Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Exercise Week Number 2: 3 x 20

Today, you are to write three times in 20 minute blocks. Do not write any more or less than this. If you get stuck and find nothing coming, switch from your article, book or dissertation into a freewriting exercise. Just write "about" your topic without stopping to think.  Pat yourself on your head if you have some internal chatter, thank your brain for its thoughts, and keep going! View this "coda" as a time to explore. When you feel ready to reenter your main work, do it right (write) away.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Exercise Week Number 1: 50 x 5

For today's exercise, I want you to do short blocks of writing, fifty words per session.  Write 50 words five different times. Give at least a half hour between writing sessions.

Make note of how this worked, and how this did not work for you. As with all the exercises this week, I want you to keep a journal of your thoughts and impressions of the implications of this for your own writing.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Its Exercise Week!

This week, I am going to give you one simple writing exercise to do each day. If you do each of them, I think you will be surprised at how much writing you will get done. Spend some time considering the implications of each exercise for your writing practices and rituals. However, only think about them AFTER you do them. Trust in the process. With writing, always trust in the process.

Note. For this week, don't do any writing other than for the exercises, if you wish to gain some insight into various ways of structuring your writing life :).

Also, I am going to be publishing these 3am Pacific time; follow along accordingly.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Writing Exercises All Week!

As many of you know who follow my blog, I like to give you exercises from time to time to help you integrate new skills into your writing and publishing practice, and to help you thrive in your careers. This coming week, I am giving you five exercises that will help you consider various ways to structure your writing time. Check in each day and try each one.  At the end of the week, you may have some new ideas about your own writing practice, and some good movement forward on some of your work!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Exercise:Intensive Interaction

Today, I want you to read yesterday's post, and consider the implications of this for YOU. Really think about it, perhaps do some reflective writing.

How can utilize such experiences in your life to help you be more fully "in the moment" and accountable? Can you trust others enough to help you this way? Can you turn over some of your control and let someone else call the shots in when and how you work?

Or, forget these questions, and come up with your own, but do spend some reflective time thinking this through.

Try writing with someone as a witness, in a spontaneous, unplanned way.

You may help her clean her bathroom!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Intensive Interactions and Trickery

Periodically, I have a client that either needs to get something out the door on a deadline (e.g grant application or post-doc proposal), or needs to get unstuck, in a big way. Yesterday, I had a client that was feeling stuck and unfocused; he is also going through a hard time in life. Some of what he is experiencing is way beyond his control; the circumstances will continue for a while. He has been toying with a few articles over the last couple of weeks, but not really focusing on the one he can easily get out the door.

Yet, what he can control is his writing and publishing. While it would hardly fix some of his woes in the short term, it does give him the possibilities or better work opportunities next year, and as importantly, a sense of meaning.

One of the tools that I find extremely important during times of stuckness (nice word Rich), is to have intensive interaction and to call for immediate, witnessed action and focus. After our traditional hour coaching call, which included some cutting of text and some writing, I asked him to continue to write while I stayed on the phone for an hour or so (google hang out, really). While he wrote, I cleaned my bathroom! (more on this in a future post :)).

There is something to being witnessed in the moment, pushed to preform in an instant, that can really help people be powerfully productive. This goes beyond writing groups, which while important, are planned and and scheduled. They do not have this "drop and give me 50" quality that seems to get us out of our head and into the work. When compelled to do so in the moment, with caring and supportive, and perhaps challenging accountability, it is amazing how some people push forward. Out of head, onto page. When we let go, we have been trained to do the hardest parts of this. Really.

Why this works, I am not entirely sure. I need to spend some time really analyzing this, but I am starting to get an intuitive sense of when to ask which clients to engage in this kind of work.

I find myself more and more relying on my gut and playing the role of the joker, the trickster, the off-beat zen monk doing something strange and off the wall (sorry if the Zen monk reference sounds grandiose or arrogant!). I keep learning. I keep growing.

Oh, and his article should be going out today!

And my bathroom is very clean :).

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Investing in Myself

Today, I spent an hour with a coach who specializes in marketing. It is an area in which I have limited experience, and really have not paid a good deal of attention to. I have a full time university gig, and my personal coaching practice is pretty small scale. That said, I do wish to reach more people and reach them more consistently, so I can continue to have a positive impact in the lives of developing scholars. Its what excites me most.

