Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Engaging Struggling Colleagues: Taking the Risk

I want to recognize that there are risks involved in doing so engaging colleagues who are struggling. Sometimes the risk are emotional, sometimes they are "political," sometimes taking such a risk can put an important relationship at risk. As with all risk taking, we have to carefully weight the pros and the cons, and consider if the risks are worth taking.

There are times in life when it is best to be kind and to avoid conflict. Yet, when a colleague/friend is clearly in trouble, sometimes what is kind and "good" in the long term is not what is easy in the moment.

It is an emotional risk engaging colleagues about their lack of productivity and their struggles with writing and publishing. It is easy for someone to feel defensive, and many of behave in less than pleasant ways when feeling the need to defend. How this defensiveness looks various greatly. It can range from mild annoyance that will soon pass, to rage and a desire for "revenge."

Before you engage a struggling colleague, consider how you think they may react, and consider the risks for you. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Engaging struggling colleagues: Normalizing

One of the most important things we can do to help colleagues who are struggling with the writing and publishing process is to help them normalize their struggles. By normalizing, I mean encouraging them to understand that each and every one of us has areas to improve and skills that we need to learn, and that struggling is part of the process of learning to write and publish.

Indeed, nobody really learns all of the skills and tools in graduate school that we need to succeed in this work. Many of us also have old baggage that we need to overcome.  Still, many come to believe that somehow they should already have mastered writing and publishing, and that somehow there is something wrong with them, something deficient, something broken (in the extreme). At the least, many of us carry a bit of impostor syndrome with us, hoping upon hope that we will not be discovered.

Some colleagues, friends and clients have erroneously assumed that writing has always been easy and satisfying for me; it has not. As I explore in this old post, there was a time when writing was the source of a good deal of pain and shame.

Sharing your own struggles with writing and publishing, no matter how accomplished you are, can help encourage normalization. Approach your struggling colleagues with empathy, warmth, and understanding. Help normalize the struggle for them. When experiences are normalize for us we can slowly let go of the shame that we often feel about not being "accomplished" enough.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Engaging Struggling Colleagues

Many many years, prior to starting my coaching practice, I did this work "pro bono." Colleagues and friends would ask me to help people they knew were at risk of not getting tenure. It was painful for my friends to see their colleagues struggle. Many were great teachers, wonderful people, dedicated to the good of their departments and universities, but they were not publishing, and so their careers were at risk.

It can be painful to see colleagues struggle. It can make you feel powerless. How do you help? How do you talk to your colleagues about their need for help?  How do you engage them in a way that helps them? What are the issues in play here?

Over the next two weeks,  I am going to explore a few key ideas to help you engage colleagues who are struggling with writing and publishing.  I am not going to explore how you can help them write, but instead, how can you connect with them about their need for help and support in a way. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Wander the Stacks

While it might seem a bit old school to some younger scholars, this is an exercise that can be really powerful. It comes from the first edition of my book, Practical Tips for Publishing Scholarly Articles.

Go to the best research library in your area, one with the most academic journals.  Make sure you bring a paper journal with you (again, very old school). Spend a few hours just wandering the stacks. Pick up journals that you might not have seen before, those in your area of interest, and those well beyond it. Spend some time looking at the articles in the table of contents; read some abstracts. See if you can "bend" your area of interest in line with some of the titles of journals. Notice ideas that come up for you.

Take notes in your personal writing journal. This is a good way of generating new ideas, and giving ourselves a sense of connection to the "march of ideas" that is scholarship.

 Yes, old school, but many who have tried this have told me that it is powerful.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Directory of Open Access Journals

Do you know about the Directory of Open Access Journals? If you do not, you should! Play with the database; I will write about it more in a couple of days! 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Teaching and Writing on Masculinities

A recent twitter post on the relationship between gun violence and masculinities reminding me that I never have written a blog post about my book, Social Work Practice with Men at Risk, or about my teaching around masculinites.

Social Work Practice with Men at Risk was a book that I had to write. Mind you, I am not a gender studies scholar, and I am really not an expert on masculinities or masculinities studies. I am more of a social work scholar/practitioner whose experiences working with men lead him to "having to" write the book. It also pushed me into a few year period of really delving into gender studies literature.

