Saturday, October 31, 2015

Assistant Professor Graduation Day

I am sitting in Denny's (yes, Denny's) just having finished my pecan pumpkin pancakes.

I really do eat a healthy, mostly a veggie and tofu diet, but have a weakness for pancakes. And ice cream. Well, maybe I eat a semi-healthy diet :).

Anyhow, I am feeling a bit emotional; and it is not just from how good the pancakes tasted, although, they were pretty awesome!

I just finished responding to an email in which one of my clients informed me that he just submitted his tenure and promotion  packet. While he is still anxious (dah!), his is a pretty open and shut case. As such, there is a 95% chance that this marks his graduation day, graduation from working with me, his coach.

I always cry during graduations (yes Rich, you cry at just about anything), so I am welling up a bit with tears here, thinking about how proud I am, and how lucky I feel to having been able to be a small part of his process. He has been wonderful to work with: dedicated, open to suggestions, willing to make changes, hard working, self-reflective and willing to take ownership for his growth process.

For him, of course, the real graduation will be that day that he receives his final letter saying he has been promoted to associate professor, with tenure. He will tell me, and again, I will cry.

And maybe I will then celebrate, with pancakes! (or ice cream!)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Exercise: Three Titles

Been knee deep in so much, that I am a bit behind on my blog writing. For now, let's do this exercise.

Come up with three titles to potential articles that you would like "somebody" to write.

Consider which one you could do.

Consider which one you would want to do.

Consider writing it.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Edit when your burned out!

When you want to push your paper forward, but are feeling tired or burned out, edit! This is a way of attending to the little line by line issues without sucking our best creative energy. Working on citations is another when "not feeling it" is another way of pushing or work forward when we are just not feeling "inspired."

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Taking A Break From The Change Process

One of my favorite clients has decided to stop working with me for now. She may begin back working with me during the winter term. We were about to start an additional ten weeks of work together; this would have followed a ten week period. Her "gut" told her it was time to take a break.

I applaud her for the courage to listen to her gut; this is not easy to do. I think she was a bit concerned that I would be disappointing in her (or perhaps, my projection/misinterpretation); I am in fact proud. One of our themes has been her owning her new position as a senior faculty member with tenure (yay!); that demands a new level of self-direction, autonomy, and choice.

There are times when it is wise to take a break (at least) from every change process to see what has taken hold. In the process of weekly coaching or therapy, it is not always clear what skills, tools, or new sensibilities we currently "own." We need to take some space, live our lives, and see how we are performing what we have explored and learned.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Writing and Other Tasks

A reader wrote me this morning asking me to explore the relationship between writing time and data analysis time. That is, how do we conceptualize the need for data analysis and like tasks and engaging in daily or near daily writing rituals. Does data analysis count towards as writing time?

This is a topic that elicits strong feelings from some. I get the sense that when I say that research tasks do not count toward writing time that they feel I am invalidating the importance of that work.

I am not.

What I am saying is that there is something amazing that happens when we find ways of writing every day. I am also saying that from my experience there are many, many scholars who can "hide" in data analysis and use it as a way of procrastinating  on their writing, and ultimately avoiding getting their work "rejected."

I am also suggesting that no matter the type of work we do, we can always have an article to write whether or not we have data to work from. I have addressed this before, so I am not going to make that argument now. I can tell you it is one that I usually win when I can explore it with someone live or in a google hangout :).

So, the goals is to write every day and also set aside blocks of time for data analysis and other scholarly work as needed. There should be a symmetry and balance to this; spending too much time on one task, on all of our tasks, squeezes our ability to be productive.

In general, write first, each and every day. Teaching preparation, grading; these things will take as much time as we allot to them; when we write first, we tend to be more efficient in these tasks as we make those more time limited as well.

In a few weeks I am going to do a "cross training week" where I am going to put out some possible sequencing for scholarly work. For now, try this: write for thirty minutes every day. Data analysis and other research tasks in blocks, as they fit, for two to three hours a week. As a bare minimum, this is enough to be pretty productive. Adjust as energy and time permit.

