Monday, May 30, 2016

The March Toward Full: Shame

I should have made "full" long ago!

I can't believe I can't get writing!

I have no original ideas?

My field has passed me by!

It would be awful to admit that I need help with my writing at this point of my career!

These are but a few of the shame-based/shame-inducing things that I have heard from associate professors who feel stuck. Those whose careers have not progressed the way they had hoped often feel ashamed and demoralized. They have let themselves, and their colleagues, down.

In response they pour themselves into extra service, hoping that this  good citizenship provides evidence to themselves and other that they are worthy. Sadly, this overcompensation can perpetuate a vicious cycle of taking on tasks and roles that are less fulfilling, and make it hard to move toward the type of work that some wish to do.

Others feel ashamed that they are not writing and publishing, but really don't wish to write and publish much. They also do a good deal of service, but they like their service, and feel this is really where they wish to put their energy. Sadly, they still judge themselves, and find themselves progressively unhappy, often thinking about leaving higher education.

Both "types" suffer from the internalization of standards and expectations that keep them from feeling good about their careers. Both need some help to sort out the painful, self-downing messages that keep them stuck. Sadly, they also may have internalized the individualistic ideal of the academe-I must do this alone.

Getting over such shame-based messages means you are going to have to open up to someone about them, to process them, and to engage in some reprogramming. With whom you do this work, and how you do it, is up to you, but you owe it to yourself to do it!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Challenge: Develop an Article Purpose Statement on Teaching

The most important sentence of an article is the purpose statement. The propose statement (which differs greatly from the notion of thesis statement, as I have explored in the past), is what you use to guide all the decisions you make when developing the architecture of your article.

Young scholars are often stuck without ideas to write about if they "don't have data." Yet, as I have explored, many, many articles are not data driven.

Try this exercise. Develop an article purpose statement based upon one of these two "shells." Fill in the blanks with a few possibilities; play with it.

Using _______ (teaching strategy, teaching method or approach) for working with first generation college students (feel free to replace the “type" of student here that you wish to target)

Engaging students with____________: Implications for _________ instructors 

Don't think these are publishable? Ha! Check in on Friday when I explore teaching and pedagogy related journals.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Writing time

I am in my two day article writing workshop, and we have time for 15 minutes of writing. Everyone wrote a magic paragraph, thereby creating the architecture for an article, and are doing some focused free writing. Since I am the leader, I try to focus on some non-article writing; I want to be accessible to the group and in tune with where they are in the process. It is exciting watching people write.

They are writing, in spite of believing that they can't, in spite of believing that they are not good enough, not original enough, and the many other blocks that many bring to the table. I am excited about the possibilities of what each will take with them, and what scholarship may be written due to their learning some tools, and from having deconstructed and practiced the process of writing articles. Yay!

Friday, May 27, 2016


My full time gig is as a professor of social work. I tend to teach a lot of the helping skills/practice courses, and have done so for 18 years now (gulp). When teaching helping oriented courses, it is easy to become overwhelmed with the vast amounts of theory, practice skills, and research you want students to absorb. I also have the added issue of the quarter system; ten weeks does not feel like a lot of time when teaching theory and skills in the same course.

So, I try to keep it simple, and really rely on my practice wisdom (to the degree that I posses any!) and the research to help guide my teaching.

One of the principles that I focus on is the power of placebo. Placebo, as you know, is what is used in intervention research instead of the actual intervention, and insures that the receipt of both the intervention and the "fake" treatment are not sure who is getting what.

Sometimes, I hear a student suggest that since an intervention is only somewhat more effective than placebo in the treatment of a psychosocial disorder, it must not be effective.

Yet, this assessment neglects to account for the important confluence of research on placebo, the "waiting room effect" and positive psychology.

Placebo, or the belief that you are getting treatment, can often be highly effective. Why? The belief that one can do something, or that something is going to change, activates something within us that leads to our growth and healing.

Hope? The expectancy for change? An activation of our internal resources that are released in service of growth?

Whatever it is, it is powerful. It is also why I write to former, prospective and clients frequently, even if they don't get back to me. It is not only a letter from "Rich", but "Rich the coach," and a reminder of the possibility of productive writing,  and a desire to grow and change. What I am suggesting is that hope, a focus on our strengths and capacities, and a sincere desire to transcend can go a long, long way.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

It Does Not Always Have to Feel Good

Last night I wrote for a bit before I crashed, after my 6:30pm to 9:00pm class. It felt really annoying, but I wanted to stay connect to an article I am about to make my primary article (one just went out the door!), and had a few things I could say. In about 15 minutes, I actually wrote over 100 words- a pretty good "bonus writing" session!

