How Do You Do It All?

Yikes, it’s been far too long since I posted. I’m clearly not a dedicated blogger! Anyway…I could make excuses for my absence, but instead I’d rather re-direct your attention to the title of this post. Hmmmm. What an interesting question.

Truth be told, hearing this question makes my heart hurt a little bit. It makes my heart hurt because usually when someone asks me this question, I can hear a soft note of self-judgment in their voices, comparing themselves to their image of me. And usually the person asking me this question is a person that I love and admire and respect. I don’t want to be the basis of comparison, and I definitely don’t want to be a reason that someone thinks that they should be doing more. Should is sometimes a ridiculous word. We’re all doing our best here on this funny ol’ planet, okay? So despite living in a culture that’s obsessed and deeply invested in showcasing our inadequacies, let’s stop comparing ourselves to each other. It’s not really that productive.

Truth be told, I sure as hell don’t “do it all.” And I can’t emphasize this enough.

On most days, I’m doing a combination of these things that are pretty recognizable obligations: working, writing, reading, being a graduate student (whatever the heck that means), planning for post-grad-school endeavors, and volunteering/being involved in my community. I also try to squeeze in a couple of these personal, private obligations: exercising, riding my motorcycle, meditating, practicing music, relaxing, reading a novel for fun, drawing, sewing, and cooking. But I absolutely, unequivocally do NOT accomplish all of these things every day. I’d explode. We’ve only got 24 hours a day, y’all.

On any given day, I’m deliberately choosing NOT to do any of these other things: cleaning my house, sorting the mail, returning voice mails/emails/text messages, preparing balanced meals (know what I ate for lunch today? half a bag of popcorn), spending time on unnecessary grooming rituals (shaving legs = waste of time), comparing myself to what other people do, spending time working on my career, managing my finances (thank goodness for autopay), thinking about building wealth and my retirement investments, repairing broken stuff around the house, and doing yardwork. Oh, and writing appropriately frequent blog posts.

What I’m very clumsily trying to say here is this: I don’t do it all. I don’t even come close. There are deliberate trade-offs: I will never, ever, ever have a spotlessly clean house, because it’s rock bottom on my list of priorities. Then there are inevitable trade-offs: while I’m in grad school, I will not have a lot of time to spend with family and friends because eventually finishing my Ph.D. is very, very high on my priority list.

So – next time you start to compare yourself to someone else, next time you think I should…stop. Give yourself a mental hug, and remember that we all have much more complicated and opaque lives than appear on the surface. Nobody does it all, and that’s okay.

Love, peace, and non-judgmental kindness,
Sumiko

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What I Wish I’d Known When I Started Grad School

After I wrote my last post, Confessions of a Struggling [PhD Student] Writer, I was pleasantly surprised to find that what I’d written was helpful to people! One of my friends even shared it with her students, who were (reportedly) comforted by the idea that good writers are made through painstaking and heartbreaking labor, not born. As I was reading about the uses of epideictic rhetoric in the service of war, a few other things were rattling around in my brain as well.

One is that I’m over the halfway mark on my PhD program – huzzah! But now I am faced with the fairly terrifying task of getting everything lined up so I can write a dissertation and graduate without taking a whole decade to do it. And that got me thinking – what do I do now that I really wish I’d started doing the day I began grad school? Predictably, I thought this might be fun to write up in a list.

