"A meek endeavor to the triumph" by Sampath Jayarathna

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

[Monday Motivator] Why Aren't You Writing? - June 1, 2015

This is an excerpt from the Monday Motivator Program of Center for Faculty Development and Diversity. Please find the original document here. The National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity is an independent professional development, training, and mentoring community of over 71,000 graduate students, post-docs, and faculty members.

I met a faculty member several years ago at a conference (I’ll call her Claire) who wanted advice about writing. Our conversation began like many I’ve had recently, with tears in response to a negative and critical annual review. Claire is a brilliant social scientist, incredibly hard-working, and passionately committed to her scholarship, her institution, and her students. While Claire is an award-winning teacher, and far exceeded her college’s service expectations, her publication record was significantly below her department’s standards. Her chair was clear that her lack of publications was problematic and she left the meeting feeling an almost desperate sense of urgency to move several manuscripts forward this summer.

Of course, I suggested she make a summer plan and join a writing group that would motivate and support her throughout the summer. Last week, when I was writing about resistance to writing I couldn’t help but think of Claire, so I reached out to see how she was progressing. Unfortunately, she had done very little writing. When I asked Claire what was holding her back, she had difficulty identifying anything specific. She readily acknowledged having more free time and fewer responsibilities than she did during the academic year. But despite knowing that this was an important summer for her to be productive and having a general sense that she should try to write every day, somehow her days kept flying by without any progress on her manuscripts.

I think there are lots of Claires out there. For me, she typifies both the most common and the most basic type of resistance: when you have a vague sense that you SHOULD be writing and you NEED to write (in order to finish your dissertation, get a job, win tenure, be promoted to Full Professor, etc.) but you’re not putting conscious, direct, and intense energy into the actual act of writing. As a result, lots of other work gets completed and other people’s needs get met, but at the end of the day your manuscript is left untouched. This type of resistance is grounded in relatively simple technical errors that academic writers frequently make. The good news is that this type of resistance is the easiest to resolve because a few simple tips and tricks will get your fingers to your keyboard (or pen to page).

What’s Holding You Back?
If Claire’s story sounds familiar, then I want to encourage you to reflect on your writing habits and gently ask yourself: What’s holding me back from developing a daily writing routine? I like to start with people’s writing habits first, and then move down into the psychological blocks (I’ll be tackling those one by one for the rest of the summer). For this week, I want you to focus on your writing behaviors. Maybe you haven’t set aside a specific time for your research and writing, or you’ve set aside the wrong time to write, or maybe you just have no clue how much time particular writing tasks take so you consistently underestimate the amount of time that writing requires. Maybe you imagine you have to do everything yourself and therefore very little gets done. Maybe the tasks you’ve set out for your writing time are too complex, so when you sit down to write you’re spending all your energy trying to figure out what exactly you’re supposed to be doing (instead of actually doing it). Maybe you don’t know what you need to do, or you knew but you forgot because you think planning and list-making are for anal retentive people and you’re more of a creative type. Or maybe your space is just so disorganized that you keep spending your writing time looking for things you need on your hard drive, in your files, or in your office.

Claire was committing all of these technical errors! Like Claire, many early-career academic writers remain steeped in writing habits that were formed when they were undergraduates. Because student writing is largely driven by external deadlines, few of us developed consistent writing practices, and instead, we end up waiting until shortly before a deadline, engaging in multi-day writing binges, and then avoiding writing again until we face another external deadline. This week, I want to encourage you to observe your current writing behaviors for these common technical errors. If you identify one of them, consider trying one of the following strategies:

Error 1: You haven’t set aside a specific time for your research.
Block out at least 30 minutes in your calendar each day, Monday through Friday, and show up at the appointed time. Treat it with the same level of respect you would a meeting with someone else (start on time, end on time, turn your phone off, and only reschedule for an emergency).

Error 2: You’ve set aside the wrong time for writing.
Too many people treat their writing as an activity they "hope" to have time for at the end of the day, after everyone else's needs have been met. If writing is the most important factor to your long-term success as a scholar, it should be given your best time of your day. If you’re just starting to develop a daily writing routine, try writing first thing in the morning (even if you’re not a morning person).

Error 3: You have no idea how long writing tasks take.
The most common complaint I hear from academic writers is that everything takes far longer than expected. Keep track of your time, particularly for repetitive tasks. This will not only give you an accurate assessment of how long writing a proposal, constructing a table, or reviewing the literature actually takes, but it will also help you to set realistic expectations for the future.

