Writing & Transcribing

I realize I have been absent for some time –I have no excuse other than that I’ve been fighting a serious cold and am just coming out of what is probably one of the most stressful periods of my semester. The main reason I’m writing today, on a Tuesday, is that I don’t want any more time to go by without a post.

I’ve been transcribing lately, and finishing up the article that I am about to submit for publication. I had some conundrums about what venue I was going to submit the article to, but I finally decided on an outlet. The journal’s 75% rejection rate scares me a bit, but the review process appears to be speedy and I appreciated the editor’s efficiency and quick responses to my queries. So, I hope to submit the article within the next couple of days. Meantime, I’m letting the book simmer while I focus on transcribing, which has so far been a very pleasurable experience –I got the Olympus AS 2400 transcription kit, which is working smoothly with my Apple OS -the only drawback is that my recording, which I created using the iPad Notability app, are all in m4a format, which means that I had convert my files to aiff. I’m not super tech-savy so that experience has not been without hiccups. Nevertheless, I have to say that transcribing with a pedal is infinitely easier than transcribing without one, and I am kind of kicking myself for not having acquired one of these nifty little tools years ago. Even so, I think that after I submit my article I am going to have to devote some serious time to transcription, as I still have lots of interviews to transcribe and I’m not making nearly as much headway as I would like.

I also am re-writing my little language and mental health grant, and really kicking my summer research planning into gear.

How on earth did I manage to convince myself I could write a book in twelve months????? Oh well… I guess I’m committed (to myself) at this point…. maybe I need to go back to my carefully drafted writing schedules…



Accomplishing nothing, accomplishing everything?

Happy Friday! With the insanity of last week (several important work-related events converging and messing up my mojo), I didn’t create a schedule or even a list of what I wanted to accomplish. I knew I wanted to revise my article based on my friend’s suggestions, but I also wanted to make some progress with the book.


I can’t say I wrote a whole lot, but I got an idea about interactions. I discovered our department transcription kits are so outdated that I can’t run them with my computer, so I had to order a new kit that I hope to put to good use next week. Meantime, I read. I read a fascinating article by Cori Hayden on pharmaceutical publics and the Similares pharmacy chain in Mexico, and found a reference to Andrew Lakoff’s Pharmaceutical Reason, which I was unfamiliar with. I have no real excuse for not being familiar with the book, save that I’m so busy that I don’t have time to read everything. BUT, this book, an ethnography of the mundo-psi of Argentina, is great. The subject is fascinating –the globalization of biomedical models of psychiatry and the resulting practices and contestations that take place in Argentina’s heavily psychoanalytic mental health field. It is almost the book I want to write, but set in a very different place. But it’s gotten me thinking about the many hours of observation I have collected, and the insights that those micro-level interactions might bring when subjected to further analysis.


Needless to say, I’m feeling pretty good. Even though I’m mostly reading and not doing a whole lot of writing.

Next week –I’m transcribing. Which usually leads to writing :).

See you on the flip side…

Sunday, February 3rd

So, in Perfect Land, I will have a chapter done by the end of the month. The toughest work on the article is done, a draft is complete that will hopefully not be a huge time-suck to revise, and I can now turn my full attention back to the book. I have the chapter I’m working on, and I’m optimistic that, even if I don’t have a full draft done by the end of the month, I will be pretty close.

So far, the biggest challenge I’ve identified this month is staying engaged with two writing projects at once. I realize that in order to stay productive, I HAVE to do it. I HAVE to have multiple works going at once. But I had a remarkably difficult time just putting darn thing down once I got going. A colleague suggested devoting specific days to specific works, rather than specific hours in the day. I definitely want to devote one day to grant-writing going forward, so I’ll maybe give his suggestion a try.

In terms of the book project, I have definitely encountered moments when I have felt overwhelmed by its enormity. I think that focusing more fully on drafting as freethinking exercise, tempered with following leads into the literature, will help make the project feel more manageable. I just need to keep putting words on the page.

