Monday, August 31, 2015

Lessons From a Twitter Attack!

Ironically, the same day I wrote a challenge about being of service, I had my first negative exchange on Twitter! I have since been informed by my social media advisers (gee, that sounds like a silly way to say well-wired friends!!) not to worry. You have not been initiated onto Twitter, I am told, until someone rips you a new one in response to your good intentions. So, I am now officially part of the community!

A few things do come up for me in response. First, my gut told me to disengage after the first exchange; I did not listen to my gut. I actually felt it when reading a few of the scholar's other posts. Always, always trust your gut (unless your gut lies to you about certain issues :)). While I did not say anything I regret, I did sense a certain nastiness coming my way; best to let go at first sign of such stuff.

Second, there is SOOO much bad advise and misinformation out there. There are so many old rules and conventions about writing and publishing articles and books that we internalize. Old “wisdom” about what works in one discipline actually often serves to keep young scholars “in their place,” and maintain those in power and privilege. In other words, if you somehow break the rules and thrives, well, you might replace said scholars! There are also a lot of people invested in saying how hard and awful academia is; its big business!

Third, it is time to begin the revision of my book, Practical Tips for Publishing Scholarly Articles, in earnest. The 3rd edition will push the book beyond the human services toward all disciplines. In truth, most of it already really is for a general scholarly audience, but it needs work to really make it a true interdisciplinary resource, examples and and all.

Fourth, and this really perhaps is related to the first point I made, is to know when to try to be helpful and when to shut the #(#($ up. Its not the first time that my sincere desire to help has been misinterpreted. I preach “look at your psychosocial stuff”- here is one that I clearly need more work on.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Finessing Responses to Editors

One of the most important skills you need to develop in the "publication game" is learning how to respond to editors feedback on "revision and resumbits". It is more complex than many people think, and you really need to consider where you get your advice about such matters. For instance, faculty who are journal editors, ironically, are not always the best people to ask for advice on how to respond to other editors; they will nearly always give you a "follow the rules" response. For example, many will advise you to only communicate to editors within a journal's online system, to wait patently for your reviews to come, and to always see reviews as being all "good" and "objective."


The truth is, there are many tricks of the trade that come with having responded to literally hundred of editor queries. Seek advice from people who are perhaps a bit savvier politically, and who have tons of experience in such matters. It took me perhaps until my 50th or so article submission before I really started to think outside the box and saw the nature of the review process a bit more creatively.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Is Self Publishing the Answer?

Before I entered the Twittersphere a few months ago (did I really just write Twittersphere???), I never really understood how common it was for "service professionals" (coaches, editors, therapists, seminar leaders,  leadership experts, change agents, consultants, ect ect) to self publish eBooks as a marketing tool. They give these books away, to demonstrate to clients the type of work that they do, and to provide "value" to new clients. Many are really great and really helpful.

I am 100% clear that I am no marketing expert. I also have different goals than many coaches and other helping consultants; I have a full time gig and keep my practice small. Yet, I wonder if self-publishing is always the best answer, if your target clients are college professors?

In truth, I don't think most college professor and academics take the self publishing of an eBook very seriously. I worry that for some consultants and coaches, ONLY self publishing, and not seeking a more traditional press at some point my keep some academic clients away. I am sure that this is not true for everyone, but for many academics, the "street creds" of peer reviewed articles or traditional books is important. Many of us question the rigor of self published work.

I am not against self-publishing; I self published a memoir and a book to help English as second language scholars write and publish articles. Yet, my credibility with other scholars comes from my other published work; I would not count on my self-publications as evidence of my knowledge of academic writing and publishing. In fact, many of my coaching clients seem more interested in my book, Social Work Practice with Men at Risk  (Colombia University Press, 2010) than with Practical Tips for Publishing Scholarly Articles.

My purpose here? To encourage other academic coaches, and coaches and consultants in general, to consider more traditional means of publishing their books. While short term marketing needs may make the self-publishing of an eBook of value, there is nothing like publishing with a university press or well thought of commercial press for credibility.

 If you do think of writing such a book (which starts with a prospectus) , I know someone who can help you :).

Friday, August 28, 2015

Don't Write!

A challenge from last it!!

You read correctly.  Don't write. After years of proselytizing the virtues of daily writing, here is a challenge for you. The next time you have written for a week or two every day (hopefully today qualifies as a potential start date!) I want you to not write for one day. That's right, don't write!

Open your article, or print it out, and just read it. I want you to feel the desire to write, I want you to see a few places, or at least one place, where you could write, where you want to write. Feel that urge. Let the desire to to write wash over you. Feel it in your body; notice your thoughts. Then, don't write. Allow yourself to be bothered throughout the day, think about wanting to work on the your article, wanting to write.

The next day, get back to it.  Write. Again, feel the desire to write, let it pour onto the page.

What happened for you?