Why did I have to write it? Well, there never has really been a book that addresses social work practices with men in general.  There are some fine books on specific sub-groups of men, but not on working with men as a distinct group. During my own social work education, back in the paleolithic era, I do not recall one professor every speaking about working with men. When men were discussed, it was only as oppressors or perpetrators of violence. While important, surely there was more to engaging in social work practice with men than that.

So, this has become a side area of interest for me, one which I teach more than I wrote about. When I do write about masculinities, it has been from a recently completed student on older expatriate men at risk or autoethnographic work, or with this article, both!

Each summer, I teach a course, Introduction to Masculinities. It is an online course  that is part of our Gender Studies minor program, which I was sort of part of starting. I love teaching this course. My goal is to help students develop a personal sense of how their own internalization of the "rules" of masculinities impacts their lives. I do not impose my own views about what men "should" be, but instead invite students to explore the positive and negative ways in which masculinites have shaped their lives. This is a wonderful journey; I have seen many male and female studies alike develop new insights into their own behavior and feelings, and have watched them change their own sense of identity and "being in the world."

Just thought I would share a bit about this part of my work life.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Dissertation Woes? Get Unstuck Package

Winter is a critical time for PhD candidates and students. The potential costs, emotionally and financially, of not getting unstuck and moving toward finishing your dissertation can be immense.

If you are feeling stuck at any stage of the dissertation process, I will work with you intensively for one month to help get you moving forward. This includes up to two coaching calls per week, accountability check ins, and other structures to get you on the right (write) path.  I am offer this to the first five doctoral students or candidates who sign up, for $500.

My specialty as a coach is in helping scholars work through their own emotional, psychosocial issues that are keeping them from meeting their goals. I have a unique set of skills and experiences, in that I am trained as a psychotherapist, have published over 15 books and 120 articles, and continue to be a tenured full professor at a great university. Unlike some who want you to leave the "evil world" of academia, I love higher education! I have helped many dozens of scholars move past their barriers and toward their goals.

If you want to talk about it, email me.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Cuba and the Night, by Pico Iyer

Pico Iyer's Video Night in Kathmandu could easily be the subject of this post. A genre bending exploration of East meets West globalization, the book is a stunning collection of stories broken down by Asian country. The book is part travel memoir, part social reportage, part detached and apolitical political commentary (if that makes sense), and all insight and retrospection. It is a lovely collection of essays that shows a keen eye for observation and a powerful, self-reflective soul.

Yet, Iyer's novel, Cuba and the Night, is perhaps my favorite book of fiction that I have read in the last five years. It is a love story, an ironic, complex, somewhat tragic love story (in other words, a real human love story). It is a story of truth and betrayal and trust. How do we come to trust in an untrusting world, in an untrustworthy world. How to we come to trust others when we ourselves have been so brutally hurt, hurt in ways that makes us profoundly untrustworthy, testing, boundary pushing, and deeply flawed?

Yet what makes Iyer's writing special transcends story. As in Video Night in Kathmandu, Iyer casts the eye of a painter and the listening ear of a deep, introspective soul. His mastery of language is keen, at time bordering on a bit showy, but that is perhaps my only critique of Iyer, who has become perhaps my favorite writer. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Tropic Of Capricorn, by Henry Miller

I have been quoting this book for nearly 30 years. The truth is, I have tried to find the exact passage that I quote on several occasions, but I have not been able to do so. Does it exist, or is the quotation a personal myth, an inference that my than 20 year old mind induced from this evocative story of personal triumph and liberation?

In truth, I don't know, but I will tell you this: when my back is against the wall in life, I find myself thinking of what I attribute to Miller.

When you reach the limits of what is demanded of you, you reach the same dilemma: To be yourself.

Perhaps it really doesn't matter if the quote is exact, but this what I have taken with me. Tropic of Capricorn often takes a back seat to Tropic of Cancer, the later of which chronicles Miller's adventures as member of Paris' artistic intelligentsia. Capricorn is a book more about relationships, the story of preparing to transform a life. It is a more nuanced book, and is more introspective, human, existential. At every turn and transition of my life, including now, I resonate with Miller's guidance about the self.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Open Veins of Latin America, by Eduardo Galleano

I did not know that James Tate had died, but I did know that Eduardo Galleano died in 2015. Galleano was one of the greatest Latin American journalists, scholars, man of letters, historians, and general amazing dude.  He is know as the world's foremost scholar of football (soccer for us).

