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Academic Coaching & Writing

XXVI. An Academic, Writing: Reassessing My Goals

Jun 25, 2013 by Lee Skallerup Bessette

During the 12 weeks I worked with my coach, Moira, when we were looking at both the long-term and short-term timelines for completing my book, she would observe (gently) that she wasn’t sure if I had enough time to complete my book by the October 1 deadline. I would reassure her (not so gently) that I would, indeed, get my book done on time and that a deadline was a deadline. Then I would stubbornly repeat my contention that I Will Get It Done. To me, failure was not an option. Well, Moira, you were right. My goal to meet an October 1 deadline turned out to be unrealistic when I started to juggle the time it would require to complete the manuscript with other goals I set for myself this summer.

While, failure still isn’t an option, reevaluating my priorities and reassessing my goals certainly is. I have been pushing myself hard over the past few years both professionally and personally. I’ve been trying to balance a 5/4 course load with a husband and two kids, a research agenda, and an expanding involvement in social media. In addition, certain recent events have caused me to reevaluate both what I can and what I want to accomplish this summer and beyond. I have come to the conclusion that while I can and will finish my book, I don’t want to sacrifice my mental and physical health, as well as my time with my family, to get it done by the October 1 deadline.

I’m not giving up on writing my book, but I am extending the timeline out past October, to give myself room to achieve some balance in my life. I will be asking for an extension and shifting my writing focus for the summer months. Towards the end of the winter semester, I received news that my revised dissertation manuscript was rejected by the publisher to whom I had sent it. I now basically have two book projects in progress, one of which is over five years old. What is most compelling for me this summer is to go back over the dissertation manuscript to further refine it and to formulate an even stronger book proposal. I am fortunate that for the next 12 weeks, as part of my blogging assignment, I will be working with another ACW coach, Amy. Amy Benson Brown, ACW’s new Director of Academic Writing, has extensive experience coaching people who are publishing academic books, and she will be helping me through the rewriting process, as well as assisting me in finding a publisher for my manuscript.

Extending the timeline for my book about Dany Laferrière also allows me an opportunity to refocus on the Digital Humanities project I am envisioning for the mountains of archival research that didn’t make the final cut of the dissertation. In reflection, there’s a lesson here for me. In my quest to do “everything,” I started to lose sight of the projects (and people supporting them) who really matter to me. The modern Academy can be a cruel and demanding taskmaster. For my own health and well-being, I must try to resist the pressures to increasingly do more, write more, publish more, and be everything to everybody, if only to prove that I can. Instead, I am choosing to work on those projects that matter most to me, at a pace that suits my life right now.

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