"A meek endeavor to the triumph" by Sampath Jayarathna

Sunday, September 06, 2015

[Monday Motivator] Facing Resistance to Daily Writing - August 31, 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.

In last week's Monday Motivator, I encouraged you to consider blocking out at least 30 minutes every day for writing and suggested you treat your writing time with the same respect you would a meeting or a class. As always, those two seemingly simple suggestions resulted in my phone ringing off the hook and my inbox overflowing!

The outpouring of response only re-affirmed my belief that daily writing is difficult because what seems like a simple act -- sitting down to write for 30 minutes every day -- brings forth all of our "stuff" (whatever that "stuff" may be). This past week alone, daily writing brought out fears of success, fears of failure, debilitating perfectionism, inner-critics on steroids, rage over institutional inequalities, and painful ambivalence about whether (or not) some of us want to be academics.

Today, I want to acknowledge that daily writing can be incredibly difficult and resistance is to be expected. Anytime we try to make a change in our behavior, we are guaranteed to face resistance which most frequently manifests as procrastination, avoidance and/or denial. That resistance is perfectly normal, practically universal, and you are not alone in your fears, anxieties, and time constraints. If you struggled to write every day last week, that's okay. This is a new week and a new opportunity to enter into open and honest conversation with your resistance.

Some of us experience resistance as a loss of energy that leads us to give up on daily writing. Then later, we feel guilty about breaking yet another promise to ourselves. Let's take a totally different approach to our resistance this week by acknowledging it, being curious about it, figuring it out, naming it, and then sneaking around it. In the process, let's also be gentle with ourselves because guilt, shame and self-criticism aren't useful and they aren't going to help any of us write, publish and/or be productive scholars.

This is a new week, so when you experience resistance, I suggest you try three things. First, acknowledge that you're feeling resistance and name it. Even if it's only identifying the feeling ("I just don't wanna write today!") or the behavior ("I must check Facebook before I start writing!") that's keeping you from writing. That's a great start. Second, find the smallest amount of time you can stand for daily writing and show up. If you can write for 5 minutes every day this week, that's a success. If all you can do in that 5 minutes is physically pick up your manuscript and walk around your office snuggling it, that's progress! Third, in that small amount of time, re-connect with what you love about your project. You may hate 30 different things about it, but for now try remembering what you love about it. Doing just a little something and loving it will help you tiptoe around your resistance, the energy and connection will return, and you will be moving forward on the pathway to establishing a healthy and sustainable writing routine.

The Weekly Challenge
This week, I challenge you to do the following:
  • If you haven't created a semester plan yet, do so now. If you need motivation, go ahead and listen to our Every Semester Needs a Plan core curriculum webinar and check out sample semester plans.
  • Re-commit to your writing time this week.
  • Block your writing time out of your calendar.
  • If you don't have a calendar, try google calendar or go buy a simple and cheap one ASAP!
  • If you experience resistance, acknowledge and name it.
  • If you're struggling, reduce your time to the smallest amount you can actually stand, then set a timer, and get started.
  • Remember what you LOVE about your work.
  • If you don't love anything about your manuscript, gently and lovingly ask yourself: why am I doing this?
I hope this week brings you the curiosity to engage in conversation with your resistance and a deep reconnection with what you love about your current writing project.

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