An Exercise in Self Love: Turning Away from the Inner Critic and Leaning in to the Inner Best Friend

Awhile back I listened to a From the Heart podcast episode (The Inner Critic [part 1 & part]) which inspired this reflection.

Prompt: Write an open letter to yourself. Write your heart out to yourself.

An open letter to me, Jessie:

You should be proud of yourself. You have come a really long way in one year. Have you realized that? You’ve tackled a lot of things that you hoped to tackle – you met a lot of goals you’d been setting for years, and you even proved your inner critic WRONG. Let’s give that inner critic the middle finger in this letter and continue to prove him wrong!

YOU’VE BUILT DAILY HABITS. Remember that dick inner critic telling you (and encouraging you to tell others) that you could never do something every single day? That every time you tried to start a habit you always failed? That you were too weak, lazy, and undisciplined to ever conquer something as simple as starting your morning the same way every day. Well HOTDAMN, girlfriend, you discredited the shit out of that!
1) You started by making your bed – EVERY DAY. This felt super good and you taught yourself that you absolutely can do something every day. You CAN build habits.
2) YOU STARTED A MORNING ROUTINE – with meditation, coffee, and planning your day ALMOST EVERY DAY FOR SEVERAL MONTHS now. Wow – I’m so proud. I hope you are too.

YOU HAVE WRITTEN, READ, AND MEDITATED MORE THAN EVER. Remember when you wanted to read more, dreamt of the days of finishing a manuscript, and felt like an imposter when you talked to people about meditation? Well you’re DOING all of it! You’re writing, you’re reading, you’re thinking, you’re MAKING WAVES BABE.

Best of all:

YOU HAVE CHOSEN LOVE THROUGHOUT THE PROCESS AND NOT LOST SIGHT OF SELF CARE. You still get regular good quality sleep (most nights). I mean you’re a graduate student sleeping eight hours MOST nights. That’s something to be PROUD (not ashamed) of. You’re still doing (AND TEACHING) yoga. And ON TOP OF THAT you even go to the gym! I mean this is pretty fucking amazing considering all the shit you handle every day. Remember how tough things were a couple years ago? Looking for any way to stay in bed, not leave the house, because you DIDN’T FEEL WORTHY? You are SO WORTHY. And you are doing SO GOOD. You are a kinder, more patient, more aware, more attentive person. And I imagine it feels really good to be you – IT SHOULD FEEL GOOD TO BE YOU. YOU ARE A BOSS ASS BITCH! 

Now, carry on with your day. Watch out for my evil twin – the Mr. A-Hole inner critic. When you see him, go ahead and say a kind hi (because that’s the kind of thing you do), but give him the middle finger for me.

Love you girlfriend,
Your Inner Best Friend

Keep grindin’ friends (but don’t forget to channel your inner best friend)!


Know Thyself: The Ultimate Lesson from a Writing Retreat

Hello again, all!

In my last post I shared about some of the tools I use for writing. I also shared a little bit about how these tools have helped me to learn more about my writing habits and also in examining why I think/feel/act the way I do when it comes to daunting task of writing. People who write about habit change or change in general talk a lot about insight – about how in order to change something you have to be aware of what is actually going on. Changing something that you don’t understand typically doesn’t yield good results (we know this from our research training, too! We’d never go off manipulating variables without understanding what we’re changing, right?)

I attended a breakout session at the Writing Retreat that was a game changer. The professor leading the session is a BOSS and gave incredible advice for building long-lasting writing habits and I picked up so many tidbits for writing improvements (shout out to Dr. Stacey Waite for sharing your genius methods!).

The overarching piece of advice I took from the session was this:
Know Yourself and Your Writing Will Improve.

Easier said than done, right? Well, actually there are a lot of ways to get to know your writing self. Here are some of the ways we can do this.

First, examine the stories or myths you tell yourself about writing.

I shared a little bit in my post on writing trackers how I have a TON of these stories about writing. As with any other situation that is anxiety-provoking, writing can provoke our inner critic (or inner asshole/IA as Jen Pastiloff says) resulting in a shit-storm of stories about ourselves and writing.

Here is a selection of some my inner narratives about writing:
1. I can only write at night.
2. I can only write when I’ve had coffee.
3. I can’t write at home.
4. I should only write when I want to (rebel tendency coming out there)
4. I can only write at coffee shops.
5. I can only write if I have more than two hours open.
6. I will catch up on writing this weekend/summer/winter break.
7. I don’t know how to write.
8. Writing is too difficult and my work will never get accepted anyway, so why try?
9. I wish I didn’t have to write.
10. I can only write when I’m inspired.
11. I will write better if I watch a little Netflix/read a few pages of this book/meditate/cook dinner/plan my week/research alternate careers first.
12. I can’t write. It’s too hard.

