than none! As for adding my achievements to the list, I provided space to test out a few routines and found one that fit best. Yay, first step! The commitment to the Savage Minds Writing Group worked wonders and I feel quite productive with the fruits of my labour. This next week, I would like to become more structured, setting aside time for planning to utilize my writing time even more.

  8. First I want to give a hearty “WAY TO GO” to everyone who has commented already. I, however, did not have as successful a week. The challenge I face often with my thesis/project is that it involves a lot of public outreach and education and I need to say immediately that I would have it no other way. That is why I call it a challenge and not a problem. Public archaeology is my passion. However, it generally means quite a few meetings and such that are spread out over the week and that puts a dent in writing time. The one day this week that I had carved out as a “writing only” day got sidetracked by a last minute run to a site with possible information that could have been very helpful had it panned out. But we all know how that goes most of the time. However, I DID manage to carve out more outline and detail for that outline along the lines of clarifying my research question and goals so the week wasn’t a total wash.

  9. I did not manage to write anything, as I’m too preoccupied with finding paid (writing) work! To make matters even worse, an opportunity for a different writing job presented itself yesterday. This project may turn into something for which I’ll get paid, so I have to prioritise it over the revision of the journal article that I initially planned to use this writing group for.

    So the good news is that I’ll continue to get inspired and motivated by all of you, I’m just going to focus on a different assignment.

    This assignment entails summarising a project proposal for an ethnography of internet fraud and criminality. However, this won’t take me 9 weeks, so once finished, I determine to concentrate, once again, on my article.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences!

  10. While I didn’t quite meet my stated goal this week, I did work on my writing projects every day (outlining, data management, analysis, some writing). I definitely worked in a more focused fashion, which I do think is directly related to the writing group. Hopefully next week I’ll make more progress in terms of word counts, but I’m generally pleased with what I’ve gotten done. Thanks!

  11. I agree, I’m enjoying reading everyone’s reflections on their past week of writing. Some of us were starting from scratch this week, whereas others already had an ongoing writing schedule (i.e., some of the dissertators among us), but I imagine–hope, really–that as we go on, each week will bring more of a rhythm and regularity to our writing schedules. Once the commitment and expectations are made, then the continuity of writing rather than a start and stop process will take over. At least, that is my plan!

    Also, I want to invite folks to share writing resources or process or the like. If there is something that has been particularly helpful for you, feel free to add it in the comments section of the Anthropologists: Ready, Set, Write! post /2014/01/20/anthropologists-ready-set-write/ in which I listed a bunch of anthropology and general writing resources. Please chime in if you have something to share!

  12. I manage to write every day since Monday, though not as much as I wanted. However I’m actually ahead of schedule with my project. I finished the annual progress report to my graduate program on Monday evening; it was very easy to write, though – just to report on activities. I’m working now on progress report for grant foundation (more like grant + stipend, I think), having already finished the description of activities part. Tuesday was the only day I actually went to the library and worked for over 6 hours – about 4 of them writing. I just wrote some paragraphs since then, and today I worked on more substantial parts of the report. I actually have more note reading and outlining than I thought I did, so I think I won’t be writing again till I finish these activities (does this count as writing?) – which I hope happens till the middle of next week. Too early to call I day (3 PM here), so I’ll just go ahead and go over my notes right now.
    Nice thing, this group, to keep us writing.

  13. Well done, everyone. I must confess that while I have *thought* about writing, the actual act of writing hasn’t emerged. I have organized many piles of notes, papers, and resurrected ‘the outline’. I’m looking forward to next week and the calming of the beginning of the semester frenzy, and to getting into a good groove.

  14. The week was both more and less successful than intended. On Monday I submitted revisions to a “accepted with minor revisions” not on the goal list for the writing challenge, but still something that needed to be done – and the paper was accepted for publication yesterday! Tuesday I finished revisions on a manuscript and sent them out for comments. Wed, maybe 10 minutes of writing on a grant proposal – unexpected life events cut into writing time, and Thursday, an hour on a grant proposal and an hour face to face meeting with a co-author to discuss changes to the Tuesday manuscript. It is still early today, and I am planning on 2 hours of writing (to make up for Wed) this afternoon after advising meetings.