Last week was insane, which is why today, Sunday, I published Friday’s post as well as today’s. I’m hoping this won’t happen again. Having a cumulative evaluation, an important committee meeting, and a faculty meeting all converge on Friday made the day difficult.

Sigh… this week hasn’t even started and I’m already tired…


Writing what I know, not what I don’t know

I did it! Even though, as always, I wish I had somehow achieved more this week than I actually did, the fact of the matter is that my article draft is complete and being looked over by two trusted colleagues. The best part is that, even if they think it has a long way to go, the hardest part of the work is done: I have something written. Now I just need to revise it.

Here’s the thing –with Belcher’s book, the reason you can “write an article in 12 weeks” is because you are already starting out with text. You’re just revising it into something that is publishable. What’s tough about this book is that I’m drafting a large project for the first time in a very long time. In fact, the last time I worked on such a big project was when I wrote my dissertation. Writing articles has been time consuming and challenging, but a lot of the leg work had already been done because many of them were based on dissertation articles. The things that I’m re-learning right now is drafting brand new text. And as I draft, new ideas appear that I haven’t really thought very much about.

I figured with the book that first, I should just write what I know, and don’t write what I don’t know. I know it seems really basic, and maybe it is to most people. But what kept happening last week as I kept coming across new materials and directions was that I would get overwhelmed by the fact that I was writing in unfamiliar territory. How could I write about something I didn’t know very much about? Well, obviously I can’t. But I do know something about the subject, otherwise my writing wouldn’t have taken me there. I have ethnographic knowledge of the subject, even if I don’t have theoretical knowledge of it. So, I focused on writing the ethnography and analyzing it within my frame of reference. This week, I wanted to finalize the article I’ve been working on and just didn’t feel like drafting, so I decided to let the ethnography “simmer” and start looking exploring the existing literature on this new subject. And this has helped ease the feeling of being overwhelmed.

I don’t know if I am just a poor ethnographer, or maybe I’m not doing it right, but my research always seems to wind up answering a research question I didn’t originally set out to answer. One thing I really hated about my dissertation was that it felt… scattered. It doesn’t have one single, cohesive, elegant argument that really brings it together, and that is what the book needs to do.


Sunday, January 27

One of the things I love about blogging on Friday and Sunday is that it helps me keep my rhythm. Week after week, the project stops being a huge, overwhelming shadow looming over me, and turns into small tasks. And this week, after spending two weeks devoting my heart and mind to the article (which, much to my chagrin, is not quite done yet –but is in almost complete shape), I get to shift my focus back to this chapter. Tomorrow will be refreshing –I love the “book research” part of ethnographic writing, especially when the ethnography leads you to an unexpected place, a place you haven’t read everything on.

I didn’t realize that neoliberalism was part of this book when I was doing ethnographic research at HPY (my field site). I thought that the connections between health concepts that I was pursuing were simply (ha! Simply…) intersubjective –a “meeting of ontologies” (Wender 2008), so to speak. What I didn’t realize before I started fieldwork was the pervasiveness of neoliberalism within what I had previously thought was a socialized medical system. So, this week, I’ll be reading up on it. One of the things on my mind is something that barely seemed relevant six months ago is the prevalence of low-cost generic drug pharmacies offering extremely inexpensive or even free medical consultations and the way in which these have resulted in a democratization of medical care –in the private sector. Meantime, in a parallel fashion, the creation of Seguro Popular opened up the public medical care system. This is anthropology just the way I like it –layer upon complex layer of political economy and intersubjective encounters set in the unstable terrain of the medicalized mind…


I’ll stop before I get too far ahead of myself. I’ve re-written my schedule, I’m making a to-do list, and I’m ready to take a plunge.

Great Expectations

It’s Friday again. I’m not entirely sure how it happened, but I have been so caught up with work that the week flew by and I scarcely noticed it. It was a short week, which is probably why its end has come upon me so abruptly.