Error 4: You think you have to do everything yourself.
Ask yourself what tasks must be done by you and what tasks can be delegated to other people. Often there are many writing and research related tasks that can be delegated or outsourced to others (checking citations, proof-reading, editing, etc.). Don’t use "I don’t have a research fund or research assistants" as a reason for doing everything yourself. Sites likeUpWork.com and Elance.com can provide quick and incredibly inexpensive assistance on a wide variety of tasks.

Error 5: The tasks you have set out are too complex.
Take a piece of paper and pencil and map out whatever it is you need to do. When I feel overwhelmed by a big task, I write the big-overwhelming-thing on the right side of the paper and a stick figure (me) on the left side. Then I work my way backwards from the overwhelming thing to myself by asking: What are the steps that need to be accomplished to complete this?I keep breaking it down into smaller and smaller steps until I’ve reached the tasks I can do today. It will also help you to uncover if there are aspects of a project that you don’t know how to do, so you can pinpoint areas where you will need to seek assistance.

Error 6: You can’t remember what you have to do.
Make a list. Get all of the things you need to do out of your head and onto a piece of paper in one place. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, electronic, or synced with some gadget or gizmo. A note card, post-it note, or your paper planner will do fine to capture all of your to-do tasks. Start the week with a 30 minute planning meeting where you determine what needs to be done for the week and place each of those items in a specific time block in your calendar. If they don’t all fit (and they won’t), then figure it out how to delegate, delete, or renegotiate the deadlines on the least important items.

Error 7: Your space is disorganized.
Set aside time to organize your writing space in a simple and easily maintainable manner. I recommend Julie Morgenstern’s Organizing from the Inside Out. It’s a quick read and will help you to develop a simple and sustainable way to organize your office. If you find yourself working on multiple computers and can’t keep your electronic files straight, consider ways that you can either access your other computers when you’re away from them (GoToMyPC) or keep all your computers automatically synced (www.dropbox.com).

Each of the strategies will be super-charged by attaching support and accountability. For example, daily writing is easier when you have a writing buddy or accountability partner. Organizing your office doesn’t have to be drudgery or a solitary task: partner up with another disorganized colleague and help each other. Or better yet, find a highly organized person (they often love to organize others) and offer to exchange their organizing skills with some skill that you have in abundance. And as always, there are tons of professionals who are happy to nag,coach, edit and/or organize you if you have more money than time. Once you learn and implement a few new writing strategies, you will either be off to the races with your writing, or your resistance will resurface in new and more frightening ways (more on that next week).

The Weekly Challenge
This week, I challenge you to:
  • Write every day for at least 30 minutes
  • Identify what (if any) technical errors are holding you back from writing each day
  • Experiment by trying one new strategy this week
  • If you feel reactive to trying new strategies to increase your writing time, ask yourself: what beliefs are keeping you from experimentation?
  • If additional resistance emerges, welcome it with curiosity, engage it in conversation, and identify the behaviors and the feelings associated with it (you may even want to keep a resistance log).
I hope this week brings you a spirit of curiosity about your writing habits, a willingness to try new techniques, and the increased engagement that comes with spending time each day with your summer writing project.

[Monday Motivator] Meet Your Bodyguard - May 25, 2015

This is an excerpt from the Monday Motivator Program of Center for Faculty Development and Diversity. Please find the original document here. The National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity is an independent professional development, training, and mentoring community of over 71,000 graduate students, post-docs, and faculty members.

This summer, I'm dedicated to walking alongside all of you who are tackling big writing projects, trying to establish new writing routines, and needing to experience explosive productivity. If you’ve been following this column so far, you have a clear summer plan that you’ve discussed with your mentors and you have created some form of writing support and accountability. By now, you’re very likely facing a new challenge: the intense difficulty of actually writing every day. Unlike the academic year, when we can attribute any lack of daily progress to teaching and service, summer lays bare the reality that daily writing brings up all of our stuff. This week, I want to describe what happens to many people when they engage in daily writing and give that "stuff" a name and a face.

