Earlier this month, I taught the last class of a 3-month online course for women professors called The Feminar. Over Skype, I asked each woman in the class to talk about the greatest lesson the class had to teach. Each one replied with a different version of the same answer: “I learned to walk my own way.”
It is the time between late spring and early summer. A male cardinal crunches on sunflower seeds at the feeder, the leaves on the tall trees along the creek behind my house are bright green, and purple martins dip and sway high in the sky that is the blue color of my Irish grandmother’s eyes.
All of life—nature, animals, weather, plants and people—have their cycles and their seasons. When we learn to embrace this instead of fighting it, denying it, or running from it, then we can learn to live in balance and beauty.
Here we are at the end of the academic calendar—and this is a great time to learn how to go to the center of the labyrinth, find wisdom, and come back out again.
I recently completed my third successful Kickstarter campaign to help promote my new book, Earth Joy Writing: Creating Harmony through Journaling and Nature, which will be released on Earth Day, April 22nd.
As we enter the season of spring and its principle of opening this month, let’s begin by using our ears, which are always open, to go beyond hearing those internal stories into listening to the larger world.
As a writing coach who works with academics, one of the stumbling blocks my clients come up against at a certain point in their career is what I call “path block.” This usually happens, ironically, after a big success: finishing the dissertation, getting a new job, or having a book published.
I understand this block and I have experienced it myself. Nature even gave me a literal experience of this block one day many years ago when I was walking in the woods behind my house and the briars and brambles around me stopped me in my tracks. I thought to myself, “It would be so much easier if I had a path.” I looked down and there on the ground was a hawk feather. I picked it up and realized I must make my own path.
I grew up in an academic family. When we would gather around the table at holidays, everyone but my bipolar aunt had a Ph.D. My ex-husband once told me he felt I needed to get a Ph.D. to be considered a grown-up by my family. So I know the culture. I am fluent in tenure and promotion, refereed articles and revise-and-resubmit, and the heaven and hell of the sabbatical and adjunct worlds.
As a creative writer and scholar who specializes in teaching mindfulness and writing as ways of dealing with chronic stress and healing from trauma, I bring my expertise in stress-reduction together with my personal experience of what it means to “be an academic.” I want to share with you some insights about the three biggest mistakes I see academic writers making.