The worst advice I’ve ever been given to beat writer’s block can be summed up in two words: just start. Let me tell you why that advice sucks.
First, there is nothing more terrifying than a blinking cursor on a blank page combined with high expectations.
Do you have a million ideas and no idea which one to choose?
Do you have a quickly approaching deadline?
Are you a perfectionist?
Whatever form your high expectations take, being told to just start is a recipe for disaster. Staring at a blank page is the surest way for me to do just about anything else instead.
Second, when someone tells you to just start, they rarely if ever tell you where to start. Put another way, they never tell you what to start with. It’s like giving you a box of furniture parts and some tools, but no instruction manual.
There are two ways to approach this situation.
You might abandon the task entirely, which is entirely fair. They put you in an impossible situation!
Alternatively, you might break down and choose a place to start that looks straightforward enough. But it would be a lot easier if you had a piece of paper that enumerated each of the steps for you.
For most of us, the stakes are too high to go with the first option, so we figure out where to start eventually.
Last year I summarized the highs (and lows) of the annual joint meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) and the Society for Classical Studies (SCS). I figured, why not do it again?
I don’t think anyone would be surprised to find out that this year’s meeting did not proceed without incident.
Most egregious, I think, was when it was brought to everyone’s attention that the title of one paper was both inappropriate and wholly unprofessional in its exposure and trivializing of a student’s mental health issues. The matter was seemingly quickly resolved, with a change in the paper’s title and an apology issued by the presenter.
I think the issue raises three larger problems, however:
Why would anyone think that such an approach would be appropriate?
How the heck did a paper with such a title and premise get accepted in the first place?
When will our relationships with our students be such that making light of serious issues in conference papers and on social media becomes far less commonplace?
I’m not going to go into any of these points, but they’re just things that have been on my mind since it blew up on Twitter.
Instead, this post will focus more on the highlights of the conference for me. It will also include a list of sessions that I wish I’d had the time or energy to attend while the conference was happening.
Honestly, I don’t know what’s more exhausting: physically running between rooms in a conference hall or the mental effort it takes to shift from Zoom session to Zoom session. Right now, I’m sensing it’s the latter.
You may sense a theme in the talks and sessions that I managed to make it to (and even some of the ones I’m planning to watch later). Sorry not sorry.
I think we can all agree that this year was not all that much better than 2020. I don’t know if anyone expected it to be better. But I feel like the vibes were pretty much the same, even though starting this blog gave me some hope that things would change.
As always, however, many people have tried to look on the bright side of things.
They’ve sought the light in the almost overwhelming darkness.
I think in particular of one thread going around last week that asked people to share their 3 biggest accomplishments of the year:
A lot of people made light of this – and that’s understandable. Sometimes the only way to get through the hard things is to find a way to laugh about it.
But I think it’s good to stop sometimes and really appreciate the wins, no matter how big or small.
I struggle with doing this myself, and thought that a little celebratory post was in order here. And what, exactly, am I celebrating?
The one year anniversary of this little blog.
If you listened to the podcast episode I was featured on last week, then you’ll know that I started Notes from the Apotheke exactly one year ago.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever had technical difficulties while giving a presentation.
How about if you’ve ever been given the five-minute warning from a session presider? Or if you’ve ever been asked a question in the Q&A that you didn’t have the answer to?
The unfortunate reality is that the possibilities for things to go wrong during a conference presentation are endless. I’m sure any seasoned veteran can confirm that they’ve experienced at least one or two over the years. I’ve been there, too. You know what we all have in common?
We got through it. And you will too. Your chances of getting through it are exponentially better if you do the following seven things.
After giving myself a solid pep talk, I finally sat down and listened to the latest episode of Proofing and Lies – featuring me – and guess what? I loved it!
It felt almost like reliving the whole experience of being interviewed all over again.
In the episode I talk about my dissertation research on pottery and drinking in ancient Greece, my experiences doing archaeological fieldwork, and why I started this blog.
If these are topics you want to hear more about, check out the episode!
If I’m being totally honest, being invited to give an interview for a podcast was both exciting and totally scary for me.
As I mention in the interview, I’m a pretty big introvert. On top of that, I usually avoid talking about my work like the plague.
I was nervous up until about ten minutes before the interview.
But I was calmed by two things. First, the fact that it really was just like a conversation (and the host was super nice). Second, remembering all of the advice I received when I asked folks on Twitter to help me out.
Here are the three pieces of advice that helped me the most:
This one was SO helpful.
Not just for trying to anticipate what topics would come up, but also for making sure I had some relevant examples on hand when they did.
I did ask about editing ahead of time, but in the end I don’t think anything (or very much besides an extra long pause I took when I needed to think) was edited out.
It honestly didn’t even occur to me to ask in the moment.
But this is definitely something worth keeping in mind!
I had water by me, even though I only took one sip the entire conversation.
I don’t know if I remembered to smile while I was speaking, but I was doing a lot of gesticulation (because that’s just what happens when I get excited). Close enough?
Proofing and Lies
Proofing and Lies is a podcast hosted by Elle Rochford and Andrew Schriver. In each episode the co-hosts talk about current events and take on a new baking project.
Want to check out the episode I’m featured in? It’s currently available on both Apple and Spotify!
For those of you who are new here, the hidden curriculum includes a set of things we’re expected to know how to do, from attending a conference for the first time to applying for funding to going on the job market, without actually being taught them. This month I’m talking about how to write an abstract.
One thing that I actually was taught to do that would benefit me academically is writing abstracts. Moreover, I was taught, as part of a graduate seminar on Ancient Medicine in Winter 2018, how to write an abstract before writing the paper.
