My room of my own

Today I’m down at my folks’ beach house, in a room of my own. And I’m working. I am sitting at a desk in front of a lovely large window from which I can see green. It’s nice.

Here’s a photo.

A room of my ownPoppy my groodle sits under my feet and I have made good progress on another of my narrative chapters, which should make it easier to shape the discussion chapter. Here’s hoping, at any rate. So, I’ve been aiming for 500 words per day. I had thought to ADD those words, but at this rate, I’ve been EXCISING them from my narratives. This is a good thing, actually. The narratives are holding together better and they are less wordy. I’ve paraphrased quite a bit of the quotes and removed others altogether. And I’ve reshaped the commentary. It hurts, but many times I’ve had to look at the quotes and wonder why they are in there. Do I need it? Does it help? Usually it doesn’t.

So out they go. But with one particularly powerful narrative, the voice of the teacher is so strong and profound I dread to remove the quotes. So I think I might reduce other aspects of the narrative altogether. Fun, fun fun.

Lunch, then back to work. It’s great working at my parent’s beach house. It’s not my house, so I don’t feel bad about how messy it is (that’s my mother’s mess, not mine). I don’t feel the need to clean, except my own grot, and there aren’t other things getting in the way. Everyone is leaving me alone. Perfect. But there are people here and an expectation that I will work. And I am.

Well, ok. I may have spent a few hours reading my fantasy novels – Stephen Donaldson and George RR Martin, you have a LOT to answer for – but their writing is good for me to see. Stephen Donaldson’s writing is rather overwrought. It is grammatically correct, but I’m getting sick of words like demesne and puissance. Just say domain and power, for goodness’ sake. Martin’s writing is fabulous. I hated it at first, thinking his first novel in his series GoT rather crappy fantasy style, but actually, it is amazing. I’m liking his work more and more. I’ve seen the series, hated the rather stereotypical and archetypal characters he had drawn, and REALLY hated the gratuitous sex scenes and nakedness, but now I see how he draws his characters. I GET how he has been inspired by the War of the Roses, and I think – scarily – that he has drawn a frankly barbaric account of the European middle ages. Which I suspect is rather accurate in its barbarity. I love it. And I love the teeny tiny bit of magic he weaves into his stories so that the fantasy element stays alive throughout the many descriptions of battles and political intrigue. And I love his characters. I have the first three books out of 6 he has currently written (book 3 divided into 2 tomes) and I can’t wait to read beyond the Red Wedding because his books give no real indication of how awful Walder Frey really is. The TV series is a wonderful accompaniment to the novels despite the many small changes made to accommodate narrative flow in TV.

Right. So easy for me to stray off the path of good intentions! Back to work I go.

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This is my diary – no wonder I don’t study.

Thought this would be a good way to see just precisely what I do to waste time when I should be working on the PhD. Here’s a picture of my week:

Picture 1

So, there’s a lovely swathe of free time on Friday, right? Yes! I can do PhD work then. All my other time is literally 1-2-1 time with singing clients until quite late at night. My breaks are infrequent and my timetable is like this more than 28 weeks of the year, and this one doesn’t include my tutoring work. Plus I take audition workshops and panels in the holiday weeks.

Normally, too, I teach from 8.30am – 2.30pm on Tuesdays as well. So, time to do housework anyone? Nup. Time to take the dog for a walk? You see I’ve squeezed in a moment or two for that. Dinner? Stopped cooking. Breakfast? Yes, yes I can do that. And I was wondering why I have no time for PhD land. Or food shopping.

Now, you would think I have plenty of time during school holidays and summer to write, and so I do, but only during summer break. Winter is too busy with other work now. So let’s see where summer break gets me. November my uni teaching ceases. There may be marking to do – say, about 1 week’s worth. There are several catch-up lessons to plan – let’s say about 1 week’s worth. My private practice is still going until December. That means I have about 2 weeks in November where my teaching only reaches around 15 hours per week. So I legitimately have 50+ hours to study in November.

Then December hits. All bets are off. It’s holiday time and Xmas, and December is a wasted month – I’ve written about his before. So, January, right? Yay! January! One whole lovely month for study, yay! Let’s see if that happens this year – it should because I want to get the blasted thing finished, but time – well, it gets away from me.

