Productivity Tuesday w/ Coaching Session: The Stories We Tell

Kellee Weinhold

By Kellee Weinhold, TPII Productivity Coach

Welcome to the Productivity Post and Podcast!  Each Tuesday, I will be posting a short blog post plus a recorded coaching session!

Keep reading and then click on the podcast link below!

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The topic this week? The Stories We Tell

Writing the stories of our lives is so natural to humans that we rarely if ever notice their construction. We take in our experiences and over time translate them into a narrative (Typically based on patterns that we have experienced over and over again.) Eventually we simply catalogue new experiences as “just like that time” and decree what will occur as a result.

Unfortunately, our brains LOVE to grab onto the bad experiences, velcroing the negative outcomes front and center.

That negative bias in story writing is a valuable tool when we are learning not to put our hand on the stove. It is not so valuable when we have had a hard time doing something and that something shows up again. (writing!). We write the ending before we have begun.

If you have been struggling to write, it is very likely that you have cast yourself as the tragic character of your writing story. “I am too slow.” “I don’t know what I am talking about.” “Everyone else is better at this.”

And perhaps you have become very attached to that story, bringing it out at every new experience as evidence of the failure to come. “I never finish things.” “I can’t <fill in the blank>. Not surprisingly, by constantly re-upping our failure narratives, we hang on to the bumps and bruises of the past rather than letting them disappear in the rearview mirror.

We also cause ourselves untold misery with stories about things that have not happened. Except we get ourselves convinced that it will happen! “It will never get published.” “My advisor will hate it.” “I missed something and will be humiliated.” In embracing the pain of a fictional future (every story we tell about the future is fiction) we miss our chance to engage in the present and WRITE.

Sound familiar?

Trust me. You are not alone. I work with hundreds of academics and each of them struggles with some version of these limiting beliefs.

The first step to intervening? Begin to acknowledge that the things you tell yourself about your writing are not truth. They are stories.

And the wonderful thing about stories, is that you can rewrite them.

So just for today, keep an eye out for the stories you are telling to allow yourself to avoid writing and take the risk of rewriting them.

  • I write as fast as I write.
  • I know what I am talking about and when I don’t, I write my way into knowing.
  • Everyone else is not my problem. I am doing me.
  • I will finish this.
  • The only way to know if it will be published is to submit it.
  • Of course, I will miss something. I am not trying to be perfect. I am trying to be published.

What are your writing stories? What can you learn from them?

Check out these coaching tips for rewriting your story.  (Spoiler Alert: There is nothing wrong with you.)

About Karen

I am a former tenured professor at two institutions--University of Oregon and University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. I have trained numerous Ph.D. students, now gainfully employed in academia, and handled a number of successful tenure cases as Department Head. I've created this business, The Professor Is In, to guide graduate students and junior faculty through grad school, the job search, and tenure. I am the advisor they should already have, but probably don't.

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