Episode 5: Mia Bay Embraces Imperfection

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For the fifth episode of Drafting the Past, I talked to historian Mia Bay. Here’s part of her bio, excerpted from her faculty page: “Professor Mia Bay is the Roy F. and Jeanette P. Nichols Professor of American History at the University Pennsylvania. Prior to arriving Penn, Bay worked at Rutgers University, where she was a Professor of History and the Director of the Rutgers Center for Race and Ethnicity.

“Professor Bay is a scholar of American and African American intellectual, cultural and social history, whose recent interests include black women’s thought, African American approaches to citizenship, and the history of race and transportation. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Phil. from Yale University and a B.A. from the University of Toronto.

In addition to many articles and book chapters, Bay’s publications include Traveling Black: A Story of Race and Resistance (Harvard University Press, 2021), The White Image in the Black Mind: African-American Ideas about White People, 1830-1925 (Oxford University Press, 2000); To Tell the Truth Freely: The Life of Ida B. Wells (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009) and the edited work Ida B Wells, The Light of Truth: The Writings of An Anti-Lynching Crusader (Penguin Books, 2014). She is also the co-author, with Waldo Martin and Deborah Gray White, of the textbook Freedom on My Mind: A History of African Americans with Documents (Bedford/St. Martins 2012,1st Edition, 2016, 2nd Edition), and the editor of two collections of essays: Toward an Intellectual History of Black Women (University of North Carolina Press, 2015), which she co-edited with Farah Jasmin Griffin, Martha S. Jones and Barbara Savage, and Race and Retail: Consumption Across the Color Line (Rutgers University Press, 2015), which she co-edited with Ann Fabian.”



Mia Bay 0:00
My process has changed in the sense that I’ve really learned to not be a perfectionist because I understand that I’m going to be rewriting a lot. And I understand that I’m gonna get edited a lot and and that’s been enormously helpful.

Kate Carpenter 0:18
Welcome back to Drafting the Past, a podcast that talks to and about historians as writers. I’m your host Kate Carpenter. And in this episode, I was delighted to chat with historian Mia Bay.

Mia Bay 0:29
Thank you. I’m excited to be here.

Kate Carpenter 0:31
Dr. Bay is the author of three books: To Tell the Truth Freely: The Life of Ida B. Wells, The White Image in the Black Mind: African American Ideas About White People, 1830-1925, and her most recent book, Traveling Black: A Story of Race and Resistance. She is also the editor of multiple collections and a co author of the textbook Freedom on My Mind, along with many other articles and essays. Since we had this conversation earlier this year, Traveling Black has received numerous awards, and Dr. Bay was named a winner of this year’s Bancroft Prize, one of the top prizes in American history writing. I hope you enjoy this conversation with Dr. Bay.

Mia Bay 1:10
I feel like no one ever kind of is like five years old and saying I want to grow up to be a historian. I’m no different. I actually was, did mostly art prior to going to college. But then I just became increasingly interested in history. I’ve always been a tremendous, voracious reader, mostly of fiction. And I’d never felt like I could write fiction. But when I started to read history, I became kind of intrigued by the idea of writing history. And I guess what drew me to history, above all, was a sense that the past was very important to kind of just understanding everyday reality.

Kate Carpenter 1:52
So I’d like to start with just these very nosy, what I call my nosy nuts and bolts questions. First off, where and when do you do your writing?

Unknown Speaker 1:59
I consider myself a kind of work hard play hard kind of person, which is to say, when I’m writing, I ideally I like to clear some time and then kind of do it continuously, work at home, try to sort of not interrupt myself, as much as I can, get over being stuck by doing what I call putting myself under house arrest, like, don’ go anywhere, or do do anything terribly interesting until you kind of get moving on this thing. I’m a night person. And so I can sometimes, especially when I was a little younger, just like work all night. I don’t think I can do that that much anymore. But I’m still kind of a slow starter who builds up over the course of the day.

Kate Carpenter 2:44
So do you have a writing routine? Are there predictable seasons, where you do a lot of writing?

Mia Bay 2:48
Not really, I mean, you know, when you you know, when you kind of have to write and do an academic career, you always have to, you know, sometimes really, really combine writing and teaching. But I do just try to kind of clear days or hours, you know, rather than sort of toggle directly back and forth between writing and something else.

Kate Carpenter 3:09
What’s your approach to organizing your sources?

Mia Bay 3:12
My approach to organizing my sources, I use Zotero, which is a bibliographic reference program, I still like to print a lot of things out, you know, so I have like a lot of files. And that’s about it. It’s not the world’s most organized system.

