Week 2: Savage Minds Writing Group Check-In

Here we are again: Friday! How was your week? Did you sink into a good groove, or did you more write-in-place as is sometimes the case? My writing this week was helped by Gina Athena Ulysse’s post Writing Anthropology and Such, or “Once More, with Feeling.” She gave us so much to think with as well as to feel and to allow without apology. Writing from the gut? Check. Writing without permission from others? Check. Writing with an awareness of the constraints of position and category? Check. Writing anyway? Check!

And she gave us this gem: “Decades ago, I realized that I am not a linear writer, but more of a quilt maker. I am content when I produce chunks. I have also learned to not berate myself if I can’t come up with anything. There are works by certain poets and art books near my desk (or in the moveable studio bag), which I need and reach for when words are not whirling out of my head as I face the screen.  As long as I am present in the space and in conversation with artists or even in silence, I now consider myself writing.” 

Thank you, Gina.

Everyone has a different writing process, a different style, a different voice. And we each might have different processes, styles, and voices across our own varied writing projects. Recognize these, come to know them, learn when to work with and when to push against where you are. This is Week 2 of 10, a good time to take stock of where you are as a writer in addition to taking stock of your writing for this week. Take some time to reflect on it now and then revisit the same questions again at the end of our ten weeks; work toward generating both writing and a fresh sense of your own writing strengths and limits..

For now, let’s all check-in in the comments section below with how our writing went in Week 2. I’m looking forward to hearing about your weeks, and be sure to tune in on Monday for the insights, the generosity, and the guidance of our next guest author, the fabulous cultural anthropologist and multi-genre author Kirin Narayan.

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.

28 thoughts on “Week 2: Savage Minds Writing Group Check-In

  1. My week does not feel as if it was as productive as I wanted it to be, but this is mostly because I am still in the “prepping to write” stage–outlining, finding articles I need to read for certain sections/chapters, brainstorming titles, reading, and otherwise getting ready to write. I know these things are needed before I get to the writing, but I’m ready to be there already. My goal for Week 3 is thus to move from the preparation stage to the writing stage. In addition to thinking more about writing, and making time for it each day, I found myself talking more about writing this week. Good to think out loud about the writing here with you all as well as in person with colleagues, students, and friends.

  2. I just submitted an article (today was the deadline) and it felt like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I was able to spend another ten hours or so on the article this past week, which I hope really improved it. I asked on facebook whether anyone wanted to read it and a few friends were generous enough to give me really good feedback – although it also made me realize that I could have spent another three months making a stronger argument. It’s hard not to feel that one is simply stating the obvious, hard not to panic about one’s abilities to really theorize. But one presses on, hopeful that someone will find value in what we write.

  3. I was able to write everyday which is great but ( like last week) I still really wish I was spending more time each time I sat down to write. Similar to Carole, the big change for me this week ( which I think the daily writing really helped with) was that I have started to spend a lot more time thinking about what I writing even when I am away from my computer. This sort of ( unforced) planning and thinking through is always a sign for me that I am really engaged in the a writing project. Hopefully this will translate into even more time spent actually writing next week!

  4. No consistent writing practice has been established during the past week here. However, I did manage to set the right conditions and time schedule to succeed as from today!

    From now on I determine to polish my text on a daily basis for at least an hour. The sooner I finish this, the better.

    Where are all the other’s experiences, by the way??

  5. I appear to have gone back to square one this week, though I’m not panicking about it. After a mtg with my supervisors I have committed to a leap of faith (and courage) to writing an ethnographic chapter instead of my planned methodology chapter. I explained my desire to explore use of the senses in my writing and was told to get on with it then! rather than staying in the comfort of reading and thinking field methodology.
    I have yet to begin the actual narrative but have it planned on paper and have been flipping through ethnographies for style inspiration and I am slowly separating myself from my beloved theory texts in order to just get on – this has had the effect of reading my fieldnotes with a fresh perspective, they appear richer each time and not as random as I originally perceived them to be.
    My goal for week three is consistency, getting that narrative pegged down and being able to check in next week with something concrete.

  6. My writing confessions: It was sporadic. One day I wrote all day and others I didn’t write at all. I blamed it on my computer charger breaking but after reflecting I realize It was just an excuse. I wanted to write a few handwritten letters and I could have stuck to the schedule filling the time with this activity. Therefore, new goal: I will always write during my scheduled writing time even if it is not my research papers but instead short phrases on post-it notes or love letters to the world.

  7. Above all, my week was experimental. I bought Kirin Narayan’s ‘Alive in the Writing’ (for which I’m ready to launch a fanclub – what a delight to have it wondering around on my desk, dedicatedly waiting there until I need it so solve some sort of dilemma), and I attempted to work with some of her suggestions (and with those of other writing gurus). I did some writing exercises, I wrote short texts that will not end up in my chapter but that were supposed to awaken a certain flow of words, I tried to find out if there is any kind of music that helps to energize me. And I dusted off some old poetry books that, although written in Dutch, did inspire my choice of vocabulary at two or three occasions.