  1. Write a quick summary of EVERY SINGLE THING that you read – include the main points, the theoretical contributions by the author, and key words – and keep it all in the same place. I am intensely envious of people who seem able to recall the highlights of everything they’ve read in the past, but my brain does not work like that. My brain is very fond of keyword-searchable banks of information, especially when I have to write a lit review.
  2. Use some kind of citation management system. I use Zotero, which is a free, open-source program that you can use across operation systems and access from the web. Even after my institutional affiliation changes, I’ll have access to this.
  3. Figure out how to take notes – fast. I can’t even begin to say how hard this was for me. I rarely studied anything in high school; in college the only things I studied for were chemistry and organic chemistry (my downfall!). So when I got to grad school and found that the volume and complexity of the work before me were actually a challenge, I had to figure out how to take notes. I didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell. I experimented with typing up my notes, but found that handwriting was better because it forced me to summarize and make decisions on the fly about what was really important about an article or a seminar lecture. I am still working on some kind of decent note-conversion system and I suspect I will be for quite a while.
  4. Prioritize self-care. American culture tends to glorify busyness and that bleeds over into grad school. If you let it (and I have – sometimes I still do) it will eat up ever moment of your life, cannibalizing your sanity, your relationships, the non-academic parts of yourself to fuel the pressure to be doing something all the time. For me, self-care looks like no-guilt trips to a spa on occasion, drinking quality tea and coffee while staring into space, snuggling with world’s most adorable man and the world’s most adorable dog (see below), and riding my motorcycle. If I don’t have these things, my sanity starts to crumble and I can’t even string together sentences. The point for me is that I need to remember to put these things first, I won’t be able to achieve much academically. IMGP0083
  5. Build friendships within your program, but don’t neglect friendships elsewhere. My friends in grad school have helped me through when I felt like quitting, inspired me to do better, and sympathized with me when I felt like an incompetent idiot. My friends from outside grad school reminded me that in the grand scheme of things, grad school is a very privileged position to be in, and to stop whining please, because most folks don’t give a damn about the rhetorical significance of anything Foucault wrote.
  6. If you lend books out, take a picture of the person you lent it to holding said volume. I still have no idea who has my copy of Becker’s Writing for Social Scientists. If it’s you – can I please have it back?
  7. How to ask good questions. This one is still really hard for me. It takes me a while to formulate a careful question that is relevant to anything. I’m not an instinctively critical person, and I usually tend to agree with academic articles.

So, that’s my list! For now, at least. Maybe I’ll write an update when I’m finished with my dissertation. What things do you  wish you’d known – either before you started grad school, or before you started some other major undertaking?

Love, peace, and 20/20 hindsight,
Sumiko

Confessions of a Struggling [PhD Student] Writer

I’ve come to the conclusion that we (go ahead and formulate that ambiguous pronoun to suit your own ends) don’t talk about the process of writing as much as we ought to. Of course, this isn’t news to writing teachers and professors or those who conduct extensive research on writing. I have fairly frequent conversations with people who doubt their writing abilities and hold others’ writing abilities in high esteem, as though a well-written essay is something of a genetic gift, much like being beautiful or having a photographic memory. So I thought maybe this would be a good thing to talk about (and I really do welcome conversation on this particular topic, since I spend a good deal of my time writing, thinking about writing, or reading the products of many hours of writing labor.

Nobody expects to be brilliant at the violin, or racquetball, or painting, or cooking without any practice. So why do we expect ourselves to be great writers without decades of practice?

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Exhibit A: I wonder how many hours worth of writing went into these?

One of my favorite quotes about writing is from Hemingway, who despite his many flaws, was admittedly a hell of a writer. It goes something like this: “The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.” I think he may have also compared writing to bleeding into a typewriter – thank goodness we don’t have to use those behemoths anymore. My wrists hurt just thinking about it. And while there may be some truth in those analogies, they are both irritating because they make writing seem effortless. For me, it is anything BUT effortless. So here are some things – confessions, lessons, what-have-you – that I have figured out about writing for myself.