I wanted to have a draft done, I really did. I’m very, very close, but I have to accept that it will not be ready to send to my colleague for review today. I also want to stop letting it take over my life. Though I did succeed in working on the book, I felt forced and honestly didn’t really enjoy it –though I am feeling ready to devote more time to it, which is good. It’s funny, but I think this happens to me every time I write an article. Inevitably, I get to a point where I know what I want to say, and I know exactly how to do it, but I’m simply not doing it quickly enough. So I get mad at it. I reach a point where I sort explode and yell at it (I haven’t yelled at this one yet, but I think I might want to soon). I usually yell something along the lines of, “can’t you be done already?!” or “I hate you! I want you out of my life!”

And it’s right about time. As the day ends and I’m sitting here, willing the article to be finished already, I started to feel that frustration. The good thing is, that feeling usually comes a few days before the darn thing finally gets finished. So, if I do what I’m supposed to on Monday and Tuesday, I’m optimistic that I’ll be able to send the article to my friend and put it out of my mind for a few days. And then I can re-focus my energies on the book, and on this chapter that is forming before my very eyes.  In many ways, next week will be a week of research. This week, I’ve focused on ‘writing what I know, not what I don’t know,’ and that has meant writing ethnographically. Next week, I want to do some serious literature review. A skill I’ve learned thanks to Belcher’s book (Chapter 5) is that I can keep writing as I’m reading and researching, that way, the text can keep growing while I research the stuff I didn’t know was relevant until now.

I’m anticipating carrying a nice stack of books from the library, and I’m actually kind of excited by it. Since I’m visualizing 6 chapters, I still have another month to work on the chapter I have, which is helping me manage my irritation with the article.


So… my goals for next week will be:


Book Article

Research anthropological writing on neoliberalism and health.


Continue drafting chapter.


Get back to coding


Finish draft and send to colleague


Write and Email Journal queries






Totally doable, I think.

Except for the fact that my progress evaluation is due a the end of next week (though I have made good progress and expect to finish it this weekend –I know, I know I usually don’t work on weekends, but otherwise I am not going to have time!) and I have a fairly important committee meeting.


Wish me luck…

Monday, January 21

Yes, I realize it’s not Sunday, but this was a holiday weekend and I’m fighting off some kind of bug, so I gave myself permission to post today instead of yesterday. Something I like about posting at the end and the beginning of each week, and taking the weekend off, is that it gives me the opportunity to assess my progress and see my writing in a new way. I came out of last week feeling exhausted and surprised. It’s funny to call the feeling “surprise,” because it happens just about every time I find “it.”

“It” is that feeling when everything clicks. When I’m looking at my writing and I feel what I have to say, floating just out of reach, out of words. I know what I’m thinking is significant, I know that the idea is there, but I can spin my wheels as much as I want and I just can’t move forward. “It” is when it comes together, somewhere between reading the literature, looking at my data, and writing paragraph after paragraph of crap. I think as I write, so I have to write all the crap before I find “it.” And when I do, it all clicks. It all makes sense and the idea appears on my screen and all of the sudden I look up and two hours have elapsed.

“It” happened this week. It all came together, and when the day ended on Friday, I was almost literally breathless. I felt like I was emerging from a pool of ideas where I had been swimming for days. Now, the delight of “it” clicking has to meet the reality that I still have some writing to do. The complete first draft is right within my reach, with a feasible reality of completion this week.

The key now is not to let it take over. Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to writing the manuscript, I’m scheduling one hour for the manuscript several days this week. The key is that I have to stick to it. Hopefully this blog will help me not get swept away by the euphoria of a writing project that is coming together.

These are my goals this week:

For the week of 1/21-1/25

Book Manuscript Article
Continue drafting chapter at scheduled times. Finish article draft!!!!

I’m trying to be realistic about the book manuscript goals, which is why I revised the goals I spelled out on Friday. Finishing the article draft is realistic, but will take most of my attention. I would rather commit to something I can stick to, rather than over-commit and not reach my goals.

Happy writing J….