Make sure to reflect upon the challenge. Processing exercises is almost as important as doing them.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Why Autoethnography?

A dear colleague of mine, Danny Bakan, a not so young scholar but new PhD, read to me the last few pages of his newly submitted for publication performative autoethnography. Afterward, I needed to sit for a few minutes, prior to speaking. I was chocked up; a tear welled in my left eye and I just felt the need to take it in, not the words, but the evocative lived truth of the words. I wanted to be with it, not pull it apart and compartmentalize what he was saying.

This is why autoethnography can be so powerful. Well done autoethnography (and this one was brilliant), helps us understand the socially situated lived experiences of others in such a way as to help us develop empathy. Well done personal narratives, like well done poetry or narrative nonfiction, provide us the opportunity to take in the fullness of how people feel about complex, powerful, and often painful social events. When a sensitive, analytical and/or expressive mind bends these insights back to the social, the personal narrative is transformed into autoethnography. 

For professions that demands self reflection and self reflexivity in service of helping and empowering others (i.e. education, social work, counseling, ect) autoethnography provides a powerful tool. The reading of well chosen autoethnographies can help be used to develop sensitivity to nuanced experiences, internal an external, that are difficult to capture and teach in less evocative, expressive methods. Helping students write their own “practice” autoethnographies takes it to an entirely different level. I have done this a few times, and will need to write about it soon.

Over the last few months, I have been writing a good deal on autoethographies. Some conceptual, some methodological, and some actual ones. With some book projects winding down it will soon be time to complete these suckers and push them into the world.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A poem, circa 2001, just because..

The Importance of Anti Oxidants

The dog shakes uncontrollably

when he sees the baby my wife cares for.
Only few years past early motherhood,
my wife loves the baby.
I worry about myself, only caring about
the $800 a month
invisibly stapled to the kid’s forehead,
or the protection of my silence,
and maybe the death
which will soon stick to fingers
like guilty blisters
that I press against granite typewriter keys.
George W. sees dead Iraqis as votes.
Pellets from smartbombs must
make constipating cereal
for little stomachs not accustomed to solid food.
I can never eat or sleep
before my first day in front of a class.
Republicans believe professors are drains
on the economy.
What use are professor poets
who don’t even teach poetry?
What use are dead Iraqis?
We might not needs smoking guns
but must need smoking bodies.
It amazes me how some folks smoke cigarettes
but drink green tea and take vitamins.
The press estimates thirty thousand marched
in Washington against the war.
Nearly five million watched the playoffs.
Why does my dog shake when he sees the baby?
Why did my retirement fund tank?
Why are there the miniature dead
floating on the surface of my tea?

by Rich Furman

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Exercise: 50 words, no more, no less

I want you to stop what you are doing, or as soon as you are able to, and write fifty words on the primary article you are working on. When you hit fifty, stop!! I want you to feel the tension of wanting to write more. Let it frustrate you, let it build. Don't let yourself come back to the paper for a couple of hours.

Why did I do this to you?

Remember to Write and THEN edit....

An old post, but an important reminder on why not to edit while writing.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Eat The World

My youngest daughter, Sugs, (Rebecca, but she will always be Sugs to me) recently moved to Switzerland to begin her gap year working/studying at a bording school in the alps! I am so proud of her; she did this all herself.

When she arrived and emailed me that she was ok, these were my only words to her in response: Eat the world.

I want my baby to live with a brave spirit. She is an anxious soul, but is learning to not let her anxiety stop her from living, from taking a big bite out of this world, from living with a sense of adventure and wonder.

I have tried to live my life this way, eating the world, taking it in, in all its fullness. Savoring the internal and external adventures. Its not always been easy. At 50, the passions are somewhat tempered; perhaps this is a good thing. Yet, I want to eat the world still too! I want want to live with a spirit of adventure, journeys within and afar.

And many of my adventures have been with and through writing. Through the teaching of writing and publishing, I have traveled to three continents. I have conducted research in a half a dozen or so countries.  I have had weeks where all I have had to do is write, eat, and sleep. I have been very, very lucky.

And this is what I want for you, my readers. I don't want writing to be this horrible thing that you dread. I want you to come to view it as another means of eating the world. An adventure that is full of possibilities and wonder. Yeah it is #((# hard at times. But oh, what an amazing gift we have, what an amazing way of having internal adventures when the external ones are not possible. Whatever is stopping you, if there indeed is anything, fix it. Not in that new age, self helpy, I am going to manifest it into my life fantasy way, but really do the work you need to do to transcend what blocks you, blocks you from eating the world.

Eat the world readers. Eat the world Sugs. Eat the world.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Writing on Sunday: A Renewed Commitment

One of my favorite indy coffeehouses is not open as early as I thought on Sunday. That means I am at Starbucks- I prefer to pass on corporate coffee. Well, that is only partially true, during five wonderful research trips, Starbucks in Miraflores, Lima, Peru, was my de facto office where I would meet colleagues and research participants. The vibe is different, for sure. At any given time in the Starbucks off Parque Kennedy I was minutes away from a stimulating conversation with another costumer (read: politician, doctoral student, lawyer, actress, artist, ect) about Jaime Bayly, (try to find an English version of Los Amigos Que Perdi, it is magical!) the Fujimori years, or where truly the best ceviche can be found in Lima (It is La Mar, says I!).

Alas, here I am at Starbucks just south of Tacoma in Parkland, and while disappointed, I am writing! I put in about an hour on an article about the educational uses of autoethnography in social work education. It is not my primary article, so it is one that I am working on from time to time. I will always have a primary piece that I am trying to kick out the door, and secondary and tertiary pieces that get time after my work on the primary piece is done, or when I just have nothing at the moment for the primary. Working through my writing this way, things get done!

I have written less over the last few months than at any time during the last 17 years. It has been the first time in nearly two decades that I have not written every day. I could blame it on my life changes and transitions, and while there is some truth to that, I know that when I do write every day, everything in my life works better. Writing opens possibilities to me. As Bukowski wrote, write is the "Ultimate Psychiatrist." Daily writing allows me to let go of all pressure to produce, paradoxically. It allows me to sink into myself, engage in writing as a method of inquiry, not only into what I am writing about, but into myself.

I have three weeks before I am officially on the clock (yay, quarter system). I am committing here to two hours a day of academic writing. I have the time. I have the desire. I have worked through all of my "stuff" about writing, productivity and scholarship many years ago. (so, please don't feel bad if I write more than you do, over the next few weeks ;).  Now I just need to use my tools to get back to it fully. One of them is to be accountable to others. So, I am accountable to all of you. Keep on me! Lets do this!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Yes, I DO Take Non-Academic Clients

I was recently asked if I take non-academic clients, and if so, what can I do for them.

So...Yes, I do!!

While perhaps half of the work I do with academics is about writing and publishing, the rest really goes far beyond scholarship. I help people align their skills and desires to their vision for their life, and help them actualize this vision. I help people develop insights into their capacities and skills, and work with them on maximizing their strengths toward living the type of work lives they wish to have. We work to develop new insights, new understandings, and new ways of matching these skills with who my clients are and wish to be in the world. We work on fit and fitness, emotional fit and fitness. I also am very skilled at helping people develop insights into their emotional, cognitive and behavioral concerns.

I am a skilled clinician, and while coaching is not therapy, you won't have to worry about overwhelming me or presenting problems that are going to be beyond what I have worked with before. While not therapy, coaching most certainly can be, and often is, therapeutic.

I have practiced and taught social work and therapy for over twenty years. I have held senior leadership positions in various organizations. In other words, I know how to work with people, how to help them succeed and thrive at very high levels.

So, even if your not an academic, but resonate with the tone of my blog, or someone has recommended me to you, please connect with me for a complimentary chat. I love talking to new people about their goals and dreams.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Listening to Punk Rock, Writing Autoethnography

In a cafe, doing some writing. The barista is letting me play DJ; we are traveling across the late 70s and 80s. It feels good, just listening to the music, working on an autoethnography about my love of dogs and my shifting sense of masculinity. There is nothing else to do, and for this, I am grateful.

Do you give yourself such days? When you let go of expectations, and just listen, think and write? Is this not why we started this journey in the first place?

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Writing Challenge: Being of Service

Ok, today's writing challenge is NOT really a writing challenge, but it will improve your writing. Today, reach out to one person that you know who is struggling with their writing/publishing. Listen to why they are having a hard time. Consider what they are saying, and see if you can provide them with some hope, some insight, and perhaps a tool or two you have learned along the way. Consider what you have learned here and from others; be of service.

Pay witness to how much YOU have grown. Share it; it will grow me.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Roofs: Narrative Non Fiction

I think I have completed the first draft of another narrative non fiction piece that I started a bit over a year ago. I am really loving this genre! Oh, how nice to have a few publications I know are coming out this academic year so I can spend my writing time on some of this creative work. The value of daily writing!!

As with the others, I think I am going to be able to use this one in an autoethnography, so it should make it into academic work sooner or later. Lets share it now, for comment, reflection, appreciation, criticism, scorn or????? Again its a draft :).


On our walks, I look at roofs. To the left, a tidy-yard yellow craftsman: it has a thirty year roof. I have learned to distinguish; thirty year roofs have shorter square tiles interspersed with longer rectangular ones, and rows that align not with the row directly above or below it, but with the one above that. They appear layered, almost like hands placed over hands at a summer picnic ice breaker event at a camp for special needs children in upstate New York.

Next to it, one of twenty years. Perhaps nobody communicated this essential detail of longevity to the haggard, middle aged, red-faced, flat titled pauper. It must have been laid in the 70s, and more tiles are pocked or chipped than there are those that are intact. I don’t know how badly he leaks, but he seems to be trying, slugging it out, day after day.

Who decides on the duration of a roof?

This dog that I walk is three years old. I call her a three year old dog, as that is her current age. But if she were a roof, how old of a roof would she be? Five year roof? Fifteen year old roof?

I save this question for later, and keep walking. This is our first one in two weeks; I have been traveling. She has perhaps only been on two or three since I left; she is out of shape, and with the heat pushing 90, this will be a short one.

A little blond girl of about three, in slightly lopsided pigtails runs toward us a few feet from her father.
“make sure to ask if she is a nice dog first!”

The girl is three years old, but if she were a roof, what age would she be? Four, forty, eighty? She is not a roof, so her father, loving and patient, in his 30s with shaved bald head, will be spared from the tragedy of clairvoyance.

But to actually know?

The little girl, as small as she is, still has to bend low to pet my little one. As usual, she twists onto her back and throws her legs into the air for more efficient access to the belly. The man pets her too, his fingers having slightly more hair than his head. His fingers are scarred, from work, but the fronts of his hands unified and clean in their whiteness.

On the plane home late last night, I noticed the increasing number of colored spots on my hands. I have now developed, I think they are called, liver spots. The largest rests slightly to the left side of the center of my hand; it grows in its discolored ways next to a slightly protruding blue vein the shape of a inverted jay, next to a small scare in the shape of a tooth.

I am bothered that most roofs are designated for 20 or 30 years. A roof should outlive the person that puts it on. And given that in a few week, I will be a 49 year old man, my five years since laid, 30 year roof may or may not do the trick.

Back from our walk, she lay by my feet on the orange leather ottoman purchased at the Nebraska Furniture Outlet, the world's largest furniture store, they say,  ten year ago. Four dogs have slept on this ottoman; now she is the only one. Five year dog, ten year dog, or 15 year dog? Back home, I can consider it, alone, I let the snot drip on my long sleeve of my university t-shirt.

Tomorrow is my 13 wedding anniversary. 13 year marriage? 20 year marriage? 30?

To these questions, I want to know as badly as I don’t. But each day, we walk, and I assess the roofs, rooting for that 20 year old overachiever, hoping hoping hoping.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

It Is Not A Chapter

Or an article. Or a book. It is a sentence. It is one word, and then the next. One word written with the intent of letting go of the results. Word after word. sentence after sentence.

When writing with focus, we do not have to worry about larger projects, when writing, when in the moment. Words to page. Edit later. Think later. Breath.

Monday, August 17, 2015

I'm Not Down

My "baby" leaves for her gap year in Switzerland tomorrow and I am sad sad sad. Where have the years gone?

Her leaving marks the beginning of my real, true, and total empty nest (save for my writing coach and therapist, of course!) Trying to find that balance today between deeply honoring my pain and being in action. The struggle of being human. Its honorable, but oh so hard. I focus on service to others. Listening. Being witness. Then back to myself. Self to others, others to self. Its what I teach my social work student to do. Be fully with self, and then fully with others.

Of course, there is my favorite song from the greatest band ever (The Clash, of course) to help-  "I'm not down"!

And, always. There are words. There is writing. I am working on some narrative non-fictions shorts that may form the core of an autoethnography or poetic inquiry. Or not. But I need you today writing, Oh I need you, far more than I can admit here.

$(#**$$ Jobs in Industry

Throughout the blogosphere and social media there are numerous supports and resources to help academics leave the academe for "industry," broadly defined.

$#(#( that. I want to help people stay! I get that for a variety of reasons it is a strength-based or practical choice to find other work. Yes, the number of tenure track positions are deceasing. Yes, the academe can be a hard place to be. 

But, do you really want to leave? Do you really want to give up? Have you really done everything you can to develop your skill set and have the kind of career you hoped for prior to applying for a PhD?

Or, are you leaving out of fear, or not having transcended some of your barriers?

If you are leaving the academe for good reasons; I salute you! I cheer for you! I am thrilled for you and wish you the best career and a lifetime of joy. Go. Leave. Thrive! I hope your work is meaningful, fulfilling and adds goodness and greatness to the world.

Yet, if in your heart of hearts you know are your going to regret leaving, stop. Take a look within. Get some support. Please. Do the internal work you need to do, and if it still does not work out, you can move on with your head held high, with new dreams envisioned, and without regret.

To quote Kurt Vonnegut " Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are "it might have been."

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Exercise: Reach Out To Three

Yesterday, I had you process the "Ten You Wish to Meet" exercise.

Your exercise for today?

Reach out to one in each group!

If you get stuck, go back to the processing questions I posted two days ago and try to understand what is standing in your way. If you are having a hard time overcoming any block or barrier, do reach out to me (or someone else who can help you get the support you need!). You deserve to intentionally bring people into your world that help you become more fully who you wish to become.

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Ten You Wish to Meet: Processing

A couple of days ago, I asked you to consider the ten people you would like to meet. I divided them into three different groups, and gave you some guidance for how to select them.

As I teach in group therapy/group work courses,  the processing of exercises is often as or more important than engaging in the exercise itself. So, here are some questions to help you process your list.

1) What does the list teach you in terms of your values and desires?

2) What could it mean if you actually reached out to these people on your lists?

3) What internal barriers or blocks would stop you from reaching out to these people?

4) Do you believe that you are worthy of reaching out to these people?

5) How would you deal with it if some people rejected you?

6) What could it mean to be more intentional about who you bring into your life?

I would love to hear from some of you about your responses. People usually send me personal writing like this via email; don't feel obliged to respond here (but I would love if you would do so!!).

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Many types of universities, many types of careers

When we are finishing our doctoral degrees, most of us are counseled by our mentors to find jobs at "the best" universities. The best nearly always, in such conversations (monologues, really), means top ranking research universities. But the "best" universities are frequently not the best universities for some students, right? For instance, some thrive at smaller liberal arts schools or teaching oriented state universities. I would dare say the same is true for us.

Many go into the academe due to a love for their subject, a desire to teach and a passion for change.

A passion for teaching. Think about it. Yet, most are advised that teaching universities are beneath them, that they really need to go to a top university in order to have a real career.

Such academic arrogance is part of why people often feel compelled to look for jobs outside the academe.  It stops them from applying for positions at one of the many thousands of non-research universities or community colleges in the United States. Yes, community colleges. I taught there for two years as a full time lecturer at Community College of Philadelphia while I was a doctoral student, and I just loved my time there.

It is important to really think of the kind of career that YOU want to have. Your dissertation chair and mentors will be retiring soon. It is your career. It is your life. Live it how and where you choose. Do not be limited by the internalized voices of others. There is honor in being a teacher. There is honor in loving the classroom, and loving it more than writing. If this is coming from a guy who privileges writing about just about anything (with the notable exception of dogs!), well.....

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Exercise: The Ten You Wish to Meet

For this exercise, I want you to think of ten people who could markedly influence your work/career if you had a connection to them, with whom you currently do not have a relationship. I want you not to select people based upon power or prestige, but consider the work or attributes you really love and respect. People you could learn and grow from/with should be on this list.

I want you to divide this into three groups of approximate equal size (yes, ten is not divisible by three!). Don't judge or assess them, but instead think of people who could really add to your life. They do not have to live where you live. Do not consider whether or not they would be interested in connecting with you.

1) Colleagues that you think are "out of your league" but you believe you could learn from. Bill Gates and Bill Clinton, while wonderful, are not who I have in mind. Think of "the stars" in your profession or professional world, not world leaders. Think of the hard working folks just below them in terms of status and achievement. (sorry for the hierarchical language, but roll with it for the exercise).

2) Colleagues a bit above you in terms of experience or achievement.

3) Colleagues that are at "your level" that you don't know, but who do work that you admire and/or respect.

Check back in a day or two for my discussion of this exercise.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Have Me Come to You!

If you are interested in working with me, but not prepared to do so one on one, have me come to you! for a workshop!

Teaching and learning centers, dean's offices and other campus units have funds that can be used to sponsor my one day, two day and three day workshops. Groups of doctoral students and individual faculty have also brought me out to work with them intensively. We have fun, and learn a ton! Take the lead in bringing me out and I will work with you one on a one free for a few sessions :)

Challenge: The Policy Implications of..

One I have given you before, but it has been a few years!!!

Using the prompt, "The Policy Implications of_________", fill in the blank with important aspects of your work. Try to write ten without thinking. Put them aside for a few hours.

When you come back to them, see if any of them resonate with you. Might you be able to write one as an article? Might it be a fun departure from what you have been doing? See if you can find a journal for it. Now, use what you have been learning, and begin!!!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Why Writing/Academic Coaching Often Fails

Yesterday a prospective client asked me why she thought her work with her previous coach did not yield results. I won't share the details of our chat, but here is a post that might be helpful to others.

Learning the tricks of writing and publishing is not always enough. You have read the books; there are many of them. Frankly, there are many that are much better than mine, but that is for another time. In spite of your having read the books and having learned the tools, your still stuck. Your not thriving. Not only that, but now you feel worse about yourself because, with your new set of tools, you SHOULD be even more successful, and you still can't do it. Its not the tools that you need to learn. You need to change, or at least make some changes.

If this resonates with you, continue. You have thought about a writing coach, but have realized that what you need is closer to the realm of psychotherapy. You have thought about psychotherapy, but what therapist really understands "the game," and has the skills to teach you how to write and publish? You need someone who is part therapist, part teacher, part coach, and a scholar who has done it and has been there. You need someone who is supportive, strengths-based, yet challenging, insightful, and a highly skilled researcher.

If this is what you need, well, I may be your guy. I am a professor of social work with an extensive background in psychotherapy and clinical social work practice. I have published over 15 books and 120 peer-reviewed articles and chapters. I am full professor at the University of Washington Tacoma, but my path has not always been easy. Oh, no, it has not :).

My book on publishing is soon to go into its third edition. I have helped many scholars from various disciplines have the types of careers they long to have. I am caring. I am funny. I have fun with my clients, and they (mostly) have fun with me. We grow together. Things change. If things don't change, I put it on me, I work harder, I try new tools. I don't take it well when you don't meet your goals. I have been called a writing therapist. An academic whisperer. A writing guru. What I am is someone who invests deeply in helping scholars become who they wish to be.

I see this is my most important professional contribution. I don't think any of my own scholarship is going to change the world, but my wish for myself is that I am part of the work of others who just might (well, or at least work that they love- that is often good enough). At the very least, I can be of service to others and combined my love of clinical practice with scholarship.

I am not inexpensive, but I do have a sliding scale for those in most need. It slides deeply when the needs are deep :). Write me and at least take me up on a complementary hour call; it may be fun. It may lead to a powerful journey, with me, or with someone else. Lets talk. You don't even have to intend to work with me;its enough for me if you get something from our chat that helps you become the scholar you wish to become.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Challenge of the Day: Focus

Some of you write on Saturday's and some of you take weekend off. For those of you who are writing, or who want to do a bit of work on the issue of focus, take this challenge.

Pick one sub-section of an article, and write one hundred words there. Try not to look at the overall article at all; if you created a proper and sufficient structure, you really don't need to ever read more than your "magic paragraph" any time you enter an article. If this does not make sense, you have a skill to learn :).

Find the space you wish to work, and decide what 100 words you need to move that section forward. Focus on only writing that which moves that section forward, nothing more.

There are times when freewriting and using writing as a method of inquiry is essential, but we have to develop the capacity for focus.

After you write, answer these self reflective questions.

1) How did this focus improve your article?
2) What got in the way, if anything, of your ability to focus on one section?
3) Does your work have enough structure that you are able to do this type of exercise well?
4) Identify the "tapes" in your head that may have made this challenging.

Narrative Non-fiction short: To Gil, 1964-2004

Happy Birthday Gil- we will always love you
Dead Friends
Reading Mark Doty’s Dog Years, I realized that some things I will never be able to write about without sounding like a sentimental, driveling, emotionally stunted idiot. Take my dead friends; they deserve the shrine of ink; I know I have, and will, fail them. Even now, writing about writing about them, I am stunted. I am nine years old, I have been punished by my father for hitting my sister; I did not hit my sister.
I look into the center of things, try positive thinking; of course you can, you are good enough, smart enough. Pass the sugar plum fairy a desert grown fig. Ok, take two. Focus on the image. Let the narrative do the work. Show, don’t tell. I play with the buttons on the tool bars. I listen to songs on YouTube from the years they died.
Gil, for instance, died in 2004 of cancer. I don’t even know the type. The image the doctors gave us was this: go inside his lungs, hurl around a bag of rice like you are playing pick-up sticks, watch it scatter. The rice were tumors, course. That is what the physician said- the grains of rice were tumors, of course. Gil died in 2004. That year was a musical wasteland; it was milk toast post-punk and Kelly Clarkson. I am sorry for that Gil.
Greg Bershad died in 1992, I think. Things were a bit better, minus the boy bands; you had Nirvana and The Beasty Boys. I did not even hear about Greg’s’ death until months later.  His number discontented, no surprise from the brilliant artist turned part time junky; I sent a post card with my number. His mom called: thank God you wrote Rich, you’re the last one who did not know. He died with a needle in his arm.
It is 2011. I sit in my writing chair. My wife is cutting my daughter’s bangs. She must be sitting- she spent too much time out of her wheelchair today- there is no way she could be standing anymore. Tonight is our second snow of winter. When it snows in Tacoma, it destroys the rhythm of the machine.
I try to count the spokes of her wheelchair staring at me from the shadows. I think there are seven, but I keep forgetting from where I started. This happens to me often.
I digress. I digress so I do not fail. I have failed. I will fail. The snow mixes with rain now, three am; everyone turned into unconsciousness. What is sleep? The wasting of life? The rehearsal for eternity? A simulation of that void I so desperately wish to forget?
I search the web for their names. They died long before the craze. They never knew Facebook. Greg never even had an email address. There is one reference to Gil, an obituary: He lived in Chico and worked in organic gardening.  This is all that is left.
I knew I would fail. I walk into my daughter’s room. She breathes just like her mother. I knew I would fail. I sit in the corner, listen to her cacophony. It is all I will ever have.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Friday Writing Challenge

Write! Write something just because you want to. Just because it feels good, because at the end of the day, we have so little time, and writing from the heart is laughing at the specter of death.

Stop. Do it. Not the article you have been pulling your hair out trying to finish. Something for you, from you, from deep within. Don' question. Don' think. Just do.

My Therapist

A few days ago I introduced you to my writing coach. Now, please meet my therapist. He is modeling relaxation techniques; we are currently working on truly integrating these methods into my behavioral repertoire.

Use Your Faculty Development/Travel Funds Wisely!

Did you know that often your travel funds are really NOT travel funds? Frequently, your "travel" dollars can be used for other types of support, such as coaching, editing, and other type of training. Why? Because they really are faculty development funds! Not only that, but directors, deans, and provosts often have pools of money that they can tap into for faculty to get the help they need.

Make sure to use your funds wisely and get the support you need to thrive. Don't be shy about asking for what you need!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Grateful at 50

I am 50 today. As I wrote a few days ago, my life is a bit different than I thought it would be a year ago. I thought I was going to be in Antigua, Guatemala, a place that is special to my heart, with my (now ex) wife and youngest daughter.

Things have changed, and you know what? Its still amazing! I have had an amazing life full of amazing adventures, so much love, an amazing career, and constant opportunities for art, laughter, creativity, living and being of service. I don't know how far I will make it into the next half a century, but I am going to live it my way: vitally, meaningfully, with laughter, passion, intensity, service, joy, poetry, writing, coaching, teaching, and dogs!

I am starting my morning with wild blueberry pancakes at The Old Milwaukee Cafe- a Tacoma institution. I love pancakes!

Who would have thought that my forever home would be in The City of Destiny, The Gritty City, Tacoma Washington. Who would have thought that this year would mark the beginning of my empty nest years, emptier, and more full, than I would have once imagined.  And then again, who knows? Hopefully, my youngest will be coming back home after her gap year, but where her adventures take her, I would not want to control. She will have her own adventures!

I would never have dreamed that my love of writing and therapy would have led to my coaching practice; my favorite part of my career! I could go on and on; everything is so unexpected, and that is the magic of life! Live it, live it hard, cherish the magic and mystery!

And given time, I will walk those cobblestone streets of Antigua again. Alone? Hand in hand with a new love? With one of my kiddos? Who knows, but I am ready for it universe. I am ready for you. Bring it on!!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Death of a Companion Animal

A few hours before my 50th birthday, I wanted to to share one of my favorite article that I have written. It came out right before I turned forty. I am pleased to read it tonight;  there is a rawness, and honesty, and a vulnerability that feels good. I hope my current work has advanced methodologically, but still, I am happy with this article, as heart wrenching as it is to read.

I had already been working on expressive methods of qualitative research using poetry for a few years. The term poetic inquiry had not yet been popularized.  I had just discovered the term autoethnography; I had been writing personal narratives as means of understanding sociocultural phenomena for a while-learning about autoethnography was a revelation for me. It gave me a theoretic underpinning for what I was beginning to explore, and expanded my horizons of what was possible. In a very real sense, it gave me a scholarly community.  It helped me feel like I belonged. So,  I present to you the first article in which I evoked the term autoethnography, ten years ago. It feels appropriate tonight, my current dogs/soul mates in my lap, counting down the last hours of a decade filled with so very, very much life.

Autoethnographic poems and narrative reflections: A qualitative study of the death of a companion animal

Challenge: Catch Yourself Handeling Anxiety and/or Fear Well

Yesterday, I asked you to consider the strengths that you use to handle your anxiety and/or fear.

During the next week, try this exercise. Spend a few minutes each day trying to catch yourself having handled anxiety or fear well. What did you do? How did you do it? What can you do to "institutionalize" this behavior? Share it with friends. Share it publicly. Share it here! Share it with me. Make it grow.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

My Writing Coach

And of course I have my own writing coach :). She is very, very demanding. Here she insists that I spend some time in my chair, writing. O, the consequences if I do not!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Rich is Turning 50!!

Pardon me if this is a bit of a narcissistic post, and not focused on writing, publishing or the academic life. I have connected to quiet a few people through this blog over the years, and so I wanted to share on a bit more personal level than I sometimes do.

I was born August 6, 1965. Perhaps that date means little to you, but it was twenty years to the day after we dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. So, my birthday is also one of the most auspicious, tragic days in the history of humanity. As someone who has long been deeply attuned to the bittersweet nature of human existence, I can create space for the joy and the pain, the sadness and the celebration. This year, I am particularly in touch with that dialectic, that paradox, that truism, or whatever you wish to call it. I think I will just call it life!

In a few days,  I turn 50. 50 years old; middle age only if I make it to 100. 50, the new 30! Here I am yesterday in my writing chair, days before turning 50.

I have been preparing for this day for the last year.  I took my sabbatical last fall in celebration of my 50th year, and felt a profound sense of gratitude and peace about where my life was and was headed. I was in Manila, the Philippines; I recall one particular night filled with a deep sense of joy, gratitude, meaning, and wonder. I splurged on a partially nice hotel room for a couple of nights. I went to one of my favorite restaurants, the Hobbit House, and I spent a couple of hours writing in my journal there, and after in my room. I was overwhelmed with a feeling of peace; everything in my life was in place. Not perfect, not at all, no life is perfect. Yet, I had this powerful sense that I knew just how my life was going to unfold, in terms of the structure, my family, my future.

Well, as the expression goes, we make plans and the universe laughs :). I am now divorced and my "baby" is turning 18 on the same week I turn 50. She is off to Switzerland for an amazing gap year adventure. I am proud of her, oh so proud. I am also going to miss her, so very, very much.

And so, I sit here in my favorite cafe, Bluebeard Coffee Roasters, which I affectionately refer to as "my office" and think about that night in Manila. I am not as filled with such peace and certitude, but damn it, life is pretty good!

I think about my health; its fantastic; I go to the gym five time a week and am able to do some pretty serious HIIT.  I feel great. I am single, and am learning to explores the possibilities of that!  I have had more adventures in my lifetime than most people dreamed of. I have raised children that I love deeply, learned what sacrifice means, and both the power and limits of love and marriage. I have good friends that love me, that have loved me for years, even decades.  A mom that has stepped up for me like nobody. I have had amazing dogs that have helped me write 15 plus books and 120 articles; could not have done it without them! My career has been amazing. Not perfect, but, that is why we call it work! Still, I am a full professor, and some of my scholarship seems to have touched some hearts. I love, love, love my coaching practice. Life, as my dear departed friend Gil Schoenstein would say, "is good."

If you know me, you know that I am on the verge of tears; I am a sensitive soul, in spite of my sometimes gruff, intense moments. A year ago I could not have imagined my life at almost 50 being the way it is now, but that is part of the mystery of it, right. Like writing (yeah, I had to throw in something about writing!), you just have to show up for it, each and every day, work on your "stuff" and wait for the magic to unfold. I am excited for future magic, as a newly 50 year old guy!

A Positive Psychology/Strengths Based Approach

One of the conundrums of writing a bout and considering difficult emotions is that there is a tendency to focus on pathology and deficit. There are a variety of reasons for this, however a century of post-Freudian thought has led us to obsessively attempt to "fix" ourselves. We have learned to our view ourselves through mechanistic, biomedical lenses. If there is a problem, you find it, repair it or remove it, and that is that.

As a product of my culture, I may be guilty of this tendency. I have encouraged you to explore your problematic thoughts, feelings and emotions and have provided you with some guidance on how to "resolve" them. Hopefully, I have not focused too much on deficit; there is another way (many ways, really) of approaching personal growth and transformation.

Positive psychology and the strengths perspective of social work suggest such an alternative approach, indeed an alternative way of living. These approaches, different yet converging, suggest that when we focus on helping people maximize their capacities, strengths, resiliencies, hopes and dreams, their "problems" become easier to bare, handle, resolve, ameliorate, and even transcend.

This approach suggests that while it is certainly valuable to work toward overcoming a difficult emotion, such as fear, it also suggests that the method of doing so is often through building our strengths and capacities.

Consider this and its application to your scholarly life.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Challenge of the Day

Its been a long time since I have posted a simple writing challenge (I was informed of this yesterday by a "disgruntled" reader :)). Sorry.

So, one based upon small, random blocks of time. Look at your calendar for the day. Find the empty blocks of time. Set your telephone alarm for three times during those blocks, spread out throughout the day.

When the alarm goes off, drop everything and write for ten minutes.

Over-time, such small blocks of writing can make a huge difference. Also, writing "by alarm" prevents you from overthinking; the brain can be both a great tool and our worst enemy.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Getting After It

I had to let the dogs outside. That took two minutes. Everything else, including brushing my teeth, was going to wait. Why? I wanted to write. I felt a great need to work on an autoethnography that I have put aside for a while.

Most thing in life can wait, really. Email. Even breakfast, coffee. Brushing my teeth and flossing (twice a day, its good for your heart!!). Working out. Ect.

I hear it all time time; I can't write until...until my house is clean..until I pay my bills..until I make X..until I do x....until I figure out the weight of Pluto, ect.

Try 15 minutes in the mornings before you do anything but the most biological essential tasks (for you or others). Write. Get after it right away. Do that for 2 weeks and tell me something does not change.

Or, keep telling yourself you can't (won't??), and waste far more time feeling anxious about not writing.

Engaging in the behavior we feel axious about avoiding creates moments of anxiety when you are doing it, but decreases overall levels of anxiety.