Kate Carpenter 3:30
I hear that from a lot of historians. Where, where, when you’re doing your research, at what point do you start doing writing? Is it something you do as you go along? Are you a person who likes to do all the research and then write?

Mia Bay 3:42
I do a lot of it before and then I do it as I go along. I mean, research is often a kind of, is something, even when I think I’ve already done all my research, when I’m sitting down to write, often I’ll just be kind of, questions will be occurring to me. And then often when I’m writing more questions will occur to me. So I try to do enormous amounts before and then I ended up doing additional research while I’m working. I can’t do it all before I write because I am not a person who sits down to write and really knows what I’m going to say or even necessarily what I’m going to talk about. So there’s like entirely new questions that come up or something, things that I only knew a little little about that I all of a sudden find myself talking about.

Kate Carpenter 4:25
Sure. Do you rely on other people as you’re doing your work in terms of showing your work to people and getting feedback?

Mia Bay 4:31
Absolutely. Probably the sort of one of the most useful things I’ve ever heard and I can’t remember who said it is, writing is rewriting. So for me, relying on other people is not only getting super helpful feedback, but it’s also a way of like always understanding when I’m writing that this isn’t going to be the this is you know, this can be really bad. I’m going to show it to someone and you know, we’ll figure out what’s wrong with it. But I’m not like I don’t have to do this by myself.

Kate Carpenter 4:59
At what stage do you start showing it to people?

Mia Bay 5:01
As soon as it’s coherent enough, as soon as I feel like I’ve, you know, kind of got something that, you know, has enough of an argument to, you know, for someone to kind of follow it. So sometimes, you know, I show things that don’t really have an ending. Or sometimes I show things that are somewhere in the middle. When I was at Rutgers, I used to run a kind of works in progress group at the Institute for Race and Ethnicity. And the rule for that group was you would sign up to like, share a chapter or something you were working on, it could be anything from a letter to a chapter. And once you sign up, you share it no matter what it looks like. And I found that really helpful. I often ended up doing even when things I didn’t think were going well, I’d do a little more, a little more just to make it sort of shareable. And then I would always find it super helpful.

Kate Carpenter 5:54
I often find that I get more out of sharing my work when it’s in a rougher state, and still feels very nebulous to me than when, when it’s later on.

Mia Bay 6:03
You know, I think that is somewhat true. Because I mean, there is a there is a point where it’s sort of too late, where it’s like, you’ve polished it, and it is what it’s going to be. I think it is a good idea to kind of show it when you’re somewhere in the middle of it.

Kate Carpenter 6:18
What does the revision process look like for you?

Mia Bay 6:21
For me, the revision process, it can really vary, it can, you know, involve just like taking things apart and putting them together again. It often involves moving things. Increasingly over time, I’ve tried to kind of write things that are in units like sections that can be moved so that you don’t have to like completely take things apart. I always think of revising is like it’s like cutting into a pie and rearranging the pieces.

Kate Carpenter 6:49
One of the things that I’m interested in is, your writing is very clear and direct, something that academics, whether fairly or not, are often accused of not being good at, but yours is easy to read, and yet not lacking any of the sort of power of argument or of illustration. Is that something that you work on consciously?

Mia Bay 7:08
it is. So I really appreciate that as a high compliment. It’s always my ambition to write something you know that most people could read. Certainly any college undergraduate could read. I’m aware, I’m a historian. And sometimes I want to say things that are pretty complicated, but I want to say them in a really clear fashion. And the writers I admired when I was growing up the nonfiction writers were people like E. B. White, who is maybe a lot of people in this generation may not have read any E. B. White. But it’s just a very kind of, what’s striking is the clarity even more than the style and the ways in which he seems to be saying exactly what he wants to say, rather than kind of saying a series of high blown things that suggest things. So I mean, I guess the clarity is as much for me as anyone else. I want to like I want to say something that I’m quite sure, I sort of stand by. So I have to kind of be very clear to myself.

Kate Carpenter 8:12
Have you cultivated that to the point where your sentences come out that way? Or is that something that that you revise to get there?

Mia Bay 8:19
No, that is something I absolutely revise to get there. I’m very much helped if I have a good editor. Often the first time you’re trying to say it, it doesn’t come out all that clear. And but you know, I think I’m one of those people who definitely figures out what I’m thinking through writing. So like I go get, I do the muddled first draft and sort of keep trying to hone it and get it clear what it is I’m thinking to myself

Kate Carpenter 8:23
I’m curious. You’ve also worked on several edited collections. Has that shaped your work as a writer as well working with other scholars?

