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.The entire reason I started Professor Is In in 2011 was to demystify the academy and what it takes to be successful in it. Like the front page of this website says, “I tell you the truth. The truth about grad school, the job market, and tenure. To the best of my ability. I also tell you the truth about your applications and your record. If they are bad, I will tell you. And then we will get a plan to improve them.” But, exposing the hidden truths of the job market is a very different task than helping individuals connect with their inner motivations. The former is mostly divorced from content: It’s focused on packaging, and academics’ perennially bad habits of (and instincts for) self-presentation. The latter, though, is about the work itself. And I, Karen, have not the slightest clue how to motivate anyone to do their own work. For me, the solution is, and always has been: “Just Write!” It’s the same bad advice that friends and advisors have been giving writers forever. It’s about as helpful as when my ex-husband used to tell me, in the face of my (then) crippling fear of flying, “Just calm down.” OBVIOUSLY, If I could calm down, I’d be calm. OBVIOUSLY If you could write, you’d write. Enter Kellee. As the TPII Interview Intervention guru, Kellee Weinhold talks to people to via video. As she coaches them through key questions for interviews, she is literally face to face with their vulnerabilities. With Imposter Syndrome, with feelings of scholarly inadequacy, and with real-life struggles to succeed. Three years ago, she made a proposal: If we are going to keep our commitment to pull back the curtain and expose the toxicity of the academy, we need to create a program that will help our clients with their struggles around productivity. We need to tell the truth: our entire academic system is constantly telling you that nothing is ever enough, that you should always be doing more. Maintaining a productive writing life in the face of that is exhausting. In other words, we need to tell clients who are struggling that there is nothing wrong with them. After two years of small groups and beta testers, Kellee launched her online coaching program Unstuck: The Art of Productivity. And lo, that program has changed thousands (actually thousands!) of lives. Unstuck is incredible, and Kellee is a genius. I am totally serious. Her instincts for seeing just where things go wrong, and how to fix them, in the realm of academic productivity and motivation, are unparalleled. “I chose a project in July that was competing with two others and is still in progress, my book proposal. I learned from Kellee that it’s incredibly difficult and frustrating to try to keep three projects in the air at the same time. That said, I finished 2 of the 3, a book review and the critical introduction to a special issue of a journal I have co-edited. I’m really proud of the second. And did this all while adjusting to being the new chair of my department (44 faculty members total). In the seven months before I joined Unstuck, I fretted a lot. And didn’t submit anything other than a conference abstract or two. I now take weekends completely off and don’t look at work stuff after I get home. I also write everyday, sometimes only morning pages, but that’s writing.” I, Karen, am the first to admit, I find the Unstuck methods astonishing and mystifying. I am often in the room (just off camera) when Kellee does her Unstuck coaching. I listen to her, and I listen to the coaching groups and clients, and afterward I say,
“Why in the world does this work???”Kellee just laughs at me. She says: “This program is not for people like you. People like you are annoying.” Because, I am one of the small number of people who basically just sit down and write. I decide to write a thing, I outline it, write it, edit it, and submit it, without much drama or delay. It’s possible some of your advisors are too. I know we do NOT HELP with your struggle. Because, we are the exception, not the norm. Unfortunately, we are also the dominant narrative, the toxic myth. The whole enterprise is built on the idea that “other people” are happily writing, submitting, and growing their CV with nary a self doubt or anxious thought.
But here is the truth: the TRUTH is that most people in the academy struggle mightily to overcome the 1) emotional, 2) psychological, and 3) logistical barriers to a productive writing life.And while I may not be the target audience for Unstuck, I am a witness to its effectiveness for writers. People do the Unstuck program, and suddenly, they start writing. And they keep writing. And they open up documents that have been hidden away in a closet of shame for months or years. And they finish them. And press “submit.” And complete and submit their dissertations. And complete and submit their articles. And complete and submit their books. “I joined Unstuck last summer. Since then, I have submitted my book manuscript for review and submitted an article manuscript for review. Prior to that I was in a book revising funk for about a year. still tying up loose ends with the book and article but inching towards writing new material too. Most of all I have moved into the slow and steady wins the race philosophy thanks to Unstuck – without the feeling of panic or impending doom I once felt.” And ALL THIS WHILE KEEPING EVENINGS AND WEEKENDS FREE FOR FAMILY, FRIENDS, AND REST. This is not a joke. Unstuck means productivity with your evenings and weekends free. “I finally submitted my full dissertation to my committee! So grateful for all the support and the methods I learned with unstuck. I finally learned how to de dramatize writing and how to create a realistic – and surprisingly accurate – timeline to complete projects! Just one task at a time…” What I can say with complete confidence is Unstuck starts from the same core principle as all of The Professor Is In: telling the truth. In this case, the truth you learn to tell is about your own motivations and the stories that get in its way.
- Do you really want to write the thing? Why?
- Will you ever have the “5-hour blocks of unbroken writing time” that you continue to claim you will have (in the face of all evidence)?
- What unconscious negative thoughts do you associate with sitting down to write? What level of shame? Are you willing to let them go?
- How can you actually prioritize writing instead of just say you do?
- Where have you lied to yourself about your own productivity over the years, and how little do you now trust yourself?
If you are looking for a safe place to identify your roadblocks and learn from other people’s struggles, consider joining Unstuck. Our private social network is a safe, supportive place to say “I’m struggling,” without it affecting your tenure case, or how anybody responds to your dissertation.