Thursday, April 14, 2016

This Blog, Mentoring, Mentoring Oneself, Coloring Books

In this blog I try to give suggestions for doing better as a scholar. The advice and suggestions are meant to be helpful rather than monitory, and lots won't apply to any single reader. I seem to be a good mentor (several such awards) and I have been around long enough to have seen just about every sort of pathology and nonsense, in the lives and work of graduate students to senior professors. 

I am surely subject to my own suggestions, even if it is easier to give than receive, even from oneself to oneself. I seem to have made just about every mistake in the book (see The Scholars Survival Manual), from graduate school on, but have been able to have a productive and interesting scholarly career nonetheless (9 books, lots of articles, my share of fellowships and grants, and a job!, and I continue to work) and bring up my son--it's a matter of taking what you have done already and making use of it, I guess. I have worked in several distinct scholarly areas, and for me they feed on each other.

 I rarely hear of something that is not just like previous cases.

PS  I don't receive much feedback, but I am pasting below one such response. It pushed me to write the above post

I am responding not to this email but to an email you sent a few weeks ago about writer's block... I wanted to let you know that it was EXTREMELY helpful to me as I working to complete my paper. I was suffering from severe writers block... I was frustrated and concerned that I might have to drop out of the program because I just... couldn't... get... anything valuable (I thought) out of me.  I fall into the overly critical of myself category, by the way...

Based on the suggestions from the article, I started to engage in more creative pursuits to help me get unstuck. I'm not very artsy so I started coloring in those adult coloring books to relax my mind and give me some free head space to think. At first I have to admit, it was weird  to be coloring when I SHOULD have been writing... but I would go into my home office and sit at my desk, open my computer, pull up my paper and color for a few hours, shut down and walk out... After about a week of this... I suddenly got an idea for my paper... So I wrote it down. Next thing I know I had been writing for 3 hours... It has been that way ever since. Sometimes I am quite prolific and have lots of ideas and write for hours, other times... I just color. Either way, the creative distraction is helping.

Now, just a few short weeks later, I write more than I color, but I keep the coloring book close at hand and color as a "break" during a writing session.

Thank you so much for all of your helpful advice. I think all doctoral students should get a coloring book at orientation. :)

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