Identify Your Resistance
It's an odd situation, isn’t it? You’ve been waiting all year for the summer so you can have the time, space and energy for your writing. You've been fantasizing and yearning for three months of quiet and solitude so you can finally finish your Big Unfinished Project. You planned to write every day and maybe even imagined losing track of time while immersed in your writing projects. And yet, when you actually sit down to write, all of a sudden you experience an unquenchable desire to ____________ (fold your laundry, check your e-mail, organize your pens), or you suddenly realize you need to read one more ______ (book, article, report) before you can start writing, or _________ (insert seemingly urgent crisis) appears and distracts you, or maybe you find yourself gazing out the window and realize that life is too __________ (short, painful, unpredictable) to spend a sunny day inside writing. In short, procrastination, avoidance, and denial arise to distract and derail you.

Why is it that we so often find ourselves wanting to write, but then end up not writing at all?Most academic writers I know genuinely want to share their ideas and findings, and also need to complete writing projects in order to finish their degree, get a job, and/or obtain tenure. And yet, whenever we put our butt in a chair to write, along comes our resistance! Barbara Sher describes resistance (when you want to do something, but you just can’t seem to do it) as an innately human defense mechanism that is uniquely designed to protect us from doing anything dangerous. In other words, our resistance is like an internal bodyguard that rises up to keep us from any risky situation.

Having an internal bodyguard is mostly a good thing! On one hand, it keeps us from engaging in potentially harmful activities. On the other hand, our inner-bodyguard can't tell the difference between physical danger and emotional danger so he gets activated whether we are standing at the edge of a cliff or sitting down to write a book. Both feel dangerous and raise anxiety. In response, our bodyguard leaps into action to stop us from engaging in this activity in the form of procrastination, avoidance, and/or denial. He will do whatever it takes to stop us from jumping off that cliff, or engaging in what feels (for many of us) like an equally dangerous act: the production of knowledge.

Fear Drives Resistance
Wherever there's resistance, there's fear underneath it. So it might be helpful to ask yourself:When I sit in front of the computer to write, what fears emerge? It may be fear of success, fear of failure, fear of being publicly judged, fear of not being good enough, fear of being revealed as an impostor, fear of speaking truth to power, or fear that writing about other people’s pain will trigger your own. There’s no need to analyze or judge these fears, just to identify them, because knowing what you’re afraid of will help you to design strategies to maneuver around them.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to go into greater depth about the different types of resistance that are common among academic writers for the purpose of suggesting a broad array of tips, tricks, and strategies you can use whenever your bodyguard shows up for duty. If you keep in mind that he can't quite tell the difference between real and perceived danger and that he genuinely wants to do his job of protecting you, then you will quickly realize that the trick to sneaking around your resistance is to keep your inner bodyguard in a nice, comfortable, and relaxed state. For this week, it’s enough to imagine your resistance as a big bodyguard that's always ready to protect you, identify when he’s present and what he’s up to, and then look him in the eye, shake hands, and get acquainted.

Personally, I love the idea that my resistance is really my very own built-in bodyguard at work! First of all, it brings me a sense of compassion and understanding towards the procrastination, avoidance, and denial I experience when I sit down to write every morning. Each time I feel an irresistible urge to check Facebook, a sense I can’t write until I color-code my sock drawer, or suddenly imagine my current writing would be better if I read someone else’s book first, I can recognize that resistance as my bodyguard at work. Secondly, it frees me from the debilitating idea that if I could just fix one of my many personal flaws, then I would be free of any resistance to writing. There’s no sense in believing that if only I were more disciplined, more motivated, and more focused, writing would be quick, easy and enjoyable. That’s just not how it works. And finally, it's helpful to me to understand that my resistance is ALWAYS going to be with me, because it's part of my human packaging.

The Weekly Challenge
This week, I challenge you to:
  • Write every day (Monday through Friday) for 30-60 minutes.
  • Notice what happens when you sit down to write.
  • Consider what it would be like to understand your procrastination, avoidance and denial as protective impulses.
  • If you can’t seem to start writing, gently ask yourself: What am I afraid of?
  • Identify all the ways your resistance manifests this week without judgment, shame or self-recrimination.
I hope this week brings you the willingness to identify your resistance as it occurs, a spirit of openness toward new ways of understanding your procrastination and avoidance behaviors, and a sense of compassion toward yourself in the process.

Friday, July 17, 2015

[tutorial] How to setup Virtual Host using WAMP

In order to run PHP on your local Windows computer, you need to install a server stack - either WAMP orXAMPP. Either will do, but for the purposes of this tutorial we're going to stick with WAMP.