  1. There are some things that I am really terrible at writing. And by this, I mean that there are some genres or formal conventions of writing that I struggle with mightily, to the point where I avoid them if I can. For example, the academic literature review makes me want to stick myself in the eye with a pencil. It’s like slogging through thick mud for miles on end, and when it’s over there isn’t even a shower to wash the mud off.
  2. There are some things that I am less terrible at writing. Such as academic theoretical pieces on some arcane topic. I get nerdily excited at the chance to speculate wildly, erm, I mean theorize seriously, about stuff like radical heteroglossia or rhetorical subjectivity or mediated representations of domestic violence. Everyone (I hope) has things that they are naturally drawn towards. And usually when I’m drawn towards something, I am better at it than I would be if I were forced to do it (see #1).
  3. There are plenty of “rules” of writing that I am bad at remembering. Commas are one of these; apostrophes are another. I have to look up the rules for plural possessive its’/its all the damn time. (Fortunately, hilarious writers like The Oatmeal have given me illustrated comics by which to remember this stuff. Or at least give me a laugh while I’m looking up the difference. Why are the shortest words in the English language the most troublesome?) Luckily, humans have produced the internet and many websites on grammar to save our asses when these things come up.
  4. The difference between a shitty piece of writing and a good piece of writing is time and drafts and editing and revising and proofreading and maybe some more coffee, please. In no particular order.
  5. Spell check < proofreading. Point in case. At the end of #3, I had originally written “to save our assess” instead of “to save our asses” and spell check was supremely unhelpful. Of course, being able to proofread depends on setting aside time for it…which leads me to…
  6. Although last-minute “panic inspiration” the night before a deadline is helpful as far as adrenaline goes, it’s not really a sustainable writing practice. You know what is a sustainable writing practice for me? Writing. Even if it’s dreadful and terrible, the act of pounding out words on a keyboard is something that somehow (magically, I suspect) leads to decent work. And then of course, there’s all the stuff in #4.
  7. Sentence structure is still a bitch. Something that makes perfect sense in my head sounds grotesque when read aloud. I frequently find myself going back and revising tortured sentences. There’s some perverse part of my brain that apparently really loves multiple clauses in a sentence.

It only looks easy from the outside when nobody talks about their writing processes! During my time in grad school I’ve received the most beautiful gift of honest feedback from my fellow writing group members, and I’ve learned to be a better reviewer and commenter on other people’s work in progress. Just simply SEEING other people’s drafts was a revelation at first. When I learned that one of the people whose writing I really admire was once an outline/prose mix studded with “write about XYZ here” and “need something else” and “this is a terrible word choice” I was immensely comforted. Suddenly my works-in-progress, replete with phrases like “blah blah blah” and reminders to “CITE THIS!” didn’t seem so shoddy, so unintelligent, so unworthy.

I’ve also learned to do a word search for “blah blah blah” before submitting any drafts to professors.

Love, peace, and honesty in writing,
Sumiko

P.S. In an effort to be honest, I must also admit that as I write this, I’m procrastinating a research project proposal that is due in less than 24 hours. I am also terrible at taking my own advice. I’m going to rationalize this by saying that I’m following my advice from #6 instead…and now that I’m done pounding these words out on a keyboard I will go back to my other work. No, really. I totally will.

Bad, Bad Blogger.

Happy July! Yes, I realize that it’s been seven months since I last posted. I’m a bad, bad blogger. But since I do enjoy breaking cardinal rules, I’m just going to go with it. I also have a good excuse in the form of this watertight pseudo-mathematical proof:

marriage
+ grad school
+ work
+ teaching part-time
+ occasionally sleeping
zero time for blogging

So, here’s a quick update post.

The Year of Not Buying Things

The Year is almost over! I have failed on several counts – such as buying myself a lipstick for my birthday (it was so red and so pretty, and I had a terrible moment of weakness – and was also goaded on by my sister-in-law). I also purchased a UV shirt for riding my motorcycle, because skin cancer is really not on my to-do list. I have also had to make a few necessary purchases for work and school (matron of honor dress for my sister’s wedding, whiteboard markers for teaching, and required books that I couldn’t find at the library).

But overall, The Year has helped me to accomplish what I was hoping to do. I was able to take a step back from the habit of buying stuff just because, and to really carefully consider WHY I wanted something, and if I actually needed it. And because I have not been consuming at anything near a frantic pace, I’ve been able to inspect the ethics of my consumption as well. Supporting local businesses is really important to me, as is supporting craftspeople and the overall slow/quality movement. So when I needed a (very specific shade of blue) dress for my sister’s wedding, I was able to pay an extremely talented friend to make it for me, keeping my money in the local economy.

In fact, it’s been such a good year that while I may relax my restrictions a little bit, I think I’m going to keep to the same path. Being able to re-focus on what’s really important to me – my people (you know who you are!), learning stuff, stretching my creativity – has been an incredible gift for the past 11 months.

Summertime, Traveling, and Motorcycles!

I’ve been bouncing around a lot this summer, too. In May, a trip to San Antonio for the Rhetoric Society of America conference…

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And then in June, a trip to Sacramento, where I saw this magnificent piece of artwork and also got to spend some quality time with my (seriously) cool family-in-law…

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    …and to Massachusetts for some beach time and my little sister’s wedding (awww!)…

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…left me pretty wiped out. I was seriously excited to get back home and to my own kitchen! Which I have barely used at all because it’s been near 100 degrees since we got home. (Ick.)