So, I took my advice and invested in myself today. It felt good.

Pick an area of your life you want to improve in. Invest in yourself.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Stop and Give me 50

Yes, I know you are busy; the academic year is in full swing for most. Yet, you have time, no matter what, to stop what you are doing, or stop very soon, and write fifty words. You do. You can.

50x30 equals 1500
1500x3.5 equals 5250

Even a few sentences adds up to an article in just a few months.  Would you be happy with three a year?

No, fifty words a day is not the grand solution to all of your writing and publishing problems.

But it is far better than nothing.

And you can start right (write) now.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Confidence

As we move through life, we take little dings to our confidence. Sometimes, the dings are not so little, but are huge losses and/or perceived failures. My divorce really was a huge hit on my self confidence. For so many years, my sense of identity was wrapped up in doing whatever I needed to do for my family. Jobs I said yes to and those I said no to, jobs I left, side work I took (i.e. many years of grant reviewing and teaching during the summer), ect ect. And, a lot of sacrifices that are too personal to discuss here. Being "trained" within the system of hegemonic masculinity, I had learned that part of being a man was to be heroic; I wanted to be a hero for my family, and for many years, I think they viewed me that way. At least that is my story, and I am sticking to it!

Well, that all went to #(#*%&(#, and I was left with profound sense of having failed. I had failed, I believed, at the most important thing a man could do. I was also dumped, or as I would say it, I was "thrown away." All of a sudden, all of my accomplishments meant nothing. Nothing. Yuck!

Well, time, and a whole lot of  personal writing has allowed me to regain a good deal of my confidence. I no longer view myself as having failed.  In life, there is often a large gap between actions and outcomes; I feel proud of my sacrifices. I am starting to feel good about myself again, as a man, as a lover, a friend, a person, and now, again, as a writing/scholar. I truly did my best.

This is a lot of self disclosure. Its not like this blog has been a dry, dispassionate space where I only dispense cold advice on how to write and publish, but still, this may be a bit much. Still, part of how I wish to live is with authenticity and vigor; why else do I write autoethnography and poetic inquiry!!

And as with most of my posts, I try to take it back to writing, of course ;). You will have your own events that leave you feeling unsteady, shaken, vulnerable, and unsure.  Even if your shaken confidence does not stem from your academic work, it will most likely impact it.  Our self doubts and self downing can often permeate across the various domains of our lives. Certainly this has been the case for me. If this is true for you, stop and reflect upon what you need to do to work back toward a more confident, strengths-based, dare I say evidenced-based view of yourself.

We all are, or at least can be, heroes of our own narratives. Our stories may not be grand, but even the most simple of lives can be heroic. Yes, heroic.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Yes, Write First!

I know I posted this somewhere, but I cannot find it! No worries, its always good to hit old topics in new ways.

So, let me keep it simple.

Write first, then read.

Literature review sections?

Write first, then read.

Any section?

Yes, any section.

Every day?

Yes, every day.

If it is true that writing is am method of inquiry (and it is), than one of the functions of writing is to discover that which we have forgotten, that which we may have slightly forgotten, and the connections between ideas that are not fully clear. By the time you have gotten even half way through a doctoral program, you have read enough that you have background knowledge that can be useful for almost anything you write, even if it is new topic.

For example, some of what I read in my first year doctoral class on epistemology is really useful for my work on autoethnography. I find some of the ideas are hazy, but as I write, I am able to access some of it. Once I am done with my initial thoughts, I can go back to the literature, and dig into it a bit more. But, it is now THERE, on the page, and so I can relax as I know I have generated some new words. I have also probably drawn connections to those original ideas that I would not have had I not written first.

Writing first does not mean you don't read. It means you exhaust what you have to say and then go into the literature. Once you have something new, you write more.

The review of literature should be an iterative process that helps you build your article, not an exhaustive exploration that must be completed before you write. That was for undergraduates, and masters students. Your a scholar now, right? You are allowed to have your own thoughts, dog forbid.

So, write first, then read. Each day. Trust that you know more than you think you do. Let the magic of writing, of writing as method of inquiry, work for you.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Thinking of Leaving the Academy? 5 Free Coaching Sessions!

A couple of days ago, I made any another post that circles back to my concern/fear for those who really do not want to leave higher education but are doing so anyhow. It struck me as a a hollow concern without really doing something to back it up. Did the post not speak of service and integrity? Ha!

So, the first person who contacts me and says they are REALLY and TRULY are unsure of whether to go into higher education or leave for another field gets five free coaching calls. You can be anywhere in the world!

And, I will give five doctoral students or post docs without jobs five sessions of coaching for $250 (contact me in Sept and mention this note).

email: Richfurmanphd@gmail.com


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Left by Choice, or?

The venom and exaggerations of some anti-higher education posts in social media by those who market their services toward helping people leave the academia really bug me. I am all for deconstructing and working to change the various oppressive and problematic aspects of university life, but the highly charged, overly generalized tones of some of these pundits is really troubling. They use fear mongering in much the same way as do anti-immigration, law and order right-wingers; throw in small bits of fact, create moral and pragmatic panic, and then capitalize.

Look, if you want to leave higher education; do it! It is not for everyone. There are some fantastic people out there to help you do so. Find them; use them! But make sure you search deeply within yourself and explore your motivations for doing so. Making choices based upon fear and anxiety fueled by others may not be in your best long term interest.

And yes, I do get that I am starting to be a big redundant with this topic,  but I feel compelled.  I may not be done :).

Also, please note: I am not suggesting that all of those who help others transition out of the academe use hyperbole and fear as marketing strategies. Just this week I referred a client to someone who offers these services; many are wonderful and offer invaluable support. Take for example, Jenifer Polk. We had a lovely conversation a couple of weeks ago about our philosophies of helping, and I think she would be wonderful to work with!!

I do wish, however, that some others would turn down the at attacks based upon very selectively presented data and personally experiences that may or may not be representative.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Daily Check Ins

If you are having a hard time getting your writing routines and rituals stated, try reciprocal daily check ins. You commit to checking in daily with someone who holds you accountable, and you also ask them to check in with you each day. Check ins can be email based, through social media, ect. However, for greater emotional impact, it is good to use the phone for the first week you are tying to get yourself right (write).

Sunday, September 13, 2015

This Chair, My Fingers, Here, Again

I am drinking coffee at my favorite coffeehouse. It is cool out, the sky is overcast and the blanket of Tacoma drizzle has encased us. I am writing. I am drinking coffee. I stop to listen to a group of men who meet every Sunday; they share of their lives, their pressures, their dreams.  This morning I took my writing coach and therapist for their daily walk. I ate oatmeal and fruit.

And I am writing, slugging it out. I am starting with some narrative nonfiction that may morph into an autoethnography. I have the privilege of academic status; I can write what I want. Damn, I am so very, very lucky.

In other words, dear reader, I am feeling solid, grounded, rooted. A few of you wrote to me asking how I was doing; given that my divorce was finalized only two days go.

This morning I woke up at 5am and called an old, dear friend on the east coast. She is one of those friends that just creates the space to be real with; I have to be myself with her, and she with me. It felt good to cry with her as a witness, have my soul touched, and remember that love comes in many, many forms.

I am here, in this chair, writing. I have been in this chair, or another chair, writing, for many many years. It is where I go to when all else fails, when I have failed (or feel like I have failed).

It is where I go build dreams, and now, to reconsider dreams, explore new ones, try them on for size, and ultimately, commit to knew ones. I am almost, almost excited for my new journey.

I am here, slugging it out today. I am here with a heavy heart, with tears welling like the Tacoma sky. I am here in heartache, in joy, in triumph, in despair, in euphoria, in triumph, in tragedy. I am here. My fingers move. I feel them. I close my eyes. I am close. I am so close. I am here.

Join me.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

A Blog Post on Writing by Wayne Dyer

The other day I made note to the death of Wayne Dyer. I found a nice little blog post he wrote on writing.

I really like his highlighting of the importance of writing without worrying about outcomes. I have seen too often how worrying about outcomes, or about the opinions of others, hinders writer's and scholar's productivity. Of course outcomes matter. Of course the options of others matter. Yet, you can't think about these during the process of writing, or it trigger your own internal critics.

Learn, as Dyer suggests, to see all feedback equally. Learn to stay in the process of writing, day in, day out, and let go of the results. Paradoxically, it leads to much better results.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Witness and Healing Through Writing

We write for many reasons. I write for many reasons.  Today, I am not interested in writing as a method for research. I don't care about publishing today.

Writing may be means a of paying witness, of honoring, of healing. For some of us, writing is what we do when there is nothing else to be done. It is what we have to do. Writing can help us enter the darkest places of our hearts, of our souls; those parts that feel so damaged that we wonder if we will ever be whole again.

Jewish Talmudiic tradition teaches that he/she who saves one life saves the world. Sometimes, that life has to be oneself.  One must give with an open heart, but also know when they must be the one who is needing of the giving hearts of others.

Today, on 9/11/2015, this day of grief for so many, I go to court to finalize my divorce.

My heart. My heart. My heart, aches deeply. Today, my heart is broken.

Today, I will honor the great pain that exists in the world through honoring my own pain. It is all I can do. Today, I will write. I will write with my dogs in my lap. I will write with tears flowing down my face. I will write for souls that have been lost. I will write for my own.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Coach or Therapist

For academics (and other thought leaders and creative) seeking help, it is important to consider your needs, and match your needs to the skill sets of various professionals.

A general rule of thumb is to attempt to get your needs met with your own "natural" support systems. This can include family, friends, colleagues, mentors and others who will help you without pay. If you find that you natural support systems are not meeting your needs, than you want to consider the goals that you have, and what barriers are getting in the way of your goals.  

If you are struggling with writing and you know that the problem involves your feelings, thinking and behavior, than you want to consider whether or not you should seek the help of a mental health professional or coach. How do you know?

If the issue at hand pertains mostly to your writing and scholarly or creative productivity, or perhaps some other part of your work life, but is not present in other domains of your life, many coaches should be fine. Many writing and academic coaches can help you with nagging worries, anxieties about writing, and doubts about your work and career.

However, if these issues impact other areas of your life, or are more entrenched, long term, and pervasive, most writing and productivity coaches are going to be out of their league. Most should not try to help you overcome psychosocial problems that really are the domain of helping professionals such as social workers, psychologists, or other counselors. Mental professionals are trained to help you figure out the various other levels of help and support you may need, such as an evaluation for medication.

Of course, there is some gray area involved here. You may not be sure what type of help and support you need. If this is the case, let me know. I would be glad to help you figure it out, and help you find an appropriate referral to a mental health professional or another coach if one is better suited to your needs. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A Fairly Random and Tangential Post

Wayne Dyer died a few days a go. I think the last time I read Wayne Dyer was when I was 20 years old. I read The Erroneous Zones, I remember, on a gloomy San Francisco summer weekend, right after my semester at school had ended.

While I cannot say know most of his work, Wayne Dyer sounded like a man who "walked the walk." He seemed to live his life the way he wished to: being of service to others, staying true to his vision, and living passionately.

What is your vision for your life, and are you living it? Are you living with passion? Are you balancing living in the day while still attending to your vision of the future? Its a hard balance.

During this summer of enormous transitions, I have become again even more acutely aware of the importance of living authentically, with passion, in service, and respecting the shortness of this life. I am transitioning from raising a family and building a career, to building a life as a divorced man who lives by alone (well, there is my therapist and writing coach, of course!!).

I think of what I must do differently, today and this upcoming year, to live more authentically, to live more fully in accordance to what it means to be me.

The obvious, is write more. This has been my slowest writing period in perhaps two decades. It has been somewhat conscious, but it is time to get back to it. I have been working on a few narrative non fiction shorts, have broken out my novel, and have been tinkering with a couple of academic articles (autoethnographies).  I am placing the finishing touches on two edited books on the criminalization of immigration, but that really is not writing.

The other "thing" that really has influence me a good deal this summer, strangely, is my new presence on twitter. I have mentioned this before, but I have become very attuned to how many young scholars are moving away from higher education, and the number of people around to help them do so. I worry for some of them. Not the ones that  really wish to leave, but the ones whose visions of themselves are being morphed out of fear, and from daily participation in the culture of gloom and gloom. I mean this in all sincerity, this is not "Rich's coaching marketing speak." When you give up on your dreams too early, you risk a lifetime of regret. Yeah, dreams change. Yeah, realities hit hard. But give it your all.

Time to stop this post; I have some other writing to do. Damn it!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Hope

This week, I was reading a few twitter posts (again) on the bleakness of higher education. Students are more difficulty. Tenure track positions are few and far between. Universities privilege profits over learning, and administrators over faculty. And on and on.

Some of this advice comes from those who are trying to help doctoral students prepare for the future by helping them truly understand the landscape. And some of it is true. Yet, in spite of these realities, many are attempting to carve out lives for themselves as scholars. And you know what? Its going to take a lot of work, a lot of butt kicking, nose to the grindstone work, and of course, a wee bit of luck.

What do we need to engage in this kind of work, day after day, year after year?

Well, one thing is hope. 

Hope.

Hope is one of the most healing, curative, essential ingredients of human well being.

Consider what you surround yourself with if you are trying to push forward.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Become a Grant Reviewer

One of the best ways of learning to write a grant is to become a grant reviewer! Many agencies such as the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration and the Department of Education actively seek grant reviewers. While other agencies such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Health tend to reach out to reviewers themselves, many agencies and programs are open to reviewers contacting them.

Don't be shy; seek out such opportunities. They can be powerful steps in the progression of your career.


Happy Labor Day Professors, Thank You!

Professors; listen up.

You rock.

You have dedicated your lives to inquiry, learning, teaching, and the development of minds and spirits (yours and your students).  You do research that matters; even when you are not certain of its impact. You have persevered over many years, over many decades.

You are labor heroes! You no not forge steel like the American labor heroes of the past, but you forge minds! Who has contributed more to the economic and social development of our country? I would say nobody. You are the embodiment of the spirit of resilience, tenacity, problem solving and service that exemplifies the best of who we are.

Now, a challenge, to professors and non-professors alike. Say thank you to one professor who has made a difference in your life. Regardless of when and where they made a difference. Reach out, say thank you. They deserve it, as do you!






Sunday, September 6, 2015

From my Book of Poetry, Compañero


Thought I would share one of the poems from my book of prose poetry, Compañero. I can't believe its been eight years since it has been published. I really love prose poetry; in many ways it was my entry point into narrative nonfiction, poetic inquiry and autoethnography.

If Only but for a Moment

Do you remember lying fully dressed in your bed in that Japanese hotel in New York a few years ago? Writhing in mad laugher like brain diseased cows. Perhaps at our own stupidity. Or that of others. At our sadness that overtook us like legions. At the absurd things women have said to me during sex, inane things whispered in return. Perhaps about that time in high school; I pretended to be a radio disc jockey, booming corny voice and all, and a granted false limousine ride to that grim girl from math class. I remember always our laughter, holding off that Egyptian dark dullness of your depression, for moments fleeting like the blur of blue wind. Maybe we were seventeen, that one time I tried to kiss you. Why didn't you close your eyes? Perhaps you knew, that if you locked them tight, your eyelashes pointing down like thin fingers towards your center, if you had let go, that we would have fallen in love. Perhaps, you knew you needed me never to see you, to know you, as a woman. But sitting here, imagining you having fallen again into that auburn void, that bottomless despair, I wished you would have shut your eyes, if only, but for, a moment

Friday, September 4, 2015

Exercise: Work on Your Conclusion Now!

Stop what you are doing on your article now. If you not working on your article, then open your document. Yes, no. Do it.

For me.

Please.

Pretty please.

For only 15 minutes; you can spare it!

For the next 15 minutes, write some of your conclusion. Yes, I know your not there yet. Yes, I get that this make no sense. But do it. You can. You can. Si se puede.

You added to your word count. You had thing to say that you might not have realized.

Writing as a method of inquiry.

Now, what does this teach you about writing?

Where am I going, whose going with me?

Sam Keen's "Fire in the Belly" was a book that had a great deal of meaning to me many years ago. While I have moved beyond a good deal of the author's ideas about masculinity and men (although some are still great), I still very much appreciate many of the evocative narratives, and his lessons about life.

In one of the teaching stories, about the author's tendency to place the seeking of intimate relationships above his exploring his own direction and place in the world, he was given what he viewed as sage advice by a friend and mentor.

"A man (and woman, please) must answer two questions in his/her life, and especially during times of transition: 1) Where am I going?; 2) Whose going with me?"  If you reverse the order of these two questions, your in deep trouble." (I paraphrase)

So, you are probably asking yourself (especially if you have not read my blog often and have yet to come to appreciate my seemingly tangential ruminations) what does this have to do with writing, publishing, or the academic life?

There are so many external expectations that are placed upon us; at times we can easily feel like we are constantly responding to others. The needs, dictates, and desires of others can subtly and almost unconsciously shape what we study and what we write, if we are not careful. It is important to take time to step back from it all and carefully reflect upon what we are doing, and where we are going. This is what a sabbatical is for.

During my sabbatical, I really got in touch with how my longing for the stability of tenure, many moons ago, started to powerfully shape the work I was doing. I began to empathize the areas of my work which were more congruent with the "status quo" of my discipline (social work), and moved away from my work in expressive research.

During a six week trip to the Philippines and after a great deal of self reflection, I decided it was time to put aside writing and publishing in two areas, and focus on my love and passion for autoethnography and expressive/creative methods of qualitative research.

On some level, having tenure, being in my forever faculty position, and having been promoted to full professor allow me the luxury of this type of calculus. Yet, I wonder if I would not be in a further along in my scholarship had I remained more true to myself. Am I now the "best" version of Rich the scholar, the person, or would I be move "evolved" had I stayed more true to my own vision?

No glib answers or suggestions, but something for you upon which to reflect.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

"I Am A Terrible Writer"

I have heard this more than once. Actually, I have heard this more than 50 times. As a child, it was something I learned to say to myself, as you can read in my story.

Faculty certainly do not help our students in this regard (often). At least half of the time a student is mentioned in one of our faculty meetings someone says "They are a terrible writer" or something to that effect.

But what does this really mean, "a terrible writer." Problems with line by line grammar? Not understanding the conventions of an academic article? Not having mastered writing productivity? Inability to express oneself?

As with the similarly glib and all encompassing writer's block, you really need to deconstruct what this means to and for you. You need to understand all your strengths as a writer; I am sure that there are many. Nobody is a "terrible writer"-we all have areas to improve, but many areas of strength. Identify your limitations and weaknesses, and seek to fix them. One by one, work on them, and watch your writing improve.

Work on that internalized critic that feeds upon  your all encompassing, either or lies lies. Writing is a complex act. You have strenghts and weaknesses. Maximize your strengths. Work on the weaknesses. Go forward.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Finishing It Out

Recently, I have come across a few writers of various genres who are finishing their first books, plays or manuscripts. What a special and exciting time. Finishing your first book, and subsequently publishing it, can mark one's psychological and real entry into a new space, a new "club" and trigger a deep feeling of accomplishment and belonging. The finishing stages of a book are also wrought with challenges, depending upon the nature of the book, whether or not there is an existing contract for it, and many other factors. Many people find that as they get toward the end of their book, they start to slow down, and find their internal chatter that they thought they had conquered begin to increase in volume.

Here are but a few of the issues you need to attend to as you close out the first draft of your manuscript: perfectionism, fear of failure, the impulse to rush and be done with it, fear of being judged, severe self downing, and anxiety.

I have addressed many of these this "psychosocial summer"- check out posts from June through now for guidance on how to contend with these various issues.  The most important first step is to begin to recognize your internal, self downing dialogues and begin to challenge them. If you struggle to do so on your own, get some support; now is the time to get what you need- your almost done!

A Demanding Writing Coach

While I believe in a strengths-based coaching approach to writing and publishing, I admit we all need some tough love from time to time. Here, my writing coach exhibits some tough love through an intense and demanding gaze. Her demolishing her coaching prompt also sends shivers of fear up my spine.