Prepare to be inspired at TAA’s 2019 academic authoring conference!

It’s time to register, make your travel plans, and prepare to be inspired at TAA’s 32nd Annual Textbook & Academic Authoring Conference! The conference will be held June 14-15, 2019 at the beautiful Wyndham Hotel located in charming and historic Old City, Philadelphia.

TAA’s conference features sessions presented by veteran authors and industry experts who will share their knowledge, tips, and strategies to help you increase your publishing success. You will have opportunities for hands-on instruction, interactive Q&A, one-on-one mentoring, and peer learning on a wide range of authoring and publishing topics. [Read more…]

Crushing our creative guilt

creativityMany of us feel a strong calling to express our talents—in the academic and literary arts, music, dance, media, crafts, sciences, or any other field. In my profession of writing, almost every writer I know feels guilty for not writing enough, producing enough, and sending out enough pieces. But for “creatives,” as spiritual creativity guru Julia Cameron (1992, p. 33) labels us all, I’ve recognized another unproductive, thwarting, and possibly paradoxical self-recrimination.

Too Much Creation?

Preoccupied with pulverizing our blocks and eking out a few precious minutes to devote to our passion, we rarely speak about this type of guilt. It is this:

We feel guilty because we are creating.

Especially during our most prolific times, an insidiously rational voice whispers, “I’m spending too much time here. . . . I should be doing something more socially useful.”

In The Artist’s Way, Cameron (1992) calls this guilt the “virtue trap”:

We strive to be good, to be nice, to be helpful, to be unselfish. We want to be generous, of service, of the world. (p. 98)

For creative women especially, Cameron quotes Leslie M. McIntyre’s wry observation:

Nobody objects to a woman being a good writer or sculptor or geneticist if at the same time she manages to be a good wife, good mother, good-looking, good-tempered, well-groomed, and unaggressive. (p. 99)

Denying Ourselves

Do you experience such guilt-making constraints? Put everyone and everything else first? Give your time, energy, and attention to others and skimp on the same precious resources for yourself?

Such self-deprivation has steep prices. When we keep our drive to create bottled up, deny or ignore it, and deprive ourselves of even a little creative time, we stop creating at all. And we get depressed and sick, overeat, overspend, oversleep, overtube, and snap at everyone within mouthshot. But when we allow ourselves expression through our chosen mode of creative expression, we feel energized, hopeful, enthusiastic, healthy, even happy.

The Guilt of Honoring Ourselves

Unfortunately, as soon as we give ourselves time to create, others may react and fuel the guilt of honoring ourselves. One writer working on her textbook finally let her answering machine take over during her writing sessions. When she chose to pick up the phone, her best friend fumed, “Why are you hiding from me?”

As this writer found, whatever our passion, it’s hard to give to ourselves. We’re bucking the entire expected social order, attested by everyone we say No to.

I recall agonizing for weeks with a block the size of a giant cement slab. At last, carving out two evening hours for writing, I sat down. But all I could think of was the list of essentials missing from the refrigerator.

I picked up the phone and whined to a friend. “How can I sit here and scribble? I should be doing something useful, like being a decent homemaker—or a social worker!”

She laughed. “Do you know how valuable words are? Their power?”

Huh?

“Ever hear of the Hamlet, the Declaration of Independence, Maslow’s hierarchy?”

Her words about words cracked my block, and it shattered for good when I read this stirring description of writers by writers and therapists Rosenbaum and Rosenbaum (1982)—and it applies to every creative:

Visionaries, we predict the future . . . interpreting social trends, human nature, and historical patterns, punching holes in our readers’ complacency, revealing unpleasant truths, exposing possibilities and destroying our pretenses. (p. 93)

These words helped me get back to writing. But to truly rope and shoo out to pasture my guilty feelings, I needed to practice. The following four imperatives, applicable to any creative, helped me overcome creative guilt.

1 – Believe

Erroneously, we think our creative desires and dreams are frivolous, bad, ridiculous. Creating feels too good, and we tell ourselves we shouldn’t want the feelings. We’re wrong. Cameron (1992) declares, “Creativity is God’s gift to us. Using our creativity is our gift back to God. Our creative dreams and yearnings come from a divine source” (p. 3).

Motivational author Peter McWilliams (1994) directs us: “Your job is to fulfill your Dream” (p. 419).

Filmmaker, professor, and author Robert J. Escandon (n.d.) says, “Your dreams are a blueprint to what you should truly be doing. This is essentially your calling, or purpose, your destiny all fused into one” (para. 18).

So, dare to believe that your dream of creating is given to you—you only and specially.

2 – Accept

Know that your yearning is far from silly, meaningless, or groundless. Rather, recognize you can accomplish your dream. Of course, you may need training, practice, and experience, but the very strength of your aspirations means you’ll succeed.

If you’re questioning your calling and talent, don’t. A “deep desire,” says McWilliams (1994), “also comes with an inborn ability to achieve that desire” (p. 65).

