Wednesday, October 23, 2013

It is your career

It is not your adviser's, your mentor's, your significant other's, your father's, your mother's, your department chair's, your dean's, the head of your campus's tenure and promotion committee; its your career, and that is both a terrifying prospect, and a liberational truth. The job you get, what you publish, what you study, and what you teach have nothing to do with any of these people, regardless of what you think. It is your life, your career, and even those from the most collectivist cultures in the world must contend with this fact; your career most certainly can be a way of giving back to your community, but it is yours. You are not failing anyone if you have the type of career that YOU wish to have.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Hello UWT Students

I just found out that a class at my home institution, the University of Washington Tacoma, are reading this blog. Please feel free to respond to any posts, and ask any questions that you wish me to respond to. Also, feel free to say hi to me on campus!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bang for the buck

At this point in the term, there are just more things to do than I have time (or energy) for.  At moments like this, when I feel so "full," so completely swamped, I try to see if there are things that I can do that give me most "bang for my buck."

Yes, there is the list that tells me what must be done- I have to do the things that cannot wait (for example, I have a conference abstract due tomorrow, yikes!). But, what can I do that will pay the most future dividends, give me the most satisfaction and/or value for my career? Thinking about these type of tasks when I feel swamped help me keep a forward focus when I cannot seem to get out from under the mountain of tasks.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Remembering to read

Remembering to read; sometimes I just forget. I know, it makes no sense. After all, that is what academicians do no? We read and write, and these inform our teaching, which in turn again inform our research. It is the cycle of discovery, of inquiry, of the academic life. Yet, sometimes I just forget how central reading is to this equation. Not just reading for classes, or for a particular article, but to stimulate and push my thinking. Today, I am going to finish Pico Iyer's, The Man Within My Head. What are you going to read?

Friday, October 11, 2013

Humility verses vision

I am often struck how sometimes publishing an article comes down to striking a fine balance between humility verses my own vision. Editors and reviewers ask for one set of changes; sometimes I don't see them as improving my work. I know that I need to be humble enough to take in their feedback, yet at times be willing to walk away if my own vision for an article would be compromised by revisions (read- submit to a new journal right away).

I need to make certain that I don't see my words as too precious; there are many ways to approach language and scholarly work. Yet, at times, bending will not serve my work well, and I know it. There is not magic formula for how to do this, other than a good deal of self reflection, or getting feedback from a trusted colleague or mentor.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Get er' done!

One of my favorite expressions from my three years of living in the South: Get er' done! To me, "get her done" is about movement, momentum and completion. It is about knowing which of the multitute of tasks that we all have just need to be finished, not debated, contemplated, or crafted with an eye to perfection. The truth is, we all cannot bring our "A" games to all the tasks in our life; there has to be a place for just getting through some tasks.

So, in that spirit, here is a challenge: Take a look at your to do list (yes, you need one or two, if not more, two do lists), and knock out a few tasks you that need to be done. Find ones that do not need the best of you, but just need to be completed. Identify them, and "get er' done!"

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Generating verses completion

For scholars trying to be productive, one of the most important issues to attend to is the balance between generating the new, and completing the old. There is no magic formula regarding how much attention to pay to one or the other, yet some attention should be paid to both.  

Those who start new things every day and pay no attention to finishing have lots of wonderful ideas but nothing to show for it. Those who pay no attention to new idea formulation tend to have large blocks of fallow time after an article is submitted. Both can be depressing.

My advice, assess your tendency and consciously work toward a balance between both tasks. Push yourself in the direction that runs counter to your tendency (if indeed, you find yourself not well balanced in this regard).

Monday, October 7, 2013

My Memoir: Falling South, is now published!

The only sad thing, perhaps, about having some success in publishing articles and books has been my lack of excitement when new work is published. It’s sort of a ”been there, done that” feeling. I remember when I held my first book in my hands, the feeling of excitement, the joy, the tears. It was a very, very special day.

Now, that feeling is back!!!!

My memoir, Falling South: A Memoir of Revolutions, is now out! You can get it in an EPub format at: 

It is perhaps the work of which I am most proud and excited. It might be valuable for those teaching narrative non-fiction, travel memoir, coming of age memoir, or for this interested in Central America in the 1980s.. Or, perhaps you just want a good read! Below is the synopsis.

Falling South is the memoir of a twenty one year old man seeking to transcend a deep and unsettling loneliness. Experience the drama as it unfolds in Central America in the mid-1980s, a land of war and revolution, an unwitting, tragic pawn in the last days of the cold war. A poetic and emotional journey, the author juxtaposes and contrasts personal and political revolutions. As you travel south with the author, you will encounter expatriates, revolutionaries, and those neglected by the seismic changes shaping their lives. Falling South is a journey of leaving home and finding it within. Falling South is a genre bending book, synthesizing the best of memoir, travel writing, and political reportage.

If you would be willing to tell those you know about it, I would be most thankful!!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What is a publishing coach?

I get asked this in emails a great deal (including one yesterday). I have a website that that describes what I do, but thought I would answer that question here.

First, there is no clearly established "profession" called a writing or publishing coach. Those who do it seem to be either academics, "ex" academics, or professional writers. I think the best are practicing academics who have gone through the tenure and promotion process, have produced a good deal of scholarship AND know how to teach what they do. The last part is what is often missing, but none of us "have it all."

I also see my role as being somewhat different than someone who focuses solely on writing and publishing, in that I help doctoral students and faculty in several additional domains. So, what are these domains?

1) Writing productivity- how to help you produce more of what you are working on.
2) Articles- Everything you wanted to know about an article but were afraid to ask.
3) Managing the peer review process- most scholars think they know how to do this, but make a good deal of mistakes.
4) Thriving in the academy-  how to build a career that you love.
5) Academic job hunting-  from cover letter writing all the way through negotiating your contract
6) The psychosocial barriers that inhibit the above- my special focus;  helping scholars understand how they get in their own way, and how to we capitalize on their strengths and minimize our weaknesses.

While in an idea world doctoral students and faculty would get the support they need from their home institution, sadly, this is not always the case. You don't need to work with a professional coach to get all of your needs met, but you certainly do need to find people who can help you with each of these domains. When thinking about your career, think about your goals, and what supports you need in each of the above domains. Find people who can support you in each. Build your support team; it is one of the most important things you can do for your academic future.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The power of collaboration

Last night I went into an article I am working on with colleagues, and saw two of them "in" the Google Drive document. We are just putting the finishing touches on the articles, so all of us were excited to put in the last citations and other small details.

Tongue in check, I asked, so, now what. David, do you have any ideas?

A half hour later, we were feverishly working in another document, laying out the architecture for another paper. This morning when I woke up, there were a couple of pages already written.

Such is the power of well-executed collaborations, with colleagues who are passionate. Get them together using the right tools (e.g. Google Drive),  create a bit of structure, and wow.

The key is finding the right people and creating the right working context. See past threads for tips!