Mia Bay 8:57
Absolutely. I’ve worked on edited collections and at Rutgers when I was directing the Center for Race and Ethnicity, I also was regularly editing a sort of in-house newsletter we wrote so I was doing like enormous amounts of editing of other people’s prose. I think it helped me. I mean, helped me with it helped me learn how to self edit better, just, you know, sort of, you’re constantly sort of going through other people’s sentences and trying to kind of like, help them dial down to like exactly what they’re saying and kind of figuring out how to move things around. I mean, I think writing is one of those things where the more you do it, and the more you even do kind of ancillary things like editing, you know, the easier it gets. So in some ways, I’m not currently working on any editing projects, though I always have students who I’m editing something for sometimes, it kind of keeps those muscles fresh.

Kate Carpenter 9:34
You also are a co author of a textbook, Freedom on My Mind. I’ve always been curious what it’s like to write a textbook.

Mia Bay 9:58
It is really interesting because it is a process unlike anything else. I mean, the level of editing that goes into it. The first time I got, you know, a draft back from them, it was this sort of sea of red. And so now when I edit students I’m like, it’s like a cycle of abuse because you you’ll never see as much red as I’ve seen on that textbook. And it’s, it’s a sea of red because they have very exacting standards about, speaking of clarity, about how complicated anything you say can be, or how complicated the way the wording can be, they actually talk about like writing for weaker readers, which means kind of abandoning overly complicated grammatical constructions in favor of more direct ones, you know, and not using concepts that you don’t explain. All these things, which are basically kind of good in real life too. And then they have very particular structures for the way that chapters and sections are shaped and even how long they are. And I mean, the, the editors I’ve worked with, and I worked with a number of different ones over the course of the textbook’s editions, have all been excellent. I’ve learned a lot from them, you begin to see also the way that textbooks begin to feel like they’re all written by one author has a lot to do with all this kind of structuring and the way that you know, the format is the same. I liked it. I mean, there’s a lot of things in academia that you sign up to do that you end up being horrified by but mostly, I enjoyed writing the textbook. It allowed me to talk a lot about a lot of history that I wouldn’t necessarily write about as a scholar, because it’s kind of beyond my expertise as a, as a primary source researcher and to sort of update myself on recent scholarship and to try it you know, and to try to make it as narrative as possible, which is particularly challenging in the textbook form.

Kate Carpenter 11:51
To shake things up a little, this time, I asked Dr. Bay to talk me through writing a paragraph from one of her previous books, the biography of Ida B. Wells, rather than her most recent work. She was a good sport about trying to remember her thinking while writing the book that came out more than a decade ago. Here’s the paragraph we discussed from the first chapter of To Tell the Truth Freely: “We are all shaped by our childhoods, but Ida B. Wells’s childhood was more formative than most. The time, place, and circumstances of her birth structured her life in decisive ways, as did the early death of both her parents when she was just sixteen years old. To be black and born a slave in the American South in 1862, as Wells was, was to enter the world in the middle of a revolution brought on by a cataclysmic civil war and its aftermath. A member of the first post-emancipation generation of African American Southerners, Wells grew up during a unique moment in American history. Contrary to our often romantic notions of African American emancipation, slavery did not just go out in a blaze of glory with the Union Army’s hard-fought victory. Instead, the Civil War was followed by an almost equally bitter struggle between the South and the North over the fate of the freed people, in which the ex-slaves allied with their Northern emancipators in a desperate struggle to secure their rights as American citizens. Known as Radical Reconstruction, this period spanned the years 1866 to 1877, and saw Northern Republican leaders impose black voting rights on a defiant white South, while the ex-slaves educated themselves, participated in politics, and tried to create a free and equal world for themselves and their children.”

Mia Bay 13:38
It jumps out to me because, for me, I’m not always much of an outliner. So often writing, often, like an opening paragraph or an introduction will be where I’m kind of figuring out where I’m going. And I can see myself doing that in that paragraph. You know, I that paragraph was a paragraph that I probably thought about more than anything else in the book because I was, you know, I was just, I literally wrote it first. And I had been sort of trying to figure out how Ida Wells, Ida B. Wells, became Ida B. Wells, you know, she was this sort of brilliant woman who sort of really kind of thought through what was going on in the 19th century South and put it in sort of fresh terms that no one else had used. And I, you know, had been thinking about, like, Where does she get her ideas because she, you know, she does she she’s an autodidact, she does really doesn’t finish high school, she is self taught. And, you know, the more I read about her life and read her papers and stuff, the more it seemed like it was coming directly out of her childhood experiences. And that sort of ends up being what I sum up in that first paragraph and also the sort of thought about like, yes, we’re all shaped by our childhoods. Some people more than most. So I was thinking, you know, how do I draw people into this story? How do I fundamentally understand that woman? And that’s what I ended up trying to express.