Despite the wretched blistering heat, I really love riding my motorcycle (as you may recall). I haven’t been riding as much this summer because I’m enrolled in two pedagogy classes and totally geeking out over that, and also teaching part-time in addition to my regular full time job. BUT! This weekend I got to go for a little ride with my totally excellent mom.

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Mama’s helmet hair is infinitely cooler than mine. Thank goodness for motorcycles and family. And now, it’s back to homework for me (see item #2 in my watertight pseudo-mathematical proof, above).

Peace, love, and hopefully less than seven months until another post,
Sumiko

A Complicated Relationship, or: Why I Wear Red Lipstick

I have been in the same complicated relationship since I turned 14. It was early in the morning, on my birthday (unfortunately, a school day), and I was brushing my teeth in the bathroom. My  mom interrupted my usual routine and presented me with a Clinique bag shaped like a sunflower, containing mascara, light tan eyeshadow, and a stick of brown eyeliner. I probably squealed with delight, and then promptly asked for help because I had no idea what to do with those particular implements. That was my first memorable experience with the breathless thrill of being able to change my physical appearance, albeit temporarily. The exhilarating rush of feeling that I was somehow more beautiful, and more worthy of attention or affection or whatever my teenaged brain was feeling, was new to me.

I have struggled with makeup not only in the literal application, but in what it means to me, how my identity is or isn’t changed by wearing or not wearing it, and how I perceive myself without and with it. I’m still struggling with this – it’s something that I consider on a practical level (how much time am I willing to take up with it), a professional level (will I be perceived as credible without it?), and an intellectual level (am I contributing to my own devaluation every time I put on makeup?).

Furthering this confusion is the fact that my face-paint of choice is bright, fire-engine red lipstick. It’s not exactly what you could call subtle. Red lipstick has a bit of a history in the west – if you’ll allow me the license, maybe even a bit of baggage. Associated variously with formal self-presentation for women in the 1940s and 1950s, sex workers, burlesque dancers, and their famous counterparts like Grace Kelly, Dita von Teese, Marilyn Monroe, and Gwen Stefani (and many more), red lipstick has signified sexuality and flirtation, passion and provocation. Women who are “taken seriously” are rarely known for wearing bright red lipstick.

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Enter Dr. Lindsay Kite and Dr. Lexie Kite – two brilliant and engaging women whom I respect and admire. Their research speaks to my struggle in many ways. Their project, Beauty Redefined, looks at media subjectification/objectification of women and girls and the impacts those processes have on us and our development in all spheres of life – health, education, happiness, and pretty much everything else. Reading their amazing work for the hundredth time, I suddenly felt like I needed to write this down and get it out of my head. I needed to understand this relationship better for myself.

Practical matters first: with 24 possible hours in the day, I am willing to spend .003% of my time on my appearance every day. That includes brushing my hair and putting on makeup – roughly 5 minutes. If I put on makeup every work day for an entire year, that adds up to a rather whopping 21.6 hours – basically a full day every year. Granted, there are plenty of days that I refuse to put on any makeup at all, but even so, I consider that a lot of time. That’s time I could spend studying, playing with my dog, spending time with my beloved, reading, drawing, enjoying a cup of coffee, writing, or about a zillion other things that are arguably more valuable to who I am becoming in the long run. In this dimension, red lipstick is a really fast way to bring my normal appearance to a slightly higher level without feeling like I’m completely caving in to vanity.

Professional neuroses next: I started working in my first professional-level position when I was 20 years old, and I had so, so many doubts about whether or not I was remotely credible in the position of authority I’d suddenly found myself in. Even today, I still have doubts about whether or not people will take my advice seriously based on my appearance. This insecurity drives me NUTS! I am a competent, smart and creative professional, but I still feel like I need to look a certain part. To some extent, bright red lipstick is a shield.

