What fresh hell is this?

This post is one of an occasional series that might be entitled ‘Sorry I haven’t posted anything in a while’.  In fact, my silence on the blogging front has been something of a frustration as I have at least three posts that I want/need to write.  The problem, as always, is finding the time between grant deadlines, an overdue book review, an even more overdue article, teaching, marking and, oh yes, the research project that I am actually contracted to be undertaking!

And that is just on the formal professional front.  As a (semi-)public historian in this centenary year, I find myself juggling interviews, requests for interviews, requests for articles and comments, as well as the private demands of family life which, as my tag-line for this blog indicates, are as much a part of my identity as anything related to the histories of gender or the First World War.  So the post I had planned to coincide with International Women’s Day has been rather swamped by the fact that my son still hasn’t written his thank you cards for his birthday presents (meeting deadlines is clearly not a skill that runs in the family). Such are the ironies of working motherhood.

So yes, there is a lot going on in my life, but probably not any more than any other working parent, and I am blessed by having a job with a certain amount of flexibility built into it.  It is when I bump up against immovable deadlines, like the current grant application which is due next week and which has been slowly driving me mad with its looming urgency and terrifying complexity, that something, somewhere, has to give.  Generally speaking, it is this blog, the space where I explore the aspects of my life and work that I find thought-provoking but not necessarily immediately productive.

My apologies, therefore, if you have been eagerly awaiting my comments on the spate of recent First World War media outputs (and for once I know that this group includes more than just my mum as I did promise someone a comment on the Max Hastings/Niall Ferguson debate).  There will be, I promise, some thoughts on being a female First World War historian, on why shell shock is not the same thing as PTSD, and how I have been haunted by a (still unfulfilled) research project since I wrote my PhD, eventually.  But not until after 25th March.  Sorry.

Scribble, scribble, scribble

So, it is the first week of October and I find myself faced with a series of deadlines for pieces of written work.  In the next two months I need to give a conference paper on voluntary medical services during the First World War, complete an encyclopedia entry on subjectivity and emotion in the British armed services and submit a preliminary application for a grant.  All three are fairly major, if short, pieces of writing for important and potentially (at least in the case of the encyclopedia article) extensive audiences.  They also all need to be constructed in different registers – one to be delivered verbally, one with objectivity (about a highly emotive subject) at its core and one aimed at a non-specialist but nonetheless highly erudite audience. This is going to be a unique challenge for me, both in terms of tackling new forms of written work and new research ideas, and in terms of the amount of work and flexibility that is going to be required of me.

I have been thinking about them all for a considerable period of time, including writing outlines, but it is only this week that I have started putting pen to paper to flesh out my ideas.  Already I have found myself coming up against questions about how I organise my ideas and my time.  Today’s experiment involves using very short periods of time to work intensively on several projects in rotation.  Next week, when I have scheduled a day in the library to flesh out my references, I will be able to compare my productivity with a day spent concentrating on just one piece for a more extended period.  It will be interesting to see how things turn out and to see what approaches work at different stages in the writing process.

Time permitting, I hope to blog about the process and use the opportunity to reflect on how (and why) I write history.  With any luck, by the end of the month I will have drafts of all three pieces and avoided a nervous breakdown.  Then the fun of editing will begin…