Friday, June 8, 2012

Retreating Forward

It is a beautiful Friday afternoon in June.  What have I been up to?  Most people (many of whom don't work at a university) assume that I have the summer off.  Nope, that is the time when other pieces essential to my job get done.

This year I joined five of my tenure-track colleagues and a writing scholar/ mentor for a faculty writing retreat.  It was a week of discussing the scholarship of writing, getting to know colleagues from other departments, but most importantly writing!  It was purposely planned at the beginning of June to jump start our summer scholarly writing projects. 

I have always been what Paul Silvia, in his book How to Write A Lot, refers to as a "binge" writer.  I find that my schedule affords so little time during the school year to anything other than teaching, service and administrative duties, that I write a lot for a few weeks and then nothing at all for months.

I didn't know exactly what I would get out of the writing retreat, but I had heard from veterans that they very much enjoyed it.  And, when lunch is included for something I'm already required to do, why not sign up?

I've realized that I am glad I put down my dissertation and didn't work on re-writing a piece of my data into an article right away.  The topic consumed my life for some time and I needed to work on other projects so that I could be excited about it again.  Being able to put all other work aside for an entire week-- not answering emails or dealing with other administrative tasks, not doing anything helpful at home either, helps me focus.  This focus nurtures my ability to analyze at my data with a critical eye.

My goal for the week was to get a good start on an article entitled "Virtual Collaboration" and to finish two short translations.  And I'm shocked to report that I have finished the article, put the final touches the blog post about the royal visit, am almost done with this post, made significant progress on the translations and I have an hour left of the retreat to now think critically about my specific goals for the rest of the summer and next spring when I have a semester completely devoted to my research.

So, what do I take away from this experience?  Sometimes you need to retreat to move forward.

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