The worst advice I’ve ever been given to beat writer’s block can be summed up in two words: just start. Let me tell you why that advice sucks.
First, there is nothing more terrifying than a blinking cursor on a blank page combined with high expectations.
Do you have a million ideas and no idea which one to choose?
Do you have a quickly approaching deadline?
Are you a perfectionist?
Whatever form your high expectations take, being told to just start is a recipe for disaster. Staring at a blank page is the surest way for me to do just about anything else instead.
Second, when someone tells you to just start, they rarely if ever tell you where to start. Put another way, they never tell you what to start with. It’s like giving you a box of furniture parts and some tools, but no instruction manual.
There are two ways to approach this situation.
You might abandon the task entirely, which is entirely fair. They put you in an impossible situation!
Alternatively, you might break down and choose a place to start that looks straightforward enough. But it would be a lot easier if you had a piece of paper that enumerated each of the steps for you.
For most of us, the stakes are too high to go with the first option, so we figure out where to start eventually.
For those of you who are new here, the hidden curriculum includes a set of things we’re expected to know how to do, from attending a conference for the first time to applying for funding to going on the job market, without actually being taught them. This month I’m talking about how to write an abstract.
One thing that I actually was taught to do that would benefit me academically is writing abstracts. Moreover, I was taught, as part of a graduate seminar on Ancient Medicine in Winter 2018, how to write an abstract before writing the paper.
Up until that point, I had only ever been confident in my ability to write abstracts based on papers I’d already written, and I’m sure most people can relate. Submitting an abstract based on a paper you haven’t written yet is scary.
On the one hand, this nebulous idea that’s floating around in your head has to be coherent enough to be accepted.
On the other hand, if it does get accepted, you’ve actually got to do the work, write the paper, and present it. Woof.
As it turns out, that lesson was extremely useful as I did go on to submit the abstract to CAMWS in 2019 and it was accepted. In the end, however, I decided to withdraw from the conference when the pandemic hit and everything went online.
Since then, I have become more and more comfortable with writing abstracts based on ideas rather than full-blown research papers and happen to be in the midst of writing one now. So, I thought it would be a good time to share what I’ve learned from the process as part of the hidden curriculum series.
One of the things that I wanted to do with Notes From the Apotheke was to amplify the voices and contributions of BIPOC scholars in ancient studies, at all levels and from all backgrounds.BIPOC in the field are invited to reflect on what brought them to studying the ancient world, as well as offer their opinions on the future of the discipline and share any work they are especially proud of or excited about.
Check out this month’s feature, written by Ashley Lance, to learn more about Ashley’s experiences with talking about identity and racial categories, how her identity relates to her work, and her thoughts on the future of Classics.Check out previous posts in the series here.
If there’s anything you know about me, it’s that I’m always thinking about teaching. It’s a wonder that this entire blog isn’t dedicated to the subject.
But since it’s August (!) and a new school year is suddenly right around the corner (!!) I figured now was the perfect time to share some thoughts about teaching.
Over the last year there have been tons of resources created and shared relating to pedagogy, including this recent workshop organized by the Women’s Classical Caucus. Many of these aimed to remedy the fact that pedagogical training is severely lacking in Classics, and provide support to instructors at all levels and stages in their teaching careers.
What all of these workshops and resources have taught me, at least, is just how much I was missing when I first started teaching. Here are just a few things I wish I’d known way back then.
Expecting ourselves and others to continue working as normal – and sometimes even harder than normal – is not only unrealistic, it’s unsustainable. It’s downright cruel. It’s the definition of toxic productivity.
Who is the work you’re doing for?
Is the work you’re doing (or that you’re asking others to do) really so important that it’s worth sacrificing your mental health and overall wellbeing? (Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka would say no, it isn’t.)
For those of you who are new here, the hidden curriculum includes a set of things we’re expected to know how to do, from attending a conference for the first time to applying for funding to going on the job market, without actually being taught them. This month I’m talking professional development and why it’s so important, especially for grad students.
