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
6. IT WORKS

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!

-J

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.

I EVEN ACCOMPLISHED THE SEEMINGLY IMPOSSIBLE FEAT OF WORKING FROM HOME.

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?
FUCK THE SHOULDS.

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.

Cheers,

J”

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!

-J

Answer: How Do I Save Money on Textbooks?

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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:

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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…”

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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.

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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.
  7. MANY DAYS/WEEKS?/MONTHS? LATER YOU RECEIVE YOUR ARTICLE.

WHAT IF YOU RECEIVED THE ARTICLE AND AFTER READING THE METHODS REALIZE IT IS NOT EVEN RELEVANT FOR YOUR PAPER? I’m sorry, but f*&# that.

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.

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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!

-J

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

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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:

 

KNOW YOUR TENDENCY AND APPLY IT TO YOUR WRITING HABITS.

 

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.

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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.

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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”).

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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).

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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!

-J

 

Internship applications?… WHAT ARE THOSE?!

Internship applications?

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Dissertation proposal?

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FIFTH YEAR?

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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!

-J