Up until that point, I had only ever been confident in my ability to write abstracts based on papers I’d already written, and I’m sure most people can relate. Submitting an abstract based on a paper you haven’t written yet is scary.
On the one hand, this nebulous idea that’s floating around in your head has to be coherent enough to be accepted.
On the other hand, if it does get accepted, you’ve actually got to do the work, write the paper, and present it. Woof.
As it turns out, that lesson was extremely useful as I did go on to submit the abstract to CAMWS in 2019 and it was accepted. In the end, however, I decided to withdraw from the conference when the pandemic hit and everything went online.
Since then, I have become more and more comfortable with writing abstracts based on ideas rather than full-blown research papers and happen to be in the midst of writing one now. So, I thought it would be a good time to share what I’ve learned from the process as part of the hidden curriculum series.
A few months ago, I described what scholars of the ancient world needed to sacrifice to make the field more inclusive and equitable. One of those things was feeling the need to be an expert in everything.
It’s not easy for any of us to admit when we don’t know the answer to something. Part of this hesitation, I think, stems from the high-pressure, high-stakes structure of our graduate education.
As the one year anniversary of this blog’s inception rapidly approaches, I’ve been thinking more and more about how I can take things to the next level. So I decided to create a Patreon account.
What is Patreon?
Patreon is a membership platform that makes it easy for creators (artists, writers, instructors, musicians, etc) to get paid.
Everyone who signs up pays a few dollars a month to receive content. A creator can set up their Patreon page to either allow individuals to pay as much as they want or to choose a membership level that gives them access to exclusive content or services.
Why did I create a Patreon account?
Naturally, my motivations for creating this page were primarily financial.
On the one hand, I am a graduate student doing this out of the goodness of her heart. I have not, in the eleven months that this blog has been up and running, been paid anything to do it.
I love doing this and I love amplifying the work that other BIPOC in the field are doing and I’d do it all for free.
But being a graduate student isn’t cheap, and these last few months have been particularly challenging for me financially. So, I sought out ways that I could remedy that, and Patreon seemed like a good way to do so without having to totally reinvent the wheel.
On the other hand, the guests who write the BIPOC features each month are also doing so out of the goodness of their heart, but as someone who frequently reminds everyone to compensate their guest speakers, I have been unable to do so myself (see above).
Thus, by becoming a Patron, you can support not only me, but also the wonderful BIPOC scholars who have contributed and will in the future contribute to the blog. Ideally I’d like to dedicate at least half of the proceeds to paying my guest writers.
Plus, you’ll get some cool perks for signing up 🙂
How do I become a Patron and what are the benefits of signing up?
There are four tiers of membership that you can choose from: $3, $5, $10, and $20.
$3 membership gives you access to all of the normal content (blog posts, Twitter threads, Instagram posts) + weekly photos of my cat
$5 membership gets you all of the things the $3 membership does, plus early access to new blog posts, voting power on future posts, and bonus monthly content (e.g. tutorials and templates, pedagogy book reviews, etc)
$10 membership gets you all of the above, plus I’ll send you a monthly motivational postcard in the mail and each month you’ll be entered into a drawing to receive an additional surprise token of my gratitude!
$20 membership gets you all of the above, plus the opportunity to schedule one-on-one consulting and/or feedback sessions with yours truly. I’m happy to sit in (virtually for out-of-state folks, in-person for Michigan folks) on one or more of your class sessions or give feedback on something (abstracts, statements, presentations, lesson plans) you’re working on
If you’re interested in supporting me and my guest writers, and getting some cool perks in the process (like a handwritten postcard from me every month!!), then you can sign up for my Patreon here!
I have talked about antiracist teaching on here in the past. This week I want to delve deeper into why I think antiracist pedagogy (ARP) is important and some ways that we can implement it in our classrooms.
I’ve always been skeptical of diversity and inclusion initiatives that include offering more courses that might ‘appeal’ to people of color and draw them in. This manifests as offering or amplifying existing courses on ‘race and ethnicity,’ on ‘slavery in the ancient world,’ and on the relationship between ‘barbarians’ and Greeks and/or Romans.
In the absence of more structural reforms, I have always viewed such an approach as a trap.
Courses on these topics are absolutely necessary (although certain choices in vocabulary are not) for exposing students to alternate perspectives, ones which both challenge and complement dominant narratives about the ancient world. Without such perspectives, our understanding of the ancient world would be incomplete.
However, when implemented poorly, these courses reflect a persistent two-part illusion.
Last week I came across this tweet about the term ‘BIPOC’:
It reminded me of when I raised the question of what term people preferred to use when referring to people of color: BIPOC, POC, non-white, or some other term. I raised this question because even then there were mixed feelings about the use of ‘BIPOC’ when discussing the experiences of people of color.
I was genuinely surprised at the results (most people preferred ‘POC’) and the discussion it prompted.
I’ll admit that when I first created this blog, I wasn’t 100% clear on how the term should or had been used. It was a new and thought-provoking term that I thought was more politically correct and inclusive than POC (which I now realize is part of the problem).
Like most people, I didn’t do my research and just made the switch without really understanding the significance of (and problems with) the term.
When I asked POC studying the ancient world on Twitter last December to share who they were and what they studied as a way of signal-boosting historically excluded groups in the field, one individual claimed that using the term ‘BIPOC’ in my call for contributors was ‘insulting’:
Even now, it seems like the animosity toward the term remains.
So, I figured that, since I continue to use the term in conjunction with this blog, it was time to set the record straight: