It’s Not You, It’s Me or Do You Still Believe in Your Writing Project?

I have been writing, essentially, about how to build a strong, connected relationship with your writing, a writing practice if you will. As I have examined having affairs on your work, and sexual disfunction with your writing relationship (take this figuratively), this entry examines whether you still share the same core values and beliefs with your writing project.

You know how we talk about I would never date a [Republican, Democrat, Gun Owner . . . ]. These boundaries reflect core values and beliefs about ourselves and who we want to spend time with. If you’re in a relationship with someone who all of a sudden became [fill in the blank] and it was contrary to your core values and beliefs, you would have to think through whether you would continue in this relationship.

The same thing can be said about writing. Perhaps when you started your project, you held a particular set of values and beliefs. But as we know, writing projects take loads of time and we change over that time.

When these changes happen and the project does mature along with us, we start to question whether we should be bothered with it. Maybe we believe in a different mode of achieving social change. Maybe our economic values have shifted and this project can’t marry with them. And there are so many other ways these changes can manifest.

What do you do, because it certainly looks like the love has gone.

  • Dump the project altogether – you may need to part ways and hope someone else picks it up. The differences may be too big.
  • See if you can move the project in a different direction. Maybe the narrative you are writing becomes an object lesson so that it can accommodate who you have become. Maybe it becomes a smaller part of a different larger project. That’s only a couple of suggestions for how you can move the project in a different direction.

But how do you do this, especially if you can’t sort it out all by yourself?

  • Bring community around you. Talk to other writers and hear your ideas and thinking aloud.
  • Write down (journal) about what are your current core beliefs and values so that you are clear what you’re looking at.

At its core, you must pull other minds in with you.

And if you have to move on to a different project, you won’t be the first.

Unaligned core values and beliefs is not saying the same thing as I’m bored with this project. We all get to this point. That’s when we have to recommit to what brought us to it in the first place, what the world can get out of our work.

Do you still believe in your writing project? Can this relationship be saved? Let me know.

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It’s Not You, It’s Me

I am intrigued about the connections between relationships and writing. We all have our honeymoon moments with our writing projects, and we have moments when we want to kill them.

How do we keep the love alive and move the relationship forward?

That’s what this set of blog posts seeks to tackle through the lens of intimate relationships. I published my first version of this conundrum here and talked about having an affair on my project.

There are many problems people have with their intimate relationships, one of them is  under the rubric of sexual problems, specifically low libido or questioning one’s sexuality.

What does this have to do with writing?

You’re just not into your project.

When people (men in this case) have low libido, they use drugs such as Viagra and many others that are advertised endlessly on tv.

Bath Tubs
Here are the Cialis bathtubs. If you are supposed to be excited to be with each other, why two bath tubs? I never understood that . . .

Sometimes people are no longer sexually attracted to their partner because they realize that they aren’t attracted, or are less attracted, to the gender of their current partner.

There are no drugs for you if you are no longer attracted to your writing project . . .

How do you know if this is a problem?

  • You do everything to avoid the project, including washing the cat;
  • You can’t stand the way it looks;
  • You’re always too tired;
  • You wish you could, but can’t;

Can you rekindle the fire? Should you move on? Should you seek professional help?

First, you need to be brutally honest with yourself (your writing would appreciate this!). Ask yourself that first question – are you still attracted to your project? Maybe you are not. Maybe you regret diving deeply into this, for any number of reasons. It wasn’t worth the time or the effort.

You’re just not into it and there’s a better writing project in a better form for you.

Go ahead and cut ties. How you do so is up to you. Maybe you want to keep everything in a digital file. Maybe you just want to delete everything and pretend you’ve never seen it. Maybe you need to write it a goodbye letter. It all works.

Breaking up

Maybe you actually are into the larger project. Maybe you feel that pang of YES, this is the best!!! Maybe you’ve hit some hard times. In relationships, the way to move past these moments is to make sure you are communicating.

  • What caused the friction and disinterest? Are you stuck with research? Are you confused about what to write next? Are you unable to articulate why you’re stuck? What have you done in the past when you’re stuck?
  • Is this something that you can move past? If you pull in more resource, can you refine the research? Can you set up a game plan for the stuck place?
  • What kind of resource will you  need to move past the problem? Does it require travel or purchasing sources from somewhere else? Do you need to set up interviews? Do you simply need a system to handle the data? How much will it cost? Can you afford it?
  • What is the problem you bring to it? Right now I’m struggling with not feeling like anyone will like me, and this has real implications for my writing projects. I’m not attracted to it because I don’t believe, fundamentally, that it will be successful in spite of what journals tell me. THIS is something I have to fix as I continue to work on it.

Do you need professional help with your libido as connected to your writing?

After you problem solve, you may not. It’s clear what to do if it’s a resource or research issue. It’s clear what to do if you’re really not into it anymore. If you can pull people around you to listen to what you’re thinking, you’re fine. If you are getting in your way, that is when you pull in the big guns. That’s when a coach could help. And you don’t even have to tell anyone you are getting help.

What do you do when you’re just not that into your work? What do you recommend for others? I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

The Problem With Being an Adjunct

When I earned my doctorate, I honestly was so through with academia that I planned on walking away from it and becoming a journalist. How hard could it be to take to find that work? I knew how to research, write, and put together a story. I would adjunct for a couple of years until I found that journalism job and then move on.

It turns out that journalism was having the same industrial meltdown academia enjoyed.

Why? I won’t get into that.

But instead, I’ll stick with academia.

I then decided that the only person who could actually send the work I did in my dissertation into the universe was me. I would, at a minimum, start writing and trying to be published in academic journals. Further, I would enter the academic . . . job market (screams ensue!).

Considering that I wanted to stay in NYC, I likely sent no more than 10 applications around and got one interview. Not bad, but I didn’t get the job.

My thoughts turned to “now what” because it was clear to me that no matter how much I loved to write and teach, that adjuncting was not a sustainable business long-term.

I was in the bathroom and wished that I could earn money with the skills I had acquired in a peer-counseling organization of which I am a part. Back in my bedroom while checking my email, I saw that there was a coaching program with available spots. I jumped on it.

I never looked back.

I still teach part-time, but it’s clear that this is bridge work. I know that at some point, I will only teach one class per year or per semester. I will continue to do academic writing. I do not have the pressure of tenure. I can take the time I need to continuing honing this set of skills.

Which brings me to the following set of questions.

Why do we adjunct? Why do we allow higher education to exploit us? The more willing that we are to do this, the more they will use us and defund higher education.

Sooooo, here is where I paraphrase what I tweeted in a Twitter thread.

Working as adjuncts tacitly approves of (myself including) the corruption of higher education, given that they do not want to fund the core part of their mission – teaching and research. They use adjuncts because there is a glut of us.

Granted, some adjuncts teach because they want to do more with their skills. Others of us do so because we seemingly have no other choice. The number of adjuncts who teach because they want to increase their skills are declining. We are becoming the people who hold down the teaching load in U.S. colleges and universities, yet we are unable to shape the way that departments shape themselves or provide feedback about the state of the students we teach.

Some of us adjunct because we are hell bent on landing a tenure track position. Some of us will succeed at doing this.

However, given that there are fewer of these positions, fewer of us will likely succeed in this endeavor. How long do you try?

For those of us paying the bills, some of us take on activism to increase adjunct pay and benefits. But after we have the wages we seek, how much impact can we have in the industry to return higher education to its core mission?

How much power can we really attain with part-time and seasonal teaching status? It does not help that the federal and state governments have withdrawn huge amounts of funding for teaching and research, hence the rising tuition bills and the marginal profits that go into the pockets of administrators.

How long do we try the activist route? What is the big picture of what we are trying to accomplish? Remember, the Koch brothers, for example, are trying to buy research favoring their corrupt environmental outcomes.

For those of us who adjunct to pay the bills and see little other ways forward, is it easier to just pay the bills? Is this what you REALLY want?

We can’t afford this anymore.

Higher education can’t afford this anymore.

Nothing would kill contingent teaching faculty faster than saying NO MORE. We won’t do this.

But we can’t just walk out, we have to plan for ourselves and have a way forward.

Our PhDs are worth so much more than this, aren’t they?

I am certainly committed to working with adjuncts who want to sort out some other way. Some of you will do the social change work necessary to force higher education to stick with its mission. Others of you will bail. Please contact me if you’re interested.

We need all of us on deck.

The Joys of Failure . . . Sort of

As we take on bigger things in our lives – writing books, building businesses, going for a promotion where we work (partner if you’re a lawyer), and many other things, visibility if of prime importance.

And the problem with visibility is that it won’t always go well.

So I’ve decided to push myself to be really visible. To be visible when I feel like it. To be visible when I don’t.

The week before Thanksgiving, I got egg on my face.

The reason why I built Michelle Dionne Thompson Coaching and Consulting Services is so that I could help women non-fiction writers, including academics and lawyers, build the world they write about. They often have common sense ways of making our world a much better place.

No, my website doesn’t say that now . . . that’s a 2018 project.

But I digress. The importance of doing that was so I can be an artist. I sing (opera and sacred music), I knit and crochet, and I write.

Knitted lace scarf

Clearly, I don’t put my artistic stuff on hold, I do it as I do everything else.

And yes, I consider any writing art. Including the academic stuff.

So the weekend before Thanksgiving, I decided to go for a small part in a local opera company. When I would be auditioning didn’t become clear until the morning of the audition.

Real pros would have immediately thought about what they were singing and used their routine to get in the right headspace.

I didn’t do this. I got distracted by stuff at home. I didn’t meditate that morning. I didn’t do yoga. I didn’t warm up. I was fully ungrounded.

I selected the song that I didn’t practice that day right before the audition. I couldn’t get my nerves together. I had to start the song twice and I had moments where I was out of tune.

It ended well. It started terribly.

Yep, this was a fail.

While I feel like hiding under a rock, I have decided to keep going. I did get a part – it is a part without dialogue or singing. I will be singing in the chorus (again). But in addition to knowing that ritual before something like this is CRITICAL to being focused, I also know that I will be more visible.

And THAT was the purpose of all of this. Visibility.

Yes, reframed, I snatched success out of the jaws of failure in spite of my pull to do the opposite.

It sucks, but get out there and get egg on your face! Nothing changes if you don’t!

How to Recover From Flunking the Bar

It is the time of year where I remember what it was like after taking the bar exam and  finally working as a lawyer! It was exhilarating! I wanted to be a lawyer since I was TWELVE and I was finally doing it.

I was seeing clients and checking on whether I spotted the right legal issues with colleagues.

I was writing arguments to the Social Security Administration and the Immigration and Naturalization Services (now ICE) on behalf of my clients.

I was attending continuing legal education classes and PRESENTING at them at the DC BAR!

I moved to a new city and was putting together a community that included lawyers and non-lawyers. I was dating.

It was soooooo exciting.

However, by late October/early November, I received my Bar results. It wasn’t good news. I actually think I felt the blood leave everywhere but my feet.

Never one to wallow in sorrow, I told my supervisors, who assured me that I would not lose my job. I would simply have to take it again. I registered for the course. Again. If you are reading this post, you may be in the same situation. What should you do?

  • Take time to mourn. Connect with your community.
  • Remember why you did this to start out with. What doors were going to open because you were a lawyer, and don’t forget it.
  • Remember that your value is not determined by this test. Or any other one. Your value is determined by how you respond to it.
  • Yep, go ahead and register to take the Bar and the Bar Exam course again.

Once the course started just after Christmas (or was it New Years . . .), I dragged on doing some of the same unsuccessful things I did the first time. Then a friend of a friend changed my life. He said “thirty questions a day keeps the flunking away.”

Phew, because this time, I was working full-time and studying for the Bar.

I learned a lot from that experience. So if you want more information about what “thirty questions a day keeps the flunking away” means and other ways to stay sane, look no further.

A System for Writing

I had made a half decision to go on the academic job market. I applied for Visiting Assistant Professor positions. I had seen an ad for something in my field in a different city that was in commuting distance. They required a 20-page writing sample.

I balked.

I had a dissertation chapter, but there was no way I could reduce that to 20 pages in four weeks. So I didn’t apply.

At that point, I realized that I couldn’t stay stuck in this cycle, or else I wouldn’t stand a prayer of ever getting an academic interview, never mind the job!

Not that much later, a colleague of mine posted the link to a book that provided you with a SYSTEM for revising your longer work so that it could be a publishable article. I couldn’t find it in her FB posts, so I asked her for the source.

I never looked back.

To this day, even after I get feedback from a journal about something I submitted, I turn to How to Write Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks to respond to their feedback. I have learned so much about writing and how to structure your article around your argument. I have a system by which to attack my work.

The author’s name should be St. Wendy Lauren Belcher. Really. Maybe she could be beatified!

I no longer start at my computer wondering where to start as I try to whittle down something. I wish I knew about this when the posting for the job went up.

She’s an advocate of social writing. That makes me nervous every single time. I do it anyway.

But you may not want to have to wrestle with finding someone to read your thesis statement or abstract. Wouldn’t it be nice to have this sort of support built in?

I agree. Get a Life and Write could do that for you. For more information, click here!

The Price of Distraction

I’ve been negotiating jet lag longer than I thought. I returned to the US almost 3 weeks ago and still wake up at 3 in the morning.

I think I sleep better when I go to bed really late. Like 1 or 2 in the morning. And then I wake up reliably at . . . 6 a.m.

Lately I’ve been taking melatonin before going to bed and I go to bed much earlier. This has been so much better.

What is the price I pay in terms of distraction when I go to bed so late?

In order to stay up late, because I’m fighting tiredness, I eat all kinds of crap. The night before last, I ate THE ENTIRE PINT of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey Vegan “frozen dessert.”

Chunky Monkey

Yep, it felt good going down, but my waistline . . .

Writing has been difficult. I. Keep. Yawning.

Writing my syllabi? PULLING TEETH!

Changing my sleep around helped shift other challenges. Yesterday, no super sugary snacks. This morning, writing was BOSSSS!!!!

It’s not just a price tag. It’s the other parts of our lives that fall apart when we don’t have the self-care we need and it impacts how we focus on our work.

It doesn’t have to be like that.

And it doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s a step at a time. I see that I take 2 steps forward and three back. That’s alright, I will move forward!

You can too!