Conferencing, next steps, and The Grant(s)

I’m back! As some of you may know, last week’s missing post was not due to my usual falling of the wagon or being overwhelmed, but because I was presenting a working chapter (!) at a national conference. I was very excited with the panel, and I came away from the conference with some new knowledge (lots of really interesting stuff going on in the world of psychological anthropology!), some great contacts, and some good, solid ideas about my theoretical framework. I’m cautiously optimistic that I can covert my 19 pages of ethnographic text into an article and submit it before I leave for the field on May 28. Then, I’ll convert the article into a chapter, but that will be down the line. I have a plan for the next two (three?) chapters, which will focus respectively on the DSM and ICD diagnostic manuals, the history and meaning of ECT, and managed care in Mexico, respectively. I’m planning some follow-up interviews when I’m in the field, though I must confess I don’t really know how or even IF I can get that writing done over the summer. At the very least, I know where I’m going. 

This week, though, I’ve been occupied with a grant. I’ve written about my love/hate relationship with grant writing; the truth is, I’m not getting tenure without a grant, even though at my institution, I CAN get tenure without a book. So, the grant takes precedence even though I would much rather be working on the book. Simple facts of life. At least the grant is coming together, I feel pretty good about what I have so far and the deadline is still a couple of weeks away. I’m hoping to get a finalized draft done today so I can split my time between my book chapter/article and another grant next week.

I’m going to Mexico for a wedding next week –perhaps I’ll write about trying to get work done while traveling? We shall see….

If you are on the tenure track –what are your grant vs. publication requirements at your institution? How do you balance your writing?


Looking forward

It might not come as a surprise at nearly three months after I began my little endeavor (hah! “little”) I’ve had some moments of feeling completely overwhelmed. This week I experienced significant discomfort for the opposite reason. Although I can’t say the chapter draft is complete, I have a good sense of its argument and where it’s going. I have a solid 19 pages of ethnography, which makes me happy, and I am excited to get comments back from two very respected women in my field, which I hope will help guide my next steps. I also am conceptualizing my next chapter, which will be engaging with the diagnostic manuals (DSM-IV and ICD-10) as part of a neoliberal normalizing narrative of standards (as I’m writing, I’m wondering if Talal Asad’s work on secularism and human rights might not bear some relevance, particularly considering the fact that the ICD-10 was developed by the world health organization. It’s a chapter I don’t envision as having viability as an article (?) but it feels relevant to my subject. What bothers me a bit right now is that while I have a clear vision of my current chapter and of the next, the book is feeling a little blurry. And all books need a concise argument supported by its chapters. While I know the story I am telling, I feel shaky about its argument.

Then again, writing is thinking, and it is very possible that the argument will reveal itself as I write.

Meantime, I have to submit one grant proposal by May 1st, and another by May 16th. Fun for me!

Wish me luck….


IRB’s, paper-writing, and looking for funding

Sometimes, I forget I’m teaching two classes. Seriously. Some days, I get so swept up by my other work that it becomes more real than the 150 students that are currently taking my class (don’t worry! they very quickly remind me of their existence!). I think it’s because at my R1 institution, teaching is only a fraction (I want to say a third? it could be less) of what I’m hired to do. Today is one of those days when my other responsibilities take over my day and I momentarily forget about the 150 kids who are looking to me for their grade. I started writing up my IRB proposal, which feels like an enormous hassle (mostly because it is!). This year, my project won’t get away from “exempt” status, so I am anticipating a slow turnaround and some painful(ly tedious) revisions. It’s a project I’m excited about, though my main collaborator has me a little nervous –one of the vicissitudes of working in other countries is dealing with their own institutional cultures, and a recent election means considerably political upheaval and administrative changes at my field site. It’s a bit nerve-wracking but I’m learning to roll with the punches, otherwise I will drive myself nuts. The nice thing about startup is that if I wind up getting to my field city and doing a whole new project because my current field site becomes unavailable, it’s no biggie. It will suck for the two grants I am about to turn in, but I’m not expecting to get either one so again, no biggie.

