Skip to main content

"Clarity" -- great insights from a Writing Club member.

Today, I found out that my book needs to be done for my third-year/mid-career review, 11 months from now. “As close to being done as possible” is an option there in the wings, but if I want to take my place in this department, it needs to be done and to represent the very, very best work I can do. THEN the senior faculty put a jaw-dropping amount of time and intellectual engagement and discussion and writing into critiquing what I’ve given them (my book, as best I can conceive it), and THEN I write a better book.

This knowledge, while terrifying, has brought with it an amazing amount of clarity:
  1. My book needs me. It needs my heart and mind and time. It literally will not exist without me. And I want more than anything for it to exist.
  2. This is not a game. I can play games on myself all the live-long day, but not with the writing, not with the book. I have worked long and hard for this, given many years, garnered the investments of many brilliant people. It’s not time to toy with this; it’s not a spinning top for me to scuttle along the floor.
  3. I need a plan. I need a reasoned and reasonable plan. Builders don’t show up with their tools and “see what happens.” I need to see it, like rolling out a blue-print — to see how I will get from my dissertation to my powerful book. This is not an open-ended, ad-hoc process.
  4. I have to trust myself. This is the only way I can keep moving forward. Enough with the second-guessing and fretting and re-wording every last word. The one and only way to push through the static is to trust myself.
  5. What wants me can’t claim me. There is no limit on what others want of me, or what I want of and for myself. But my resources are limited. I cannot allow my own or other people’s desires to claim me, because I have this important work to do. Right now this work seems private, but it will make me who I want to be.
  6. Other people need to see my work. Regardless of whether I have real misgivings or if I just cannot manage my calendar, the work still needs exposure. This is not strategic, but substantive. Every time I share my work, it gets better. And it needs and deserves to get better.
  7. To everything there is a season. This year is the season for this book to come into bloom. I have to take care of it, I have to nurture and cultivate it, but its nature is to bloom, and this is its season.
Okay guys. I put this out here, and it’s a risk because I believe it all — deeply — but I also know I need support. Even to remember it, I need support. Thank God I signed up for the long haul.


Popular posts from this blog

"ABD" -- what does it really mean?

I thought I knew what the definition of ABD was. It was exactly the same as defined here in Carnegie Mellon's University Doctoral Candidate Policies for All But Dissertation (ABD) : After the completion of all formal degree requirements other than the completion of and approval of the doctoral dissertation and the public final examination, doctoral candidates shall be regarded as All But Dissertation(ABD). I have, though, occasionally run into the term ABD being used as a somewhat disparaging designation for one who fulfills the formal degree requirements of the Ph.D. but never finishes the dissertation, and then quits the program. Most recently, I saw it in What They Didn' t Teach You in Graduate School: 199 Helpful Hints for Success in Your Academic Career , by Paul Gray and David E. Drew. Number 9 of their helpful hints is one that I strongly agree with: "Remember that a Ph.D. is primarily an indication of survivorship." They go on to say, "You stuck wi

Academic Exhaustion Syndrome: Four Recovery Strategies

The semester’s over. If you’re anything like the academics I coach, you feel like death warmed over.  Those last stacks of grading got done on sheer will, determination and fumes. And this is before considering your writing deadlines, committee responsibilities, and other demands.  You are suffering from Academic Exhaustion Syndrome.  Academic Exhaustion Syndrome (an advanced, more scholarly state of burn out) is a state of emotional, and physical exhaustion caused by prolonged stress, ending with grading, over the course of the semester and academic year. As the stress continues, you begin to lose interest and motivation to work, you have fantasies of standing up and screaming in the middle of a meeting, and you wonder what temporary loss of reality testing made you decide to become an academic.  This dreaded Syndrome can: Reduce your productivity and saps your energy Make you irritable and have thoughts of strangling an undergraduate Make you feel like you have nothing more to g

The Second Holiday Writing Challenge for Academics

Here's a little boost for those who need a little kickstart to write over the holidays.  I first offered a Holiday Writing Challenge  back in 2005, so I'd say it's about time to do it again. Here's what you do: Post in the comment section: what you'd like to work on (if anything) over the holidays, and the maximum amount of time you'd like to spend on it daily . Please keep this time limit reasonable and low unless you're under huge deadline pressure -- in which case you don't need this challenge in order to get something done! Whether you're a professor or a grad student, make sure you get a copy of the Dissertation Toolkit.  These tools will give you more information and tips for productive and creative writing.  For those of you who have had trouble making yourself write, you may want to start with VERY short writing goals . Even 5 or 10 minutes will be enough to get you jumpstarted.  Don't go more than 25 or 30 minutes withou