The Daily Bread

Sex and Spirit from Kody

Crazy that a stripper can make so much money. And how money is about feeling good about oneself.

Adjunct workers and the fate of the elderly woman at Duquesne who started a firestorm on facebook.

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Morning reads

A quick browse of the internets yields…

Do the uppercrust of Victorian England, as they appear on Downton Abbey, really live like that? This blog post discusses succinctly the 19th century political and economic conditions that make up that world.  Yes, they were wealthy. But were they powerful?

They were scared of social unrest but also completely ignorant about the hell that was boiling beneath in the factories that had disconnected most of the populace from the land.

The span of relevant history starts out with a major bailout of the landed gentry and the banking system, and ends with the rise of the financial sector providing much of the income for the Downton Abbeys of the time. It progresses through the Industrial Revolution to a late-Victorian English ruling elite that was smug, narrowly educated and scientifically illiterate, rich from the financial sector but with a manufacturing base that had been increasingly starved for the capital to keep up with the technological pace of change.  It spans a time of tectonic social shift from an agrarian economy to one where a rising industrial middle class needed workers for its factories. Because of that fundamental change, the working poor were largely cut off from the land and social structure which produced the food they ate, making them dependant solely on the factories that provided their wages.

It would seem that most of the upperclass were out of touch with the rest of England. And well, that isn’t so different in our own 1%.  My own dissertation project will overlap with this historical moment. It makes for a good sum.


Also in the queue this morning was an article I skimmed yesterday from the UK Guardian  about a woman who found out her husband had abducted and raped two women only a month after they were married. It triggered a series of responses on the truereddit site about what makes people do these kinds of horrible things. That is a common concern. But also reflected on how the media tells the same narrative about the awful perpetrator and little is exposed about the people who surround the crime. This article, from the perspective of the wife, describes the moment from when she found out through his arrest, release on bail, sentencing, and then imprisonment. Her life has “moved on” as they say, but clearly, it has been radically altered by the actions of her husband.

The comment from the truereddit site that stuck with me:

It only takes a moment to ruin a life, and he ruined dozens in the span of a few hours. 99.9999% of his existence was spent not being a monster, but just being a man, an often victimized man. But then there is that brief space, only a few combined hours of his life, in which he destroyed everything.

The cognitive dissonance that comes with something like this story is humbling. We sympathize with the victims, but yet we also sympathize with him, and very much with her.

My final feeling is that we could all do with a little more empathy, and that most people are not always monsters, but sometimes they do monstrous things. So they should be punished fairly and with an eye towards justice and, if possible, rehabilitation.

But for this particular story, there is only sadness.

This goes with the recent story about the mother who was sentenced to 99 years in Texas for abusing her two year old while potty training–abuse that had been ongoing but then that put the two year old in a coma.  The woman is 23 years old.  Her sentence could have been as light as probation, but it would seem that they wanted to make an example of her and also that her defense was poorly prepared.

In both cases, the people made decisions which then ended their normal lives but were also decisions with long histories of trauma. I follow these kinds of stories to track how fragile and unscripted it all is.









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You Are Not Your Writing, or “how drafts can save your life”

Plato and Socrates–Plato has the scroll

Plato regarded writing as a particular kind word-work. In that era, (the 5th c BCE Athens), speaking was, hands down, the more truthful way of presenting oneself and any idea. Writing was treated suspiciously: it is a derivative of the self, capable of corruption. Memory was the gold standard. Anything worth preserving was memorized.

Fast forward 2500 years and writing is the way that Western, modern societies think about truth. Laws are preserved and guarantees made “in writing.” Speaking is ephemeral, memorization is considered the path of those who have nothing original to add, and writing attaches to an author and coalesces an identity and preserves it for generations. We remember people because of what they wrote.

And of course, we remember the great icon of speaking—Socrates—because of Plato’s recorded dialogues.