    All this helped me in writing an introduction. I hope, but only time (and the feedback of readers) will tell, that it manages to bring to life the place I write about and that it captures the actual content of the chapter. The trouble I am now facing is how to continue from a rather lively written introduction to a more solid narrative of analysis/argument. Meaning that I have written a lot this week, but also – that I have deleted nearly as much. Three steps forward, two steps back I suppose…

  8. I had an incredibly busy week (and I knew that going in) made even more busy by family medical stuff that really altered my schedule. Overall, I got some editing done, but the most useful practice was giving a research talk from the active manuscript. Although the talk prep ate writing time, it really helped me to spot the issues in the paper, especially the introduction where there was no “why do we care” hook.

  9. I hit my deadline getting an article off to the editor of an edited volume I’m working on — mostly thanks to the ability of my coauthor to grind it out. I also did a lot of side projects, but fell behind on the optional but important stuff. I keep telling myself that as long as I get a few things out by the end of the month, I’ll be all good… which means I’ve got like 15 more hours….

  10. I had a successful writing week and made my goal for a draft of my dissertation Chapter 2. However, it felt like a lot of stringing together different fragments from everywhere, and less cohesive than I’d like. It’s rough and way too long, but I’m pleased to have the first piece of my dissertation on paper, which I can edit after some distance. Now for the next one…

  11. After almost 14 hours dedicated to reading notes, outiling and writing I have over 7,000 words written since Monday. I also found out that it is impossible for me to dedicate over 5 hours/day to writing. Thursday and Wednesday were incredibly productive in terms of how much time I spent in front of my computer, but today I could write more in less time, I guess writing on a daily basis has helped me. Reflecting on others’ experiences, I think being exclusively dedicated to writing has helped me to write extensively. During this week I also realized I had set unrealistic goals at first (this report I am working on will not be read by next Friday), so I will just set a new one: to finish the report I am working on by February 14th.

  12. Week was not as productive as I wanted it to be, but it was far more productive than last week. I prioritized my writing several times this week. Still working on getting into an everyday morning practice of writing.

  13. Finished two of the pieces of my goal, which feels like a huge accomplishment. Submitted a resubmission and then submitted revised piece. Writing occurred mostly on the weekend rather than during the week this week, but hope to have more dedicated week time next week. Excited to be working on new pieces.

  14. Wow. Week 2 already. I have been swamped for the last two weeks revising two pieces: an article for publication due today and a thesis chapter. I submitted the article for publication this morning (same day as aljarrin above — phew! and yay!) and I am still revising sections of the thesis chapter. This is ‘the description of the setting chapter’, which is proving more challenging that I thought. I had crammed in a lot of information in three separate sections that I have been revising-editing-and-rewriting to make them more coherent and cohesive, in between other doing other things, such as now I must rush to pick up my wife from work. Cheers everyone and happy writing and doing whatever-we-must!

  15. Only drips and drabs from me. I devised some personal dead-lines for sections for my Preliminary Paper, started fleshing out the outline for the first section of that, and worked on the opening of a blog post/article today. Still no chair in my room, but working on it! I’m hoping to establish a more regular writing rhythm, despite like Gina being a note-scribbling quilt-maker. A luta continua!

  16. After my previous three week writing binge, I gave myself permission to have a little more lax writing schedule this week. Still got three days in, but only 1-2 hours here and there. The quote Carole shared of Dr. Ulysse’s essay from Monday describes what kind of writing I did: generating pieces (non judgementally too) to weave into a quilt – which I hope will become the conclusion of my dissertation. This was a very free-ing exercise, and I found myself able to get down in writing a lot of ideas and insights that tend to get bulldozed in my struggle to work linearly.

    My writing up to now has been very much in survival mode – just generating text so I have something to work with. Now that I’ve gotten bare bones constructed, I look forward to the editing process in which I can not only make things read better, but fit in points / information that I was unable to get to in the first draft, and, moreover, infuse my writing with more of the creative “me” in terms of language, expression, diagrams, photos, etc. This all has to pass muster, of course, with the gatekeepers of my committee (which has often made it hard for me to find my voice and confidence), so here’s to striking the right kind of balance of sound analysis coupled with gripping, clear communication of that analysis…

    I’ll work on my conclusion some more tomorrow and Sunday morning. Then Monday I will start addressing the first round of revisions I’ve received from my committee about my introduction.

    This group is really wonderful – thank you so much, Carole, for instigating this!

    Good luck, all!