Ah, the grant-writing process. Before, when I thought I was going to submit one of those huge grants to NIH or NSF, I was considerably more stressed out. Now that I’ve set my sights on a couple of foundations, I feel a little less overwhelmed. It just feels like if I can get some preliminary results published and give myself a little more time to develop my project, I will be in better shape to apply in the future. It would be nice to get a little bit of extra money, or money to fund my research for the next couple of years, but right now I just want to get some data I can publish. So, one grant application is done and awaiting a letter of support, and I started working on the second one today. Hopefully, I can get both out before they are due.

And then of course there is my conference paper, which I am supposed to submit to the discussants tomorrow. I don’t know if I mentioned this, but the two discussants on my panel are women whose work I deeply admire and whose research is very close to my own. I am thrilled that they are reading my work, and I really, really, want to get as much as I can out of this experience. The manuscript stands at about 18 pages now, but it will need quite a bit of theoretical re-working before I am ready to submit it for publication. Right now, it needs a better articulated discussion, and I need to conclude it somehow. In the next hour and a half. Huh. Guess I’d better get to it, then. For what it’s worth, I’ve decided to write it as an article first, and get it submitted. I can re-write it for the book later. Any thoughts on how book chapters in monographs look different than peer-reviewed articles? I feel like the main difference is structural, because the book chapter is part of a greater whole, but I’d love to hear some thoughts if anyone out there has some.

Oh, yeah! And then there’s my students, dying to find out how they did on their last assignment.

Thank God for TA’s.


Off the Wagon (and using conference presentations to work on chapters)

Yes, I’ve been slacking. At least, I’ve been slacking about keeping up with my blog, and keeping up with my schedule. I did actually take time off last week for Spring Break (I needed it!), but I’ve also most definitely not been as consistent as I had been. And it all goes back to when I decided to “try” to not create a weekly schedule but rather try to create weekly goals. The result? Sort of, kind of ,meeting my goals (I did get an article submitted, and made some progress on transcription, which is still kicking my behind), but feeling otherwise out of control. And it made me totally ignore my blog, which makes me feel that I am not being accountable to myself.

So, I’m back to scheduling. And the truth is that even when I don’t stick to it completely, it’s been a boost to my morale and to my productivity. And yes, I don’t really feel great about the monthly goals I set out, but recently my good friend and mentor sent me a message where she remarked that things always seem to take three times as long to get written –and it’s true! Hopefully this doesn’t mean that the book is going to take me 36 months rather than 12, but I have to admit that before I started tracking I really didn’t realize just how long it took me to get things done.

Meantime, I’m working on a conference paper, but I’m doing something I actually am not accustomed to doing, and which I am very excited about. In the past, I’ve always written conference papers specifically for individual conferences: I answer a prompt, write an abstract, and then turn the abstract into a a 7-10 page paper. Of course, I always pick panels that have something to do with my research, but things usually end at the conference. This time, though, the paper I’m writing, and the paper I wrote for my professional conference in fall, are very relevant to the book –in fact, the subject I’m writing about (the process of transformation undergone by psychiatric patients in a public acute ward) is the backbone of an important chapter. So I’m taking the opportunity to write a real paper, building on my previous one, significantly expanding it, and reworking the thesis. The moderators will likely get a fairly lengthy manuscript (which I will then have to cut down to seven pages), and I am excited to get constructive comments back, because the writing will eventually (soon, hopefully?) become a chapter. It’s a bit weird for me, working this way, but I realize that this is how the process is actually supposed to work.

I’m also thinking that this manuscript will be submitted as an article before I complete the book. It will help to get comments back, and also help me keep my publications steady as I navigate the tenure process.

So this week, I scheduled, and I’m blogging. Here’s to doing this again next week!

On a lighter note, this is what happens to me when I try to work at home on the weekends….


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….