  15. Although I did not have time to do the type of (creative ethnographic) writing I wanted to work on this week, it was an incredibly productive time to catch up on writing projects that had piled up since the holidays. I completed one blog post for Somatosphere.net and just submitted a grant application. Next, I will turn my attention to a conference summary/reflection piece from an event in the fall, as well as a second (invited) piece for a website that seeks to “translate” academic work for mainstream audiences. These have both been in the cooker for a while now, so I am excited to devote significant writing time to cranking them out. I would like drafts (or at least outlines) of both of these by…Tuesday. Then, I plan to revisit Kirin Narayan’s “Alive in the Writing,” which should kick-start my more fund and personal projects. I’d like to send a big thank you to everyone for sharing. This is even more motivating than I’d anticipated and I’m really looking forward to working with you all in the weeks to come!

  16. Gratz to everyone who their writing goals, and positive thoughts going out to everyone who is still getting there. I think I achieved my goals: I got a chapter off to my coauthor, who will write the second half. I didn’t get it off on time (four days late) and I didn’t work on it as much as I wanted but it got done. I seem to have the ability to recognize when I should get things done, and then also the absolute last deadline for getting things in, and then hitting the latter after the former goes by the wayside. I don’t know — maybe having a deadline to miss is part of a healthy process? I also got started on a chapter of my book manuscript: about 800 words yesterday.

  17. Well, like Carole, getting into the swing of a new semester has meant not really getting much writing done. I have however, committed to experimenting with a new writing arrangement: I have a small bedroom which includes a large bed, and presently, little space for anything like a normal sized writing desk. For the last year or two, I have done all my writing on a laptop propped up in bed, at cafes and restaurants, or in a notebook during interstitial moments like waiting for the bus or riding it. I’m currently looking for a small chair that I can use with a makeshift writing surface I’ve designed, in the hopes that I can finally exorcise work-related activities from my bed while still enjoying the productive comfort and privacy of writing alone at home in my room. As I type, I’m at a favourite restaurant haunt, about to finish off a book-review that has been on the back burner for far too long now. My plan is to commit at the very minimum an hour a day to writing, with Tuesday set aside this semester as ‘Writing Day’. I’ll keep you all posted on Re-Occupy Mattress and its consequences, as well as other developments!

  18. So sloooow. Tedium. Reading and re-reading. Tinkering. I wish it would all just flow. Going back to old proposals, trying to find that one sentence that I remember but can’t re-create and that would be *perfect* write here. Ugh! My words are imprisoned somewhere and pulling off the constraints is so hard. Maybe practice makes flow. I hope this week the words start to flow and I stop relying on what I already wrote–and others already edited. Where are my words and ideas? Here kitty kitty kitty…

    But, I did “write” each day!

    Great group, everybody keep it up!

  19. This week was ok. I did get two days of writing in, and made some good progress on the current chapter I am working on. It’s going in a bit of a different direction than I’d thought…but I’m going with it. Looks promising. Sometimes the hard part is know when to let things take shape as you write vs. sticking to your outline. Letting things flow is nice, but if I don’t keep things under control I often end up writing waaaaay too much. So my outlines are like police check points that sort of keep me in line. I hate them, but I need them.

    I lost one writing day when I doggedly tried to track down a quote that I was ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN came from one specific interview. I had the basics of the quote blocked into the paper, but needed the details. I couldn’t find it. I ended up going through all my recordings and notes, only to finally realize that the conversation I was thinking of actually took place with a completely different person!! So much for memory and absolute certainty! Anyway, not a bad start, but I need to kick it into gear because this chapter needs to be done by next Friday.

    Very cool to read about everyone’s progress so far! Good luck to all!

  20. Well, I only decided to join the group yesterday, so I won’t yet claim to have established a daily writing routine. Today, I have been working on some things to sort of prime the pump. My goal for next week is to forgive myself for not having read every piece of literature relating to my thesis, and just write for two hours a day anyway. My stumbling block is definitely low-hanging fruit sort of activities that distract me from from the behemoth that is my thesis. So, a second goal is to say no to picking the low-hanging fruit, or saving the low-hanging fruit until AFTER my daily writing practice. Thanks!

