December 21, 2007

Where I Used to Procrastinate

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Where I Used to Procrastinate

Lyrics by Gina Hiatt

Sung to the tune of

Where I Used to Have a Heart,

by Martina McBride

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There were times I’d want to eat

Paint pretty toenails on my feet

Do anything but write

I’ll get to it later tonight

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Find me another closet to clean

Make a call to my Aunt Jean

Think I’ll read another blog

Or maybe go out for a jog

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Then I found you, Writing Club

Almost as fun as my old pub

No more waiting for the dark

To get me my che–eck mark

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Chorus:

Done with writing delay

Email reading all day

Thinking writing can wait

Where I used to procrastinate

——————————–

Where I used to procrastinate

I sit down and make a list

I just write down everything

And clear out the mist.

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There were times I’d go a day

Or a month or two, let’s say

Without writing a single word

Made me feel just like a turd

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Writing Club, Writing Club,

Gotta finish, there’s the rub

All you people by my side

I can’t give up and I can’t hide

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No more endless games of Snood

Wondering why I want more food

Watching reruns on TV

No procrastinating for me

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Chorus:

Done with writing delay

Email reading all day

Thinking writing can wait

Where I used to procrastinate

——————————–

Where I used to procrastinate

I sit down and make a list

I just write down everything

And clear out the mist.

Whoa — oh, and clear out the mist.

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December 19, 2007

Video: Great argument for action on global warming

You're probably already convinced. But here's a nice way to convince skeptics of the necessity for action.

December 8, 2007

Perfectionism + Academia = Misery

"The graveyard is filled with indispensable people."

A recent NY Times article, "Unhappy? Self-Critical? Maybe You're Just a Perfectionist," discusses the price you pay for expecting too much of yourself, engaging in all-or-none thinking, and being too self-critical. In other words, if you act like 99% of academics. Although this article does not mention academics, it does describe three types of perfectionists. Academics tend to fall into the first category: "Self-oriented strivers who struggle to live up to their high standards." These unfortunate people are at risk for self-critical depression.

The article describes how a counselor at U.C. Davis had some perfectionists "slack off, " in order to discover that the world didn't collapse when they didn't push themselves to excel. Although I wouldn't prescribe slacking off for most academics I work with, they probably could use some help in being more reasonable in their expectations of themselves, in saying "No" to excessive external demands, and in having more moderate work habits. At Academic Ladder we approach this gently, asking people to start writing in moderately short writing sessions, taking frequent breaks, and being kind in what they say to themselves internally. Our Academic Writing Club uses this approach also -- people are reminded daily not to demand a ridiculously high quality and quantity of scholarly output of themselves. Paradoxically, they perform at a higher level in the long run.

December 5, 2007

A Vision of Students Today

Food for thought...

December 1, 2007

Start your own dissertation group


Graduate students who participate in departmental dissertation groups or groups led by their dissertation advisor (which I will call "formal groups") can count themselves lucky. The vast majority of grad students, especially in the humanities and social sciences, are not members of a dissertation group.

The good news is:
  1. You can start your own dissertation group
  2. It might even be more useful than the formal groups mentioned above.
I've written about the difference between such formal groups and the coaching groups we run at Academic Ladder. There is another solution, however, for those of you who don't have access to a formal group and cannot afford to sign up for a coaching group with us.

Start your own group! The trick is to start thinking outside of the box.

Here are some features of the standard formal group, which I would suggest you consider changing, in order to meet the needs of your particular group:
  1. They meet monthly
  2. They meet in person.
  3. You submit a chapter to the members ahead of time.
  4. Depending on the size of the group, your turn to submit may only come around every few months or twice a year.
  5. One person presents their work at each meeting and it is critiqued by all present.
Here are some alternatives and creative additions to this standard format:
  1. Meet weekly or every other week.
  2. Meet on the phone (there are free bridge lines available.)
  3. Start a private listserv for your group to communicate whenever they want (private listservs can be set up through Yahoo Groups.
  4. Submit smaller and less polished pieces of work.
  5. Ask for help on specific areas where you are stuck (e.g. presenting your argument, how much or which evidence to use, organization of a section.)
  6. Play around with various "assignments" that you all agree on (e.g. submitting a "statement of purpose" for your current section or chapter, or submitting a work plan for the next month).
  7. Commit to specific goals that you will achieve and report on in the next meeting.
  8. Keep a group score card with a space for each person to check off whether they achieved their goal.
A client of mine recently started her own group, and it is working wonderfully for all the members. She wrote to me:
I'm so proud of our group. I think the format is great--a small group, meeting every other week with some form of writing. We are getting very attuned to each other's projects--having the dissertation abstract as the first writing piece has been marvelous, b/c it gives me a roadmap for the subsequent writing pieces that each of us produced.
Another client arranged a group by writing to her departmental listserv, and then forming a smaller group online with those who responded. She has since successfully defended her dissertation, and credits the group (and me!) with a lot of her success in finishing.

If you can't find enough people in your own discipline, consider looking outside your field. People in foreign languages, comparative literature, and English, for example, can help each other with the writing process.

Be creative and try out different options. Academia can get so sticky and possessive of its methods, which are sometimes too formal and old-fashioned. Think about what your needs are, and start your dissertation group based on that starting point. And please let me know how it goes!