Timing App

Over the years, I've tried various ways to keep track of my writing. Last year, I logged my daily words counts for my dissertation to monograph writing for about ten months, until being a new professor meant I stopped keeping the log. I kept writing, mind, but ran out of steam in tracking my word counts. However, since I submitted my manuscript a few months ago, I've not been writing productively nor been diligent about tracking where my writing time goes. I've started three or four projects and made little progress on what I need to be doing.

Advice from sources as diverse as Jessica Abel and Paul Silvia suggest keeping track of where your time goes as one step towards being more productive. When I relaized I spend an hour a day reading the newspaper, the excuse I have no time begins to make no sense.

A few days ago, I started to use Timing an app for MacOS X. I've not purchased the app yet, but I plan to because it solves two issues with using a Google Sheet or a custom Tinderbox file to track word counts.

First, the friction of making an entry is almost nill: Click a menu icon, name the item, assign the project, and you're done.

Second, unlike my Google Sheet or Tinderbox, the focus here is not word count, but time. I find writing words easy enough. 99% of my writing is revision. As such, many of my words count entries last year were estimates, a rough guess at how many words I had revised.

I've come to think it more important to account for time spent writing, not words revised. There are other similar apps out there, but I like Timing because it does not sync to a cloud server and therefore there are no privacy issues, because it is not subscription based, and because there is no iPhone app.

The lack of an iPhone app might seem a weakness, but I find it useful to account for what I do on the computer, not everything I do.

A few days into using Timing, and I'm happy. If I am still using the app by the time the free trial runs out, I will purhcase it.

On handwriting

I spent yesterday drafting, longhand, an idea. Sheila Lamb likes to write by hand, too.

The first draft always begins on paper with ink. Sometimes, the first handwritten words are a line, a sentence, a phrase. Sometimes, a scene. Usually, these words will not be in the final story. But they mark the magical moment where the story began.

I spent almost all of yesterday writing. I woke up at 6:30 am, and other than taking my son to school and a little bit of procrastination in the early afternoon, I wrote by hand with a fountain pen in a spiral bound notebook. 34 pages, mostly single spaced.

I agree with Lamb:

I find ideas flow better from paper to pen. When I handwrite, I write fast. Inspiration can be elusive and I want to get the words on paper without disruption. There is a smooth connection from pen to hand, something that, for me, pencils don’t give. Computers certainly don’t. The pen is, literally, a fluid implement. I favor gel pens (a Pilot G-2).

My drug of choice is not a gel pen, although in grad school I used to go through dozens. Instead, it is a Lamy fountain pen. I have three: black, white, and red. I've had the red one since 2013. I probably picked up the habit before that doing ethnographic research in northern Colombia while writing field notes in small notebooks.

Sheila Lamb is a fiction writer; I'm not. But, like her, I like my pens. Her description of transcription as the first edit, and then restructuring and revising on a laptop match what I do. I've used Scrivener, but I prefer Tinderbox. I go back and forth from screen to the printed page often.

What I wrote out longhand might become an article on New Brunswick one day.

Today, I had meetings all day. In the moments I could find, I edited an article that has been under a revise and resubmit for far too long.

Morning reading on July 19, 2018

I’m trying to keep up with the evolving situation of extractive industry in New Brunswick and Colombia. Here’s what I’ve found interesting this morning.

New Brunswick

White, Alan, "Sisson mine impact on Maliseet First Nations 'significant' " (CBC News, April 19, 2016).

There isn’t enough being done to mitigate the impact of the proposed Sisson Brook mine on MaliseetFirst Nations people, states a new report from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.

White, Alan, "5 Maliseet chiefs want Sisson mine rejected " (CBC News, April 21, 2016).

The chiefs of five Maliseet First Nations in New Brunswick are calling for the proposed Sisson mine project to be rejected because of its impact on Maliseet people.

White, Alan, "6 Maliseet First Nations agree to Sisson mine deal - New Brunswick" (CBC News, February 10, 2017).

The six Maliseet First Nations in New Brunswick have reached a multimillion-dollar financial deal with the provincial government that clears the way for the Sisson mine project north of Fredericton to proceed.

Bonspiel, Steve, "The Oka Crisis was supposed to be a wake-up call. Little has changed in 27 years " (CBC News, July 11, 2017).

“When the Oka Crisis happened, it was supposed to be a wake-up call, and although certain things changed (Kanesatake got some of its land back, the golf course expansion was halted and the situation put Indigenous rights to the forefront), there is still much to work on, together.”

Fowler, Shane, "Protest camp built on proposed site of Sisson mine project " (CBC News, July 18, 2017).

Members of Maliseet First Nations have started to build a protest camp at the proposed site of the Sisson mine near Napadogan.

White, Alan, "Dominic Cardy calls for 'clarity' on Aboriginal veto " (CBC News, April 22, 2018).

New Democratic Party Leader Dominic Cardy is urging the federal Liberal government to make a decision quickly about the proposed Sisson mine project in New Brunswick.


McDermott, Jeremy, "Record Cocaine Production in Colombia Fuels New Criminal Generation" (Insight Crime, July 17, 2017).

Colombia is now producing more cocaine than ever before, just as a new chapter in the country's criminal history begins and the government tries to implement a peace agreement with Marxist rebels.

Sonneland, Holly K., "Explainer: Colombia's 2018 Elections" (Americas Soceity / Council of the Americas, June 28, 2017).