Kate Carpenter 15:10
As I said to you earlier, there’s what seems like an entire semester’s worth of history just in this paragraph in terms of the stage and the context you’re you’re setting here. Does it take a lot of editing to make that happen so smoothly?

Mia Bay 15:26
I think it probably did. Because first paragraphs, editing and stuff, I will often keep going back to the first paragraph while I’m writing, like, it’s almost never a paragraph that I just write and don’t look back to, like, I’ll go back and sort of tweak as I get a better sense of where things are going, or what I’m thinking, I don’t know, they have, you know, first paragraph can also kind of set the mood. And the other thing I remember about that first paragraph is sort of when I got the first three lines, I kind of sort of knew what my tone was going to be.

Kate Carpenter 16:00
Over the course of the books you’ve written, from this to Traveling Black and your others, do you feel like your style as a writer has changed?

Mia Bay 16:08
Well, yeah, I mean, I think both my style has changed. And my process has changed. I think that through writing the textbook, through occasionally writing for newspapers and stuff, I’ve been consistently pushed to be, you know, to not write academically, use shorter sentences, vary sentence lengths, sort of break down what I’m doing, you know, each time I’ve kind of been in contexts where you have to do that, like when you’re writing for a newspaper, and something’s gonna appear in a column, it’s, you know, your sentence can be cannot be, but so long, or it looks crazy. Each time I’ve been sort of pushed to do that, I’ve, I’ve continued doing it. And I think it’s been largely really a positive thing, for me. You know, it definitely has meant that there’s a certain kind of writing you can do to a popular audience. And maybe there’s certain kinds of writing you can’t do when you’re always thinking about a popular audience. And then my process has changed in the sense that I’ve really learned not be a perfectionist, because I understand that I’m going to be rewriting a lot. And I understand that I’m going to get edited a lot. And and that’s been enormously helpful. It’s something that I can kind of forget, over and over again, when I kind of have trouble starting something. I’m like, This is terrible. And then I just always have a moment where I’m just like, Okay, so just write the terrible version and like, we’ll fix that. Or if it’s irredeemably terrible, then you can just walk away. But write the terrible version.

Kate Carpenter 16:09
I’ll try to take that to heart. Part of what makes Travelling Black so interesting is also I imagine part of what makes it difficult to research and write, which is that it spans such a large amount of time. And what I can only imagine is a spectacular amount of sources. How did you approach this book differently than other books?

Mia Bay 17:59
Completely, I mean, each book has been completely different. And this one, this one really surprised me. For one, it was a book that I never, I almost didn’t decide to write. I mean, it was something I had started to research and pictured maybe as being a book some someday, but it wasn’t really on my schedule. But the research fascinated me and I was writing little articles. And it became something that I, one of my what I call productive procrastination projects, the thing I work on when I really actually should be working on something that is more urgent. But it also became this enormous, like physically enormous, because I had, I still have like a shelf full of books on railroads, a little section on gas stations, like I was just researching all these things that were filling filing cabinets and filling my head. So I eventually was kind of like it needed to move up in the queue of possible projects, and be something that I wrote as a book. And what was really unusual about it for me is that I wrote it completely out of order. All my previous books have been written more or less first chapter to last chapter. I know not everyone does that, but I have. But Traveling Black, I wrote the chapter on planes first, because I didn’t know whether you could write a chapter about air transportation and segregation. I literally did not know whether there was enough information. So I was like, I don’t know if there’s gonna be a section or a chapter. And then even the basic organization I was writing about cars and buses together. And then I realized that they existed in a kind of different regulatory environment and involve different issues. So that became disaggregated. So it was a book that took its own shape. And it was it was an example of I did enormous amounts of research before and then each chapter would take me down paths that I hadn’t planned on going so I’d be doing a lot of research while I was going. It was also the first book I’ve ever written that just couldn’t have been written without the Internet. I mean, just, you know, some things I literally used, like, Google searches to, like find language about how people talked about negroes and cars in the 1920s and ’30s. So, so yeah, it was, it’s, it was definitely a very different experience. And then it had a kind of logic to it that seemed to emerge almost from the information itself, which was then really hard to kind of organize and subdue, and try to make into a continuous narrative. So it was challenging as a writing project. But I had an active sense that if it was something I had ever kind of sat down and decided to do, I mean, it’s a book for which I never wrote a book proposal, I would have been like, oh, that’s just way too much. But it sort of evolved by itself.

Kate Carpenter 20:52
So did you had you then pulled together the manuscript before you pitched it to a press?

Mia Bay 20:57
I had written a couple of chapters, when I talked about it with Thomas LeBien, who was working at Harvard. And that was, I got the contract on the strength of the chapters I had written and the hardest, actually one of the hardest parts of the whole book was actually at the end, writing the introduction, because it was very much about individual chapters. And I had to kind of, at the end, I had to pull it together and try to figure out what it all meant. And that was really challenging.

Kate Carpenter 21:30
I’m curious, you know, reading a book like Traveling Black, at least for me, it’s hard to read without feeling frustration and anger, both about the past, but of course, also about inequity and injustice in the present. How do you deal with that, as a historian? I can only imagine it’s, it’s even more challenging when you’re immersed in those sources.

Mia Bay 21:49
I think it’s frustrating, and difficult. And I think it’s, you know, become harder in in recent years, as we’ve had a kind of, for want of a better metaphor, a kind of dark turn in our history. And it feels like that, whatever advances were achieved during the Civil Rights Movement are rolling back, it is frustrating. And I mean, I guess the one thing that’s clear to me as a historian is, and this was very much one of my concerns in the travel book is that, you know, it’s very important to recover exactly how bad things were in the past, and the kind of quotidian challenges people dealt with that, you know, in the case where they, some of them have disappeared, it’s also any memory that this is what people struggled with is disappearing, I think it’s important to keep track of what went on on the ground, and what kind of shaped the way people moved through the world. So I mean, that, to me feels like at least a sort of purposeful way of dealing with stuff today. But beyond that, I’m not sure. I mean, you know, it’s, it’s, um, you know, as a historian, you kind of feel like you, as someone who does African American history, you know, that you’re very aware of people’s capacity for racism, of structural inequality. But I don’t know, sometimes you also see that it’s, you know, that it sometimes it seems to be as bad as it ever was, or like, you’re actually surprised by like how negative things can turn in the present, so, that all can be very depressing.

Kate Carpenter 23:29
Does that go into your writing? Or do you try to sort of set that aside, as you’re writing?

Mia Bay 23:33
I haven’t filtered too much of it directly into my writing, I think maybe I need to find another voice for that. I mean, especially in Traveling Black, I was really trying to kind of understand, understand it through my subjects, how they were seeing it, how they were managing it. And I guess I’m still not necessarily trying to be autobiographical in my response to it. And I think if and when I get to that point, I, I’d like to sort of make it clear that that’s my response.

Kate Carpenter 24:09
I’d like to turn now and talk a little bit about inspiration. So I’m curious to know what you read, what you watch that you look to as, as a source of inspiration as a writer.

Mia Bay 24:20
I always read a lot of fiction, all kinds, all genres. Literary, not so literary. I don’t know that I read it for inspiration. But the only time I ever stopped reading a lot of fiction was during my first couple years of graduate coursework, when I had to read like hundreds of pages of historical tomes. But by the time I got to preparing for my orals, I was like, I went to the New Haven Public Library to pick out some fiction because I was like, if I don’t start reading fiction again, I’m gonna hate reading for the rest of my life. I don’t take direct inspiration from fiction but I think it, like bathing yourself in fiction, you just, words, sentence structure, just kind of come, you just sort of live in this world of words and narrative structure. So that’s inspirational. You know, there’s certain books, authors that I admired. I remember I very much admired Edmund Morgan’s American Slavery, American Freedom when I first came to graduate school as a as a sort of amazing read, among other things, right? There’s lots of historians now who I admire and take inspiration from. When we were talking about, you know, sort of infusing your response to things in your writing, I was thinking about Saidiya Hartman, you know, I’ve been reading bits and pieces of her latest book, and you know, the writing is just just beautiful. So there’s a wonderful world of inspiration out there. You know, if anything, I like writing history, because I like the project it gives you, like the project of like understanding a particular past, using a particular source set of sources, and I’m often much more focused on that than thinking about writing or style. I’m, I feel like for me as a person, just this sense of like, I’m going to try to figure this out as best I can, and then explain is as clearly as I can are these sort of very plodding goals that animate my work.