  21. Like several others, I got a bit more side-tracked than I wanted this week with the semester starting up. (I’m teaching a new class this semester, which is very fun but consumes a lot of mental focus!) But I did get in 4 decent writing sessions. Optimistic about next week!
    @Ryan, I am all-too-familiar with that problem! I suspect it would help me to keep a list of things I need to look up and set that aside as a separate task so I don’t let “searching for that thing I know I remember” become such a distraction from writing.

  22. I did some writing each day this week, which I’m pretty happy about since I’ve been away from it for so long. It’s rough getting back into it, and one of those days “writing” consisted of scrawling notes on the back of a magazine for a half hour while waiting for my carpool. Regardless, I’m feeling good about making the time every day, even if it’s done on cocktail napkins!

  23. I finished a draft of an article on my work in Oasis Valley. In reading back through, it still needs some editing before I’m ready to pass it on to others, but, it is a good start. I also started working on a spreadsheet of population data for my chapter on Maya population.

  24. I put in about four hours of writing this week, which feels a lot like a defeat, but it’s better than nothing. The deadline for the article I’m working on is next week, and it’s hard not to get panicky!

  25. This week I was working on revising papers to get them ready for resubmission and focused on that for two days (the days I don’t teach). I hope to finish those this weekend and then move on to more new writing on projects that are half complete next week.

  26. Slow and steady progress towards getting this chapter by February 1st. I’m working on one last section on practices of care and research in the 1970s and hope to switch gears to editing and smoothing the argument by Sunday.

  27. My goal was to write every day and I missed one. But this writing group did help. There was one day where I opened up my document and was feeling tired, foggy-headed, and just did NOT want to work on it. Without the writing group I probably would have said, “Self, you’re not going to get anything done in this foggy-headed state anyway. Just pick it up tomorrow.” Instead I determined to stick with the torture for at least an hour, and the torture gave way to a reasonable work groove, and the hour turned into three. So thank you, writing group! Today I had only a half hour, which, were it not for the writing group, I might have given up on. But instead I opened my draft. And instead of getting nothing done, I got some notes down about logical gaps that need to be filled, so more than nothing. And having done that today will surely make it easier to pick back up tomorrow than it would have been had I skipped a day. I always believed what people said about writing every day, even if it’s just a few notes or a sentence, but this is helping me make myself actually do it even when it doesn’t feel successful in the moment.

  28. Fortunate to have a writing fellowship this semester and to be away from home this week, it was easy for me to find the space and time to write. I spent hours with my “butt in the chair” as my writer friends say. It was much more difficult for me to achieve my goal of writing a minimum of 500 words per day. I spend a great deal of time editing, reading, and thinking while I write, and I hope that in future weeks it will flow more easily. And quickly. But I am glad that I set that minimum because without I certainly would not have reached 2500 (new) words by today.

  29. Its been a hectic week but I did manage to write everyday. Previous to this, I would not scribble, type if nothing substantial came to my mind. This week, I had set an ambitious plan to write 1000 words per day which did not materialise. I did manage to write at least 500 words and notes that could be incorporated in the chapter in progress. I had set myself a deadline of submission on Friday which I faltered. Task for next week: Monday: Submitting chapter 3 and at least completing one section of chapter 4 before next friday

  30. As everyone has said, it’s great to read these: The degrees of success (from signing up for this and thinking about writing to scheduling to doing the scaffolding tasks to writing to words-on-page) are all inspiring to read! Nice to know that I’m not ‘alone’ as I sit down at the computer…

    …which I did each day this week — a big improvement for someone learning how to write with an infant! While there were no ‘chapter words’ on the page, I was able to do a lot of background work that should make writing easier next week — combing through data, reading, outlining, etc. So…a start!

  31. I was hugely invigorated by the deadline and accomplished my goal this week. Lately I have been really struggling with a firm ‘publish’ schedule and being part of this group motivated me with thoughts of all of the other writers and their positive energy. Thanks!