Friday, October 16, 2015

A Book is A Journey?

Eh, no so much. I saw this in a blog post recently. Such metaphors are problematic, as they often elevate the writing of an article or book to an act of magical and spiritual proportions. A scholarly book is not a journey. It is a long piece of writing that comes together to meet a purpose. It is composed of chapters, which are far easier to write than is a whole book. Chapters are made of various notions we want to explore, and this is done thorough sentences. Sentences are composed of words.

If this makes me appear to be an unromantic simpleton, so be it. When I was negotiating some of the details of my book, Social Work Practice with Men at Risk, the wonderful social work editor at Columbia University Press the time, Lauren Docket (the current editor, Jennifer Perrillo, is also wonderful!), suggested that my proposed word count was too low. She reasoned that 120,000 words was not enough for a book that was to be the first of its kind in social work. She suggested 160,000 words as a far better length.

Gulp.  I hung up the phone, having agreed to her suggestion, and wondered how in the world was I going to write a book of that length. I was a bit freaked out. Before that, the longest thing I wrote from beginning to end was Practical Tips for Publishing Scholarly Articles; about 40,000 words long!

After some panic, I realized I did not have to write a book. I had chapters to write, of about 10,000 words each. Each chapter had key sub sections and in each chapter I had to integrate four theories of change. I could do that.

Was my book a journey? Sure, it was. After a few months start, I wrote intensively during a research trip to Peru. I spent several hours a day in my "office," Starbucks in Miraflores, in the artistic, romantic heart of Lima. I wandered the town and wrote in bars and cafes. When back home, I wrote each day, and magically saw the word counts grow; it began to come together over the course of months. Yes, writing that book was a journey, and it was a profoundly important step in my career. However, thinking of it as a journey at the time would have needlessly caused me anxiety. I needed to see it as a series of operationalizable writing tasks. I needed to make it small. I needed to be able to write sentences, and string them together.

Looking back, the writing of that book was a powerful journey, but viewing it as such may be best saved for quiet, personal moments of self reflection over a single malt scotch. Like right now. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Processing Exercise Week: Your Tapes

Writing for 15 minutes three times in a day should not be hard, right? In fact, it is not hard, unless there are factors that make it hard aside from the task (dah!). Too often, scholars attribute their difficulties to factors that are really not the most central to their success or lack therefore of in writing and producing. This is part of why I wanted you to try the exercises this week, to help you begin to explore the real reasons why you are not writing and producing as much as you wish. If the problem was time, then you should have been able to fit in some of the these exercises, as they really demanded very little time commitments. Some, I know, did demand a good deal.

Yet, time is rarely the factor. I know many of you believe it is; I piss of a good deal of people when I suggest that is not the true issue.

Yet, I was just in a video chat with a coaching client who wrote 500 words during a twenty minute block of our session. Yes, there are not finished words. Yes, she will need to engage in analytical writing, administrative writing, and finally editing to make it "work." It was productive though, and she did far more than she believed she could.

If you really want to thrive as a scholar, you need to start paying attention to your "tapes"; the cognitive message that interfere with your thriving. If you are starting to identify them, great. If not, go through this blogs' July and August posts, as you will identify many, and start learning strategies for conquering them. You can't merely label them as writer's block; this is too inelegant a concept and not really helpful.

You've got work to do on changing your tapes, your programming. If you don't do this work, you may be at risk of not having the kind of career you deserve to have.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Utilizing Lessons from Exercise Week

Some of you did all the writing prompts during Exercise Week; and let me know that it was really helpful. I assume this was a biased sample, and heard less from those who did not find them of value.

Hopefully, you have been thinking about why it has been of help or not. This week, I am going to present a few difference ideas about why it may have been of value, and what it means if it was not. 