Wowza. And that’s just a selection of them. Once you have taken a little inventory of what your stories are around writing, I would take the next step.

Next, dig into this further using the questions below.

Take out a piece of paper (or turn your word doc orientation to landscape) and divide the paper into six columns. Then put the following short questions into each column kinda like this:

What? When? Where? Who? Why? How?

(short for:
What do you write?
When do you write best?
Where do you write best?
Who do you write best with?
Why do you write?
and How do you write best?)

Mine looked a little like this:

During this exercise I remembering thinking things like, “Oh yeah – these are all pretty accurate! I know myself pretty well!” I mean I have been fighting with my writing since day one of grad school FIVE YEARS AGO so it probably feels like I know a lot of things. But once I looked further into these statements – they really seemed more like impressions, preferences, or worse – EXCUSES.

These questions can reveal how many ways we try to talk ourselves out of writing. Probably because WRITING IS HARD.

Anyway, the professor’s next bit of advice was to take some of these “I write best when/with/at ____” statements and devise an experiment to test them. (HERE’S WHERE OUR RESEARCH TRAINING COMES IN HANDY!)

For example, I decided to experiment with one of the statements at the core of my identity as a night owl – “I write best at night, the later the better.” This writing retreat happened to be occurring for a full week starting right at 9:00am each day. So, after this talk I challenged myself (attempting to do so with an open mind) to an experiment – is it REALLY true that I can’t write in the morning? That nights are BEST?
Well, no. It wasn’t true. I was completely able to write in the morning. This experiment taught me a lot of things that worked well in the morning (I got less distracted with emails and other tasks since I knew I had the REST of the day to deal with those things; I felt less anxious throughout the day since my writing was done FIRST; and it provided me with evidence that I COULD write in the morning).

Dr. Waite’s essential tip included challenging as many of these tips to an experiment to see what ARE true statements for you. For me, I DO write best when I have at least two hours, when I can see outside (by a window or with a window in sight), when I’m the right temperature (now I bring sweaters, blankets, and extra socks to the coffee shop), and when I’m not at home.

Have you attended a writing retreat? What have you learned? How do you write best? I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment, go follow my page on instagram (@thegradschoolgrind), message me on the contact page, or shoot me an email at

In the meantime, I’ll be writing away in the stacks. Keep grindin’!


How to Track Your Time to Meet Your Writing Goals

Happy July, readers!

I have found myself having the inevitable gripey conversation with colleagues and friends about how summer has already shockingly FLOWN by. Why is it that time always speeds up when we have more time and flexibility to get our work done?

I hope my prior post on the How to Write a Lot book encouraged at least one person out there to inspect their writing habits like the grad school detective I know you are!

Despite this jump in the speed of time, my writing this summer has been going good-er than most summers of my graduate career. I attribute a lot of this to the habits that were kickstarted by the on-campus writing retreat I attended in early May that helped me to reflect on my behaviors, thoughts, and emotions (hey-o #CBTinreallife) related to writing. I attended this same retreat last summer but at that point my writing habits were pretty inconsistent and fraught with feelings of anxiety, overwhelm, and confusion. Now, let’s not get it twisted – I still have plenty of messiness all tied up in my writing habits, but I’ve gotten a lot better!

One part of the How to Write a Lot book that has kept me on track with writing is consistently tracking my writing. At first read, Silvi’s description of keeping an excel DATABASE with his writing session “data” made me internally eye roll HARD. But, of course, the thing that sounded the dumbest/most ridiculous ended up being the most important tool for me (UGH LIFE WHY YOU GOTTA BE SO RUDE?).

