Another Year: A welcome back letter to myself
Dear Self (or, dear you!),
The first day of school always has a magic, doesn't it? There's something in the air that reminds you of a fresh notebook, ready to be filled, pens waiting to be used, a new time around the cycle. It's like New Year's Day, but better, because there are school supplies.
But just like New Year mania, it can be easy to imagine that this is the year that everything changes. This is the year I write every day! This is the year I get up at 6 am and start running and always update my citation software on Friday afternoons and never, ever turn in a draft late.
There's a different between setting goals, and committing to the process of planning for them, scheduling them, evaluating progress towards them, and setting off on a lark. There's a difference between just setting my alarm for 5:45 am, hoping for the best, and laying out my workout clothes, picking out a run on the app, having music ready to go, and breakfast in the fridge so that when the alarm goes off, I'm ready.
The same goes for your academic work, self, ole pal. If this is the year that you really commit to making writing a practice, and not just a thing you do before deadlines, a little bit of preparation is needed. Set up your schedule, get a way to manage your tasks, polish your workflow. Do what you need so that when you sit down at your desk, the only barrier left is your fear.
But here's a secret that you've learned, but somehow manage to forget: there's an antidote to fear. The antidote to fear is support. Build a team that cares about your success, gather tools that make the work easier, find the places where your foundation is a little wobbly and deliberately shore up those areas.
There's nothing shameful about needing help. You offer help to your students, your family, your friends, your colleagues when you can, so why are you destined to struggle alone in the wilderness? It's time to show yourself the care that you so willingly extend to others.
Here are a few places to get started, to make help feel a little less scary. Start a Twitter account and cheer for others, answer questions, and ask your own. Start a blog, so that you get practice talking about your research and interests, a honing beacon for those who think about what you think about. Form a writing group, exchange job materials, observe each other's classes. Stop pretending you understand what terms mean when your advisor mentions them, and start googling them, or better yet, asking for clarification just then. Think about a coach, or an editor - and see if there's funding for you to access those things! Tell your family that this is hard work, and don't feel so much shame when people ask if you're in Grade 190893123.
You're not. This is the start of another year, but it's also a year in your career as a scholar, an intellectual, an academic. Use it wisely.
And if you're interested in getting some support for FREE this school year, consider signing up for the Academics Getting Help mailing list! We are sending out a free week of resources starting on August 6th!