Kate Carpenter 26:29
Do you bring writing into the classroom in terms of how do you talk to students about writing?

Mia Bay 26:35
I do. One of my favorite courses to teach is, or some of my favorite courses to teach are research seminars in which everyone researches and writes a paper and we kind of walk through it together, it’s not really a readings course, it’s a research course, and we do drafts. And it’s sort of mandatory that people do multiple drafts. And what I talk to, what I, what I find important to communicate to students, especially in that context of really working on a project, is that people write in a variety of different ways. So like, you know, some people are wonderful outliners. And they do like super detailed outlines. And that’s what gets them through. Other people, and I’m one of them, are really not that good at outlines. I write them, and then I often don’t even know what I did with them. Like, sometimes I find them later and I’m like, Oh, actually, I did end up writing this, but it’s not, you know, central to my process. So trying to talk a lot about like, just you know, that your process is what works for you. And also trying to help trying to figure out how to solve people’s writing problems, solutions that don’t always work. I remember in graduate school, me and another student I knew, we were having a lot of trouble writing. And at one point, we decided that if we were stuck, we could stop writing. But first, we’d have to write a letter to each other about why we were stopping. She was in New York at the time, I was living in New Haven. And for me, that was like such a solution, because I would be writing my letter about why I couldn’t say this stupid thing I was trying to say, because it was so stupid. And you know, I’d be sort of explaining it, and I like literally, you know, toggle to another screen and continue writing, somewhere in the middle of the letter. I sent almost no letters. She didn’t find it as successful. She went on long kind of reveries about it, but you know, it’s just, you gotta like, figure out what’s gonna work for you.

Kate Carpenter 28:34
How do you approach thinking through new projects? Do you just settle on one, or do you start exploring?

Mia Bay 28:38
I think that one thing that’s been liberating for me has been working on more than one thing simultaneously. And it wasn’t something I came to terribly deliberately. I think I was kind of uncertain about what I was doing for my second book at a certain point. I wrote this biography of Ida B. Wells, it was sort of commissioned, I had this textbook, and I find that working on several things, you know, allows me to kind of toggle back and forth between them to to not get too stuck on anything. I realize it’s not for everyone. And there’s also points at which you have to kind of dial down and do just one thing. Like, to finish Traveling Black, I just had a certain point had to sort of put everything else on the back burner. But now I’m kind of back in the I’m working on several projects at once thing, and I think it’s probably good for me, but again, one of those things that might not be good for everyone.

Kate Carpenter 29:38
Can I ask you what you are thinking about working on next?

Mia Bay 29:41
Yes, I am. I mean, I have come back to the project that I put on the back burner to finish Traveling Black, which was a book about African American ideas about Thomas Jefferson that I had actually written, that I’ve written the first chapter for and done much of the research for so I’m working on that, now writing more chapters, I hope to, I hope to finish a draft of it by the end of this summer. I’m also working on a little spin off, it’s about car insurance, with a post-doc, just because it, it was one of those in the history of car insurance was many one of the many histories that I sort of glanced through and traveling black, but it seems like it deserves like an article or something. There could be something else I’m working on. I can’t remember. I can’t remember.

Kate Carpenter 30:33
One last question I’d sort of like to ask you: if you could go back and give your younger self, maybe your graduate school self, advice about writing, what would you say?

Mia Bay 30:42
I think I probably would have tried to push, and this is what I often end up talking to students about, trying to push myself to be less of a perfectionist early on. I think, you know, I think that my greatest struggles in graduate school were about like, producing the fabulous first draft, you know, as opposed to just kind of bumbling through. Unfortunately, I did have a good dissertation group. So we actually did share each other’s not always fabulous first drafts, but yeah, just kind of pushing myself to like not get overly stuck in the perfectionism.

Kate Carpenter 31:20
Well, Dr. Bay, thank you so much for joining me for this episode. This has been really great.

Mia Bay 31:25
Thank you very much. I enjoyed talking to you.

Kate Carpenter 31:27
Thanks again to Dr. Bay for her excellent advice and for taking the time to share more about her writing. Thanks to you, too, for listening to the podcast, for sharing it with your colleagues, and for your kind words on Twitter and in reviews. I am so happy to hear that so many of you have found the podcast inspiring in your own work. Don’t forget you can find links and show notes at and until next time, happy writing!

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