I won’t get into the irony of that situation, nor about whether or not writing is better/less than speaking. Bringing up Plato’s distinction of writing and speaking allows me the occasion to reflect on the drama of writing as I experience it. Anxiety runs amok when I sit to put my academic voice to paper. I end up twisting my ideas into words and editing them over and over again. The effect are essays/papers that are serpentine, tracing some path through a wilderness sentence by sentence, linking a word introduced in sentence #1 with sentence #2 through a definition or example or a explication. I poke my head up at the end of a paragraph and survey my surrounds, checking my location against my thesis and then, go back to winding my way. While it sounds like a good way to keep track of the project and the objective, its pleasures are few and I am left with no real encounter with the landscape other than that soil beneath my feet.

Drafts. Every piece of writing advice tells me about drafts and the value of letting writing “cool off.” Yet, for whatever reason—be it that I took my writing process queues from parents who rushed through big plans at the last minute, or that I was affirmed early and often in school—I often wrote one version from a careful outline and could only make minor spelling/grammar changes to my writing. This practice of the Final Draft survived through high school, college, and my master’s program. Hitting my PhD program, I started to run into the practical conflicts of this style. And I encountered the psychic fallout of the Final Draft.

In writing the Final Draft, I edited every sentence as I went and followed a carefully mapped outline of quotations and major ideas. I wrote in large chunks of time, always near the deadline, and frequently was printing at the time the office doors were closing. Many Final Drafts did not get proofread for spelling or grammar. The results were mixed, as you can imagine. Yes, there was a paper. Yes, it had some great ideas and a lot of beautiful sentences and organization. But it showed its flaws in distinctive ways, exposing its author as both bright and ambitious, but also strangely terrified. The Final Draft marked me as one who dived deep, read closely, and argued systematically. But it also tripped over some of its metaphoric language or its bewildering prepositional phrases. It choose words that carried lots of weight and signaled other texts, but then would not reference them or would not unpack them. It would leave these words precariously about. And then the spelling and grammar issues that an equally bright reader would have caught. The Final Draft seemed, unlike other papers, to show symptoms of sickness and not just weaknesses.

This, of course, has been humiliating. No one wants their writing to reflect themselves in such painful, hard-to-diagnose detail (I think here of readers scanning their favorite authors’ works for signs of mental illness, like reading David Foster Wallace to learn about his depression). I started to pull away from writing because of this shame and the process that produced it. I did not want to be read; I did not want the world to see my flaws, my flawed process, or my lack of solution to it. I had developed a pattern of using intelligence to vault over my inability to plan and to ingratiate me into an approving authority. Those First Drafts won praise, and around them, I molded my sense of worth, fusing my voice, my identity, and my purpose with writing. As the First Draft crumbled, so did I.

Without a substitute for the First Draft, I started to write fragments and notes, resisting all forms of writing as I had done it. Yet, the identity with writing remained. I kept writing Me. The timeline for all of this crumbling and reconstituting self has been about 10 years now, and there are no magic bullets out of this quagmire—to mix a metaphor.


But Plato, via my friend Ashley over coffee recently, had a way of explaining this. Writing is NOT the same as the speaking person. How I understand this now is that, what is written is, by its medium of letters and paragraph structure, reflects just as much about the medium as it does about its author. It has its formal limitations and opportunities, just like other artistic mediums such as painting, drawing, television, film, sculpture, ceramics, or sidewalk chalk. A piece of writing stands on its own because of the material nature of language. Plato said that writing is always removed from its pure idea: a simulacrum of those ideas. Let me remind you, dear reader, of the Allegory of the Cave and Plato’s preoccupation with the original ideas, the Pure Forms, from which all of reality derive. Speech brings about insight into those forms that we grasp with our finely-trained human minds. Writing is a shadow on a wall of that pure light. “Don’t be confused by the shadows,” Plato advised.

I am not here to explain or defend Plato, but to highlight that behind the recommendation of drafts is a philosophical insight: writing cannot represent all that can be said or thought. The self cannot fit into a piece of writing and efforts to do so will cause all manner of confusion. To honor these formal constraints, Ashley advocates writing quickly. And then go read for a week. Come back to what you write and, with the new insights, the forest will show itself.

