Tuesday, June 27, 2017

But you and I are not among them.

 A quote from Janet Burroway's Writing Fiction, that might be valuable for scholars to consider.

There are  few lucky souls for whom the whole process of writing is easy, for whom the smell of fresh paper is better than air, whose minds chuckle over their own agility, who forget to eat, who consider the world at large an intrusion on their good time at the keyboard. But you and I are not among them.

And so, if you are I are not among them, and must condend with imperfection and grouchy resistance, with not being constantly enamored with our facile moves upon the page, what then? What then for those of us who must stay in process and slug it out, day after day, year after year?

Consider and contemplate.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

My First Summer Off In a Decade!

Well, sort of. Its my first summer off my from university gig in a decade. My out of the office email notes that I will not be checking until September 15th, and for friends and colleagues to track me down on my personal account. I am not teaching. I have no service responsibilities. This is why I signed up for this gig in the first place, no?

Its not like I am sinking into the brain rot of beckoning coach, watching reruns of the Brady bunch and sliding into sloth. I still have coaching clients, including a couple of new ones who are amazing! I am starting my MFA in a month, and I am writing! A lot!  But mostly, I am reading, and reading widely. Borges' Collected Fictions,  Slater's post-modern memoir Lying, Johnson's metaphorically rich stories of the tragic in Jesus' Son, and on and on and on.

I am sorry I have not blogged in a month. I will make some posts soon, as this is how I try to be of service to others. But I am reading, I am writing, I am happy.    

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Happy Disseration Week, Doctor!

Yes, you know who you are. I have never, never been more proud of a scholar in my life. The way you have persevered, have transcended deep dark spaces, have embraced your research with a spirit of caring and compassion, the work that you do to empower communities who have so little voice. You do research that matters. You have shown courage and grace.

Three more days until I get to call you doctor.

You rock. You are amazing!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

My New Adventure!

So, I am going back to school! Yes, Rich, the academic writing coach, is going to be a student again. And in writing! Starting this summer, I am going to be a student of Creative Nonfiction at Queens University Charlotte's MFA, Latin America program.  This is a low residency program, with summer intensives of two plus weeks in different Latin American cities (somebody has to do it!), with individual mentorship during the year. I am going to be (probably) focusing on flash nonficiton, although I am sure I will be exploring other essay forms, and perhaps some longer forms of creative nonfiction as well. This is a bucket list item for me, and I am really excited!

Of course, I am continuing my full time gig as professor of social work at University of Washington Tacoma. I will also be continuing my coaching practice, but will not have as many clients as in the past. So, if your interested in working with me, best to get on the waiting list well in advance!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Why Strengths Matter

When things are not going well, it is natural (well, human) to ask "what is wrong?" What is wrong; the focus of Freud, most of your doctors, your mechanic, dishwasher repair person, and the costumer service manager that you complained to.

I am not publishing enough? What is wrong
I am not writing enough? What is wrong.
I have ideas that I cannot organize? What is wrong.
I get so anxious that I can't write. What is wrong.
I beat myself up so much. What is wrong with me that I do this.. What is wrong, what is wrong, what is wrong.

And yes, you are wise to attend to "what is wrong."

Yet, if you have made it to a PhD, no less through a PhD, you have a thousand more "what is rights" (writes) than you do "what is wrongs."

You are a bundle of capacities, strengths and resiliencies, and "goodnessess."

Fine Rich, all well and good, but I want to fix what is wrong! My strengths are fine, so I can leave them alone.

Well, my fine feathered friend- maximizing what is right is one of the most effective ways of resolving what is wrong.

Let me say this another way-maximize your strengths in service of mitigating your weaknesses.

Or another- the more you focus on your strengths, and continue to developed and grow them, better you will do.

And finally-build your strengths for greatness. Reduce your weaknesses for fine-tuning functionality.

Nuff' said.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Paradox of Staying in Process

When I ask clients to let go of their outcomes for a bit, and to focus on developing their processes, there are two fears (concerns?) that many have.

1) They will not active their goals.
2) The quality of their work will slip.

When people are so focused on their outcomes goals, it is hard for them to imagine that somehow their work will get finished if they don't constantly look at, evaluate, explore, and recalibrate their goals. However so many scholars become overwhelmed with the constant and heavy presence of their goals, and feel ashamed when they are even a day or two behind. Goals are important, but they are useless when they are not linked to daily process that lead to their fulfillment. 

Set goals, develop the means of achieving them, and then forget about them. Consider.

In a similar fashion, letting go of the notion of "game changing" work is hard for people, as they tell themselves that the whole purpose of what they wish to do is to create that type of work. 

Letting go of an obsessive focus on quality, while in the process of writing, in the moment, does not lead to less quality of writing. Staying the moment, focusing on the techniques of writing productivity and good writing practices leads to better writing, and far better outcomes.

This are not new ideas; I have explored them here many, many times.  A recent conversation with a prospective client, however, made me want to explore them again. Sometimes, we have to hear (read) things many times, in many different ways, before they begin to "sink in."

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Journal Chasing and Fit

In previous posts, I have explored the importance of "fit" in the journal selection process. The more I talk to scholars about their problems with writing and publishing, the greater importance that fit has in my mind.

The other day, I had an hour chat with a talented junior scholar who has been somewhat obsessed (her word) with publishing in the top journal in her field. So preoccupied with publishing in this journal, she has morphed and changed her work to be more congruent with it. The problem is, in the process of morphing, she is not longer the best version of herself, and her work is loosing its quality and and focus. Also, she is loosing her passion for her writing.

This is an extreme case, but "journal chasing" can have many deleterious effects: feeling discouraged, getting reviews by people who don't understand your methodology, engaging in analysis that your not trained to do, evaluating your work as inferior (when it is only different), etc.

Yes, its great to publish in the top journals.Yes, it might be needed for T and P where you are. But if it is not, you would be well served to find journals that best match your work, in terms of methodology and topic, discourse community and "feel."

In the age of the Internet, people who want to read your work will find it, regardless of the "tier" of the journals you are publishing in. Journal chasing, however, may lead to demoralization and poor productivity.