Thus, I want to spend today talking about

Before we jump in, a little background on why keeping a record of my writing sessions has been so crucial for me:

1. They reveal point-blank that my inner narratives about writing are mostly false. At any given moment, I guarantee that I’m telling myself all sorts of stories about how introspective I am and how I know myself very well. (E.g., I don’t need to track my writing, I know it in my gut when I’m on track and when I’m not.; Tracking my writing is too uptight and will backfire – it will make me want to write even less; It’s ridiculous to add another task to writing, I’ll end up only spending time tracking and no writing) – spoiler these are all false stories.
2. They hold me accountable without room for excuses. I am pretty good at the whole work-life balance thing in general but sometimes I get super caught up in the life side of that balance. In my first few years of grad school I would sit down to write and be SHOCKED that I had no idea where to start or where I left off because 1) it felt like I had written last week when really it was sometime last month and 2) I had no notes on what I did the last time I wrote something. When I look at my trackers I easily see that wow, I said I’d write 5 times this week or 20 times this month and I haven’t touched a writing project in 10 days, OR helps me to see when I am on track which is naturally reinforcing.
3. To re-iterate a prior point, the trackers SAVE TIME. I no longer spend one hour digging through the most recent draft of a paper to figure out where I left off. I spend less time fucking off (since my pomodoro tracker reveals even further how much/little I can get done in 25 minute increments) and can easily see in numbers when I’m wasting time. When I sit down to write, I mostly spend that time writing.
4. Best of all, the trackers decrease my anxiety around writing. Not feeling like a flounder each time I start writing helps me to feel like I have a little more of an idea of what I’m doing. Even better, seeing when I AM on track helps me to counter the impostor syndrome that I will never be a real researcher.

So what does this writing tracking business look like?

I use three different documents to track my writing:
1. Writing Tracker Word Document
2. Writing Excel Database
3. Pomodoro Block Tracker

Each time I sit down to write, I open up all three of these documents to set up my session. Here’s how I use each one.

First up: The Writing Tracker Word Doc.

Image of my Online Writing Tracker Word Document

I use this (extremely large and lengthy) word document as my virtual notebook for writing sessions. Each session I create a new section of the document and note:

1. Date
2. Total minutes (to be filled in at the end of the session)
3. Goals for today

In the goals for today session I usually list the different writing projects I’m working on that day. Underneath each project I make a short list of tasks I would like to tackle. These serve as a to-do list but also serve as my place for making comments on what comes up while writing.

This is my most important writing document. It has saved me so many times when I don’t remember what approach I took to writing a section, where I left off, or what the hell I was thinking when I decided to take a certain direction in a paper. Since it is a running document, I can look back at any prior writing session to see what I was doing/thinking.

Last thing about this document: I keep this in my Dropbox and edit it exclusively online using the Microsoft Word Online feature so that I never have to download/re-upload,etc. and risk not having something saved in there. I often work from different offices, work stations, and computers so this has been essential for me.

Next: The Writing Excel Database.

Image of my online writing excel database

I use this file to simply track the “data” from my writing sessions. I don’t keep notes in here, only track the where/when/what/how much information inside (the location column is hidden in this snapshot, but I also note where I am writing each session). This file is my ULTIMATE accountability partner. As you can see from this snap shot, I can EASILY see when months are totally lacking in writing sessions and when others are looking pretty good. I’ve also used this file to examine my writing habits during certain times of the year, month, and week as well as which locations I tend to frequent. (More on examining your writing habits using experiments soon!) This snapshot is the first tab of the database.

The snapshot below shows the second tab of the database.

Image of my online excel writing database

I added this second tab as a way of summarizing my number of writing times per month last year (2018). Based on my writing days last year, I set a 2019 goal for writing days and this is how I keep track of my progress. I also try to challenge myself to do better than the prior years’ performance which helps to motivate me. If you recall from my prior post on The Four Tendencies applied to writing, I don’t respond well to inner or outer expectations very well so this is a sort-of-external but not-actual-person source of accountability for me and it works beautifully.

Last up: The Pomodoro Block Tracker.

I just added this document to my writing routine during the writing retreat I attended in May. I know, I know, THREE documents to use as trackers seems like a lot. And it might be too much for you! I truly think that part of tackling your writing is figuring out what works for you (which I’m going to cover more in my next post). If one of these documents (or zero) is enough to help you meet your goals, rad!

The Pomodoro Block Tracker fit a hole in my writing routine I didn’t know existed until I started using it. This document was distributed to everyone who attended the writing retreat (I did not invent this method), so I decided to try it out. Basically, the document has you identify a “big abstract” goal you want to meet. Then, it’s broken into several sections, each one representing one Pomodoro round (25 minute work block) and a break block following (I typically do 5-10 minutes for the break). The left column has you outline what you want to accomplish in the Pomodoro block, while in the right column you note what you actually spent your time doing during that 25 minute block.