On June 23, former Presidents of Colombia Álvaro Uribe and Andrés Pastrana announced that their parties, the Democratic Center and the Conservative Party, were joining forces to form a “great coalition,” just as campaigning for 2018 elections revs up. The announcement came almost a full year before the elections, but the union now allows the two politicians—both critics of President Juan Manuel Santos’ peace process with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)—to begin to corral mostly right-wing voter support behind a single presidential candidate and start to give some definition to a crowded field with several dozen declared and likely candidates from across the political spectrum.

UNODC, "Colombia: Monitoreo de territorios afectados por cultivos ilícitos 2016" (UNODC, July 1, 2017).

El informe de monitoreo de cultivos de coca para 2016, aparece en un momento histórico trascendental para Colombia. La rma de acuerdos de Paz con la guerrilla de las Farc - Ep y la expectativa por la concreción de un proceso exitoso con el ELN, constituyen elementos clave para entender las estadísticas y tendencias que ofrece el reporte.

Casey, Nicholas, "After Decades of War, Colombian Farmers Face a New Test: Peace" (New York Times, July 19, 2017).

The Colombian government also sees peace as its biggest chance in decades to uproot the rebel-controlled drug trade and replace it with crops that are legal, though admittedly less lucrative.

2017, “Self Help for Writers.” Culture: The Newsletter for the Canadian Anthropology Society, 11.1.

Anthropologist, ethnographer, writer? What am I? I spent seven years as a grad student (two in coursework, two and a half in both fieldwork and writing) and two as a postdoc. Only lately have I begun to identify as a writer. When did this happen? In the morning, I think.

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2017, “The para-state: an ethnography of Colombia’s death squads by Aldo Civico.” Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, 42:1, 121-123.

Nobody tells an ethnographer beginning fieldwork that when their work is published it will already be a part of history. Aldo Civico conducted interviews with the foot soldiers and leaders of paramilitary groups in Colombia between 2003 and 2008; the University of California Press published The Para-State: An Ethnography of Death Squads in Colombia in 2016. His book is a history of the recent past, when Colombian paramilitaries were at the apex of their power, their demobilization process with the central government was ongoing, and the 2016 peace agreement between the government and the guerrilla in Havana seemed fantastical. The Para-State treads a careful path through this labyrinthine history of death squads intertwined with the Colombian state and its elites. The result makes for excellent, if disturbing, reading. Excellent and disturbing precisely because Civico takes a path less traveled by observers of Colombia’s conflict. Civico builds on life histories as told by paramilitaries themselves; the focus is not the victim, but the victimizer: the paramilitary supporter, commander, and now dead-eyed young men dressed in new clothes and shiny sneakers who perpetrated killings, conducted massacres, and sowed terror in the name of order.

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2017, “Unearthing Conflict: Corporate Mining, Activism, and Expertise in Peru by Fabiana Li.” PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review.

A specter haunts Latin America—the specter of mining. As multinational mining corporations have spread across the continent, their grasp has been tightest in the Peruvian Andes where they have sparked dozens of anti-mining protests. Fabiana Li, an anthropologist at the University of Manitoba, provides a timely study of mining conflicts in Peru in her new book Unearthing Conflict.

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Writing on Schedule

Today's trick from Dorothea Brande to get back into writing: Schedule a time to write, and, come what may, make sure to be writing at that time. Today, I my time was 4:00 pm. I failed, because I took a nap instead. Later, at 6:00 I went to a coffee shop and did my quota for the day. The result? Starting was harder than usual, and I used a pencil and paper, but for the first time in a year, I have a draft of a conclusion. There is so much left to do: edit, revise, rewrite, read aloud, send to my copy editor, etc. But, even on busy day a little progress feels good.

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To get back into regular writing

Dorothea Brande offers some advice on Becoming a Writer. There is much wisdom in the book, but one of the most helpful pieces of advice she offers is on page 74. How to learn to write with more ease.

The best way to do this is to rise half an hour, or a full hour, earlier than you customarily rise. Just as soon as you can—and without talking, without reading the morning’s paper, without picking up the book you laid aside the night before—begin to write.

Write anything that comes into your head: last night’s dream, if you are able to remember it; the activities of the day before, a conversation, real or imaginary; an examination of conscience. Write any sort of early morning reverie, rapidly and uncritically. The excellence or ultimate worth of what you write is of no importance yet. As a matter of fact, you will find more value in this material than you expect, but your primary purpose now is not to bring forth deathless words, but to write any words at all who are not pure nonsense.

I followed her advice yesterday morning (and this morning). I wrote for twenty minutes as I boiled tea in the early hours. When I got to editing my own book, I worked for two pleasant hours.

The advice to write first thing is given elsewhere, but Brande offers self-help for writers finding it hard to write.

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Guilty won't help me write more

Jessica Abel writes about self-forgiveness when missing a scheduled time to write: “Water under the bridge,” she calls it. Good advice, which hit home over the last two days.

Monday night I made a commitment to write every morning. Something I often do anyway, albeit not as much as I would like. Yesterday, I spent most of the day in bed with a bout of food poisoning. Today, I slept late. The last thing I wanted to do was write. By noon, I managed-two hours of revising. Should I try to make up for the time lost day yesterday? Or, should I feel guilty for missing my public commitment to write first thing? No. Writing is a long game. There have been days and weeks when I’ve had to stop writing. The trick? Get back and keep at it. My hope is that tomorrow I will be able to write firs thing. But, if not, I won't feel guilty. Guilty won't help me write more. A little self-forgiveness is a good idea.

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