End of July: A Midsummer's Reflection

Waiting for the tube to take me to my archive.

It has been a full summer. Full stop. I have tried not to use the word busy during this time because "full schedule" more adequately describes how I have felt for the past ten weeks of summer. Here are a few things I have learned about how I have scheduled my work for summer 2017:

1. Conferences
Unlike summer 2016 where I spent the summer weeks compiling databases for future research presentations, this summer has been that future. I have presented my work on teaching music history at an annual conference on the same subject, and new ideas about a medieval treatise to the annual Medieval and Renaissance Conference  this year held in Prague. The first of the two summarized a process of how I taught a newly devised class. The latter of the two was a presentation I organized jointly with a colleague. Both were new types of papers which required me to think differently about my work and how I present. I enjoyed the challenge. I have one final presentation to give this year before my conference run ends. Conferences are always energizing and rewarding, but as I take the time to prepare, I am reminded that as with all things worthwhile, good work takes time and energy. Scheduling off sections of my week for concentrated uninterrupted time is the only way I have been able to stay on track with all of my obligations.

2. Archival Research
I was very lucky to receive a fellowship from my institution to go to Europe for some serious archival work this summer. I spent an entire week traveling up and down the British Isles looking at medieval manuscripts and getting a better sense for how I can formulate my monograph. Because the time on these trips is so precious I made sure to have a strict schedule and process of examining the manuscripts. Here Scrivner was my friend. I prepared folders with necessary information in advance and made notes for manuscripts that were especially of interest to what I was searching. Once I arrived in the archive, I had plenty of time to look through and examine what I needed. The preparation process paid off in the end and now I have a beautiful set of folders waiting for me to open and examine more closely during the winter months when the weather turns too cold to go out for a lazy summer stroll.

3. Writing
I have brought two writing project up to a point where, with a few more minor edits, I will be able to submit for peer review by the end of the summer. Both are on topics which I have previously presented at conferences which have been reworked into articles for journals. Because of this, I have fleshed them out with additional secondary sources and more lengthy and well argued paragraphs. This process is a difficult process for me which takes time and effort in a different way from preparing texts for a conference presentation. To work out ways to explain my thoughts in written form rather than spoken form requires an entirely different work ethic. I have been learning more through my own writing how this process is best achieved but don't think that I have reached a satisfactory place quite yet, if this is ever achievable. This will be something that I will continue to work out over the years, I am sure.

4. Teaching Prep
I am teaching a brand new course in the autumn. I have been working in between writing projects towards compiling all of the material necessary to teach this class. This is a process which takes far longer and is made more complex because I have decided to offer a course that is not reliant on a textbook. For every seminar session, I am gathering articles and book chapters for my students to read. Then, I gather the musical examples (scores and recordings) to have ready to listen to and study. I know that my future self is going to thank my past self for doing all of this work in advance of the semester because once the new academic year begins, it will be almost impossible for me to find the time to gather this. With all of this material neatly organized in dropbox folders designated for each seminar session, I will avoid chaos later on. 

5. Publications Materialized!
Two publications have materialize this summer! It was such a satisfying moment to hold in my hands an artifact that contains my writing. But I even as I did, I realized that it was very easy for me to quickly move on to what ever other thing was occupying my time or mind that day and to not properly celebrate. Because publication is such a long process in the academic world, I do feel that recognizing the moment becomes difficult. To make sure that I remember how important this part of scholarly life is, I have cleared off a section of my bookshelf where I prominently display my work. After a long day of writing, it is nice to glance at that section on the bookshelf and celebrate that I too have made a contribution to my field.

August is nearly here. I have had a full run already on this summer. Having utilized many spare hours that this time of the year allows, I am happy with the work that has been achieved so far. But I am hoping that the rush of the first 10 weeks of summer will taper off ever so slightly so that I can sneak in a few days of R&R before another delightfully full year of teaching begins.

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