Tuesday, November 22, 2005


I am supervising students who have to finish their 20 page papers by Thursday. As the only woman in a teaching position I get a lot of girls among those students. Some boys with blog and world of warcraft interests, but otherwise it's girls. Brilliant, hard-working, intense and dedicated girls*. They are definitely not me as I was at their age, they are smarter, prettier and more dedicated, and I find myself reminding them that they need to breathe. Deep belly breaths, while they look away from the subject they are analysing, and tell themselves this is fine, it will work, and the world will not fall apart if they stop hurting themselves for 10 minutes.

Self-flagellation may seem like an academic olympic sport, but after a certain point it doesn't really make your research or your writing better. Hurting yourself constantly over academic writing can lead the other way: that you remove what made your writing special, different and more interesting. Unless you really like the pain, indulge in your favourite sustenance, lean back and breathe, while you find something to focus on that makes you smile and notice good things. It may let you notice the good things in your own work too.

* The boys are as brilliant as the girls, but for some reason they are not as much into self-punishment and doubt. Good for them!

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