Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Teaching Writing Productivity to Students

One of the courses that I am teaching  this quarter is designated a "writing intensive" course. Along with this designation comes the requirement of integrating certain types of writing assignments/experiences our work. These can include staged/scaffolded assignments, peer critiques, low stakes writing, etc.

So, I have been experimenting with teaching the methods and techniques that I have developed over the years with my students, and so far, they really seem to be appreciating it. Students have been practicing developing writing rituals and self-talk mantras, evaluating the quality of their  45 minute writing sessions, developing clear entry points, balancing more creative and analytical modes of writing with the more editorial, along with other tools I have explored in this blog. After two weeks of half hour lectures, I have received nearly a dozen emails thanking me for this content. That has never happened before--not in over 20 years of teaching.

Why are we not including this in our curriculum, I ask, rhetorically. This is what I am pondering tonight, cup of Japanese Sencha in hand.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Freewriting: Part One

Freewriting is an often misunderstood writing tool or process. I will take a few post over the next week or so to explore it some.

There is evidence that freewriting has existed as long as the written word, but in the 20th century, we can attribute freewriting to two primary sources: the automatic writing experimentations of Surrealist Andre Breton, and writing-theorist and scholar Peter Elbow. In particular, Ebow's classic, Writing Without Teachers, is still a must read forty years after its first publication. A more detailed history can be found is Vivian Wagner's aptly titled article from Psychology TodayThe Magic of Freewriting. 

To start, lets begin with Elbow's simple conception of freewriting. 

"The idea is simply to write for ten minutes (later on, perhaps fifteen or twenty). Don't stop for anything. Go quickly without rushing. Never stop to look back, to cross something out, to wonder how to spell something, to wonder what word or thought to use, or to think about what you are doing. If you can't think of a word or a spelling, just use a squiggle or else write "I can't think what to say, I can't think what to say" as many times as you want; or repeat the last word you wrote over and over again; or anything else. The only requirement is that you never stop."

Perhaps try a freewriting session or two over the couple of days, before my next post.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Mediocre Morning Writing Session

It did not feel good this morning. I was tired, would rather have done other things, like, go back to sleep. But I did it, and now, I feel good. It really is that simple. It doesn't matter how much I wrote, how will it went, or how it felt. But day after day, the less productive writing sessions recede into the collective whole. 

Friday, August 30, 2019

The Wrong Answer: Time

Someone just reached out to me who is struggling with his writing. I love that--strange dude that I am--it makes my day.  Not that anyone is are struggling, demoralized and in pain, but that maybe I can say give one small tip that might turn the metaphorical writing key just a wee bit more toward the unlocked position. 

I have not heard back from yet, but there is a 50 percent chance he is going to say "time". 

Time, is never the answer. 

I know I piss people off when I say this,  but time is not the problem. If the answer was time, then none of us would be writing. We are all so very, very busy. It is essential that we do some nuanced exploration of what our blocks are, or we are just not going to get unstuck.

Try to suspend judgment and let go of time as the answer--you are bound to come up with some interesting potential responses.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Going All In

This is the dilemma.

Finding an academic job that works for you is hard, hard enough that if you don't go "all in" you are unlikely to find one. 

Back up plans provide a degree of safety and security, but if they stop you from really gaining the skills and tools you need in order to thrive, than are your backup plans may have become part of the problem.

Yes, there are many, many structural barriers to gaining access to, and thriving in full time positions in the academe. However, at some point, you have to ask ourselves if you are doing everything you need to to make your dreams coming true a possibility, and not giving yourself to it fully can create a self fulfilling prophesy.

Something upon which to at least reflect, by yourself or with others.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Drop In Coaching Chats: What They Are

Each week, except when I am traveling, I hold a drop in coaching chat call on zoom. You can find it here! It happens on Wednesday, 5pm Pacific time.

Yet, what secret, mystical things happen there, and who is allowed to engage in these clandestine meetings?

First, they are open and free to anyone who identifies as a scholar/academic/writer/doc student--from doc student to endowed Grand Poobah is welcome to come.

As to what happens during our sessions, it is pretty simple. You ask questions, I take the first shot at answering them, and if anyone has anything to add, we discuss.

Questions can be about anything pertaining to being a successful scholar: general productivity habits and methods, writing productivity, article writing, book development the peer review process, career development, resolving psychosocial barriers to success--anything that in the ballpark of the 800 posts I have blogged about here.

You can show up and be super active, or say little. We usually have between 3 and 10 people, and its a ton of fun.

Come on by.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Go Ahead,Tell Me Something Is Too Hard

Motivation is always a good topic to explore. While I have written about my motivation frequently here-- what drives and pushes each of us forward is complex. I think some readers might find it useful to know that my bulldog-like tenacity is not something innate—as I child I could not have been more different in this regard than I am now.  And while I would like to believe I have this strong, internal compass and “motor”, and perhaps I do, I have to admit--I am deeply motivated by others, usually by an internalized, generalized other, telling me something is too hard for me to pull off. You just can’t do that, Rich. It is too hard. And for the first quarter of my life, I felt that to be true about just about anything.

As an adult, I have always liked a good challenge, but as a child, I did not have a good deal of "stick-to-it-ness." I was easily frustrated, and gave up on things that were, or perhaps more actually felt, too hard. I remember having a science project in which I was required to build a model rocket-- this must have been in the 4th or 5th grade. I remember becoming frustrated with not knowing how to design it, so my dad stepped to help. After the design was complete, I become frustrated with building it: after only about a half-hour of sanding. Seeing my frustration, my dad finished the project for me. While I am not totally certain as to why—to this day I believe that he saw me as ineffectual, even incompetent—my sense of this hurt a good deal. It still hurts, perhaps.  I knew he was not thrilled with bailing me out--he deeply valued hard work and perseverance--and taught me its value, but I really was not very persistent as child, and often felt the double whammy of being, or feeling, ineffectual and lacking perseverance.

As I moved into my late teenage years, I began to feel deeply ashamed about this aspect of personality and behavior, and began to work at resolving what the cognitive therapy literature refers to as "low frustration tolerance."  My lack of persistence and work ethic were introduced to--and got their butts kicked by--another key aspect of who I am: I am deeply motivated to grow and change. I had always internalized the importance of hard work and determination, and had finally started to understand what it felt like, and taught myself to become more comfortable with this feeling. I don’t know how I was able to do this by myself—but I did read a great deal of self-help and philosophy as a teen—something seemed to have stuck!

When I was a child, I also had terrible handwriting. I have previous written about this in a blog post. You can read it here- "My Story.” Also as a teenager, I became determined to become a "good writer”—whatever that means. It felt important to me to “prove” to others that my handwriting and my capacity to communicate through the written word were not one and the same.  

I am not sure if I have achieved that goal, but I am not so interested in global evaluations of who I am. I also have published a wee bit, so. I do have some evidence. Oh, and I recently received my MFA in Creative Nonfiction. Yeah, take that third grade teacher—tell me I am bad at something--tell me something is too hard now.

Fast forward. PhDs are hard. Getting a faculty job--impossible. Publishing? Forget about it!

Why am I sharing this? Well, my internalized drive and sense of being motivated by challenge is not innate--it was consciously and intentional developed. If I could learn this skill (skill, attitude, perspective, whatever it is), so can you.

Now, tell me something else I cannot do.