Many kind people have suggested I get up super early and write for 2 hours in the morning. While I like this idea I am simply not a morning person. Although I reckon I could fit in an hour of reading then. So I might try this next week and see where it gets me. Because mapping out my day sure isn’t working. Giving myself small step goals isn’t working. I’m not sure what IS working. Perhaps looking at my ‘to-do’ scroll above my desk is helping. Well, yes it is. So off I go now, to try and do “Topic 1: Cultural Psychology”.

A room of one’s own with a view.

More than ever, I feel the need for a room of one’s own. Ignoring for a moment the usual feminist rantings that usually follow this statement with “what would Virginia Wolfe know, she was a white, middle-class Englishwoman who had several rooms, and an income which supported her writing in a time when most English couldn’t afford to heat their houses”, I am aware of a need to have a space where I can write, look at stuff, which gives me a VIEW.

I am on the hunt for a perfect study room. A room which is full of books and a comfy couch and a desk and a music corner and probably an open fire-place, and a room that has a wall-length window in it where I can look at the view while I’m writing. Perhaps with the window opening onto a lovely deck that overlooks, oh, I don’t know, the ocean, or a rainforest, or even a pretty back garden.

Why? Because every time I write, I am aware of the interior of my house. My home study/ studio is certainly not ugly, but it has no clear glass in the windows. It has horrible nasty old rattly clouded glass louvre windows. I can’t see out without opening them, which causes noise pollution, and my back is turned away from the window due to the configuration of my desk and room shape. I can’t look up and stare out the window. I want to do this. For peace of mind, tranquility and all things lovely.

Here are some rooms that look nice but aren’t perfect:

home library home_library_furniture home-library-design-idea home-library-interior-design-inspiration

They come pretty close, though. I’m tempted to create a library at our house anyway. Because we need to organise all our many many books; our lounge room could use some more bookcases; and I think wall to ceiling bookcases are perfect. Can’t afford it yet.

On the plus side, my methods chapter looks a little less hideous every day.

Finding the inspiration or losing the will.

A friend of mine has, she felt, finished her thesis. At 91,000 words, she thinks she might be done. Not only do I have serious pangs of envy that she has “finished”, I envy her ability to just get on and “do it”. Obviously, nattering about in a blog like this ensures that of course I will NOT get on and do it, so I’d better get started before I lose the will. My dear friend R has kindly offered to BRING me the Stake Case Study Research book from the home library in QLD, which is definitely going above and beyond the call of good friendship. (She is also coming to the UK for this study trip, just in case anyone was wondering why a friend would offer to hop on a plane and bring a book here all the way from Australia.)

Some minor irritations today: I hate underfloor heating – it takes ages to warm up and cool down, and now the temperature which was too high is now too low. Can’t work the bloody machine and the instructions are worse than useless because they provide only half the information one needs. And I hate hate hate the new Gmail compose experience. They are trying to make email more like informal text, but actually, I use email more like letters. They formalise things and one needs the whole page for this. Gmail need to get a grip and realise that email is basically for formal letter writing and not to mess with something that was working just fine, thank you very much.

I’m having a gripe morning. Sorry. Back to work.

 

Goal setting time again.

Today I set some goals for October. So this post is a bit of a list post, because it’s been a while since I wrote one!

In some interesting news, my article to RSME was accepted with major revisions. Lovely. It’s been nearly a year coming and the information needed minor updating anyway, but when I looked at the comments they were really very positive and thoughtful. 2 reviewers said minor revisions, one said major revisions, but I really liked the lovely, gentle commentary. The Editor, who has final say, then suggested major revisions, but when I looked at what she was suggesting, they seemed minor in comparison with some article submissions I’ve received lately. So that’s something else to get done by the end of the year.

I finally decided to exercise. I’ve been putting it off in the forlorn hope that I would “reward” myself with a training program once my PhD was submitted. This was stupid. I’m taking the bull by the horns and just going for it anyway. I think it will help my alertness and general health and will help my study work too. I’m too sedentary anyway and my stomach fat is finally starting to have a life of its own, wobbling and moving in the opposite direction to me whenever I do something physical. Urgh. I’ve planned how much weight I think I can lose by Xmas (that’s 8 kilos!), and how much stamina I want to have, how much body fat and how much strength I think I can achieve in 10 weeks.