This may be common sense to most of my readers, practices that you heartily engage and readily recommend to your students. But maybe there is another person out there who once was seen and heard using the technologies of writing, homework, or beautiful semester-end projects. Maybe another person got really strong, positive feedback from really kind, well-meaning teachers who praised her work but who inadvertently glued together procrastination, writing, and identity.

I take from this: I am not my writing. I write, but it gets away from me. It is a limited form of communication and of representation. I can continue this insight by writing a draft, sitting while it cools, and noticing that while I wrote it, it is barely “mine” anymore and hardly “me.”

What is a crucial part of your writing process? Does it echo, either favorably or discomfortingly, a moment in your past?




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Quaker Ministry Workshop Weekend: Creepy or Cool?

Quaker Problems

When attending a Quaker workshop, be prepared to be watched. Oh yes, listened too, but also watched.

“When you sit in worship, I noticed your energy change when you sit up straight from when you fold over. You have so much joy when you sit up straight.”

Ah, Friends.

A great workshop weekend titled “Cultivating Ministry” held from Friday evening through Sunday lunch at Powell House near the Hudson River Valley in New York gave the 26 of us in attendance and leadership a chance to get to listen to each other and Spirit/Divine/God speak through each other’s words and in the silence. Quaker worship in the New England area is primarily unprogrammed in style, meaning that the group gathers, sits facing each other, and grows quiet in order to listen inwardly for the “Still, small voice” of God to speak. God lays a message on you at times and, out of the silence, you can be pulled up as if by a force outside of yourself to speak what has been given you. Usually messages sound like good advice or scriptural interpretation, or tell a story of something that happened once that tells us something about the activity of goodness in the world, implying the positive work of Spirit. Because the Quakers have, since their origins of the 17th century, believed that there is that of God in everyone, then everyone has the possibility of receiving and delivering a message. This message is called “vocal ministry” and forms the foundation of Quaker worship practices. The structure of worship is to cultivate the ground for Spirit to make itself known through human language. It reflects the larger belief that all of creation speaks of God’s goodness.


And so, I went to the workshop because of my own questions about what to listen for in the silences of life. Perhaps it is my musical training, or my love of sleep, but I really like the contrasts of sound and silence, and appreciate the quality when a group of people can be quiet together. It seems as if there is a magical quality to the piannissimo parts of music, when the hush of music pulls us closer and a room of people listening get all attentive… or just fall asleep. Whatever that is makes me feel at ease and also expectant. The Religious Society of Friends (the Quakers) have a great tradition of sitting and listening. I went to hear from those practiced in this tradition about what they are listening for, what they are striving for when they listen, and what the results of their practices are for themselves and for their community.

Quaker humor

A man came to Quaker meeting for the first time. He had heard about Quakers as peaceful people working for peace in the world and was impressed with what seemed like a nice group of people. He walked into the meeting house on a Sunday and sat down in a chair next to another man, joining a group of about 20. No one was talking. A few more folks showed up, sat down, but no one said anything. The new guy finally plucked up the nerve and whispered to his neighbor, “When does the service start?” His neighbor whispered back, “At the end of worship.”

The rise of worship is the end, when “all hearts and minds are clear,” meaning you don’t have anything that is burning to be said at the moment. And in modern practice, the “end” is an hour after the worship was advertised to begin. But it would seem that keeping worship to an hour or so is only a relatively recent practice, and that through the first half of the 20th century, Quakers could meet for several hours. They still do on special occasions. But they will let you know in advance so you aren’t feeling stuck!

But at no time in the weekend did I feel stuck or trapped. We mixed 30 minute worships with 1.5 hour workshops on topics about types of spiritual gifts, activities to practice discerning gifts in others, looking at how spiritual gifts might effect a community of Quakers, and how one is faithful to the gifts that they are given. Like all religious groups, the Quakers have a coded language—words that weigh heavier or that reflect thick concepts for those inside the group. Instead of the typical Christian codes of “salvation” or “Jesus’ redemptive love” or “God’s grace,” Quakers in this part of the United State more often sound like well-mannered hippies. (And actually, many of them are. There were six of us 26 40 or younger). The effect of their intention in listening to Spirit or God or whatever may move in the silence is no less radical or counter-cultural than what traditional Christian language is also trying to break through: they want to show that love, not greed or competition, is the foundation of all relationship. What distinguishes Quakers from other Christians for me is that they do this by privileging listening. Yes, there is talking, and sometimes, lots of it, but they have a mechanism for countering the habits of mind and society that attaches effectiveness exclusively to expression.