  32. I have many of the same excuses for being irregular as others: the beginning of the new term, the sudden need of my students to figure out what they’re doing for the rest of their lives, my daughter’s applications to college … Can I count all the emails I wrote, explaining to students why and how I wanted them to write, or the long chat I had with one of them in Ecuador yesterday about the process of “entering the field” or, as seems to be the case, finding oneself in the field before having decided to open the door? But there were moments of my own writing — better next week. I have too many balls in the air, and rather than catch the ones on their way down, I seem compelled to throw more up. I detect in myself an non-viable theory of physics (and time).

  33. Awesome reading everyone’s comments. I had a good week. I had promised to write for at least a half hour five days every week. For me, that works well. And every day except today, I ended up writing for 1-2 hours. One day for three. Somehow, knowing that I can quit after 30 mins, gets me out of inertia. So I wrote a very short grant proposal, and put down thoughts regarding two longer term projects. I love hearing everyone’s experiences.

  34. I managed to meet or exceed my writing goal of 10-15 pages for the week… I hit about 18. However, most of that was involved completing a presentation that I had hoped to finish before the week began, so I am coming out a bit behind on my progress on the dissertation. I’m getting into a good rhythm going. Thanks for the structure!

  35. Friday came and went, but I still wanted to share my writing week. Just got through reading everybody’s first week comments and it was very inspiring and reassuring. Amazing what a same boat we are all in, squeezing in writing, taking/going through notes, finding interview quotes, revising, outlining, etc. like a ritual we cannot, should not avoid if we want to accomplish our writing (and then some) goals. And how life otherwise intervenes – like “low hung fruit.” Aaron, I hear you on the writing with an infant – well, 7+ month old for me, how about you, and how goes it?

    When I say “writing” I also mean the other tasks that go with it / lead to it, but the majority has been “butt in seat,” original writing and lots’o’lots of revising. Since January 7th, I’ve been revising my entire dissertation (minus conclusion) for my committee to review for the next step to become an exam copy (or a draft closer). This past Friday, the first check-in of this writing group thus became my deadline to submit what I’ve been working on.

    My key strategy has turned out to be the ritual of maintaining a solid routine, so as to keep the little one, the dog, and mamma writer happy and well. I get my first bout of writing in after daughter goes down for her morning nap, ~45min-1.5hr (before that I give myself time to wake up ~7:30-8am, coffee, social media, feed the dog, etc). After morning nap, we all go out for a walk/exercise, then back for lunch, ~1-1.5hr. After lunch, she plays while mamma writes, ~1-2hrs. Afternoon nap is a good one, sometimes I have ~2.5hrs of writing time.

    After that, dinner and dad’s arrival home from work, take over the day. Once my daughter goes to bed for the night, I will either do something towards my dissertation if I’m feeling anxious / inspired, or I will chill so my mind won’t be worked up when I go to sleep. I need good (enough) sleep while tending to little one in the night so that I have a brain to write with in the morning.

    So that makes, 6 hours on good days, ~3 on average. There were some 1-0 hour days too, but only about 4, I think. I was in beast mode, and looking back, no wonder I opted for a hot bath and a microbrew after I was done instead of one more writing bout to comment here. But I’ve had yesterday and today off, so the desk is not such an onerous place to be.

    This coming week, I wanted to start on my dissertation’s conclusion. I have a big parking lot of ideas and text to work with, so just doing anything toward the final manifestation of actual “writing” will be huge. I do not anticipate such rigorous hours, but now that I’ve set this routine, I plan to stick with it but adjust my writing time to something a little less under-the-wire.

    I’d love to hear more from others not just about the time-management aspect of writing, but how and what they find themselves wrangling with logic / an argument / a vision, and marrying it with the act of writing.

    And someone just woke from her afternoon nap.

    Good luck with the week ahead!

  36. Well, I suffered from a terrible flu last week and it was hard to focus on anything besides getting better. However, I caught up on some reading. Unfortunately, I didn’t get much writing done. I edited some of Chapter 4 of my thesis, but that was pretty much it. Looking forward to a much more progressive Week 2!

  37. Re Tamar’s question: Don’t confuse writing and editing. When you write, just write. Don’t try to edit and correct as you go. That will break the flow of thought and slow you down. When the impulse that drives the writing ends, then it is time to go back and edit. It may be useful though, to let an hour or two, or even a day or two, go by before you edit. That will help you avoid sloppy-sliding over mistakes rendered invisible by the residues of flow.

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