  17. This week was frustrating for me. I blame jet lag and the many obligations and distractions that come with being home. But I did continue to find the time to write every single day. I am struggling still with the flow of writing, but Gina Athena Ulysse’s post and conversations with colleagues and advisors–a benefit of being back on campus–have inspired me to be more accepting of my own writing process. I’m now trying to allow myself to be satisfied with producing small chunks, even if they are not yet sewn together into the quilt I aspire to make.

  18. I was able to meet both of my goals this week (art piece and 1,000 words) and in fact wrote about 400 words more than I anticipated! Which was great, but needed to happen right at the end of the week in a bit of a squeeze.

    Balancing my creative endeavors with the very logistical and stressful tasks required to plan and prepare for a six month journey back to the Americas after living in Tokyo for 5 years has been especially difficult this week.

  19. Not a bad week, but I am not going to make my self imposed deadline (today). Still, got a good amount done. I should be able to finish by Sunday/Monday. Most importantly, after wasting some time last week trying to track down sources and notes WHILE writing, this week I sat down and collected everything away from the computer, got it all in order, wrote up an outline on paper, and then sat down to write. This was more how I used to do things before I became a frenzied PhD student, and it works better for me. Sometimes when I sit down in front of the computer to write with a more basic outline I end up on tangents, chasing down too many ideas. Part of the problem is that I have all these notes and interviews at my fingertips, and it’s easy to get lost in it all. A little pre-organization goes a long way for me, especially when I get away from the computer a bit.

  20. Great to read about everyone’s experiences this week. So much sounds familiar and thus reassuring. Congrats to those who had deadlines this week and met them–a whole bunch of you! And the rest of us all at a minimum seem to be more “alive in the writing” than at least I was before we launched this group. For me that alone is a big personal and collective accomplishment.

  21. I’m late to check in, but I wanted to give a quick update of my week. Although I’m still not in the flow of daily writing, I am happy to report that I (finally!) submitted a short article draft I’d been sitting on for a few weeks. Although I was and am excited about that project, for some reason it was nearly impossible for me to sit down and focus on it. Perhaps I just needed to time to think things out. Or maybe it was just that this was my first creative project in a while (as opposed to grants, reviews, etc.). Regardless, it felt great to submit it. I immediately closed my computer and headed out for a long run to reward myself. I have one more looming piece to finish by mid-week and then I can begin some new things. I have a few specific goals for the coming week. First, I want to create (or find) a good writing space. My current setup needs some tweaking. Second, I will make a point to do free-writing exercises daily. I’m a big fan of the Elbow method and I need to bring it back into my life. Third, I’m going to begin working in earnest on a blog I’ve wanted to start for months. My aim is to brainstorm and outline a few short pieces to get the project off the ground. I’d like to have 2-3 posts completed by next weekend. My week is fairly light, so this seems like an excellent window to delve into things and really focus on writing and creating content.

    Thanks to all who shared their experiences over the week! This is incredibly motivating and I really look forward to continuing with the group.

  22. Finished a paper for oral presentation this week (Thursday) and buckling down to revision. so easy to give in to paper fatigue and let the next set of writing objectives pretty much slide.

  23. My week was more like a regular working week because of the interruptions and external demands on my time. I did spend many hours of 3 days writing and re-writing the one page summary for my funding application, organising my bibliography, cross-referencing to find more and coordinating the written stuff with the other 2 colleagues who are involved in the project. The other 2 days when it was impossible to settle into writing because of the interruptions, I mulled over the project, talked to others, and solicited feedback on the draft. I feel refreshed starting the new week because I made no attempt to write anything during the weekend. The feedback has provided me with new angles to consider and I look forward to the writing ahead this week.

  24. I’m very late to check in and did basically no writing in Week 2. I have started reading and taking notes on a book I’m reviewing, though, and churned through a big pile of administrative/teaching preparation work. My goal for Week 3 is to nurture a daily writing habit. I take a lot of heart as well as tips from reading the comments above so thanks everyone for sharing!

  25. After submitting my third chapter on monday (27 Jan) did not write much. I am yet to start working on chapter 4 and will devote this week to writing draft of an article and finishing two short pieces by Friday. I need to get back to a daily writing habit which I followed on Week 1. Week 2 started off on a nice note but I slackenned in between.

  26. Late check in for week two. Writing wise it was a disaster. The first week had gone so well, I couldn’t fugue out what happened to this week. Though I had plenty of excuses. I realized I simply didn’t have a real plan, nor an idea if what to do. A bunch ofoosy formed ideas, for a couple of different medium size projects, and a lot of see things that need taking care of. Over the weekend, I got some clarity, part of which was that at least right now, I need to have a clear focus. So for the next two weeks, I have two priorities mapped out. The smaller one I pretty much finished today…the bigger one will get my attention for the rest of the two weeks. And for when I just can’t figure anything out I have a creative project to play with. The third goal is that by the end of these two weeks I have a clear idea of what I need to do next.

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