As a ‘professional student,’ I know the currency of looks in the academic world. Time spent on appearances is often assumed to be a sign of inner shallowness, a symptom to diagnose a lack of worthwhile ideas. The plainer I appear, the deeper my thoughts. There are most certainly those who dismiss such ridiculous stereotypes as just that. Nonetheless, physical appearance remains something of an issue in some academic circles. Ironically, it’s “appearing” to spend time on one’s appearance that seems to count, rather than any actual metric – how many beauty blogs have tutorials demonstrating a detailed seventeen-step process to looking like you aren’t wearing any makeup at all? In this capacity, red lipstick is a polite way of saying “Don’t be silly.”

To my mind, bright red lipstick is a reminder and a challenge. It’s a reminder to me to always aim for vivacity. It’s a challenge to one-dimensional ideas about femininity (particularly when paired with less ‘feminine’ elements of physical appearance like short hair and a biker jacket), a challenge to assumptions about intellectual strength and rigor (as in, I can wear lipstick and still be serious about learning), and a challenge to everyone I see to be blazingly, exuberantly, sometimes messily and smudgily, fiery in approaching life.

As with all good relationships, my complicated relationship with makeup is always unfolding as I am always in the process of becoming. Ask me again in ten years and I might have a very different answer for you, but right now, I’ll stick with the boldness and the vivacity of bright red.

Love, peace, and complications,
Sumiko

What I’ve Learned in Grad School

To celebrate surviving the first two and a half weeks of my 21st year of school, here is a post about what I’ve learned in grad school! No, this is not going to be about anything actually academic, but I love writing lists and I think all of these things are pretty funny on some level.

  1. Not only is “dissertating” a word, it’s a word that inspires envy in those of us who aren’t even thinking about comps yet.
  2. Also, “comping” is a word. And it has nothing to do with comp time.
  3. Many people go for days at a time without reading or responding to emails.
  4. A few people go for weeks at a time without responding to emails.
  5. Pretty much everyone in grad school agrees that there’s a special place in hell for the person who drinks the last of the break room coffee without starting a new pot.
  6. Having a department mailbox and checking your mailbox are two vastly different things.
  7. If you want grad students to attend (anything), you’d better have free food there.
  8. Grad students will spend an inordinate amount of time fretting about things that only they (and perhaps fifty other people in the world) care about.
  9. Hanging out with your fellow students is not only fun, it’s necessary to survive. This goes double if you’re in a PhD program.
  10. A Clif bar is a perfectly acceptable dinner when you have the 6 – 9 pm class and you’ve been at work/teaching since 7:30 am.
  11. Everything you ever read on PhD Comics is actually true.
  12. Despite all the madness and the sleep deprivation and the stress and the pressure, the chance to study exactly what you want to study – in nauseating detail – with brilliant, passionate people, is an amazing opportunity.

Love, peace, and thanks to all my fellow U of U Comm grad students for being amazing,
Sumiko

My Rockin’, Badass, Wise, Beautiful Mama

Yeah, I’m going to do a cheesy Mother’s Day weekend post. My mom kicks ass. She’s been a drag racer, a teacher, an activist, a motorcycle mama, a caterer, a small business owner, an environmentalist, a model, a nurse, a student, and the parent of me and my hellion siblings. The least she deserves is a shout-out on the interwebs.

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I’m pretty sure it’s been said a billion times, but moms are always teaching, intentionally or otherwise. Fortunately for me, my mom was very intentional about her teaching, and she taught by example.

She taught me to be confident in myself, and to be proud but not cocky. She taught me that rules were sometimes for bending, sometimes for breaking, but always with verve. 

She taught me how to change a tire, change my oil, drive, ride a motorcycle, cook and bake, and dance around the kitchen and laugh. She taught me useful phrases like, “I didn’t know they stacked crap that high!” and “If you can’t dazzle them with your brilliance, baffle them with your bullshit.”

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She taught me how to dye my own hair, that I really ought not to cut my own bangs, but that a woman’s hair only needs to fit the way she sees herself and shouldn’t be for other people to judge. And that, in fact, a woman doesn’t need to have hair if she doesn’t want to.

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She taught me dignity and courage in the face of terrifying odds. She taught me not to underestimate myself and that a person can come back from anything.

She taught me that laughter and trust are the most important things in a relationship.

She taught me how to strike a pose. She is will always much better at this than I am.

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She taught me humility. Repeatedly.