This technique showed me how much time I was wasting in a 25 minute period. Seeing that motivated me to stay focused during the next 25 minute block. Again, another external-ish accountability strategy that helped keep me in check. The Pomodoro tracker has also helped me to see over time which tasks tend to take a long time and which ones can actually go pretty quickly (since my internal gauge of this gets pretty wonky).

Right now I have created an electronic version of this piece of paper and keep a running version like I do with the other trackers. I just create a new page for each writing session and start tracking!

Aaaaannd, that’s it on my writing trackers! What strategies and techniques do you use to stay on track? Any questions about the ones I shared? Ask away below and I’ll be happy to answer!

Happy Writing, y’all!


P.S. If you’re wanting to learn more about the Pomodoro technique, here are some links to check out!

How to Write a Lot by Paul J. Silvia: TGSG Must-Read #1

Hello, friends! I hope your summer is off to a great start. My university hosted a summer writing retreat for grad students, post-docs, and faculty members which whipped my summer writing into pretty good shape. I’ve been feeling inspired by the content of the retreat and want to share my thoughts/tips/questions with you!

Before digging into that content, though, I wanted to share Book #1 of The Grad School Grind’s Must-Read List! Over time I’ll be sharing books that have been essential for my grad school process and I’ll call these posts “TGSG Must-Read”s.

I’m stoked to kick-off this category of posts with the book How to Write a Lot by Paul J. Silva.

It sounds dramatic, but I really mean it – this book may have saved me from failing out of grad school.

I came into grad school with great writing ability but TERRIBLE writing habits. There are probably many graduate students out there who tackled this problem in their undergraduate or post-bac days, but that was not me.

I had no idea how to develop a writing routine, good writing habits, or what scientific writing really looked like. I knew from my college writing and psych classes that I could write well (course papers, journalistic pieces, standardized writing tests, posters, sections of a research manuscript). However, I had no idea until well into my first year that I had no idea how to get myself to produce a scientific manuscript. I’d read plenty of empirical articles, proofread peers’ submissions for journals, contributed as a co-author on sections of a manuscript, but I’d never seen a paper out from start to finish. Long story short, I knew I could write, I knew I needed to write, but I couldn’t bridge the gap between the writing skill and producing a manuscript.

I tried a lot of things. Different coffee shops, different kinds of music, different times of the day, different outfits (cozy v. professional), different types of planners, different goals – I was going NO WHERE.

I wish I could recall how I came across How to Write a Lot, but in all honesty it was probably a product of late-night high-anxiety google searching “how to write” that brought me to it.

I like a lot of things about the book including that:
1. It’s short
2. It’s funny
3. It’s easy to read
4. It calls you out on your bullshit excuses
5. It works for all of the four tendencies

This book probably won’t solve ALL of your writing woes but it is a GREAT starting point. This book got me writing, tracking my writing, and seeing through all the BS I was telling myself about why I “couldn’t” write.

A preview of some myths this book helped me dispel:

Myth #1: I’ll write when I’m inspired/in the mood/feel like it. (as a Rebel Tendency this one was pretty central to my academic identity)
Myth #2: I’ll write a TON this weekend when I have nothing planned/over summer/winter/any holiday break.
Myth #3: I already know how to write well, I don’t need to keep a schedule or track my writing.

Enough talk from me, go read it already!

Already read it? Let me know your thoughts here or over on social media! Has this book helped you with your writing too?

Looking forward to brainstorming better writing habits the next few posts – happy summer grind y’all!


P.S. I just saw that there is now a second edition of the book. I haven’t read this edition so all of the above links route to the first edition. I can’t imagine the second edition is any worse but let me know your thoughts if you read it!

Three weeks of the shoulds: Why I decided to wait a year to apply to internship.

I’ve been absent on here for months. I wrote this post back in September (hence the autumn pictures) but didn’t want to post it.

I was really struggling.

Well, I’m back! And I’m ready to share. Here’s what I wrote on September 28th, 2018:


“I kind of don’t know where to start with this post. I feel vulnerable even talking about this because I can’t seem to get over the fact that I told so many people, including readers of this blog that this was my application year. The application year. Watch out world, here I come to plow through the application, interview, and match process while also attempting to propose, run, write, and defend my dissertation, finish and submit five other manuscripts in progress, continue other active research projects on top of maintaining a full caseload of hospital patients and clinic clients.

I hope that sounds as crazy as it felt to me.

But maybe it doesn’t sound that crazy, because I KNOW PEOPLE WHO HAVE ACCOMPLISHED ALL OF THESE THINGS – IN. ONE. YEAR.