And so, am I happy that this person wanted to tell me that I have poor posture and that I would do better by myself (and the community) by sitting up and letting my body be a channel for some sort of naturally-or divinely-occurring joy?

I am definitely uncomfortable about it: who is watching me? Are they seeing something profound or only a projection? What is the concern exactly? Is it about my back or about my ability to receive something like a Divine message?

But also, someone just told me that they are listening with all of the being they have—eyes, ears, gut, heart, mind. Expanding what to pay attention to, being back pain or voices of the divine, is going to first start with listening.


Quaker Problems

After a weekend, I can’t say that I know what I am listening for or if I am being addressed by the divine.  Of course, I admired the confidence that this gathering possessed and that they came to remarkable sound and sane conclusions from their unorthodox processes.  Also, let me be clear: I would not be hanging out with these folks if they said that God told them that gays are sinful, Muslims are misguided, etc., and there is a lot in this process that can look like finding God telling them what their liberal, egalitarian valued selves want to hear and promote.

But, after a weekend of white folks from New England talk about what comes from the divine, I am not discouraged about this process.  I am still committed to listening AND I am now more prepared to recognize that it is the liberal conclusions that these folks arrive at that attaches me to them.  I don’t get the divine, this is true, but I get the people: I get that they are inspired, that they are moved, that they want to improve the world. And I get that they think it starts with listening in the silence. I don’t get to say that it’s what God wants, but it is what I want. And that, my Friends, is a relatively harmless want and that is my truth. and Friends say that is enough.


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Who Needs Answers When You Have Cookies?

“The Modern, Secular, Hardly Divine Comedy”: A Play in One Act

Inspired by comments by Rocky. Read her at

Act 1, Scene 1

(cell phone rings)

Answerer: Hello?

Questioner:   Where do the questions come from?

A:   God, 42, You.

Q:   Where do the answers come from?

A:   ….

Q:   How can we get comfortable with all this lack of resolution in our lives?

A:   More tea, more phone calls, more meditation, more online writing into the blogosphere.

Q:   But what does that do?

A:   Heh, look, I don’t have all your answers, but I like your questions, and I appreciate that you ask them. And heh, I’m going to go so far as to say that having such an abundance of questions is a pretty awesome gift. Seriously. I know, your teachers got tired of it, your parents learned to ignore it. But God/42/You is here to say that the questions are welcome. Leave the door open. Trust me, there is space for them all.

Q:   So when you say that more “tea” and “phone calls” and “meditation” and “online writing” is our best solution for the lack of resolution, what you are really saying is that we have been conditioned to react negatively to the questions. These activities (listed as nouns) are actually spaces that welcome our overflowing heads, our anxious selves, our fears of inadequacy and simply let us be in a different relationship to what we want to reject. We don’t need answers; we need less judgment about what our minds produce.


Q:   It’s like what is written in all those writing books about silencing the Inner Critic. Giving the Inner Critic a cookie so she can sit in a corner quietly while the other part of ourselves can relax and let ideas come and go without all that shouting and scolding. So that we can let all those questions hang out, cause a ruckus.

A:  You sound like you are on to something there.

Q:  Yay!

A: …

Q: Are you still there?

A: Um, did you say you have cookies?

The End

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Where Do These Questions Come From?


Waterfall Niagara

The rush of questions at Niagara, New York. Photo by Holly White


Waking up with a question of why is an exciting day. Questions themselves are born of an energetic part of the body, quickening the heart. Yet, they seem to come from nowhere. Alert, with a question, additional questions start to crowd in. How to begin to find the answer? What book to read? What is the meaning of having this question at this time in my life? Should I start thinking by making a cup of tea or should I head straight to the library? Should I call a friend and ask her and see what she thinks?