Writing does not always have be like a campy pop song and "Feel good" . There are times when I know that the meaning I will experience from having written trumps a wee bit of momentary annoyance. Today, I am happy I wrote yesterday, and slogged through it!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Wednesdays: Now for You, Attorneys!

Starting now and until the end of summer, and perhaps behind, Wednesdays will be dedicated to writing tips for attorneys. While many of the ideas that I have explored in this blog about writing productivity and the psychosocial barriers to writing certainly apply to lawyers, you have unique needs and concerns. Wednesdays is now for you!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Exercise: Write Out Summer Goals

But don't focus on outcomes goals. Write process goals. Know what I mean? If not, consider. Or ask :). 

And I Have Even Been Sampled!!

Yesterday I  randomly discovered an old poem of mine was sampled (preformed as a whole toward the middle) in a house song, "Jazz and Some Sorry". How many social work profs can say that! :). That is my voice, not even sure where they got this recording from!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Writing Productivity for Attorneys

While I have sometimes taken non-academic clients, I have not systematically or intentionally reached out to members of other professions. Over the last few months, however, I have worked with a couple of attorneys as clients, and have done a great deal of thinking about how best meet their needs. Our work together has gone really well; they are writing more efficiently, more quickly, and they believe with less stress, anxiety and self downing!

After a great deal of thinking and planning, I am now offering writing productivity packages for attorneys. The basic package includes four sessions in which I will provide you with individual coaching designed to help you write more quickly and efficiently, and to help you learn how to identify and manage some of your individual writing blocks. During our time together, I will also provide you with email check ins and feedback to help you internalize our work. 

At this point, I can only take on up to five attorneys at a time; my commitment to helping scholars remains my primary focus.  Given how valuable your billable time is, this is a small investment in yourself. Please email me if you would like more information or to discussion how I might help you and/or your practice.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

"March" toward full professor

Perhaps not the best metaphor, but lets roll with it and see what I can do. If writing is a method of inquiry, which I believe it is, and if the purpose of writing as a process is to penetrate the phenomena under consideration, than starting with a prompt such as one word is one means in.

March,  verb, Merriam-Webster: To move along steadily usually with a rhythmic stride and in step with others. To move in a direct purposeful manner. To make steady progress.

The march toward full profession. Yes, it demands a steady movement, movement over time, and most certainly, a steady rhythm if it is to work well. In step with others? In some ways, yes. Showing empowering leadership with others (not over others), service befitting of a senior scholar and a good citizen. But perhaps that is where in step with others can stop. It is your career, and the essence of academic freedom is that once you are tenured YOU get to make choices for your own career. If you are productive over time, in areas of your choosing, than you get to move toward full.

Steady, measured, consistent. These are often difficult for some new assistant professors who frantically pushed toward tenure during their last few years on the tenure track. Many got off to slow starts during their first couple (or few), and so their final push toward promotion was a painful, anxiety ridden path. Once tenured, there is a tendency to crash and burn. They let it all go, and then? Hard to get back into the writing and research groove.

Some, also, never really learned good method of writing productivity, and while they have published a fair amount, they really have not mastered methods of producing articles or books. It is all effort, and little efficiency.

And then, the long stalled associate professor. Ridden with shame for not being productive, they have long since given up on the possibility of their final promotion.  They push their shame under the carpets of defensiveness, self deprecation, and other strategies of blame. Who needs it anyhow, right? So little extra money, so much work to get there.


Ok, perhaps I am deviating from my initial metaphor, but it really was only a writing prompt anyhow. I have been a bit stalled on my blog of late, and so, I gave myself a writing prompt this morning, and all of you get to (sic are forced?) to be witness to my process.

That said, I am going to be writing more blog posts about moving toward full professor over the next few weeks. Not the only posts I hope to make, but I will make a few on the topic, so stay tuned Associate Profs (and those about to be!)

Friday, May 20, 2016

Simple Writing Challenge: Advance One Paragraph

For this simple challenge, I want you to find an underdeveloped paragraph in your primary article (hopefully, you know which this is!!). Without straying from the purpose of the article, and the purpose of the section in which the paragraph falls, spend fifteen minutes advancing that paragraph. Freewrite, analytical writing, a quote- whatever you wish. Just push it along.

Articles are not articles, they are sections. Sections are paragraphs.  Paragraphs are sentences. Small bites, one after another.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Engaging A Struggling Colleague: Defensiveness

A while ago, I wrote several posts on how to engage colleague who are struggling. This extends that discussion; its been on my mind. It is hard to talk to colleagues about their publishing struggles without eliciting their defensivness. So much is at stake, and they probably feel pretty bad about it.

