The writing process is so unpredictable – sometimes the words and ideas just flow, and other times they just stutter and stall and the screen or page is left blank, or in my case, some words and phrases have been jotted down, only to be deleted.
Today’s Daily Post is so timely to working out my own process – it asks us to think about our writing space. Place can be so important to writing. In our current living conditions, I don’t have an ideal place in my home or city for writing, but at least I’ve identified some minimum requirements to make a space to call mine, even for a short period, to be able to grapple with ideas and words and get them out into some tangible, logical sense.
The minimum requirements for a writing space are:
room enough for my laptop, notebook, articles
room enough for a drink without worry of knocking it over
quiet – low music with no lyrics is ok, conversation is too distracting.
That’s it. Things I bring along to help with the environmental factors include:
headphones, to block out external sounds and sometimes listen to music (I love Klipsch in-ear headphones with inline mic for controlling volume and music, and for providing some barrier to external noise)
my laptop charger, though I prefer to leave it behind, since my recent MacBook more than lives up to its claim of 8+ hours of battery
fruit jelly candy, which tides me over when I’m a bit hungry, to finish that paragraph or section until I take a real meal break.
Places I’ve worked lately include: our dining room table, university library, public library, upstairs at an art studio, on the living room floor, my office desk on the weekend, a corner table at 3 different coffee shops, an airport waiting area during a 6 hours stopover, and a hotel room.
The best location was the hotel room, because I could spread out my research materials and supplies, without having to tidy them up or move them for the duration of 5 days straight, which helped with the visual organization which I’ve learned is a part of my thinking process.
Not my ideal set-up, but we make do the best that we can! Here’s to writing well.
Since 2010, I’ve maintained a collection of interesting stuff gleaned from usually nighttime travels on the web, called “Parenthesis“. It was housed on Posterous, which recently announced it would be shutting down as of the end of April 2013. Sadly, I uploaded the last post for that blog today but happily, everything is moving over here to WordPress.
Here is that last post below (which will most likely “die” or whatever defunct web posts do, after this month):
Ever since the announcement that Twitter purchased Posterous in March 2012, I felt marching orders were pending. Two months ago, the not-entirely unexpected news that Posterous would be shutting down on April 30, 2013 broke over the web, and sadly, I starting looking around for another platform to which I could transfer Parenthesis.
I considered self-hosting, but seriously, with a full-time job, a young child, a thesis-in-progress, along with the normal concerns of a family with a mortgage, mobile carrier plans, and a student loan, that isn’t the option for me at this time, time-wise or budget-wise. (Though I’ve learned that there are awesome WordPress camps offered in British Columbia that inspire me to attend and develop my self-hosting mojo that may one day translate into an awesome site that won’t depend on anyone else’s service.)
In the end, WordPress was the only familiar, no-fuss platform that was available for free and that inspired some confidence in longevity over, say, competing interests of the company (YES, Twitter, this means you).
The new blog is Things in Parenthesis (alas, just “Parenthesis” was not available) and fortunately, most everything from the current site transferred over to WordPress.com very smoothly.
It is with fondness that I part with Posterous, as it was one of my first forays into any kind of web blog (Theomama’s Blits was that first foray), and one that provided newbies with a very user-friendly platform along with support, tutorials and even a bit of HTML training.
So, thank you to Posterous and its developers.
For my few readers, I look forward to seeing and engaging with you about media studies, culture, remix and visual culture at the new site.
It’s fitting that this is the tweet that spurred on the process of migrating my media studies blog, Parenthesis, from Posterous over to WordPress (at least, right now, that’s the plan).
Posterous was so nice when it was in its heyday, and I’ve spent many hours customizing, rearranging, doing some coding, to get it to where I want it (and it’s still not even meeting all the requirements). It was a beautiful service, with easy-to-learn options, and ideal for a brand new web-o-sphere explorer.
I thought last year when Twitter took over that it was the beginning of the end but didn’t prepare well for that ending to come. Well, it’s here now.
Today, I’ve begun backing up that blog and preparing to move it to its new home.
So, while the rest of the world sleeps away (see above: at our place, too), I’m whittling away the wee hours of the night catching up on academic writing/ thinking/processing/reading.
This is not a healthy time to be up. But it’s. so. dang. productive.
What this means is that I have not found a good path, yet, for my work/home/school balance. I’ve been trying, really trying, to get school work done in the regular day. But after coming home from the office at 5:30-ish, sitting down for dinner, cleaning up, putting our little one to bed, it’s 8:30 pm and I’m pretty tired and my mind doesn’t process well at that time. It takes a good hour or a bit to get into solid processing, mode, too, after cracking open a chapter or article, so it doesn’t work at all if I’m totally bushed.