If you have your php project in another directory, this tutorial will help you to setup virtual directory in WAMP to point to your php project directory. As an example, if you have your php project under eclipse directory, you need to enable virtual host in Apache configuration to run your code from the eclipse codebase.

Now, you could just do a basic install of WAMP and be on your way (using wamp\www to keep all your php files), but being restricted to just one directory in an obscure location on your computer is awfully limiting, especially if you're working on multiple projects at a time using other IDEs. That's where virtual hosts come in. By configuring virtual hosts on your WAMP server, you'll be able to run as many separate sites as you want, from any location you want.

This tutorial should work for machines running either Vista or Windows 7.



Download and install WAMP, then start the program. Pick a location on your computer where you want to set up your virtual hosts, like "C:/Users/Sampath/git/my-project". We're just going to work with one folder for now, but when we're finished you can set up virtual hosts in as many directories as you want.
As a sanity test, create a basic index.php file with some text ("Hello World!") and place it in the "My Site" folder. When we're finished, you'll know you've done it right when you can view your page in a browser using your virtual host's URL.


Go to "C:/Windows/System32/drivers/etc" and open the "hosts" file in Notepad. For Windows 7, open the properties and remove read-only option before you open it in Notepad. Also you can Right-click on Notepad and select "run as administrator". Then select File>Open and at the bottom right of the dialog box, select "All Files" from the dropdown instead of "Text Documents (*.txt)":

Then navigate to "C:/Windows/System32/drivers/etc" and open the "hosts" file.


At the bottom of the hosts file, below all the other text, add a new line with the following:        mysite.localhost               #My Test Site
:: 1

"mysite.localhost" is the domain name that will be used for your local site. You can name this whatever you want, like "johnnyfooball.tamu" or whatever. "#My Test Site" is simply a comment to help identify the site, which will be helpful once you start stacking up a lot of virtual hosts. Again, you can put whatever you want here, just don't forget the hashtag (#) beforehand, which is what makes it a comment.

Save the file.


Open "C:\wamp\bin\apache\apache2.4.9\conf" (your Apache version number may be different)

Just to mess with your head, there are 2 files - one called "httpd.conf", and one called "httpd.conf.build":

Open "httpd.conf".


At line 467, under "# Virtual hosts", un-comment (remove the hashtag [#]) before the line "Include conf/extra/httpd-vhosts.conf":

This tells Apache to include the file "httpd-vhosts.conf" (the file where we set our virtual hosts) when configuring its settings.


Go to "C:\wamp\bin\apache\apache2.4.9\conf\extra" and open the file "httpd.vhosts.conf". It should look like this:


We need to give Apache permission to look in our "Projects" folder for websites. Remove any dummy virtual host examples in the file. At the bottom of the page, below all the other text, add the following:

<VirtualHost *:80> 
            DocumentRoot "c:/wamp/www"
            ServerName localhost
            ServerAlias localhost
            ErrorLog "logs/localhost-error.log"
            CustomLog "logs/localhost-access.log" common 

            <Directory "c:/wamp/www">
                      AllowOverride All
                      Options Indexes FollowSymLinks
                      Require local 


<VirtualHost *:80> 
             DocumentRoot "C:/Users/Sampath/git/my-project" 
             ServerName   mysite.localhost
             <Directory C:/Users/Sampath/git/my-prject/>
                        AllowOverride All 

                        Options Indexes FollowSymLinks
                        Require local


The DocumentRoot should be the path to the folder where your site lives, and the ServerName should match the domain you entered in your hosts file in Step 3.

Important: The DocumentRoot must be inside the directory that you gave Apache permission to access in Step 7. Also the "/" at the end of   <Directory C:/Users/Sampath/git/my-prject/>  is important. See the difference in DocumentRoot and Document. There is no "/" at the end of DocumentRoot.

Save the file.


Click on the green WAMP icon in your toolbar and select "Restart all Services", then wait for the icon to turn back to green.


Open your browser and navigate to "mysite.localhost", or whatever your domain name is. You should see the test page you created in Step 1. 

STEP 10*

*Optional. Enjoy. Run around and scream "Eureka!!!"

Thanks to https://www.kristengrote.com/blog/articles/how-to-set-up-virtual-hosts-using-wamp for the original version of this tutorial.