Overwhelmed, very few folks follow that question and instead, turn to a distraction. “Let’s get that cup of tea” and soon enough, the would-be philosopher is doing dishes in order to bolster another self-concept of the Good Housekeeper. Or she calls the friend with her burning question and soon forgets the question when pushing cell phone buttons and remembering a missed call to return to another person. The friend call is made, perhaps, but the reason behind the call has since gone into hiding.

My own questioning self led me to surprising places—foreign ones–to have adventures that I could not have expected. And yet, I turned back on myself and asked, “why do I still feel unsettled? How was it I went in search of answers to my life and STILL have questions? What is with all this question-asking anyway?” and so, I headed to graduate school.

“A-ha! Here I would find my answers!” I thought. I felt settled, finally, certain that I now possessed the key to the secret place where questions are born. I imagined them coming into the world with the smell of their answers clinging to them before being washed clean by the Religio-Cultural Industrial Complex that was making a tidy profit from all of this questioning. I was going to find out not only about the answers to all the questions but alas! The Origin of Questions! The room(s) where these procedures occurred, of course, would be hidden from us new graduate students. But perhaps, maybe by the end of the second year, I would be given the instruction in a seminar and told where to go, with a few others of us, to witness the miraculous birth.

But that seminar day did not come.

And so, five years after that much-unconsciously-anticipated day, I sit here with my questions in my home office. Some questions are sorted into piles with categories and others are half-formed on post-its. Some, in my neatest penmanship, are pinned to a cork board above my desk. Some questions are pressed, like leaves, into seminar binders filed by semester in the corner, stacked in boxes so as to be “available should I need them.” This blog begins to tell the story of The Day That Did Not Come and how we–me and these orphan questions–are working to make our home together.

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Bodies in a Postmodern Mood

Welcome to my new blog that balances academic writing blocks and other crises of atheistic faith. I’m still experimenting with permissions for this blog. Here is an “aside” post on other things I think about: feminism and sexuality.

Jessica Alba in a bikini taken from What is amusing: I don't know who Jessica Alba is.

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Philosopher Labor

Reading today on Marx’s theories of political economy proposed in Capital was enough to send me again to my thoughts of philosopher labor. What is the exchange labor of a philosopher?  Are philosophers exploited, alienated from their labor? Who owns the production of philosophical thought?  And what is the going rate of a well-crafted, carefully cited tome on the global market?

These are, of course, Marx’s terms. What I mean to say is:  I set a course to teach religion at a liberal arts institution but I seem to be marching towards obsolescence.  Humanities courses are not what is driving higher education these days, so while more people are enrolled in higher education than ever before, the proportion of those taking courses has diminished.   There are many of us who are getting training in graduate schools to fill positions at these coveted ivy-covered institutions but not enough jobs for us to have. Add to this the arduous path to getting one of these highly sought jobs and it seems that reading philosophy is a skill that has no marketplace.

Arguments go that it never did, that the “life of the mind” was never up for commodification.  Of course, they are wrong: romanticization of philosophy as an avocation, external to political economy is what sells philosophy.

But “Professional Philosopher” sounds borish and inauthentic.  A philosopher who works is more aptly a “writer” or a “teacher.”  The tools of the philosopher are words, not ideas, as at first glance one would assume.  And with these tools, the philosopher-laborer makes sentences and paragraphs for others to consume.  What is yet to determine is if there is a market for these goods, if the philosopher-laborer can make enough to feed herself, to take vacations in beautiful places and have time for friends. Unfortunately, being a professional philosopher, ironically, leaves little time to think: he works too hard for too little money, and every year passing, capital’s intensification demands more output, more papers, more conferences, more teaching hours, more service time, for the same amount of money and less prestige than was once enjoyed by those of the generation who taught us our Marx, and Kant, our Weber and Freud.

