Friday, December 30, 2016

Focus on One Change at a Time

I teach helping skills and social work practice classes. Watching developing helpers engage with their colleagues in live- real helping triads (one of my favorite teaching "tools"), I learn a great deal about the nature of helping and change. It allows me to watch "mistakes" being performed, and watch their consequence on actual human change.

One of the mistakes that many developing helpers make is trying to solve too many problems at one time, or attempting to get their clients to develop many different skills at once. Invariably, such a diffuse focus is overwhelming for a "helpee." It also prevents them really using their strengths and capacities to deeply engaging in the change process. Changing one thing is difficult, changing many, well.

What does this mean for you? 

Focus on one change at a time. Forget about the ten things you want to change. Take one, develop a plan for making that change, set about following your plan, and then evaluate your success.  If you are not happy with the progress you have made, develop a new plan, or get additional help and support. If you are happy with what you have achieved, go to the next issue.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016


When I was younger, I would post my poetry rejections on one wall, and my acceptances on the other.

The rejections far out-numbered the acceptances, probably by ten to one.  It was not about me beating up on myself, it was about recognizing that to achieve anything of meaning, you are going to have to fail a great deal.

Failing is a big part of the journey of academics. If you don't fail, that means you have not taken risks. Of course, I am not suggesting that risk taking is the only reason for failure; this blog is full of posts about the various issues that hinder scholar's success. We all know as well that the number of full time faculty positions has been falling; other structural barriers abound. However, we have to become comfortable with failing, or more importantly, with understanding that failing and being a failure are not one and the same.

If you allowed yourself to enter the bravest space you could imagine, what chances would you take? What would you risk losing or failing at? What do you need to do to move into this space? What supports do you need to enter and stay there?

Monday, December 26, 2016

New Year Resolutions: A Challenge

Read my post on New Year Resolutions for Academic Writers. Decide if you want to integrate any of these into your already-full list of resolutions. Now, cut the list in half, so you actually have a shot at making a change.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Yes, I Leave My Writing Chair!!

I reader recently asked me if I ever left my writing chair. True, I am a bit anti-photography and selfies (for another post), so that really is the only place I feel good about snapping pics.

Yet, I figured I would provide my readers some evidence of my ability to leave my house, and my dogs, for even a short period of time :). Currently at the airport, waiting for my brother's visit. Yay!

Happy Holiday's and New Year! May the light of the universe shine into your hearts.

Friday, December 23, 2016

10 New Year Resolutions for Academic Writers

Colleague and scholar, Ana Isabel Canhoto, forwarded me a list of 10 New Year resolutions for writers, and challenged me to come up with one for academic writers.  Not one to let a friendly challenge go unmet, I present to you my list of ten, with brief discussions of each. Like many lists of this sort, the purpose is to help you reflect a bit, and make some decisions for yourself. I could have come up with more, and debated the importance, but I have some other writing to do!

1) Write at least five times a week-Yes, you have heard it perhaps a hundred times: daily writing beats binge writing. It is true, but if it were only that simple, we would not need resolution number two, which is really where the rubber meets the road.

2)  Work on emotional/behavioral/cognitive impediment to daily writing. Yes, it is easy to say "write daily" but many of us carry with us a range of psychosocial factors that get in the way of our daily writing. If you don't attend to these, you may find it far harder to be productive.

3) Write before any technology use. Yes, write before you email. Before you text. Before you Facebook. Before you Instagram. Before you whatever.

4) Attend to time wasting and distractions. See number three, but this is important. Develop writing rituals and habits that account for the importance of writing in your life. Also, understand that lack of time is almost always an excuse for not writing. Everyone has the time if they make it a priority. The question is, what are you doing with your time?

5) Select the journal and the word count for your article prior to starting. So much time is wasted by not making these decisions beforehand. Also, make sure you really understand how to select a journal. If you think picking the one with the highest impact factor or one that has, on paper, the shortest turn around time is all there is too it, you have a ton to learn about journal selection. Sadly, most faculty, even highly published ones, really don't think through journal selection well, and really don't have much to teach about it.

6) Learn to develop an architecture with word limits. Selecting word count, and the use of the magic paragraph, is key. Have not seen me write about these a great detail? True, I can't give away all my secrets :).

7) Develop and trust process goals. Develop daily processes that lead to positive outcomes. Be less worried about outcome goal, but more concerned with staying in process. If you want to learn more, check this out! 

8) Develop a plan for making changes. Having a simple change plan is important. Having it posted and reading it each day is essential. We can make long and elaborate plans, but if they are too complex and hard to follow, or if we don't review them daily, we are not going to change.