If you found it useful,  I want to give you on idea to try. Take a look at your weekly calendar, and see if you can fit each of the five exercises into one of the days of the week. Try doing them again, in a different order.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Jazz Thinking Back to Pre-Tenure

At a coffee house I dig just outside of Tacoma; and listen to jazz. Its been a while since I have written to jazz; its something I used to do a great deal. Sitting here, it reminds me of what it was like to write as a young assistant professor at Colorado State, back in 2000.  Pre-tenure, there was this constant pressure and a bit of fear. In the right doses, it was energizing. While some of you may think this is a bit crazy, part of me misses that constant external push in the background of my life.

The costs were so high if I failed; a young family that relied on me, the hopes for a life's work as a scholar that depended upon the evaluations of others. That push kept me writing, writing in a way that helped me to produce work that I perhaps would not have done so without. It is different now, I write what I want, when I write, and have very little external pressure. While the decrease in anxiety has led to freedom, I do miss those times, and am reminded of them today.

Thursday, October 8, 2015


I discovered a really nice blog post from a Canadian scholar who wrote about scholarly writing for a period of time. Here is a nice nugget from her, on what I would call a holistic exploration of the modes of academic writing.  She calls it Allatoneceness. Whoa!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Upcoming Book: Detaining the Immigrant Other

Just got a sneak peak of the cover for my upcoming book with Oxford University Press, Detaining the Immigrant Other. This MAY be the final version, so if it is not, I may eat crow!!

I love how simple and classy it is; it hints at detention without ramming it down your throat. I will talk about this book more another time, but thought I would share this for now. It is coming out in February. I will get the preorder form up soon!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Processing Exercise Week: Questions for Self Reflection

Now that we have finished five days of writing exercises, I want you to explore some self reflective questions (in writing, of course). Spent about a half hour or so; use these as your "warm up" to your other writing.

The questions are arranged by how engaged you were in the exercises. Feel free to "mix and match."

For those who completed all the exercises

1) Which exercise worked best for you? Why?

2) Which exercise was least helpful? Why?

3) What did you learn from engaging in these exercises that you can bring into your own practice?

4) Craft a plan for the next two weeks based upon these insights.

For those who completed some but not all

(begin with the questions above)

1). When you were able to write, what strengths facilitated your writing?

2) When you were not able to engage in the exercises, what got in your way?

3) Which of the barriers that stopped you are in your control, and how can you make changes to help your writing agenda?

4) What "internal chatter" got in your way?

5) What support and resources do you need based upon what you have learned?

For those who tried, but were not able to do many much writing

1) What structural barriers interfered with your writing?

2) What "internal chatter" got in your way?

3) Describe your feelings and self perceptions about not being able to engage in the exercises. Are these thoughts and feelings that frequently get in your way?

4) If you are not able to identify what gets in your way, consider what this means for you?

5) What supports have you used in the past to help you transcend these issues? What has helped, what has not helped?

Over the next few days, I will explore some of my thoughts to help you consider the uses and implications of the exercises, and your own reflective processing of them.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Exercise Week Number 5: Look at Calendar, Pick Times

Look at your calendar as soon as you wake up. That is correct, as soon as you wake up, before coffee, tea, breakfast, and most certainly before email. Obsessive email and social media, and responding to it as if you are on a string is deadly for writers and scholars!

Now, based upon your calendar, choose three times of varying lengths. Put them in your calendar. Make them as important as any meeting.

Tomorrow, I am going to give you a list of reflective questions to help you process exercise week :). Then on Monday, we will process it a bit more.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Excercise Week Number 4: Morning, Afternoon, Night

Between 15 and 30 minutes, once in the morning, once in the afternoon, and once after dinner. Feel free to do one longer session if you can squeeze it in. If you can't, just focus on getting each time in. Process with some freewriting.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Exercise Week Number 3: 15/45/15

I think you have the idea now, right? (minutes, not words). Three times over the course of the day.

Do it, and then journal after how it worked for you.