I’m organizing myself to finish up the production stages on the History of the Ancient World while also turning around to face the next big project. This is a complicated arrangement. For one thing, the production stuff I have to finish up is not terribly exciting: I’m working to finish drawing the maps so that we can have rough drafts by the end of February, I have to write for all the permissions to quote other people’s books, I have to locate photos for the illlustrations and also get permissions for those, I need to get the MS out to a few expert readers to check up on a couple of sections that are way out of my own areas of knowledge…etc.

Meanwhile, I want to get my dissertation drafted out so that I can defend it in the fall. The challenge here is that I could probably finish up the production work on the book fairly quickly if I devoted all my work time to it, but it’s so depressing to do only non-writing work day after day. So I’m trying to balance out a certain amount of production work every week while also getting back to my dissertation.

THIS is difficult because I tend to be an obsessive worker–when I start on one particular project, I have trouble thinking about anything else. And I also over-research to a really horrendous degree. I ended up writing 500,000 words on the History of the World and then cutting it in half, which is not something I can afford to do on my dissertation–I just don’t have the time.

So I’ve adopted a couple of new strategies. I’m scheduling my work time so that I alternate days on the dissertation and on production work–this wastes a certain amount of time, since I have to re-orient myself at the beginning of each work period, but it should keep me from losing my mind. Also I’m taking a different approach to my disssertation. I’ve outlined the entire thing on a single piece of paper:

Now I’m going to do a limited amount of research on each chapter, do a very rough draft of the whole thing, submit it to my advisor, and then devote additional attention only to those parts which she feels are lacking. That way I can avoid doing a year’s research on each chapter, which is my natural impulse. I’ll let you all know how this goes.

In the meantime, work on the Chicken Shed continues. My father built a custom door, since the doorway is a non-standard size, and it is magnificent–here he is, along with my husband, trying it out:

And the inside is almost ready for painting. I’m thinking I’d like to go with a color other than white: any suggestions?

I should be able to start moving into the Chicken Shed by March. Which would be a very good thing, considering the new source of noise in my house.

Showing 16 comments
  • ruth

    I have really enjoyed reading your blog the last few weeks.. I cant wait to see your new book!!!! .. I loved showing my kids your outline on the back of the door! You must love what you do! What a blessing.
    …and remember .. if you have a bad day.. there are people like me out here who are learning for the first time things in history we NEVER learned in school, we are teaching them to our children and are learning to LOVE history for the first time in our lives! Thanks for sharing your talents with us! (I just think its wonderful that my four year old LOVES Odysseus, and cant tell you who Hatshepsut is!).. your books are GREAT! keep it up!

  • ruth

    opps. I meant to say “CAN tell you who Hatshepsut is” 🙂 …

  • Lynn in WI

    I love the door, but especially love the transom!

    I’ve got a three inch stack of paint chips from Sherwin Williams (Martha’s colors). I pretty much throw them on the floor, pick three or four randomly and figure I can’t really go wrong. Her colors are warm and wonderful. One I especially favor is called Oolong. I used it in my living room and love it. It’s a soothing, warm, buckskin, mustard, slightly greenish but mostly golden neutral that adapts nicely to changes in the natural light coming through the windows. (And it looks great with the old trim.)

    I’m familiar with the noise of which you speak. 🙂

  • Mika in NC

    Your “shed” looks like it’s going to be an amazing place to work/think/write. My vote for colors: either a crisp green (somewhere between “lime” and “leaf”?) or a buttery yellow.

    Looking forward to the next installment. . .

  • Gina

    I would probably go with a taupe. Its neutral yet warm and inviting.

    The violin bow looks as tall as your daughter. 🙂

  • Susan in TX

    You call that a PIECE of paper!! Looks like posterboard to me (and therefore a tad overwhelming to consider for one who hasn’t written anything in the last 20 years 🙂 ). I like all the suggestions thus far for warm colors in the shed, but am wondering…once you get all your bookshelves in, will you be able to see the walls? 😉

    I so enjoy these little updates you send out – and love the pic of your new muscian…she looks like she favors her mom a little bit.
    Happy writing!

  • Dawne


    I cannot wait to read your new book. I just finished reading SOTW volume 1 last week, and I absolutely loved it….and I am certainly not in grades 1, 2, 3, or 4. lol

    Your dd is cute…I just ordered the violin books a few days ago and a violin. Mr. Rosen mentioned you guys using these now too. Enjoy that noise! Our little 1/16th should arrive today.

  • Kate


    Your daughter looks just like you! Her big eyes look full of life.

    Are you keeping the top of the shed in wood or will there be a ceiling to paint too? I am partial to warm paints from greens to mocha colors. You will need some scented candles too, and a comfy corner chair. :+)

    It sounds like you are all on the mend – I am glad to hear it.


  • Diane

    There are big windows in that shed — I’d go with a bolder color, but only because that inspires my creativity. Red or dark green would be my choice. Since it is YOUR office, you should choose your very favorite color!!!

    Perhaps scented candles would now remind you of dead mice, though? I’d just set yourself up with the best espresso machine you can afford and a sound system with great music. Now, that would be MY kind of office.

    I’m praying for you and rooting for you!!

    Happy Friday,

  • Staci in MO

    I’m with Diane. I would go for a deep red. The transom in the door is lovely.

  • Sherrill in VA

    Oh, you ARE going to finish the dissertation after all! I am so glad. I would like to see you able to finish that PhD once and for all. You certainly deserve it. I’m just sorry that you’ve had so many hurdles to overcome with it.

    As for colors for your office walls, I say, paint it anything, and then cover it up with as many bookshelves as possible! Works for me! No, seriously, paint it something warm and exotic, something that makes you feel good.

    God bless,

  • Robin A.

    Awww… Emily is learning the violin? She is so darling! If it were me, I would paint the walls a very light yellow, almost cream. I hope everything goes well as you wrap up your projects, and that you get to move into that new office very soon! Hugs and best wishes!!

  • Nicole D.

    We have had a similar problem in choosing our colors too, and we have a library of over 10,000 books plus manuscripts and all kinds of things. Because you have so much natural light, you can go with a darker color if you want to. It will hide scuff marks and dirt better than a light color. The only thing is that it will show the dust if it is too dark. We had a light color in a room that got lots of sunlight, and I have regretted putting a light color on the walls because it can be almost blinding at times. My suggestion is to go with something neutral but not too dark, and I agree with the other post which questioned how much wall space you’re going to have left. Ceilings should be light in almost any case.

  • Amy in MD

    Hello Susan!

    My favorite paint color that goes with so many things is Laura Ashley berry red 6 – Three coats with white trim. Most decorating fabrics have berry red in it… Laura Ashely even has a fabric line (Calico Corners) Glad to email a photo of my living room if you like:).

    Ditto on somewhere warm. My friend just got back from an eco-resort mayo.org… rated one of the top ten national parks! I am dreaming of being there right now.

    Have a great day!

  • Amy in MD

    Oops.. that should be maho.org…

  • Lynette in NJ

    Wow! My chickens would be so jealous. Their shed is not nearly that posh. 🙂

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