It is important to remember that defensiveness is about feeling less-than. What may feel like an attack is really a form of defense. In order to prevent defensiveness, it is important to not come across as judgmental, and to talk about your own experiences. If a colleague appears defensive and angry, sometimes the best thing to say is "I am sorry." We don't lose "ego" by just apologizing, but they get to gain back the self-worth that was lost for the moment. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Writing Challenge: The Old Unfinished Paper

We have have them. A paper (or papers) we started that died on the vine. Today, I want you to take a look at an old paper you started, and see what you have. You don't have to commit to it,  just read it and see what you think. Often, such old papers teach us things about the current work we are doing, and where we wish to go.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Summer Balance: An Exercise

Aw, summer. Congratulations colleagues in semester programs in the United States; you have made it to summer. I have a few more weeks to slug it out before my quarter-system colleagues and I are privileged with summer. I am teaching, but being that it is online, and service responsibilities disappear, its a much different (enjoyable!) pace and vibe.

A few posts ago, I explored the notion of "intentionality" and the need intentionally and consciously choose the type summer you wish to have. Here, I argue for the notion of balance. I am not going to tell you how to balance your time, but ask you to consider what balance would look like for you, and what issues you wish to balance.

So, consider this an exercise. Do five to ten minutes of reflective writing on what balance this summer would (could, should??) look like?  What would it feel like? What would be the indicators (how would you know) that would demonstrate that you were in balance on most days. What supports or help would you need to achieve this balance?

Feel free to report back here :).

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Summer Job Hunting Support Package!

Are you on the academic job market? Preparing to start your search? Are you prepared? Do you have the mentorship and coaching you need to thrive on the market?  Do you want to work with someone who has coached dozens of doctoral students and faculty and has helped them find positions that match their needs, values and desires? I have the coaching, psychotherapy, and academic skills and experience to help you approach your search with confidence!

I am offering a job-hunting preparation package which includes well over ten hours of coaching at far less than my normal rate.  If you know of anyone who is on the academic job-hunting market, do let them know!
This coaching package includes:
1.     Seven hours of individual coaching sessions on job hunting skills and strategies, how to conduct your job talk and interviews, working together to identify and remove the psychosocial barriers that inhibit job hunting and interviewing, preparing for and role-playing interviews, and other topics individualized to your particular needs (including discussions of writing and scholarship, as desired)
2.     Three hours of individual consultation to review your CV and cover letter including in-depth feedback  (initial review and final review once initial changes are made)
3.     Two hours of follow-up coaching during the fall and winter interview seasons

$750 total! Discounts for those in-need and from developing countries.
I am also open to taking new clients who want to work on their writing and publishing for a similar package, if you know anyone. My coaching practice focuses on helping doctoral students and faculty thrive as publishing scholars. I do have special rates for scholars from developing countries and doctoral students in need.

Please contact me for a free half hour consultation to see how I can help you in your job search, or to Write, Publish and Thrive.

Rich Furman, PhD, is professor at the University of Washington Tacoma and the author of over 120 articles and 15 books. He has mentored and coached faculty on writing and publishing for a decade and a half, and is passionate about empowering doctoral students and faculty to have powerful, meaningful, and joyous careers.

Monday, May 9, 2016

The Not Perfect as Perfect

We often hold such high expectations for our writing. Too often, these high expectations, which we couch in terms such as "rigor" and "excellence", often are less about those lofty goals than about our own insecurities.

"I have to be prefect or they will find out that I am a fake. I will be exposed."

Yes, the internalized voice of impostor syndrome; of the critique. It slows us, gets in our way.

I have been having a bit of this of late with my blog. I think I have written less as I have been "waiting" for more inspiration, brilliance; the muse to bestow something meaningful for my readers.

Practice what I preach. Post.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Bring Intentionality Into Your Summer

Summer is almost here for you lucky semester folks. Those of us on the quarter system have five weeks to go. Come August though, I will be living large!

Too often, doctoral students and faculty are not planfull with their summers. That is, they either fill it with binge writing, hoping desperately to "catch up" or just crash from having their psychic batteries emptied.

Whatever you do, great. However, I would suggest that a good summer is not one in which you blindly follow one extreme. A good summer is one where you consciously and intentionally decide how you will spend it.

I would also suggest balance, but that is my suggestion for how we perform our entire work lives. A different post, perhaps.

Bring intentionality into your summer; make it a great one.