Are school and spirituality irreconcilable?

Does spirituality go with school, specifically graduate school? School requires your intellect; spirituality requires surrendering your intellect. School lives on logic and realism; spirituality survives on faith.

I used to hold fiercely to these assumptions. Spirituality and school were completely contradictory, I thought, or at least separate.

Privately, I’ve often applied spirituality in my longtime academic practice coaching and advising doctoral candidates as they complete their dissertations. I forgive an ornery client, ask for guidance on a daunting project, let the right assuaging words flow through before a difficult meeting.

Why weave writing into your teaching?

This is the fourth and final article in a series on finding hidden and unexpected pockets of time to write within your tried-and-true teaching practices. By paying more attention to what we do when we teach, we can spend less time teaching and more time writing without sacrificing quality feedback. I’ve previously written about streamlining your student feedback and grading practices, without sacrificing pedagogical value, to create more time for your writing. In this final article, I will explore several ways to enlist student help in meeting your own writing goals while providing a role model as a scholar.

Impossible you say! “My academic writing has nothing to do with my teaching.” However, when you weave aspects of academic writing into classroom activities, both you and your students benefit.

Let’s look at some powerful classroom activities that will advance thinking and writing for teachers and students alike.

Tips for anxious writers: Analyze feedback

Dealing with feedback can be difficult. If you’ve had your work rejected, it is particularly difficult to use the feedback you received effectively. Anxiety naturally runs high in such cases, and it’s not that rare for a writer struggling with anxiety to avoid dealing with feedback. But it is crucial to use feedback effectively: the feedback we receive is the best guide to how to improve our work and get it accepted. In this post, I want to suggest a plan for dealing with feedback, along with some perspective that might help reduce some of the related anxiety.

Use your inner mentor for your academic project predicaments

Most of us probably had mentors in graduate school and may still keep in touch with them. But they may not be available every time we need their advice or guidance. Did you know? We have a mentor that’s always available, night and day, every season and semester, for every situation and circumstance.

The IM

This is your Inner Mentor (IM), also called your inner guide, self, voice, spirit, higher power, soul, subconscious, guidance system, intuition, even your heart or gut. It has more power than the dean of your school, your department or committee chair, or even the guy who issues your annual parking sticker.

Allowing our writing creative limbo

Whenever I start a new piece of writing, despite many such starts, I’m often gripped by panic. I still look forward to capturing a new idea on the page, but I freeze. Thinking hard, I finally saw why: it’s the feeling of unknowing.

Whether I’ve scribbled a handful of notes in a frenzy of inspiration or actually made an outline, that same itchy, unsteady, slightly nauseous feeling pervades. Not exactly illness or a full-blown block, it’s more of a nervous disquiet I can only describe as “creative limbo.” Doesn’t matter how often I’ve felt it or many pieces I’ve started and completed. It rears up.

Tips for anxious writers: Write for the right audience

One big cause of anxiety for a lot of writers is imagining the negative response of a potential reader.  This is a particularly potent anxiety trigger for people who have been harshly criticized for their writing in the past. A single harsh comment can emotionally resonate through years, adding to the emotional stress whenever memory of it pops into mind. Whether it was some authority figure of youth or a more recent cutting remark, such thoughts can really interfere with writing: not only do they trigger or amplify anxiety, they draw attention to the wrong aspects of your work. In a previous post, I discussed the difference between writing for practice (with no audience in mind) and writing for performance (with an audience in mind), and argued that you should write for practice to help reduce anxiety.