While traveling through Central America in 1987 (chronicled in my memoir, Falling South), I carried three books with me. The massive, hardcover thesaurus that still sits by my writing chair, the Central America on a Shoestring guidebook, and Open Veins of Latin America. 

A book that the author even admitted was somewhat limited by the lack of sophistication of his understanding of political economics at the time, the book still remains perhaps the most stunning critique of the history of colonialism and neo-colonialism in Latin America. The powerful metaphor of an open vein (Latin America) which is continuously bled (by the US) remains an evocative, powerful, and relevant reminder of our history. 

It is a book that transformed my worldview; it was most responsible for my finishing my B.A concentration in Central American studies, and partially led me to a master of social work; the profession I had hoped would help me learn to be part of meaningful social change.

I have since read just about everything Galleano has written. Including the stunning Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone, a poetic history of humanity told through short narratives and vignettes.

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Lost Pilot, by James Tate

While looking up some of the specifics of James Tate's work, I just discovered that he died last year. I can barely type this now; I feel heartbroken.

Tate won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Competition for The Lost Pilot. I know I should tell you the year and how old he was, but given how sad I feel, I don't want to have to read his biography to find out the information. Not now anyhow.

In the title poem, The Lost Pilot, Tate writes to his father, who died during WW2, while Tate's mother was pregnant with him. While the poem is about a relationship to a father that he never met, its power lies in how relevant it feels to many estranged relationships. Personally, it speaks to me about my relationship with my father.

Specifically, this line.

All I know   
is this: when I see you,   
as I have seen you at least

once every year of my life,   
spin across the wilds of the sky   
like a tiny, African god,

I feel dead.

Please read the the poem, if not the whole book. I am too sad to write much more, having lost one of 
"poetic fathers."

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Atlantis, by Mark Doty

Poetry has been an important part of my personal and professional life for a very, very long time. If I am known for anything (and known means to perhaps a handful of people!), it is my work in poetic inquiry/poetry as qualitative methods. Colleagues have long scratched their heads and wondered about my interests, and the relationship between poetry and social work.

Without delving too much into this complex conversation, suffice to say that poetry provides us a powerful tool for understanding the human condition, and a means for healing. Overly simplistic, but if you wish for a bit more, check out this article. Poetry Matters: A Case for Poetry in Social Work Practice

But aside from such academic interests, when a collection of poetry speaks to me, it speaks to me with a depth and power like nothing else.

Mark Doty's powerful book, Atlantis is just one such collection. Specifically, the title poem, explores the author's navigating the end of his lover's life. Doty uses the vehicle of their relationships to their dogs as a means of exploring the complexity of love and obligation, the nature of human resilience, and the resilience of the human spirit.

When a poem speaks to me, it is often one or several lines that resonates with me, that practicality rings through my body, not so much as a sound, but through a variety of senses.

And while there are multiple moments in the poem that speak to me, one line has taken on almost a metaphorical quality for me, as a metaphor for my own way of navigating the world. Consider the third line below.

Soul without speech,
sheer, tireless faith,
he is that-which-goes-forward,

And so through this poem, I have found my way of understanding my own sense of duty, my own movements through personal struggles and tragedies that transcend my own affective responses.

How does Doty write about dogs without any hint of sentimentality? How does he construct "dog" as a metaphor and dog as being into evocative lyrics and narratives so seamlessly? He writes about the best of us being situated with and through dogs, and about the "sacred" nature of the human/animal bond. Or at least, that is what it brings up for me.

I don't really know how he pulls off such masterful work time and time again,  but my trying to understand what he does is one of the reason why this book makes the list of those that speak to my soul.

Monday, January 4, 2016

The Books That Have Made My Soul Dance

I spend a lot of time in this blog on writing and publishing, and less on reading. That is unfortunate, as without readers, authors have no reason to write (well, other than fame and fortune, or at least for us academics, jobs, tenure and promotion).