I think I wanted to be one of those people. Because I know I have the ability to push just as hard as the best of them in the short term (see how I’m cutting myself short there?). That’s what I did the past two months and the past three weeks especially.

I said no to all social events except for writing dates.

I neglected my inbox.

I cleared my schedule of all meetings except for those with my advisor and lab.

I stopped cooking at home and went for fast and easy food on the go.

I stopped going to the gym and yoga class.

I stayed at the library until it closed.

Then moved to a coffee shop.

Then moved to a 24-hour donut shop to pull the all nighter.


And honestly, it worked.

I was writing 4-8 hours every day (cutting myself short here again, I looked at my writing logs during this time and I had multiple 8 hour straight writing sessions AND ONE 14 HOUR WRITING SESSION… oof). I was completing sections of my dissertation proposal like crazy. I was checking off items on my to-do list at a graduate career record pace. I was doing it!

What kept me going? The shoulds.

  • You should be good on your word.
  • You should apply to internship in your fifth year or you’re “behind.”
  • You should have worked harder your first 1.5 years in the program.
  • You should have known this was going to take you a long time.
  • You should keep pushing no matter what.
  • Why? Because you SHOULD apply this year.
  • You shouldn’t be the person who stays an extra year.
  • You shouldn’t do that because others will think less of you. Worse, they will remember that you didn’t belong here all along. They’ll find out the secret you’ve been hiding for four straight years – you don’t work hard enough to deserve this.

You know what?

Yes, I got shit done and it felt good.
Yes, I COULD have made this all happen by the deadline. I know I could have. But why in the world would I do that if I was eating like shit, feeling like shit, sleeping like shit, and putting everything else I love aside?

I’m sorry shoulds, but that is just not my style.

Sure, I committed to graduate school when I began my program. And I’m committed still to completing my degree in its entirety, but I did not come to graduate school to suffer, despite this weird underlying narrative running through the veins of academia hinting at all the SHOULDS including that WE SHOULD BE SUFFERING. What. the. Fuck.

No, just no.

Here’s what my decision came down to:

The pros of staying:

  1. An entire year dedicated to proposing, running, analyzing, writing, and defending my dissertation BEFORE this madness happens.
  2. One less year of long distance with my partner. He just got to the same city as me and it feels amazing to be together.
  3. One year less between he and I in completing our PhDs. I stay one year longer, that’s one year less in the gap that he and I have between when we will be applying to jobs.
  4. More time for honing my clinical/assessment/research skills. I’m finding that internship is NO JOKE (duh, but it’s becoming very real). So any extra time to sharpen my skills is a big bonus.
  5. MORE TIME TO SAVE MONEY. Applying to internship is extremely expensive, so another year of low-cost living in Nebraska would do my savings account some good.

The cons of staying:

  1. Feeling down/disappointed/embarrassed because I feel like I should apply since that’s what most people choose to do.

When it’s laid out like that it seems pretty straightforward to me!

So my advice for today friends is to pull back on the grind and relax a bit. Don’t push yourself so hard you start to break. You’re worth more than that, so take a cue from me and pour yourself a glass of wine.



I think September version of Jessie said that pretty well in the end. Honestly the only thing I feel mildly down/disappointed/embarrassed about now is not publishing this post much earlier. But, I’m back. I survived my run with the shoulds and am excited to continue to share.

Stay tuned!


Answer: How Do I Save Money on Textbooks?


Textbooks are EXTREMELY expensive.

(not just the ones pictured here, ALL OF THEM – these may even be some of the cheaper ones…)

All y’all in college know this. All of you graduate students who went to college also know this.

Still, upon starting graduate school and coming to terms with being broke as f*$%, I was SHOCKED at how much my textbooks cost. In college I could sometimes get away with not buying the book, especially since I was taking some gen eds for which I would never again need to reference the book (exploring the cosmos, college 101, world literature, christian tradition).

Graduate school was a different story. I absolutely needed the books considering the vast majority of assignments ARE readings. I knew I would probably return to some of the books for reference through graduate school and beyond. But STILL. I could not justify spending a twelfth of my yearly salary (yeah, you read that right – BALLINNNN$$$$$$$$) each semester on books.

This image of textbooks for sale is frightening enough to give me heart palpitations:


So here’s my advice:

STOP buying your textbooks.

I’ll go even further: STOP PAYING FOR RENTALS!!!