And thus the reading and writing lags (well, the academic reading and writing. Fanfic? That’s another story.)
So with my first deadline since I completed my first year of graduate studies coming up this week, I’ve been trying something new: sleeping when the little one sleeps, getting up at 11:30-ish (which is actually nice because then I get to see my husband when he comes in from his job at midnight), then working for 4-5 hours, going back to sleep until 7 or 8am then getting ready for a new workday.
After a few days of this, my body is more tired than usual, but it’s a new schedule. I don’t know if I can maintain it for a long time, but it’s been helping me get some good reading done. So while I feel wierd and creepy being up this late, I take comfort in the fact that there are probably tons of grad students who are also late night owls, finding their groove in the wee hours of the dark night.
It’s about how we represent ourselves on-line, and how Pinterest has made it so easy to appropriate other “objects” (via repins or retweets) to speak for who we are and to visually perform our self-identities to the Pinterest network and beyond.
I think that part of the incredible success of Pinterest is because of its uniquely visual format, which sets it apart from delicious or diigo or other link collecting services. (Part of why I love Evernote, and before that, Microsoft’s OneNote, so much is because those desktop services let me clip and save images into my digital notebooks and then display them so that I can search and identify them by looking at pictures rather than reading text). Pinterest has made that link between our desire to showcase our innards: our interests, our desires, our passions, and our draw or pull towards a visual way of consuming information.
The author of this post compares Pinterest boards to the public communal bulletin board in coffee shops or grocery stores and makes a bunch of other interesting observations throughout the piece.
All the better for the company of my fellow students. This time it was at The Loop in Calgary’s Myrtle Loop community and double delight in the fact that it wasn’t too cold venturing out earlier than usual on a Saturday morning.
One piece of advice we heard a couple of times during our orientation week last fall was to really make the most of the relationships at grad school. It’s easier and harder than it was in undergrad: easier because it’s such a small cohort (less than 15 for this year’s PhDs and MAs together) and harder because everyone is so. dang. busy. Between reading, being a teaching/research assistant, writing papers, journal entries, articles and proposals, it’s hard to make time to meet, let alone coordinate getting together.
But it’s so worth it.
Conversation topics on this Saturday morning, other than food and shopping and goings-on in the city, consisted of:
hashing it out about the professors – who’s demanding, who was unfair, who has good advice, who doesn’t, who’s helpful, who isn’t (and it was all relative and personal)
the stages of our writing (which pretty much we were all agreed on: nowhere yet)
the stages of our thinking about writing (lots of progress, different stages, there)
WTF about readings and theory
No one was really (yet) at the bitching stage and it was the best Saturday morning social gathering I’d been to in a while.
I really don’t want to sound cliche, but it was really really good to know that none of us were truly alone in this master’s degree process: we were on similar pages with similar, yet different, struggles and cares and there was a true sense of encouragement and support amongst the group.
If anyone ever asks me for advice about going on to graduate studies after a bachelor’s degree, I’m now going to include that same advice: get to know your peers and make relationships with them.
I don’t know why I haven’t written more about being a grad student. I really wish I had documented and recorded some of the experiences of the first semester, because well…. they were some powerful experiences, probably shared by the great majority of first year master’s students.
Today, this weekend, I am suffering from the ailment suffered the most by all graduate students, if #PhDchat is any indication, whether they are at the master’s, PhD, or post-doc level. Writer’s block. Kill me now.
How hard is it to put together a one-page proposal?
I’ve had first semester to get somewhat familiar with an area (in my case, visual culture), just a toe dip, but that should be enough to flesh out a one page document, no?
I am stuck stuck stuck.
Fortified by strong tea and the advice of a friend who is a doctoral student in my program, I will endeavor to do my darnedest tonight.
This is where I spend 80% of my awake time. Good thing I like this library. They allow you to eat and drink here. Lots of printers. Scanners if you need them, even laptops on loan. And iMacs, beautiful things, if you can get on them. And lots of windows, hence LOTS of light. Did I mention I like it here? @TFDL
So, December has rolled around, faster than any one of us imagined. Ridiculous us. We should have expected it.
Three papers, one at 12 pages, the others at 20 pages. At once. Here is where I lament the sad lack of time management skills. If ever there was a time to be developing and practicing those skills, it would have been around month 2 of the program. Month 1 was still pretty tame.
Things that have been helping, a LOT, are:
free and convenient access to a gym where I never have to wait for use of the machines (unlike in Vancouver or Kingston!)
the company of good friends to go out and grab a bite, despite the fact that we have deadlines looming. Food and conversations can help, seriously.
Here’s to the last month.
If I’m posting again in the new year, then it will mean I’ve made it and that I’m still interested in new media. Then it will have been worth all the turmoil and panic and (almost) tears.