More to the point: while I am a lover of wisdom–a philosopher–I am not sure that my products will do well in this challenging economic climate. I may be producing shoddy goods, and indeed, compared to the teachers and philosophers I admire, I am unlearned and undisciplined. My word-tools build too many passive constructions. My paragraphs fall over in a stiff breeze.  Who would want to live in any of these theoretical houses I build?

I imagine myself adrift in the internet sea among the talented and thoughtful people I run into in comment sections and on blogs.  They make a living in some fashion, don’t they? They do, perhaps, but most of them from other work in the offline world. Clever people, producing ideas in their free time to put up for nothing on the internet. Do they blog and fill up comment threads because they like it? Or because they hope to someday generate enough clout that someone will pay for their words.

This blog begins with the hesitation that there are already too many unread blogs in the world, much like there are too many of us underemployed graduate students of philosophy or religion.  Crowding the gate, we all want a seat on this bus going to security and stable wages.  Or maybe that is me: I want security and a wage for my words. Perhaps I want a wage to support my labor as a philosopher.   Marx survived on the patronage of his buddy Engels and his wife’s family inheritance, and earned a little bit from the articles he published as a correspondent for the New York Daily Tribune.

But alas, I am not Marx, and this reminds me that comparison to others in this just a habit of capitalist competition. I will eek out a living in some way, trusting that if I don’t get good enough at this philosopher gig to make it to a good farm team, then I will not stop using words, and working to make my sentences sturdier.  If a sentence is solid enough, maybe it can be sat in.  A philosophy chair, perhaps? Can I really furnish a house with solid thoughts, ones that make for cozy living and can be offered to guests?  With my functional sentences and useful paragraphs, I will enjoy the use-value of my philosophical labor.

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Readings on Writing

My encounters with practical writing books has been mostly a disappointing affair, but perhaps this is because I have needed help on multiple fronts. No single style book was going to be able to lift me from the stultifying confusion that would paralyze me when writing an academic paper.  I needed medicine. I needed intervention. No magic book-bullet came to relieve me of my misery.

What came instead was a trickle of ideas, dispersed across themes of reading, procrastination, time management, and ego development. The following bibliography, grouped by theme and annotated, is a starter-list relevant to an academic writer looking for advice or comfort. It is quite a list, so maybe you just want to jump in and report: What books have helped you become a stronger writer? A stronger person?

Holly’s Academic Writing How-To Bibliography


Adler, Mortimer Jerome, and Charles Lincoln Van Doren. How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading. Simon and Schuster, 1972
As it advertises, compendium of advice on active reading and understanding difficult books. This how-to meticulously maps reading and notetaking strategies, as well as argues for the pleasures of being challenged. 12 rules for reading are idealized but the message of interactive, life long practice of reading makes advice sensible. Worth the effort. Index.

Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams. The Craft of Research. Third Edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008
Classic style book has gems for grads. Write as you go. Revise quickly by scanning the page and make concepts the main characters of your argument. Warrants are the combination of claims and reasons or conditions and consequences, and these are essential for making academic arguments. (page 152-170) Third edition is sprinkled with anxiety-calmers, like “manage the unavoidable problem of inexperience” page 66.

Cioffi, Frank. The Imaginative Argument: A Practical Manifesto for Writers, n.d.
Details what makes an argument worth the time to write and read: a personal investment and hook that a reader can see why it matters. Useful first for writing about fiction, but also applicable for generating plausible, interesting arguments from texts. Bibliography. Index.

Harvey, Gordon. Writing with Sources: A Guide for Students. Second Edition. Hackett Pub. Co., 2008
Other’s writing is a part of our own writing. Integrating sources of ideas is part of the academic authority complex that demands we connect our teachers and others to our own ideas. Writing is assigned and evaluated by other readers who want to see who has aided one’s thinking. This college-style handbook makes the boundaries clearer for how to paraphrase and what to consider as valuable. Combine this with imperative that these are IDEALS and are learned through practice and approximation. Bibliography.

Lanham, Richard A. Style: An Anti-Textbook. Second Edition. Philadelphia: Paul Dry Books, 2007
The quest for clarity and self-expression through the verbal surface. Emphasis that there are different styles to writing and that this is a good thing: not all writing should be succinct or functional only. Good Bibliography.