9) Find the help and support that you need to make changes. Book. Article. Mentor. Supervisor. Therapist. Coach. Editor. Rabbi.  Shaman. Guru. Priest. Imam. Therapy dog. Dog. Dog. We often need help when we set about making changes. There is no shame in this. Really. Truly. The shame is in not reaching out for support and help. We often say we can't afford it, but we can't afford not to.

10) You choose your final writing resolution. Post it here. Or tweet it to me. But, only after your daily writing :).

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Stop before your done

Try this. Today, spend some time on your writing. Once you get into it, and are really in a groove, stop. Feel the frustration of not being able to continue. I mean, really feel it. Take it in. Write in your scholarly journal about it.

Why did I ask you to do this?

Monday, December 12, 2016

Do I Make A Difference?

A few weeks ago, I accidentally "published" the title of this post before I wrote anything in the body! I meant to save it as a draft, and come back to it later (something I frequently do when I have ideas for posts).

It was very touching, I received several emails and "comments" from readers saying that I did, indeed, make a difference. If that was you, thank you :).

Now, however, to the issue I really want to address, which honestly did not have to do with any insecurity around my impact on the world.

On the other hands, that really is the issue. Not my impact, but the belief that one should only do work that is going to be transformative.


Cutting edge.

Difference maker.



Starting to feel anxious even reading those expectations?

Over many years of working with scholars, I have listened to many that must publish work that makes a difference. From an ethical standpoint, this is great. Who does not want to make a difference? This is the reason why I choose to publish on the criminalization of immigration and immigration detention and its relationship to my field, social work.

The problem is that too many scholars who hold these expectations produce very little work, and not because they are taking their time and improving the quality for their scholarship. Too often, the bars that they set for themselves become shackles on their ability to write freely, stay in process, and paradoxically, do excellence work. These expectations take on a life of their own, and become constellations of beliefs that are horribly limiting.

Key words for cognitions that impede our process? Should. Must. It is called, Masterbation.

When I say I am not interested in my impact, what I mean is that all I can do is put myself out there, do solid work, and let the external world judge me.  Metaphorically, I make belts. I put up dry wall.

The impact that I have really is not something I can control. I can do my research, submit it, move on to the next piece, repeat.

And repeat. Year after year.

It is the culmination of our work that will be judged by others. I prefer to do the best I can in each moment, keep growing and changing, and learn to "be" with my work.

And if my scholarship makes a significant contrition?


If not, I can be of service to others, pet my dogs, love my kids, enjoy this precious bit of life we are given.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Winter Break Job Hunting Check Up

Its a joyous time for many, but for those on the academic job market, are or close to entering it, it can be stressful. As  the busiest term of my life has now ended, I wanted to offer a bit of extra help to those of you who are in the job market. I can give three hours of time for two hundred dollars, less then half of my standard rate, to five scholars who could use the support. 

How can you use your time?

1) Explore (via Google hangout video chat) your job hunting approach, and what "type" of universities/departments are good fits for who you wish to be (not your advisor, but YOU)
2) Mock phone or live interviews. Drilling responses and getting feedback from someone you trust is really helpful.
3) CV/Cover letter work. Most people don't get good advice on cover letters, and these are key.
4) Discuss career goals and aspirations.
5) And yes, we can talk about writing and publishing too.

This is good for the first five who email me, and must be used between now and January 7th.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Writing on a Saturday Morning

I slept in a bit today, which means, my dogs let me sleep in past 7am. I fed them, made my daily oatmeal, and let them outside. I brew a cup of tea, and then, sit down to write. A productive forty five minute session- some focused free writing an in introductory chapter of an edited book I am working on, some analytical writing on an autoethnography, and then some administrative writing on something else.

Its just another day. In my chair, my dogs, words, sentences. I show up, I do my thing. Book and articles move forward.

Soon, I will have a client call, will workout with my kiddo, and do some grading. I may write more, and tonight,  I going out with a friend.

Day after day, year after year, we live and perform the life we construct for ourselves.

Writing, on a Saturday morning. Life is good.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Writing Productivity Plan

What, you don't have one? Maybe it is time to create it! A writing productivity plan is a short document that you look at every few days to make sure you are engaging in the steps and processes that you are commit to. Notice, it is about the actual processes, not about your outcome goals. Staying in the process as faithfully as we can will lead to the fulfillment of your outcomes goals. If you are not meeting goals, you work on processes.  That is key.

If you don't really understand the various areas that constitute writing productivity, explore the tools explored in this blog. Pick one of the tools, and try to put it into practice for a week. Add one tool per week and soon you will have enough to create your plan.