Academic Advice, Writing

On Perfectionism – in Writing and in LIFE

Hanging_the_headWith this whole PhD thing, I do a lot of writing, which I’ve always been  horrendous at getting actually getting myself to do. A friend recommended spending the first 10 minutes of my writing sessions reading books by people who are good at it, so I picked up Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. I don’t hesitate to say that it contains some of the best writing advice I’ve ever received (not to mention it’s a quick and hilarious read).

But today’s chapter hit me in ways that went beyond writing, and I just have to share these words. They’re from her chapter on Perfectionism, and her advice is applicable to much more than writing:

 “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped up and insane your whole life…. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive believe that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.

Besides, perfectionism will ruin your writing, blocking inventiveness and playfulness and life force (these are words we are allowed to use in California). Perfectionism means that you try desperately not to leave so much mess to clean up. But clutter and mess show us that life is being lived. Continue reading “On Perfectionism – in Writing and in LIFE”

Academic Advice

Success Brings Happiness? Correction: Happiness Brings Success

Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 11.28.48 AMOne of the reasons I chose my particular PhD program was because, unlike other schools I visited, the advanced doctoral students did not constantly look like they were about to get hit by a bus. There seemed to be a degree of work-life-balance engrained into the program.

And lo and behold, they might be on to something. Looks like there’s “a more fun” way to be successful:

Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, studies happiness, and its relationship to productivity. And it looks like happiness brings success more reliably than success brings happiness. 

Continue reading “Success Brings Happiness? Correction: Happiness Brings Success”

Academic Advice, Career

The Ad(PhD)venture Begins…

phd_spelled_in_childrens_building_block_450The fall semester starts tomorrow and my “Ad(PhD)venture” officially begins. It took years of second (and third) guessing myself before signing onto the ultimate academic safari, and of course, the wisdom of that decision remains to be seen. Along the way, however, I collected a wide range of advice about starting a PhD program. It generally distilled down to:

A) Don’t do it

B) Your advisor will make or break your experience

C) Be prepared to spend the next few years weeping

D) Write, write, write

At this point, some of these nuggets are more helpful than others: I obviously ignored “A,” I’m ignorance-is-blissfully dubious of “C,” but the other two are at the forefront of my mind as I sharpen my pencils (no, really, I’m actually bringing pencils – who knows what to expect at this point?).

Any and all other advice is welcome!

And with that, as the ever-wise Billy Madison once said, “Back to school…”