Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Little Frustrations

Not unlike any other job, being a college professor has its little frustrations. I just found out that the book I ordered for the doctoral research class I am teaching may or may not have been shipped, and now it is on back order. I have been hoping to receive the new edition to update my syllabus, and to do some preparation for my class.  So, my syllabus is late to my students (not late, but I said I would get it to them by now, a good deal before the class started), and now I need to prepare from an electronic edition (I actually like "real" books!!!), or my old edition (two editions ago).

Ah, sabbatical is really and truly over.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Forgiveness and Moving Forward

Its the last week of the year. In last Friday's post, I asked you to engage in a bit of self reflection; shall we continue it here?

While usually challenges are reserved for Friday, and I did say that they were done for the year, I actually have one more for you.

One of the ways we get stuck is to carry around a great deal of shame about past "failures." Intense shame and demoralization, paradoxically, do not help us reflect upon what we need to improve, but makes it harder for us to uncritically and dispassionately assess and change our weaknesses. When we feel a great deal of shame, we tend to defend against experiencing this emotion by denying the triggers that set in motion our painful feelings.

So, for this bonus challenge, and truly the last one of the year, please spend a few minutes completing the following prompt.

I can let go of and forgive myself for.............

Friday, December 26, 2014

End of Year Challenge

Recently, I asserted that you are not likely to keep your New Year's resolutions regarding your writing if you do not work to eliminate barriers that you still have. In a ten to twenty minute free write (in one or two sessions) consider the following questions.

1) What barriers still get in the way of my writing?
2) How can I eliminate these barriers?
3) Who can help me?

Share these here, or with a friend or trusted colleague.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

New Year Writing Resolutions

I know some of you are beginning to contemplate New Year resolutions pertaining to writing. I have heard a few.

     This is the year I am going to write every day!

     I promise myself that I will start that book proposal

     I am going to join a writer's group

     I am going to connect with my mentor

     I am going to get to that revise and resubmit right after the holidays

     I am going to write this year so I actually have a shot at getting tenure (and/or promotion)

And on and on and on.

New Year resolutions are made with the best of intentions. And yes, each of us can change and can actualize positive intentions in our lives. Yet, without an intentional focus on identifying and eliminating the barriers that have stopped you from achieving these goals in the past, it is unlikely that you will fulfill your resolutions.

As I have explored before, growth and change are predicated on maximizing strengths and eliminating barriers.

With this in mind, get ready for Friday's challenge, the last of the year!

Monday, December 22, 2014

This is the end

I was just asked, how do I feet about my sabbatical quarter coming to an end. The end. The end. The iconic Doors song, The End, pretty much typifies my mood.

Ok, perhaps a bit over-the-top dramatic. Yet, as short as it has been, this has been an amazing few months for me. I have developed clarity about some of the things I want to let go of, and some of the attachments I wish to strengthen. I have created some space that will allow me to refocus on aspects of my scholarship that I have neglected, and feel some peace around moving on from others areas. I am committed to moving beyond my scholarly dilettantism and focus more on one primary scholarly interest: Writing as method (and method of inquiry).

In subsequent posts I will explore what I mean by "writing as a method of inquiry"- I think it will feel relevant to my readers. Its an area I have been working "in" for many years, even when I did not conceptualize it as such.

In truth, sixteen years into this full-time academic life, perhaps half way to the finish line (if I work until that mythical age of 65 that so few really retire at these days) I feel I am just discovering myself. 

Its a good thing.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Challenge: Find a Brief Note/Short Section of a Journal

Identifying journals prior to writing articles is essential for assigning relative "weight" to sections of the architecture of our articles. This is especially true if we write a short article or brief note. Do not scoff at writing shorter articles;  if they are peer reviewed, they can become an important part of your scholarly profile.

If you have not searched journals in your field (or related disciplines) for brief notes sections, (or not for a while) spend some time doing so.

You can start with a web search : topic/field (fill in blank), "journal", brief note, research note, ect.

Also, search the websites for journals in your field and really evaluate the "instructions for authors". You will often find many different types of sections to journals with different word lengths. 

See if this triggers any ideas for a short article you can write over the holidays. Challenge yourself. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Task, and Only a Task

Often, we make writing into more than it needs to be. When trying to complete an article or project, we should view it as a series of tasks, nothing more, nothing less.

Take the process of revising and resubmitting an article; too often scholars conflate feedback into all important, grand intellectual debates. That rarely helps; taking each point reviewers make and seeing each as a discrete task to complete, in a set amount of time, can be liberating.

Doing so can lead us to the insight that the difficulty with making revisions often lies within us. Our "stuff"- anxieties, fears, perfectionism, ect, makes the process far more difficult than it needs to be.

Break projects into discrete tasks. Set time limits, time limits that are far shorter than you normally would take. Write. Practice. Repeat. See what happens.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Can You Every Really Know the Number?

"My chair told me I need x number of publications prior to tenure."

"A senior faculty said I need to publish X number of articles to be promoted. "

"My dean said x."

"The provost x."

"Nowhere is it written down; what do I do?"

Sound familiar?

The truth is, there really is never going to be an exact number to count on.  People move on. New players have new expectations. Universities change their focus. While it is important to have a sense of the expectations from various players in your university, it can be an energy suck to spend too much time trying to figure this out. Best to focus on developing the skills, practices, and habits you need in order to shatter that mythical bar. Who wants to live in constant anxiety and fear.