Professional development and academics have always been at odds.
Either you write your thesis or you take workshops and courses that make you a better job candidate.
Either you spend your summer working on a field project or you participate in an internship that gives you first-hand experience in the field you want to work in.
But you can never do both. Or so it seems.
The truth is that you can and shouldbe able to do both. But there are structural constraints which make it difficult.
If there’s anything 2020 taught me, it’s that you can’t take anything for granted, especially your health, time, or energy. While the pandemic made us more connected than ever, it caused many of us to spread ourselves too thin. Although the pandemic is ongoing, a new year still brings the potential for change. One of my new year’s resolutions is to practice more self care.
One way of doing this is by distancing myself from things that don’t serve me. Here are just a few things I’m not wasting my energy on in 2021.
Diversity committee seems to be the buzz word for academia in 2020. If you are a graduate student of color, you have probably encountered one in your department or institution.
If you’re like me, you may have been recruited to join a newly-minted committee early on in the scramble to create these committees in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests. While we have been quick to take action in some areas, like hosting a series on webinars on anti-racist pedagogy, the gears have slowed down a bit over the last few months due to the chaos of a full pandemic semester.
Anxieties surrounding joining a diversity committee as a person of color are not uncommon, and while I am proud of the things we have accomplished, there are things that I wish I had asked before joining.
If you’re a person of color on the fence about joining a diversity committee, here are a few questions you should consider before making a decision.
*To no one’s surprise, the list is currently pretty scarce, despite the fact that I included one grant for Canadian students to round out the resources. However, if there are any funding sources that I missed, please let me know and I will add to the list!*
My relationship with funding throughout my academic career is not entirely straightforward.
In undergrad, I was awarded scholarships to dig in Greece at the Athenian Agora for two consecutive summers.
However, it wasn’t until I got accepted to grad school that I started looking elsewhere for funding opportunities. But little did I know that that was just the beginning of my search.
Grad school is hard enough for anyone who’s looking for funding for anything. However, it is particularly difficult for students of color. We constantly compete with those who are traditionally favored in Classical Studies and archaeology.
In undergrad, I had no idea that grants for BIPOC students existed. In fact, many of these funding opportunities did not exist in 2016.
I received a Frank M. Snowden Undergraduate Scholarship that year and used it to improve my Latin for grad school. I recently applied for the new William Sanders Scarborough Fellowship, but have not yet received my results.
In sum, these are rare and precious opportunities that have emerged for students of color in Classical Studies. As such, I collected them in a place where students of color can access them easily.
In my experience these sorts of grants were not (and still aren’t) widely advertised by individual departments. Go figure.
Let’s be honest – achieving work-life balance is probably the furthest thing from your mind when you start grad school. And even more so if you started grad school this year.
This past year has been anything but business as usual, and we’ve all had to adapt in one way or another. The summer was especially hectic after an academic year without many responsibilities. It made me wonder, as I’m sure most of us do, whether work-life balance was even achievable.
But I inevitably returned to the mindset that I had achieved before the pandemic hit and changed everything.
And that mindset is that there are more important things than academia.
Say it with me now: there are more important things.
There are more important things than:
Staying up all night to finish the readings for a class you don’t care about
Answering emails from professors, students, and others that arrive outside of working hours
Saying yes to every “opportunity” to serve your department in ways that might look good on your CV
Spending an entire weekend trying to meet arbitrary deadlines that you set yourself
Sure, my circumstance might seem to apply only to those of you who have already achieved candidacy. But in reality I had always had this mindset; I’ve only pulled one all-nighter ever because they’ve never appealed to me more than my bed has.
It just wasn’t until I had control over my own time that I realized that I wanted to make the most of it. It wasn’t until then that I realized that it was okay to have a life outside of school, and that it really wasn’t so hard to achieve work-life balance.