An Incomplete List of Recent Grumpiness Triggers

  1. I have to write an evaluation letter for someone’s promotion. The person’s record is incomplete and also just not that great. This makes me very grumpy, because I don’t want to write a bad letter, yet it’s not at all easy to write a good one in this case.
  2. The student on the project I received funds for last year really wants to move to a project I received funds for this year. So I have a year of money spent with very little to show for it. That, too, makes me grumpy. I will have to bring in a postdoc.
  3. I have to submit an annual project report on the project where we have little to show for. (See 2).
  4. So far two new grants in, and maybe a third this year. It will be a good time to go on sabbatical in academic 2019-20. I have been doing and redoing calculations for covering self and students and postdocs and travel and summers and also 35% of academic-year salary that I won’t get during the sabbatical year and also external funds to possibly travel to the UK for a few months in Spring 2020.
  5. I spend far too much time on literary Twitter. Far too much. Even after reducing it significantly, it’s still too much.
  6. I feel I should be a good literary citizen, so I committed to reviewing several short-story collections, and now it just adds to my stress. How stupid am I? Very stupid.
  7. In related news, I read far too much short fiction. Seriously. Short fiction is like a double espresso shot to a novel’s or novella’s 20 oz (Stabucks’ venti) filter coffee. Too much short fiction per day (and yes, I read several stories every day, and that’s not even counting the days when I read microficton for my editorial gig) makes me jittery. I literally go to a novel for a gentler, longer-term fix that I can metabolize before my mind blows up.
  8. I think I need to buy a heavy bag. Or a rowing machine. Or both.
  9. There is a book chapter, a review paper, a complete paper remaining after a student left, and a paper that I have to write from scratch but all the data is here, all of which should be done by the end of the summer. And I am bored out of my wits with all of them. I honestly don’t want to work on any of them.
  10. Science, where is the science in all this? BWAHAHAHAHAHA!
  11. There are no fewer than four short fiction pieces and two nonfiction pieces that I want to write and would write if only the rest of the world would go away for maybe two weeks and I could somehow purge my mind of all the things I need to do ASAP (see 1 and 3). I think this would be one of the so-called writers’ retreats. I could probably afford one, but they sound so…never mind. I’m never gonna do one.
  12. I have always been introverted, in that I need time to myself and being alone makes me happy. But with my family as large as it is, and it being summer, it’s extremely hard to have any alone time at home. At work, there’s noise all fuckin’ summer in the classroom right next to me even though I’ve asked several times that they please not put the noisy summer-program people there as plenty of similar classrooms are empty all summer long. Anyone else having dreams of being on a deserted island for just a little bit with no one wanting story comments/paper drafts/juice and chips/cooked meals? No? Just me?
  13. Writing all this down makes it sound nutty. And mostly self-inflicted.
  14. Which reminds me of  “Brain on Fire,” a new Netflix movie I just saw, even though the movie isn’t about overwork or stress. It’s not a great movie, but it’s based on a compelling true story and is done decently enough.


  1. Maybe time to treat yourself to an introvert’s writing retreat?

    I did this for the first time a couple of summers ago and it made me feel great, I try to fit one in every few months. Basically, it’s an extreme version of going to the coffee shop to write, without the people being all around.

    Find and book a space and time which is not your normal workplace, and which takes you away from home and chores and family (for a day or for a few days with overnights, whatever works). I booked a small self-catering place which was at the end of a barn conversion overlooking some woods. As a bonus, the wifi didn’t reach that end and I had to walk up the yard to log in. Basically it was a small one-bed apartment on a farm, which was perfect.

    Then stock up – hit the fancy place with the best quality prepared food, and buy yourself a menu for the retreat (the big thing about writing retreats is that they take away all the externals, so let someone else feed you). I bought lots of fancy fruit and prepared salads for snacking on because I am a terrible snacker, and very expensive brand tea bags!

    Then prepare – I took two specific projects, one fiction, one self-indulgent science (a wacky side project that I’m not funded to do and none of my students work on so it’s hard to prioritise writing about it), took not just my lap top but packed a proper keyboard, boxes to make a stand to raise the screen, my favourite fountain pen and plenty of ink and sketching pencils and some good quality paper (I like to draw concept maps). I also took non-word things to do in the evening – knitting in my case, and the drawing supplies – to keep the space focused on the words I wanted.

    Look at writing retreats, and plan yourself a schedule. A good guide is to write in intensive bursts of 1-1.5 hours, then take a break of at least half an hour which involves moving – morning and afternoon I made myself a cup of tea and went outside to do a few stretches and lean on the fence and look at the trees for my break, at lunchtime I took a longer break and went for a hike, I also went for a shorter walk between writing and my evening meal. I usually do no more than 5 writing sessions a day, with the last one being a bit shorter – partly to let the brain do its own thing whilst I move my body. I used an alarm clock to time my sessions and my breaks, took advantage of being away from home and getting fresh air exercise to go to bed early, and basically saw no-one for three days, did email twice, and had a WONDERFUL time.

    At least one someone in the academic blogosphere, maybe Good Enough Woman?, wrote a PhD around small children by using cheap overnight stays in a motel close to home – if check in was at two and check out at noon, that made a 22 hour retreat, and the freedom from night and morning routines allowed the bursts of concentration needed.

    Agree with you completely about the awkwardness of some of the more artistic sounding writers retreats, but honestly, strip away the woo and the essence of a retreat is creative bookish intravert heaven.

  2. ooh, yes that does sound lovely, JaneB.
    and xyk, your list makes me feel cranky now, too! (because I am reminded about similar annoyances in my own work and life)

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