“Uh – okay, so what now?”

I was right there with you just a few years back! Fortuitously, I was reminded of an important, yet until now mostly ignored, piece of advice I was given from my undergraduate advisor, “I don’t buy books from Amazon or Barnes and Noble until I’ve borrowed them from the library and know I want to own them.”

“Well, duh…”

“Okay, I just checked. My library doesn’t have a copy of the textbook on hand, so I guess I’ll stay in this long ass line waiting to pick up the textbooks I ordered…”


WAIT! Not so fast – allow me to elaborate:


My undergraduate institution was small (but powerful!). We didn’t have an immense library (especially in eccentric topics like history of psychology, relationship science, and neuropsychology of emotions). So many times, my ever-wise professor would receive a book recommendation, or come across a needed text in a reference section, and our humble library would fall short.

JK JK! The library is a nearly ancient institution – it would not leave its knowledge-hungry members without a resource they needed!

Answer: The Interlibrary Loan Program!

Most universities (including very small liberal arts places like my alma mater) have an interlibrary loan delivery program in place. This process allows libraries within a library network to SHARE access to resources they have.

“I already use this system to gain access to articles that my library doesn’t have. I’M TALKING ABOUT TEXTBOOKS!!!!”

Yes! You’re right! Many ILL programs use this same process to exchange articles that students and faculty need. Back when this program started (the first one started in 1894… WHOAAAA), everything was done BY HAND, THROUGH THE MAIL.


Can you imagine that process? THE HEADACHE?

  1. Find an article in a book/article on paper.
  2. Visit your library in person just to find that they do not have the article you need.
  3. Request (BY HAND) the article
  4. Librarians work tirelessly filling out paper request forms and sending them TO YOUR AUTHOR, IN THE MAIL.
  5. Authors work to process the requests (or maybe the publishers handled this?? I don’t know)
  6. EVENTUALLY your copy of the article is MAILED back to you.


SERIOUS kudos to all y’all that earned graduate degrees pre-internet.

And now we just type a few words into our search bars and if we’re on campus we can usually grab a copy. If not, the librarians electronically request the article and often times I receive my electronic copy in a matter of HOURS.


Back to my imaginary conversation with you, dear reader:

I’m talking about textbooks too!!

You can use the same interlibrary loan request process to request BOOKS, including TEXTBOOKS!

So, stop spending all your hard-earned money buying textbooks (unless you have already borrowed them and know you want to own a copy, then spend dat $$$) and use your library’s resources! Go find a friendly librarian and they can help you navigate your own university’s interlibrary loan system.

Keep grindin’ & #SAVEDATMONEY!


P.S. Planning on trying ILL for the first time? Comment below and share your experience? Let’s see who can save the most money… AND GO!

P.P.S. Here are some YouTube links on using interlibrary loan:


Want to Tackle Your Writing Routine? Understand Your Tendency


How do I get better at writing?

I think this may be one of the few questions that plagues EVERY graduate student (and even you high achieving undergrads and post-bacs, in preparation for grad school).

Regardless of area of expertise or specific grad school structure or requirements, nearly all of us have to tackle an extremely difficult task: WRITING OUR THESIS/DISSERTATION (capstone project, honor’s thesis, first author publication, etc.).

And just like many of you out there, I have REALLY struggled with writing. And I’m here to let you in on one of my biggest writing tips:




What tendency am I talking about? Where you fall within Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies framework.

Before diving into this framework, let me demonstrate where I was at before harnessing my tendency to improve writing habits:

It seems like there’s a good reason pop culture depicts professional writers as brooding, dark, home-dwelling, robe-donning vampire souls… WRITING SUCKS THE LIFE OUT OF YOU.

Writing can be especially plaguing on those days when you’re coming up with elaborate schemes to plan, brainstorm, procrastinate, or ultimately avoid the writing. I have had countless “writing sessions” spent vacillating between googling “how to start writing a manuscript” and in a panic, convinced I was admitted to grad school by mistake.

I have often even fantasized about standing on a library table to scream out, “WHY IS WRITING SO HARD???!!!!” Yup. Tantrumming just like a toddler.

It’s not like I didn’t understand the steps to take. Yes, I took an undergrad class that taught us the structure of a manuscript and how to write it. Yes, I took the stats classes that taught me how to describe my results. YES I HAVE READ HUNDREDS OF EMPIRICAL ARTICLES AND UNDERSTAND HOW AN ARTICLE IS SUPPOSED TO FLOW. But all of this “knowledge” didn’t seem to improve my writing.