So, October – December: I have a thesis to edit by 22 October. Sounds like fun and is an interesting premise. I always learn something new when I edit. And I get paid. I have 3 (unpaid) book chapters to write. Something tells me I should really get onto those ASAP. At least I should make outlines of the chapters! I have an (unpaid) article to revise. I have a small (paid) research project to analyse and semi-write a presentation for. I have 85 (paid) essays to correct by mid-November. I have 30 students to teach and prepare for their exams. I’m helping out at a Musical Theatre Charity Concert (unpaid). I’m planning my company’s Showcase Concert set for November.

I’m seeing a PT every week, and I’m going to exercise 4 times a week. I’m joining another gym, because it has yoga classes and a pool and other classes that will help me. I’m going to Melbourne to see Stephen Sondheim in concert and seeing if I can get my youngest to move away from his toxic relationship with his father and brother and move into my parent’s place until he finishes his diploma.

What a month, and this doesn’t include the house painting I’m planning, nor the PhD work I’m trying to rediscover, nor the extra work I may need to take on to pay for school fees and credit card debt. What a month, what a year.

Oh no! $129 on one book and it’s NOT VERY GOOD.

So, as a singer and PhD candidate researching singing, I was deeply interested in the new Potter and Sorrell publication: A History of Singing, published only 2 weeks ago by Cambridge Uni Press. I stumped up $129 for the privilege to have it sent out and it arrived, parcel post, this week. $129 is a substantial amount for a book. I am always prepared to spend good money on books when they contain something I might find useful. Well. Ahem. I was a wee bit disappointed.

Not by the writing, which is fine. Not really by the content, which, when you add it to Potter’s other works about singing, is a useful addition to his oeuvre, but because there is nothing new in it for me. Bugger. The authors write about the history of the conservatoire and quote Burney. I’ve read Burney. Bugger, and more bugger. Luckily, they do make a pretty contentious argument about the conservatoire environment on page 215, which is about the most useful paragraph in the book.

And some of the chapters are just plain weird. Why name the chapter currently titled “A great tradition: singing through history – history through singing” when it’s really “Classical music of the Indian Subcontinent”? Obfuscation there, IMHO. And why is it in the section called Recorded Voices? The layout of this book makes no sense. And also, why a bloody apologia at the beginning of this chapter? What is there to defend? I’m not sure why the authors are defending a perfectly reasonable subsection in their book. No-one has offered up a kategoria as yet. Why jump the gun?

Anyway. I’m a bit grumpy about it. So I now have to wait for the Oxford Handbook on Singing. Which isn’t due for publication until I’m ready to submit, darn it. On the other hand, my reading of Richard Sennett’s excellent book “The Craftsman”, which cost me $14 including postage, is making up for my financial loss on the other book. There are lots of stickies in this book, and I’m only up to chapter 4. It’s great. This book, plus my books on Cultural Psychology are becoming very useful theoretical underpinnings for my study. Definitely.

Now. Back to work on my last narrative.

And, just for a change, I’ve got some Monteverdi madrigals (Book 3), recorded in 2002 by Delitiae Musicae, Marco Longhini conductor, (Naxos) playing in the background. I’ve missed my Renaissance/early music connections. Earlier, I listened to Canteloube’s Chants D’Auvergnes, sung by Veronica Gens. Amazing how soothing to the savage breast music can be. Especially this grieving one.

 

Book nerd alert.

I’m a sucker for Fishpond, Amazon (until they began charging like a wounded bull for their postage) and the Book Depository. There. Got the ads out. Now, why am I a sucker for these book distributors? Because I can find ANY book on them published in the last 30 years or so. And even books published much, much earlier. I put a regular maximum budget on my book buying because it is my one great vice after wine and food. And because I could easily spend thousands of dollars on the things. And because I can’t get the books I want anywhere else. Retail bookstores simply do not sell these types of books.