Reading to Write: Exploring Cognitive and Social Process. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990
Technical language arts research text for discussion what cues first year undergrad students pick up on or need for understanding and interpreting writing assignments. Social science research gives background and evidence for techniques. Conclusions are few but solid for defending disconnect between teacher perception of assignments and instruction and the product-oriented, rule-bound environment of schools. sum: writing is an event AND a product. Bibliography. Index.

Weston, Anthony. A Rulebook for Arguments. Fourth. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub. Co., 2009
A slim book with 45 timeless rules for making an argument, including the need to identify your premises and to include counterexamples. Also information on what constitutes good sources and common logical fallacies. Useful for reviewing the elements of argument when graduate papers require argument and it seems like all you can write is description.


Burka, Jane B., and Lenora M. Yuen. Procrastination: Why You Do It, What to Do About It. New York: Perseus, 1988
Useful to recognizing the foundations for procrastinating behavior, family sources, habits built over time. My psychological than Overcoming Procrastination.

Fiore, Neil. Overcoming Procrastination: Practice the Now Habit and Guilt-Free Play. New York: MJF Books, 1989
Effective practices for reasonable scheduling and rewards. Useful for recognizing the self-talk and the anxiety that lies behind not starting projects or not finishing them. Major ideas: scheduling play first, the two-minute meditation to start hard projects, the need to start and keep starting. Bibliography.

Nelson, Victoria. On Writer’s Block: A New Approach to Creativity. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1993
Sympathetic book to blocked writers. Visualizes the block as instrumental to progress and relevant to the content of writing. Smart about the typical excuses and explanations for blocks, the author directs reader to the unconscious  at work and how a block is a protection. Outlines conditions that create blocks such as projects that are ill conceived or that are beyond one’s current capacity. Addressed to fiction but relevant for academic writing. First chapter “What Writer’s Block Means” sends strong message of support. Index.

Pressfield, Steven. The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles. New York: Warner Books, 2002
Fiction writer puts his method of work and philosophy out there to support others. Aphorisms remind reader that resistance will arise in any situation of creative challenge.Cheerleading style encourages reader to meet the resistance with courage, energy, and adventurous spirit. Spiritual message is to bolster the self that is larger than any one fear. (no index or bib).

Silvia, Paul J. How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association, 2007
Psychology PhD with psych framework for academic writing. Not as helpful as other writing books because it only deals with surface problems. Advice includes creating a daily schedule and listing manageable goals. Writing groups are also discussed. Like Tara Gray’s book but not as good. Bibliography.

Staw, Jane Anne. Unstuck: A Supportive and Practical Guide to Working Through Writer’s Block, n.d.
General introduction to writer’s block from primarily fiction writing perspective. Useful for experiments and workshop starters for getting unstuck and thinking about one’s project through different lenses. Author is a private coach and a college writing adjunct teacher. Key messages to the stuck writer include giving oneself permission and authority to write and feeling safe to share her voice. Index.

Todd, Sharon, ed. Learning Desire : Perspectives on Pedagogy, Culture, and the Unsaid. New York: Routledge, 1997
Edited volume of essays on higher education with an emphasis on psychoanalysis and Levinas. Particularly useful for unpacking the complex relation of authority in the classroom and parental authority, sexual development, and knowledge ascathexis.


Allen, David. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity. New York: Penguin, 2002
Best time management book I’ve read. Applies to scholars because it reminds about the consequences of broken promises and the need to repair them slowly to build confidence in productivity. Comprensive system for time and ideas is doable and thus, inspires trust in author.

Bolker, Joan. Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day: A Guide to Starting, Revising, and Finishing Your Doctoral Thesis. New York: Henry Holt, 1998
Fundamental message about the unique genre and anxiety that accompanies the independent thinking and working of a diss. Important concepts include Zero Draft, getting an advisor, scheduling consistent work times and prioritzing relaxation for the long haul. Written with kindness and humor.