She taught me that things like work, and chores, and other people’s expectations, will always bounce back at you when you drop them, but if you neglect the important people in your life, something beautiful will be irreparably lost.

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She taught me how to put on makeup, and that when in doubt, red lipstick is the way to go, and how to walk in high heels. She is still much better than I am at that last one.

She taught me how to read maps, and how to love road trips, and the value of getting lost.

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She taught me not to care about what other people think of me, unless I choose to value their opinions. She taught me that sometimes you have to make the really, really hard decisions to save yourself and the people you love.

She taught me how to make great fried rice, eggrolls and sushi. And how to make friends. (These two may be closely interrelated.)

She taught me the importance of learning and curiosity, to respect the common humanity of all people, and to question everything.

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So, on this Mother’s Day weekend, I just want to tell my Mama that it’s not just today that I’m grateful for you and everything you did to raise me. It’s every single day when I wake up and try to navigate the world with what you’ve taught me.

Love, peace, and gratitude,
Sumiko

And Now, for Your Auditory Enjoyment: Music/Homework Pairings

It’s another Monday! Hooray! And today, as I was reading my homework before class, it occurred to me that I was listening to…a Mozart requiem. While reading “Violence and the Philosophical Imaginary.” (By Ann Murphy, in case you were wondering.) Oh, the coincidence!

Naturally, this prompted a list of some other strangely appropriate music/homework pairings…not as tasty as a wine and cheese pairing, perhaps, but just as relevant!

Alicia Keys, Fallin’/Newtonian physics
M.I.A., Paper Planes/critique of neoliberal economics
Frank Sinatra, Luck be a Lady/statistical analysis of how often meteorology turns up right
Bizet’s Carmen/Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ Cien Anos de Soledad
The Beatles, I’ve Just Seen a Face/research on the anthropology of facial symmetry
Beth Hart, Baddest Blues/Jane Austen…anything, really

What’s on your list?
Love, peace, and humor in unexpected places,
Sumiko

Wait, it’s December?

Holy cow, how the hell did that happen? Just kidding. I know it’s December because I remember this time of year…from the last time I was in grad school! I recognized early December based on these similarities:

  1. Uncontrolled, spontaneous bouts of laughter, usually at highly inappropriate times.
  2. Realizing that I am annoying the hell out of my family, friends, and co-workers, but being mentally incapable of keeping my mouth shut.
  3. Uncontrolled, spontaneous bouts of crying.
  4. Coffee consumption up 178% over other months.
  5. Pretty sure my hair is falling out.
  6. Sleeping less than five hours a night.

The sum of these six things all together leads me to one conclusion: it’s finals time. It’s the only time of year that I don’t like my own company very much. I’m even aggravating to myself. This. Must. Stop.

As a token of repentance for being so thoroughly irritating for the last two weeks, here is a list of things I love about some of the people in my life (in no particular order).

  1. My beloved: he does the laundry. He mops floors. He looks unbelievably sexy in a white t-shirt and jeans. He rides motorcycles with me. He always knows when I’m sad, and gives me extra-good hugs. He goes for walks with me sometimes, even though he hates going for walks. He works really hard. He is one of the most loyal human beings I have ever met – if you are lucky enough to gain this man’s friendship, you have it forever.
  2. My mama: she is courageous. She is honest. She taught me how to be the woman that I am, from riding a motorcycle to baking to being (okay, aspiring to be) a good listener. She is compassion incarnate.
  3. My littlest brother: this kid is a total clown. Unfortunately, he is also taller than I am now. He’s a smart cookie and a good-hearted person, and it’s been CRAZY watching him grow up. I’m so proud of all he has accomplished.
  4. My sister: she’s waaaaay smarter than I am. Scary smart. And she always edits my papers because I have a tragic addiction to the word “which.” She sends sporadic text messages which absolutely light up my world. We have the same speech patterns when we are talking on the phone, which is both hilarious and annoying, because we always pause exactly the same amount of time, and then both start talking at exactly the same time.
  5. My Numero Tres brother: when we were little, we used to do something at the same time and then look at each other and say, “It’s an odd thing!” Because I’m the first child and he is the third…get it? Get it? Okay, maybe that’s an odd thing too. He’s wise enough to swallow his pride even when I can practically hear it choking him – and he’s still awfully young. This guy’s going places.
  6. My colleagues: Michelle, Anna, Bryan, Nate, and our beleaguered boss Steve (aka Captain America). Good lord, these people have the patience of saints for tolerating me. (See #1 in my list: lately this has been occurring in meetings where we’re really trying to get work done.) Thank you all collectively for: throwing only soft, squishy stress balls around our office, going on daily coffee runs with me, getting pedicures with me (this is definitely more for Michelle and Anna), and being generally hilarious and enthusiastic and fantastic. Most importantly, I love that none of you have decked me with an office chair/laptop/monitor when I have one of those uncontrollable fits of laughing at an inappropriate time. I can’t even tell you all what a difference that makes.