What I didn’t understand: my habits/patterns and strategies to change them.

My problems included:

  1. I. COULD. NOT. GET. STARTED. It seemed like an endless ascension JUST GETTING STARTED. A LOT of the time I got stuck here. I’d spend hours at the library, without writing a single word.
  2. I felt like I didn’t have time to write. Since it seemed to take me HOURS and HOURS to write a damn paragraph, I felt like I did not have the time. I tried the whole “schedule writing time” tip, but that didn’t work AT ALL for me (add in the tendency and this makes sense)
  3. No matter how often people (including myself) told me “you have to write,” I could not make it happen. It felt like I was on a mission to do the opposite of what I needed to succeed.
  4. The goal of “finishing a manuscript” was too vague, broad, and unfathomable. I was staring at one paragraph in word, attempting to imagine myself publishing this idea of a paper “some time” down the road.
  5. Nothing catastrophic happened when I didn’t write. As I’m still learning, graduate school is flexible and encourages autonomy (which I LOVE – add the tendency insights below and this makes a lot of sense). But it also requires a lot self-discipline, and good habits (which I HATE, again – makes sense considering this tendency stuff). Unlike my undergrad days when I knew a caring professor would consult me if I was behind on something (ahhhh… Loma), literally NO ONE freaked out when I was behind on writing. If I was meeting my bare deadlines, staying up on most things, I could get away with a lot of not writing.

Since writing has proven to be a distinct pain in the ass for me the past four + years, I’ve always been on the hunt for strategies to help with the problems above.


Fast forward to Fall 2015 (the start of my second year in graduate school): I was introduced to “The Four Tendencies” framework by science writer and podcaster, Gretchen Rubin.


I’m going to do a more in-depth review of her book on this framework (The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People’s Lives Better, Too) later this month, so stay tuned for more on this.

In short, her framework explains the four different patterns in which people respond to expectations. In our lives, we face both inner and outer expectations. Inner expectations are those that we expect of ourselves (e.g., “I want to eat healthier,” “I want to meditate,” “I want to publish a manuscript this semester”). Outer expectations make up the things that others expect of us (e.g., “This assignment is due the Monday of finals week at 4pm,” “Thanks for agreeing to pick up dinner tonight – see you at 7!” or “I need a full draft of your introduction by next Friday”).


There are four possible combinations of how a person could respond to (meet or resist) to inner versus outer expectations. Here they are:

  1. The Upholder: Readily meets both inner AND outer expectations
  2. The Obliger: Struggles to meet inner expectations, but readily meets outer expectations
  3. The Questioner: Easily meets inner expectations, but resists outer expectations
  4. The Rebel: Struggles to meet both inner AND outer expectations alike

Seems simple, right? It IS. But that’s the beauty of this framework.

Graduate school is chock full of both inner and outer expectations. Each tendency comes with both strengths and weaknesses (I’ll cover this in my post on the book). And I’m telling you: knowing yours can SUBSTANTIALLY improve your writing habits (and really any other habit you’re trying to tackle).


Here are a few writing strategies for each tendency:

Upholders: Set a deadline for yourself or utilize your mentor’s deadline. You will make the deadline. You always do. BUT – protect and prioritize your writing time. You know better than anyone else that if you agree to do something, you WILL. So, be sure you’re not over-promising yourself or others in other areas of expectation. Say no to a few things to make sure you can say yes to writing.

Obligers: Create external accountability. “Huh?” What I mean is: structure “your” writing goal/habits in a way that makes you accountable to others in the process. Example: join a writing group/partner and agree to send ___ number of pages/words to them each week. This accountability will drive you to accomplish your goals. Also, create deadlines with your advisor and ask them to hold you accountable to the deadlines.

Questioners: Create your own writing deadline and goals, breaking them down into achievable steps, and continuously revisit your motivation for writing. Questioners often thrive when they understand why they need to do something.

Rebels: This is so tough (I’m a rebel, so I feel you rebels out there). Rebels are driven by values, often by knowing the consequences, but usually only want to do things when they “feel” like doing it (which never happens with writing, but more on that later). Take some time to sit down and reflect on why you are going to write. Try to think about how writing reflects your values as a graduate student (e.g., “I value flexibility – I want to publish ___# of manuscripts to allow maximum flexibility in career choice;” “I value exploration – I want to finish my dissertation before internship so I can enjoy the new city I’ll be living in,” “I value personal responsibility and dependability – I see myself as someone who follows through on their word”). And then just write.