Campell, William E. The Power to Learn: Helping Yourself to College Success. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1997
Simple but thorough guide for new college students, this book directs one through the strange expectations of college-level learning and thinking. Like “Straight-A” book but earlier and less edgy. I found this useful when I didn’t know the basics of what to do to capture my grad life, like “keep a journal as a loose-leaf binder to collect and organize reactions to ideas” and that it isn’t what you write or what you review, but THAT you write. And this helps thinking and memory.

Gleeson, Kerry. The Personal Efficiency Program: How to Get Organized to Do More Work in Less Time. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1994
Classic time management book with so many components that it is exhausting to imagine it all coming together, but it seems desirable and a fantasy to meet the fear and anxiety of the disorganized person. GTD system is similar but more approachable. Notice the appeal to manage time–and the time it takes to learn good habits. Notice also the theme of being flexible/plastic in one’s habits and willingness to start or face the hard or new task.

Newport, Cal. How To Become a Straight-A Student: Unconvential Strategies Real College Students Use to Score High While Studying Less, n.d.
Time management to plan school projects and get them done hassle free. Layout is clean and inspires through simplicity. Key ideas is to keep energy up and keep going through a long haul by setting up mini projects through a day that one completes with satisfaction, and thus, inspired to work more. three sections: time, note taking, essay writing.

Semenza, Gregory Colon. Graduate Study for the 21st Century: How to Build an Academic Career in the Humanities. New York: Palgrave, 2005
Thorough summary of all elements of grad program that need negotiated. Very helpful in listing typical arguments in seminar papers. Also useiful for cultivating good judgment because it outlines what to expect.

Zerubavel, Eviatar. The Clockwork Muse: A Practical Guide to Writing Theses, Dissertations, and Books, n.d.
Emphasizes the schedule and the dedicated time. Author writes a book SEVERAL times, meaning, several drafts are rewritten completely.


Needleman, Carla. The Work of Craft: An Inquiry into the Natuer of Crafts and Craftsmanship. New York: Avon Books, 1979
Craft is an engagement with a material that teaches us about the limitations. Contrasted to creation, craft demands reworking and return to the work. Ceramics, weaving, and woodworking are discussed, with a commentary about teaching. The need for a “third term” beyond teacher and student to serve as a stablizing focus point is a useful correction to a student-centered model of teaching. (no index, no bibliography).

Palmer, Brooks. Clutter Busting: Letting Go of What’s Holding You Back. Novato, CA: New World Library, 2009
Connects (for me) the material to the mental: that when there is a lot of material confusion, there is mental confusion. Also, that letting go of material things can clarify what needs to be acted on now and what can wait for another stage of life. The premise is that we will have what we need when we need it and thus, don’t need to hold on. Good imaginative exercises to see stuff through the “need it now” lens. Useful also for computer clutter and books as valuing others ideas above your own.

Richo, David. How to Be an Adult: A Handbook on Psychological and Spiritual Integration. Mahwah, NY: Paulist Press, 1991
Jungian therapist uses tightly organized program for grieving parenting one did not receive and gives direction for what behavior needs cultivation to take full responsibility for one’s life and choices. Methods include how to admit anger and fear into one’s experience without being ruled by it. Focus on intergrating shadow material and understanding project. Bibliography. Index.

Salzberg, Sharon. Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience. New York: Riverhead Books, 2002
Written by a Buddhist meditation teacher, this book undoes faith from dogmatism.

Tolle, Eckhart. The Power of Now: A Guide To Spiritual Enlightenment. Novato, CA: New World Library, 1999
Using a dialogue format, Tolle challenges convential principles about time and the human subject to unfold a spiritual principle about the Now–a place in time that affords freedom and opportunity and peace.

Walker, C. Eugene. Learn to Relax: 13 Ways to Reduce Tension. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1975
If writing is anxiety producing, it is good to have some general methods for reducing anxiety. Separating anxiety out from writing as a separate aspect of experience can open the space to cultivate a non-anxious approach to difficulties on the whole. While an old book, it is not dated. Index.

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