If Rich's be in the process and develop yourselves mumbo jumbo is not working for you, if you really need a number to go with, try this. Figure out the mean of the various numbers you have been told. Take this number, and increase it by fifty percent. Make that your goal. Subtract this from the number of articles you currently have. Divide that number by how many years you have left before going up for tenure.

That is the minimum number of articles you should publish each year. Given that each article may not get published, especially while your figuring all this out, add fifty percent more to this number, at a minimum.

Now, be in the process and develop your skills :)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Happy Chanukah!

May the light of the world shine down on your family, your friends, and your writing.

Monday, December 15, 2014


In the addictions literature, which I think can be instructive as it pertains to forming even positive habits, there is a great deal of discussion of triggers. Triggers are biopsychosocial factors that trigger some aspect of the addictive process or cycle. Triggers do not "cause" the user to engage in the substance or behavior, but highly increase their likelihood.

At times, triggers can be components or small pieces of an addict's ritual. Being triggered can quickly lead to the engagement in addictive rituals that subsequently lead to acting out or using.

I am reminded of the notion of triggers while drinking coffee in a cafe. I did not come to write, but being in a cafe and drinking coffee triggers the desire to write. I am not compelled to write, but the desire is stronger than it would have been if I was instead having a bottle of water at the gym. The behavioral cues, biological inputs, and contexts are highly associated with writing.

What does this mean for you? If you are struggling with the motivation to write, not only can you engage consciously in rituals that you have created for yourself, but you can passively engage in "pro-writing" behavior and in pro-writing contexts. Try to trigger yourself without forcing it. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Challenge: Hand Write 500

For this challenge, I want you to hand write (you know, no computer, cell phone, tablet, ect ect) 500 words across two days. It can be on an existing article, generative writing about a topic you are exploring, a book idea, or a new article.

Fresh method, fresh perspective. Go!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Practical Tips...., Time for the Next Revision!

For those of you who have read my book, Practical Tips for Publishing Scholarly Articles, its time for me to consider changes for the 3rd edition. I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions. I am going to broaden the focus a great deal. Currently, it is slightly geared toward (but not exclusively for) the helping professions. This revision will make it more appealing to those in all disciplines (although, I have been told the current version is more than relevant to those in various fields, even the "hard sciences.")

So, if you have ideas, email them to me. Think about what you would find helpful.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Considering Rituals, Yet Again

Moving toward Hanukkah, I think about rituals. Rituals that sustain us, motivate us, nurture us, connect us to each other. Rituals are a rich and powerful part of human existence. Yet, aside from the more existential meanings of rituals, writing rituals can not only be simple, but also can serve a simple function: to help us be consistent.

My second post in this blog, from well over two years ago, was about rituals.  Not to pat myself on the back too hard, but I like the simplicity of one passage from that entry: When we engage in the same behavior, day after day, year after year, engaging in a ritual triggers within us a "push" toward certain behaviors.  

I have written a good deal about rituals over the past few years, but the one strikes me as the most true. 

Editing Wikipedia entries?

Reader, faithful responder to my posts here, scholar, and author of a great blog herself, Ana Canhoto, writes a compelling article about editing Wikipedia entries. I must admit, I have very much of a reactive, uncritically derived, professorial-party line response to discussions of Wikipedia. Yet, her post really has got me thinking. I share it with you here. I hope it is as thought providing for all of you as it has been for me.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Challenge: Holiday/Winter Break Needs

People respond differently heading into their winter breaks.  Some scholars view their time away from teaching as a time to take a break from writing, while others double up their efforts to produce.

While I am an advocate of slow, steady, and consistent, this does not mean that we have to keep on the exact same schedule all the time. We have the desire/need for rest, and we often also have the desire for times of intense productivity.

Consider what you really need for your holiday/winter break. Consider the risks of taking a break; will you easily start things back up?  Do period away from writing energize or sidetrack you? Also, consider the risks of a upping the intensity of your writing; will it burn you out?

Should you stay the course and keep your daily writing habits steady? If you have made changes in the past during breaks, how have they worked out for you?

Spend about a half an hour considering your plan for your winter/holiday break. Share it with someone and get some feedback/reality testing. use this information to carefully engage in some planning. The key is to be intentional, and then reflect back upon your choices and learn from them.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Cheap Ad Hominems

I am sure many of you know what an ad hominem falacy is. For those who don't know, an ad hominem argument or fallacy is when an argument is refuted, ignored, or discounted through an attack on the person who makes said argument.  For example, an idea would be described as invalid as it was not written by "a researcher" or was put forth by "a doctoral student." Of course, credibility and credentials have some merit, but we know that good logic necessitates critiquing an augment or work on its own merit.

While perhaps not relevant to academic writing (or is it?), I am struck by the prevalence of two extremely common ad hominems: fan boy (fanboy), and hater. The first is used to discount extreme passion or interest in an idea or topic, while the other is used to discount criticism as being attributed not to a personality defect in the person challenge something.

Watch out for subtle uses of this in your work, and do not be swayed when others are using it.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Belts and Walls

My grandfathers. A carpenter and a beltmaker. I never really watched them work, but I think about the craft of making a belt or putting up a wall.

You need to do it well.
You need to get it done.
You don't second guess yourself.
You seek excellence, but accept imperfections.
You don't worry about being judged.
You don't worry about your impact.
You just focus on getting the job done and done well.

This is how I try to apporach writing. And in the spirt of the craftsperson, I will leave it at that, allowing others to draw their own conclusions.