How to manage my writing projects

I feel I have too many writing projects. First, this blog, which I don’t seem to update as much as I would like to. Second, my PhD project, which takes a big block of my daily writing time (as it should). Third, blogging occasionally about timebanking. Finally, my unpublished creative writing in Finnish. Creative writing is something new I have been doing this spring in a creative writing course and it feels great.

In fact, I think the problem is not the number of writing projects but the time available for them. As usual, I seem to have too little time to pursue all my projects. This is not good since I love writing. A though dilemma.

As I am told to be a practical person, I have started to consider how to manage all my writing projects. As a result, I complied a preliminary How-to-manage-my-writing-projects-list in order to manage them all. The ideas come from various sources, for instance academic and creative writing guides. And as I get enough of disciplined lists with my PhD project, the following list is completely incompatible, overlapping, and imperfect.

  1. Write every day. According to many (academic) writing tips, writing daily is the first thing one needs to do in order to get writing done regularly. Quite simple when you think of it. It is a miracle but I can actually do this.
  2. Write the first thing in the morning. It has taken some organising but I’m able to do this. The minute I wake up, I plot down my fist thoughts. Yes, it is sometimes hard and I have to give in and do it after taking care of my child or visiting the bathroom. By the way, hardly any writing guides mention either of these very possible morning interruptions. And still, most mornings I manage to write before I get out of the bed.
  3. Write the last thing in the evening. Now this is more demanding to accomplish. After putting my kid to bed, it is so tempting to enjoy the Happy Hour, namely the hour to oneself after putting kid(s) to bed and before going to sleep. For your information, I created this blog post during my Happy Hour.
  4. Make a list of ongoing (non-PhD) projects and deadlines. I would like to avoid this to the last moment since I need to compile lists at work all the time. Yet, it seems deadlines are good when trying to get things done. Also for writing non-PhD stuff. Thus, my very own great secret of adulthood: the most demanding deadlines are the ones you set yourself (because these issues matter you the most). In my case, they are the deadlines for getting writing done.
  5. Start a Writing Group. I thought of this only some days ago and now I’m very enthusiastic about organising monthly meetings to discuss attendees’ own texts and give & get feedback. I have already some people in mind I want to ask to join the writing group. Exciting!

If you have comments or additions to my list, I’m more than happy to get your tips.

Dear blog

Dear blog,

I apologise I have ignored you. It has been [excuses, excuses, excuses]. As if it wasn’t bad enough, I HAVE been writing but totally different things, such as my PhD research, creative writing in a form short stories (in Finnish), and two other blogs as an occasional visiting writer (Aikaa pankista and Aallonhuiput). The problem is that this blog and these other writing projects don’t seem to interact.

I’m the one to blame. Thus, I have decided to do something about it. First, I will link my other online writing projects here. I have no idea how is it going to happen technically but no doubt it is possible. It’s about the time to explore the secrets of WordPress!

Second, from now on, I try to write at least one entry every month. And now that I have a dedicated place for writing, this should be no problem. I know the minimum of once a month sounds very little. But with the other stuff taking place elsewhere and miraculously to be added here, my appearance will add up to more than once a month.

My place to write

Third, I will start writing here about my (not-so-secret-anymore) passion, namely science fiction literature, and occasional excursions to fantasy literature. What a dim place this world would be without sci-fi, like Mordor.

Yours truly,
Eeva

The invisible side of teaching

My teaching for this autumn kicked off in early September. It was as great and thrilling as I suspected. In fact, I too had a dream the night before the first session. In my dream I was teaching but failing terribly and not being able to stick to my plan. The next day I was joking with a colleague that we should get paid for the teaching taking place in our sleep. Only half-joking, as a matter of fact. Getting ready for the actual thing by dreaming about it is not making you feel like you slept well.

Teaching or, rather, enabling learning involves some things that one might not think spontaneously before actually being responsible for it. When I prepared my first sessions some years ago I was amazed how much it requires time. It takes several hours to prepare a session of 90 minutes. The more I introduce new elements, the more I spend time planning. Of course preparation takes place in small bits, but eventually it adds up to hours.

Another invisible aspect is that teachers make up to 1 500 decisions during one day in the classroom. Not having read the original study, I suppose the figure goes for teachers having several hours of teaching daily. This high number excludes the decisions made before and after the session. Thus, you can say that teachers are, or should be, very good at improvising, despite how well they have prepared their session.

I am happy for the fact that I can be involved with enabling people to learn. Hopefully their learning includes things thought to be relevant in the curriculum, and not only learning for life. By the way, the category ‘learning for life’ is my personal motivator as a student when my expectations for a session are failed and I have to get my kicks from somewhere else. Like mentally redecorating the classroom or observing the group dynamics.

My classroom teaching is over in October for a current course. However, teaching the course continues with assessment tasks. And that is an interesting aspect of teaching, which requires a lot of fresh thinking and renewing traditions!

My (for real) talking pause

 

I lost my voice. Literally. Due to several days of cold and coughing. Unlike my reading pause, my talking pause has not been voluntary. I have had to cancel meetings and focus on healing my voice for teaching.

Yet, not talking has been inspiring. First of all, I have suddenly all this unplanned extra time due to cancelled meetings. Thus, I have been able to plan, write and read. Great! Second, not talking doesn’t mean no communication. Smile and a nod has taken me far when meeting someone. They might not even notice that I don’t speak. In Finland that is possible.

Maybe most educational has been the fact that I have been forced to listen to others. Only body language, like nodding, smiling, and at home wrinkling my nose and rolling my eyes. It is hard not to comment! For instance yesterday my colleague said something I would have normally started to debate, may I say heatedly. This time I just nodded and continued listening. Actually, it happened that my colleague answered all my questions without me asking them as I only let time pass.

I propose a deliberate talking pause for everyone once in a while. It can be as short as 10 minutes. Don’t wait for losing your voice, as that’s not very good for anyone. However, listening to others is very good for everyone. It builds up patience and signals respect. I want to take this time and listen what you have to say.

 

My (almost) reading pause for a week

I tried out a reading pause for one week, inspired by Julia Cameron and the Artist’s Way. For me a reading pause concerned anything I read for leisure, for instance newspapers, magazines, social media and online content. What did I do then? I spent time with family and friends, took photos, listened to music, kept a diary, and just sat and pondered.

However, there’s one fundamental thing I must confess. Well actually two. First, my pause was on my holidays in August, and thus it was easier. No work related reading required. Second, I broke my pause deliberately once due to a devastatingly long trip back from holidays and read a book.

Still, I was surprised during my experiment how attached I have become to reading without actually realising what I am reading. For instance, when I come across a magazine or a newspaper I usually end up flipping few pages. I do this instead of thinking what else I could do in that particular place. Like talk to the people around me.

I’m eager to try my pause again this autumn with daily routines, like work reading and e-mail. However, not during teaching as I need to answer student’s questions via e-mail. But off the teaching season it is possible. Any ideas what I could do at work during a reading pause?