3 – Decline

But we need mental vigilance to be true to ourselves. Every time our fledgling self-confidence peaks out, negatives swoop in like preying crows. To send them flapping, we need the discipline of declining.

Observe your thoughts for a minute or so. You’ll be amazed at how many carry pessimism and anticipation of the worst:

  • I’ll never become a real writer or scholar or professor (or painter, singer, dancer, hip hop musician, filmmaker, photographer, inventor, chef, wood carver . . . ).
  • I’ll never get published (or tenured, commissioned, called back, signed up, assigned, optioned . . . ).
  • I should have stayed in school to get another degree.
  • I’m really very selfish.

Such thoughts may feel natural, especially because most people think pessimistically. But a negative outlook is not natural, nor is a martyred resolve.

Nor is a putting-off mentality. Some of us live by the law of “Someday.” “Someday, I’ll make the junk room into a writing/research studio.” “Someday, when my oldest kid leaves, I’ll make her room into a darkroom.”  “Someday, when I retire, I’ll convert the guest bedroom into a workshop.”

Someday comes, all right, but that Someday room and time always get filled with more stuff, other “necessities,” a kid returning, an actual guest.

To stop the Someday chorus, with or without your equivalent, start thinking “I create now.” Writers, for example, work everywhere, especially today with laptops and smartphones—at the kitchen table, in the car, the library, the park, a café, a hotel lobby. Take an inventory of places for your private space—a garage, attic, basement, dormant workroom, rented studio, room in a collective.

A warning, though: As we saw above with the writer who dared to let her answering machine pick up, changing your behavior often provokes others’ shock, disappointment, hurt, anger, tears, or outrage. After all, they’ve always counted on you.

Your refusal, though, doesn’t mean you’ll never do anything for them again. It means that now you’re in charge of if, when, and how much to do. Set your limits, explain with kind firmness, and stick to your guns.

When you do, family and friends may become surprisingly understanding and secretly proud of your new self: “Oh, he’s a scholar. You know how they live in their minds, library carrels, and journals.”

Family and friends may also share startling admissions. One writer, working to coax her dissertation into an article, mustered the courage to tell her father she’d take him shopping only once a week instead of the longstanding four times for things he “forgot.” She said she needed the time to write.

He shook his head. “I wish I had your discipline. I’ve always wanted to develop my photography, but there were so many other things I thought I had to do.” Julia Cameron’s “virtue trap” is unisex.

4 – Declare

As you take the physical steps, bolster your new sense of deserving with affirmative declarations. Spend five quiet minutes daily, morning and evening, repeating affirmations:

  • I deserve to create (write, study, paint, carve, sculpt, compose, sing).
  • My creative desire is my gift to me.
  • No one stands in my way.
  • I don’t stand in my way.
  • I have enough time, money, energy, interest, and cooperation from everyone to create consistently.
  • Being a creative harms no one.
  • Being a creative makes me feel good and keeps me healthy.
  • The more I give to myself, the more others are blessed.

During your sessions, other similar words or phrases may float in. They’re your wiser Self talking to you. Listen and use them.

As you practice the principles and your affirmations, you’ll wrestle less with creating too little or too much. You’ll know deeply that you deserve to create in your chosen medium, enjoy it greatly, and profit rightly from it. Your creativity will flow and your deservingness and conviction in your gifts will strengthen. And you’ll perfectly crush your creative guilt.

References

Cameron, J. (1992). The artist’s way: A spiritual path to higher creativity. New York, NY: Tarcher/Putnam.

Escandon, R. J. (n.d.) 5 reasons why you should fulfill your dreams. Every Day Power. Retrieved from https://everydaypowerblog.com/

McWilliams, P. (1994). Do it! Let’s get off our buts. Los Angeles, CA: Prelude Press.

Rosenbaum, J., & Rosenbaum, V. (1982). The writer’s survival guide. Cincinnati, OH: Writer’s Digest Books.

© 2019 Noelle Sterne


Noelle SterneDissertation coach, nurturer, bolsterer, handholder, and editor; scholarly and mainstream writing consultant; author of writing craft, spiritual, and academic articles; and spiritual and motivational counselor, Noelle Sterne has published over 400 pieces in print and online venues, including Author Magazine, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Children’s Book Insider, Graduate Schools Magazine, GradShare, InnerSelf, Inspire Me Today, Transformation Magazine, Unity Magazine, Women in Higher Education, Women on Writing, Writer’s Digest, and The Writer. With a Ph.D. from Columbia University, Noelle has for 30 years helped doctoral candidates wrestle their dissertations to completion (finally). Based on her practice, her Challenges in Writing Your Dissertation: Coping with the Emotional, Interpersonal, and Spiritual Struggles (Rowman & Littlefield Education, September 2015) addresses students’ often overlooked or ignored but crucial nonacademic difficulties that can seriously prolong their agony. See the PowerPoint teaser here. In Noelle`s Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams (Unity Books, 2011), she draws examples from her academic consulting and other aspects of life to help readers release regrets and reach lifelong yearnings. Visit Noelle at www.trustyourlifenow.com


The views and opinions expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of the Textbook & Academic Authors Association. Read more about TAA guest posts here.

