Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Changing Spaces


The spring 2011 semester was crazy as we added a new member to our family! This amazing process was nearly 2 years in the making and required me to take two international trips, one during the second week of class and one just before spring break. Upon returning and beginning to adjust to life with a kid, I quickly realized that my writing space was going to have to change.

We have only two rooms, so naturally, the "office" is now a nursery. It quickly became apparent that working in the nursery was going to be impractical, and so for the first time in my entire life, I've been doing the bulk of my work in the university library. I've written every paper, project, article at the same desk since my freshman year in college, and so I was initially freaking out. How would I work without all my normal materials at my fingertips? I can't carry my whole desk with me to the library.

What I discovered is that with all of the ways my writing process has changed as a result of following Jonathan's, Thomas's, and Tanya's blogs, writing up at the library as opposed to my desk at home is not such a big change. I'm never writing an entire article. I'm never writing an entire conference paper or dissertation chapter. I've grown as a writer to where I'm disciplined enough to tackle one aspect of any given project per day. So I can work on my ongoing article up at the library on Monday morning because I know the precise task I need to complete to make substantial progress for that day, and that task only requires that I have my laptop, the primary text, and the notes I've taken on the secondary texts that I'm going to need for that day.

In fact, I found that working up at the library for very specific blocks of time made me more productive during that time, and way less burdened at home. Now, when I'm home I'm home, and when I'm in the library I'm at work. I may read at home, take notes, or surf the library databases/catalog, but for the most part, my work was getting done up at the library in 3 hour chunks of time over the course of 4 days a week.

Here's the basic schedule I built around my teaching and other responsibilities during the spring semester. Maybe seeing this model will help other folks see the possibilities of their schedules:

Monday
Library: 9-12
Lunch/home
Library: 2-5

Tuesday (this is the tightest/busiest day)
Teaching/office hours: 8-1
Lunch/home
Library: 2-5

Wednesday
Library: 9-12
Lunch/home
Writing Group: 3pm

Thursday
Teaching: 8-11am
Lunch/home
Library: 2-5

Friday
Teach all day at SEBTS

So you can see, I had 5 blocks of 3 hours each devoted exclusively to my own work. That's 15 total work hours to spend not on course prep, not on service, not on students, not on anything except my own work (at the time it was an ongoing article I have since finished and my dissertation prospectus). And there are plenty of gaps in the middle of the day (2-3 hour lunch breaks) where I can spend time with my family. We walk to our local park, play at home, etc.

I did other work, like teaching prep, during my office hours on Tues. (2 hours), and at random times when the kid was asleep or my wife was otherwise occupied. It worked out. The point is that now I know I can do it with the new family addition, I have adapted over the summer and this fall looks promising!

3 comments:

  1. Congratulations of on the adoption. That's wonderful news.

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  2. Thanks, Jonathan! We're certainly excited. What a crazy time though!

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  3. Hi, Matt! I suspect that I will have a similar problem (sans adorable kid): Now that I'm settled in a new place that's much smaller than my old place, I'll need to find other venues for writing. Aaron and I will explore the Hopkins library this week, so I hope to find a good workspace there. I'll let you know how it works out.

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