My most recent purchases over the last month include (I’ve got a little list):

Vygotsky’s Mind in Society

Wenger’s Communities of Practice

Rogoff’s The Cultural Nature of Human Development

The Oxford Handbook of Music Psychology

Cole’s Cultural Psychology: A Once and Future Discipline

Lehmann, Woody and Sloboda Psychology for Musicians

Kitayama and Cohen Handbook of Cultural Psychology

Some of these books I read last year or earlier and I’m sick of having to remove stickies from the books upon their return to the library, hence, I’ve bought them. I’ve seen a couple of other books just recently that I simply need to have: John Potter’s History of Singing, and the Oxford Handbook of Singing. They’re out soonish. Another book I’m tempted by is Music Education in the middle ages. Tempted, if only because it gives me an overview of early educative practices that might feed into my knowledge about the master-apprentice approach of opera singing from 1600 on.

Oh, and just a little plug for my OWN book on Singing. Co-edited with Scott Harrison, Springer are publishing our edited volume of Perspectives on Teaching Singing: a celebration of Singing Pedagogy in the twenty-first century. Due out July, 2013.

So, told you it was a book nerd alert.

PhD work practices: back to the beginning.

The really dumb thing about doing a PhD is that you feel like you are continually on a loop back to the beginning of your journey. At least, this is what I feel like at the moment. Currently I am working on one of my narrative chapters. It is actually a really joyful experience because the participants have such interesting things to say and their interviews are so rich. The hardest thing for me to do will be to squeeze it all into 15000 words.

Notwithstanding my present joy, I feel that I’m always working from a position of beginnings. Learning how to read, learning how to write, learning how to edit, and learning how to think. It’s tiring. I’m wondering why at present I don’t have a sense of being experienced in my learning, and why this sense of ‘becoming’¬† (philosopher Heidegger’s idea and extended by Deleuze) is always a starting point. Why can’t I get it into my thick skull that I’m most of the way through, that the combined three years experience of reading, writing, thinking should really be coming into play here?

I feel like I’m on some kind of Twilight Zone nightmare feedback loop. Is it the procrastination that’s getting to me? I’ve had 2 excellent hours this morning flinging together my chapter. I’m 8000 words down, another 7000 to go, and I’m annoyed that I didn’t do this earlier. I should have something to send to my supervisor by the end of the month, which brings me to 4 chapters. I WAS hoping to submit 5, but I’ll get the next one in by the end of February.

Argh. Frustration time again. At least I’m working.

Eyesight. Not taking it for granted.

On Friday I went to my optometrist for my two yearly appointment. I’ve been complaining on this blog about poor vision and being unable to concentrate on my work and I have been wondering, quietly, whether it’s because my eyesight has been deteriorating over the last few months. Putting my reading glasses on hasn’t really been helping, lately.

So, sitting there with my youthful 33 year old optometrist telling me that eyesight goes through a series of deteriorating changes between the ages of 40 – 55 was NOT music to my ears.

Turns out that I’m not yet in the “you’ve turned 40 therefore your eyesight is officially crap” basket – it’s actually pretty good for my age. Nevertheless, I still need to get reading glasses 2 levels stronger than my last pair. Might explain things. I’m slightly long sighted and doing close computer work, and I also have an astigmatism. Lovely young optometrist suggested a prism lens, and I had to report that I have two pairs of prism glasses and I can’t bear using them at all – it freaks out my eyes. I told the lassie that I think I only see out of my right eye most of the time because I’m always getting bruises on my left side (no, I’m not being beaten up by anyone other than myself). She reckons my little brain represses the vision in my left side in order to deal with my astigmatism, and so any attempt by optometrists to fix my crappy inward turning eye will result in the madness of King George, thank you very much. She also suggested a graduating lens pair of glasses, to help with close and far vision issues. I said I’d rather die than feel like I’m falling over all the time. I used to own bifocals but I hate them, and, besides, my long vision seems fine most of the time. I only wear glasses to read. And also, I’m not wearing them now. I can see FINE. Although it’s hard concentrating. And the screen is a bit flary. And I have to look up all the time to relax my eyes. Oh, all right! I need glasses. A little bit.

I’ve been expanding my word documents, which I normally type in 10point, to 200% of the normal view, because I just can’t see well enough. And it’s worse when I’m tired. So hopefully next week, when I’ve got my replacement lenses in my old faithful glasses I’ll be able to report improved vision and improved work practices.