Also, I love books, and sometimes, with all the time I spend writing, teaching coaching, and living life, I forget to read!

We each carry books with us throughout our lifetime, physically or metaphorically. When we need an emotional, intellectual, or psychic boost, we turn to these books for inspiration, comfort, solace, power, ect.

In the next few posts, I am going to open up a few of the books that make my soul dance and share some of my favorite passages, and perhaps wax a bit about each. I hope you enjoy, or are at least called to read!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

You Are What You Love, Not Who Loves You

The title of my post today, I found in a tweet a couple of days ago. Of course, it was, as many things are on twitter, taken without attribution. Without digging into it too, too deeply, the best I can tell is that it is from the movie Adaptation. Perhaps there is some original source that I don't know of; let me know if that is so.

I have been sitting with this quote for a couple of hours today. For the first hour, it touched me, but I could not wrap my head around it. So, what do I do? I wrote about it doing about a half hour of freewriting.

I still don't have it all worked out, but I have some thoughts to take me into the new year.

2015 was the strangest of years. I started the year having just finished my sabbatical, and had this powerful sense of peace about my life. It was in order. And as I have written previously in this blog, that changed very fast. An extremely unexpected divorce has called so much into question.

And in a very real sense, what I am left with is why I perhaps resonate with the notion of my identity not being attached to who loves me, but to the love that I possess, and how I actualize that in this world.

I am a passionate person. Passionate people are not easy people. We are not go with the flow people. I very reflective, thoughtful and contemplative, yet my passions tend to lead the way. When I love, I love deeply. I love and feel big. A fiend of mine told me told me I have a huge, loyal and loving heart. So, I hurt, and the more I hurt, the more I know that I need to feel, and then get out of myself, and give.

For the last 15 years I have loved a family that no longer exists. The next person who tells me that it just has changed is going to have to smell my gym socks. It is gone. My sense of forever home is gone. I am, in a very real sense, alone. And so, my task has very much been to worry less about who loves me, and focus more on what I love, and how I can love and be of service. What do I stand for now, and what does this mean going forward? What do I have to give, and how should I give it?

These are the questions that I begin my year with. They are in process. I know that I love to be of service to other writers. I know I love writing.

It is a process that I have engaged in nearly every day for the better part of two decades. I am glad this adventure is continuing into the new year. I have much more to learn, and much more, I hope, to give.

Bring it on new universe. Bring it on.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Prose Poem or Flash Nonfiction?

From my book, CompaƱero. You decide. The book was published as poetry, but........

Does it matter? We write. We write. Happy new year.


Surf the web directory for old friends lost to time, too many ink scratched changes, maybe the misdeeds of youth. Stare at the screen, wait for names to pry into the archives of mind. Like first time fishing and alone, the seas polluted, massive swells nearly lapping the dock, and only a fly rod and a rusty worm to cast. Not being able to spell makes it worse. Too many false nibbles on the line. Imagine, there are forty-six Joe Schneiders in California. Each country of origin, its own twisted spelling that boggles. Elbows and hands hurling hopes as far as possible, dial each combination of numbers that promise taxidermy worthy marlin. No, I am not a creditor seeking to collect an ancient debt, and yes, I am sorry I woke you at eight o’clock in the evening. Nibbles on my line, rotting teeth of starvation minnows. Yesterday, I finally netted what I had long sought. Ben, lost to expatriate miles down crumpled biked roads of Vietnam. We remember each other’s laughter immediately. Something deep is stirred, liking images of myself as a boy, threading a blinding blue sardine through my first adult sized hook, understanding just who I was. After we are done talking, I gaze again at the screen, can think of no more names to cast. Sometimes, it is best to put down your pole, let go of the game, dive into the waves, feel the sting of bitter salt in your eyes, catch the rainwater in your mouth, and start to live again.

Happy New Year: Now Write :)

I hope that this year is your happiest, healthiest, and most productive ever. May this year bring you many opportunities to actualize the best of who you are, and transform those parts of you that are still wounded and stuck.

Oh, and while your reading this, give me a half hour of writing, ASAP :).