How did harnessing my “rebel” tendency help my writing habits?

  1. Now I know that I naturally resist ANY expectation outright (this includes scheduling, accountability groups, telling myself I need to write, others telling me I need to write).
  2. This knowledge (though seemingly dreary) helped me to stop wasting time on strategies that work for most people (asking people to hold me accountable, setting deadlines, scheduling writing periods in my google calendar). I finally understood why I was running into such hurdles anytime I tried these strategies. MORE accountability = LESS follow-through with rebels.
  3. Instead, I focused on my values daily, worked in flexibility whenever I could (in the morning, creating my schedule for the day so it felt like I was “choosing” what to do instead of planning ahead of time), and reminded myself that I was NOT the kind of graduate student that has to delay a year because I was behind on writing.
  4. I informed my advisor of my tendency (he’s also a rebel, which makes for some interesting productivity patterns), which helped us to brainstorm together ways to increase my writing.

There is SO MUCH out there about these tendencies, so I encourage you to explore more. As you become more familiar with them, you may even recognize the tendencies of your mentor and professors, which can be SO helpful in understanding what they expect from you.

So – what are you waiting for? Go take the quiz here!

And be on the lookout for my post on the Four Tendencies book, where I’ll share more about how this framework can help you in your own Grad School Grind!

Hang in there, friends!



Internship applications?… WHAT ARE THOSE?!

Internship applications?


Dissertation proposal?




Okay, you get it. It’s a scary time for me. But let’s get down to it!


What is internship anyway??

Well, the answer’s a bit more complicated than you would think but my typical clinical psychologist answer still applies – “IT DEPENDS!”

The term “internship” is used to describe a lot of different things. Broadly, an “intern” is a trainee, or someone working to get more experience.

  1. Internship can mean doing unpaid work for a company/facility in order to get your foot in the door there or gain experience in a particular field. (This can be done in high school, college, or really anytime).
  2. Internship can also mean doing paid work for the same purposes. Often when I hear college students seeking internships, this is what they are talking about – getting hired at an entry rate in order to gain experiences which may translate later into a job.
  3. Clinical Psychology Pre-Doctoral Internship: Now that I have defined the two versions above, I don’t understand why the FINAL stage (well… not really final, but we’ll save that for another day) of doctoral training in Clinical Psychology is called an internship… (Now I understand why my family and friends seem so confused as to why I am applying to internship positions when I am supposed to be finishing graduate school… *insert face slap emoji here*)REGARDLESS, it is called that. And here is what this internship means for me:
    1. It is the final year of my graduate training (as long as I match, but more on that later…)
    2. It is almost completely focused on advanced clinical training (e.g., working directly with clients)
    3. It will occur in a completely different facility with completely different faculty/advisors and likely in a completely different city and state than my current grad school location.
    4. It IS paid (hallelujah).
    5. It entails an extremely extensive application, interview, and structured matching process (more on that later…)
    6. It is my final milestone to meet before I am awarded my Ph.D.

So why is this done in clinical psychology? Well, many of you are likely a little more familiar with medical school. You know how med students attend a residency at a hospital near the end of their training? This is our residency (again, I don’t know why we didn’t just use that less-confusing terminology). This process basically allows new, certified, less-familiar-with-me professionals to see me doing clinical work, help me gain skills in the areas I am weakest, and vouch that I am ready and qualified enough to go out in the world and practice!

What else is important to know? I’m starting this process SOON. Like, kind of starting it all now – browsing sites, clarifying my goals and training needs, starting application materials, alllllllll while trying to propose my dissertation on time, publish a few manuscripts, finish up incomplete coursework, and try to get a full night of sleep most nights WITHOUT LOSING MY SANITY.

After all, the way this all works is: I need to propose my dissertation in order to apply to internship. If this doesn’t happen, I don’t get to apply and thus, one more year in the grad school grind and plan to apply next year. If I SUCCEED and propose my dissertation!! and apply to internship!!… there’s still a chance I could fail to match for an internship site…. and then I’d stay another year in PhD-less land….

Apply to grad school, they said… it will be fun, they said…

Mostly jokes – I’m pretty sure I can do this. See you all soon for more updates on the grad school grind! Thanks for visiting and be sure to leave a comment. I’d love to hear who is reading this chaotic chronicle and also love to answer any questions!


Keep grindin!