Most useful textbook and academic posts of the week: January 25, 2019

Write Without Fear Edit Without MercyIt’s hard to believe that we have reached the end of the last full week of January already! Hopefully this month has been filled with new beginnings, fresh resolve toward your goals, and advancements in your academic writing endeavors, but there’s a lot of 2019 still to come!

For those of you in the final semester (or deep in the throws) of writing your thesis or dissertation, Pat Thomson’s advice to “yodelayeehoo” may be useful this week – by the way, it’s also great advice at multiple stages of your writing career. For those looking at what else the rest of this year and beyond has in store, the rest of this week’s collection brings insight to that question. First, we celebrate continued advancements in open access. Then we explore tips for managing research, ways to build a social network in the field, and the future of scholarly communication. To close, we look forward by looking back to 1923 and the possibilities that await for the previously copyrighted works newly released into public domain.

As you head into the days ahead, remember to “Write without Fear; Edit without Mercy”. And, if you’re one who likes inspiring reminders like this in physical form, stickers are available for use on your computer, smartphone, or office door through the TAA store. Happy Writing! [Read more…]

Reflections on academic writing: Three insights

Janet in GilaWhat do I need to write now? What will I write next? Who is expecting what from me, when? What related tasks do I need to complete, such as finalizing figures or posting to social media? How many commitments can I fit into each busy day? These are some of the questions that usually percolate through my mind. In this December Abstract post I committed to take some time for reflection. Here is the story, and lessons learned.

It seemed essential to step away from my home office workspace. I did so by taking a two-week road trip through the American Southwest. Instead of looking at a computer monitor, a panorama of mountains and desert unfolded before me. [Read more…]

Five ways to build publishing success

Academics should be publishing and publishing often! That’s the conventional wisdom especially for those hoping to achieve tenure. And while everyone agrees a substantial writing portfolio is essential to a successful academic career, there are surprisingly few resources that provide guidance on how you go about doing it. Ryan Blocker is the Program Manager for Campus Workshops at The National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity (NCFDD). Through his regular work with faculty, he has compiled some concise recommendations for how to publish often and to ensure follow through on your writing projects.
[Read more…]

Finding the balance: Tailoring more time for writing by adjusting teaching practices

Finding short bits of time to write during the week is usually a challenge for busy faculty. Teaching expectations are often urgent and very important while writing time is important but, usually not urgent. Yet, by being more focused and intentional with our time, even our teaching time, we can tailor our teaching practice to be able to fit in much more writing time.

Here are four practices that we have honed over the years that have enabled us to carve significantly more time in our schedules to dedicate to our writing projects. [Read more…]

Early registration open for TAA’s 2019 Conference

Join us in Old City, Philadelphia for TAA’s 32nd Annual Textbook & Academic Authoring Conference. Early registration is now open!

TAA’s conference will be held on June 14-15 at the beautiful Wyndham Philadelphia Historic District Hotel. Located in the heart of Philadelphia’s Old City, the neighborhood known as America’s most historic square mile, rich with treasures of American heritage, the Wyndham hotel sits adjacent to the historic Christ Church and Burial Ground, one block off charming Market Street, and within easy walking distance to Independence Hall, Liberty Bell Center, and the Betsy Ross House. [Read more…]

The most useful textbook & academic posts of the week: November 9, 2018

"You can't think yourself out of a writing block; you have to write yourself out of a thinking block." ~John RogersJohn Rogers said, “You can’t think yourself out of a writing block; you have to write yourself out of a thinking block.” The ways in which we approach our academic writing impact the mindset that drives progress and success. In this week’s collection of articles from around the web, we have found several suggestions of ways to improve your writing practice that may just get you through your next “thinking block”.

First, we found examples of habits leading to writing productivity and satisfaction, and a connection between teaching, research, and writing. [Read more…]

Academic writers tackle social issues

Social IssuesWhether the discussion is about changes to our global climate or our cultural climate, the dominance of uninformed opinions can aggravate those of us who want to see the need for evidence derived from empirical research.

Academic writing for social good supports efforts for change to improve the well-being of people in our communities or around the world. While we might hope that all academic writing has potential to benefit society, the kinds of writing we are considering here have an intentional purpose. In a TAA webinar offered last year, Lynn Wilson and I discussed four ways that scholars and researchers can frame their writing. (View the recording here.) Let’s look at each one. [Read more…]

Three unmistakable signs you need to revise

revisionBetween bouts of hating what we write, we may secretly admire our creations. And we’re entitled to. But there’s a difference between these feelings and excessive love of our own words. Such love blinds us to editorial blunders, judicious cutting, and revision, and reduces the possibilities of publication. [Read more…]