Obviously this isn’t an exhaustive list, but I will repent more at a later date. Small doses, you know.

Love, peace, and patience,
Sumiko

Distractions, With Some Writing In Between

Ahhh, the last week in November/beginning of December. This time last year, I was happily baking pretty much everything I could think of in an effort to share as much edible holiday cheer (read: butter) as possible.

This year, I’m writing this blog post whilst “taking a break” from writing. The “real” writing, that is. My grad school writing. Admittedly, I do love writing, which is convenient since I’m the idiot who signed up for grad school again. On the upside, I have 26 pages of which I am reasonably proud.

On the downside, 15 pages (for a different class) have yet to materialize. This is entirely my fault. My writing process goes like this:

  1. Get coffee or tea. Lots of it. Preferably a whole pot. 
  2. Take pot of caffeinated beverage down to desk and sit in chair.
  3. Decide that chair needs to be adjusted. Spend three minutes adjusting chair to perfect height and tilt for optimal intellectual activity.
  4. Realize I forgot a mug. Go back upstairs for a mug.
  5. Open up draft of paper. Read through paper. These usually have lines saying “Write something brilliant here!” and “You need to find proof of this, dolt.” I find that such self-cheerleading is very useful.
  6. Go to internet browser to look up academic articles.
  7. On the way to clicking the bookmark for the library’s journal database, somehow open up Facebook.
  8. Spend ten minutes reading through friends’ updates on Facebook.
  9. My coffee is cold. Need to go warm it up.
  10. Return to desk. Remember that I’m supposed to be doing research and writing.
  11. Go to draft of paper and write a paragraph. Realize that paragraph sucks and delete most of it – will keep the nicely phrased argument and figure out how to use it later.
  12. Go back to library website and find an article.
  13. Accidentally click on bookmark for my favorite cooking blog.
  14. Realize I’m very hungry, and after all, it’s lunchtime, and my brain needs healthy food to work properly.
  15. Go upstairs and cook something. Get distracted and make a whole bunch of things that I don’t have room in the fridge for!
  16. Return to desk with lunch. Write a few more paragraphs. Keep these and leave them for the editing process that will (possibly) take place at some indeterminate time in the future.
  17. Need to find another article to support my use of a particular term. Back to the interwebz! I mean…the library website.
  18. Nope. Got sucked into Tumblr. Waste another 30 minutes…

…and so on. You get the idea. I have the attention span of a hyperactive flea on days like this. My brain prefers to wait until 11:30 pm when I’m exhausted from sitting in front of a computer all damn day to come up with any good ideas. My brain has a rotten sense of humor.

In order to save me from myself, I have devised the following punishments for my distractions.

  • Every time I go to Facebook, I must do five push-ups.
  • Every time I go to a cooking blog, I must do lunges up and down all the stairs in my house.
  • Every time I see a picture of an adorable fluffy animal on any photo sharing website I must do five crunches.
  • Every time I go to a comedy blog, I must do a sets of 12 bicep curls.

I’m hoping that my dislike of push-ups, lunches, crunches, and curls will keep me from getting distracted on the internet while I write. Or at least, that if I can’t help getting distracted at least I’ll have some muscle tone to show for it! So far today, it’s working…except that I didn’t preemptively devise a punishment for coming to my OWN blog and writing inanities such as this! Mwahhaahah. I left a loophole. That was clever of me!

What’s your writing process? Your favorite distractions?

Love, peace, and productivity to my friends in school,
Sumiko

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