New Study Shows “Tiger Mom” Wrong

Last year, I wrote about Amy "Tiger Mom" Chua, who wrote a book celebrating her abusive parenting practices, which she said were both typically Chinese American, and yielded a better outcome than supposedly permissive mainstream American ones. ("Better outcome," of course, defined narrowly as a compliant child who excels in school and work). After widespread condemnation (mixed in with a few plaudits from conservative organs like The Wall Street Journal), she recanted somewhat and admitted that her daughters do receive compensatory nurturant parenting from their dad. No matter--Chua got her fifteen minutes of fame and thousands of book sales. … [Read more...]

Isolation and Invisibility as Key Tactics *and* Goals of Procrastination

From Chapter 6 of The 7 Secrets of the Prolific Procrastination makes you invisible and isolated. If you never finish your novel, you won't be seen by agents, editors or your audience. If you never finish your thesis, you won't be seen by your committee, colleagues and prospective hirers. Invisibility and isolation are, in fact, key strategies and goals of procrastination: They are strategies because community is essential to productivity and success (Chapters 3.9 – 3.13), so if you're not seen, you probably won't finish your work or attain your other writing-related goals. And they are goals because if you're not seen, you can't be judged – and, in particular, can't be judged a failure. Underproductivity may feel terrible, but recall that, for perfectionists, failure is a kind of ego death that feels far worse (Chapter 2.6). … [Read more...]

Shortsightedness as a Barrier to Weight Loss, Writing Productivity and Other Goals

Shortsightedness is a hallmark of addictive behavior: the classic image of an addict is someone who can't see past her immediate need for a fix, and who will sacrifice anyone or anything to get it. One of the primary aims of my weight loss efforts was to learn to defuse the urgency I often felt around food. And one of the big lessons I learned was that the food itself is almost beside the point: the root of the problem was the urgency. This was true even for the foods I craved most. (I'm talking about you, pasta!) You probably are at least semi-aware of this, if you've ever pondered how it can be possible to go from anxiously craving a food with your whole soul to being wholly indifferent to it, in just a matter of moments after you've eaten it. In his excellent book Breaking Addiction, Lance Dodes writes: “The drive in addictive behavior is rage at helplessness. It is this particular kind of rage that gives addiction its most conspicuous characteristics of intensity and loss of control.” His reference … [Read more...]

Welcome AWP People!

I had a blast tabling at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs meeting this past weekend. I met so many fantastic writers and writing teachers, and left very inspired. So many people dedicated to the written word, and to expression in prose and poetry. If you're here after meeting me at the AWP welcome! You'll find plenty of free resources. Also, be sure to check out the sample chapters from The 7 Secrets of the Prolific. … [Read more...]

Cool Science News: Paint-On Solar Cells for Any Surface

Imagine a world where any surface could be coated with solar cells, converting sunlight and even the glow of light bulbs into small amounts of usable energy. This is the goal of a new startup called Ubiquitous Energy, MIT Technology Review reports. - Link … [Read more...]

How to Recognize and Cope with Success-Related Losses

I've become increasingly aware that: (a) success always involves some loss, compromise, disappointment, or sacrifice; and (b) that fear of that loss is a major barrier for many people. In the below excerpt from my forthcoming book How to Get Willpower for Weight Loss and Other Important Goals, I deal with this important topic. - Hillary Success isn't some kind of simple nirvana, but a complex experience with positive and negative aspects. The positives to losing weight are obvious: you're more attractive and healthier, and it feels sublime to achieve a difficult goal. The negatives are less obvious, but could include that the new, skinnier you becomes the target of envy and other unwanted attentions. Another reason to fear success is that it often takes you from a limited, but relatively simple and easy, existence to a more satisfying and rewarding, but also more complex and challenging, one. A graduate student who finally finishes his Ph.D. thesis, for instance, often has to face tough critiques of his … [Read more...]

Harsh Parenting Linked to Depression, Unhappiness, and Other Problems in Kids and Adults

"A review of two decades worth of studies has shown that corporal punishment is associated with antisocial behavior and aggression in children, and later in life is linked to depression, unhappiness, anxiety, drug and alcohol use and psychological maladjustment. Beyond beating, parents can also hurt children by humiliating them, labeling them in harmful ways (“Why are you so stupid?”), or continually criticizing their behavior." Link … [Read more...]

Stephen King and Anthony Trollope on the Importance of Approaching Your Work With the Proper (Non-Grandiose) Attitude

From The 7 Secrets of the Prolific: The prolific tend to see their writing not as some holy mission but their “work, “craft,” or even “job”: Stephen King: “Don't wait for the muse...This isn't the Ouija board or the spirit-world we're talking about here, but just another job like laying pipe or driving long-haul trucks. Your job is to make sure the muse knows where you're going to be every day from nine 'til noon or seven 'till three.” Anthony Trollope: “Let [other writers] work be to them as is his common work to the common laborer. No gigantic efforts will then be necessary. He need tie no wet towels round his brow, nor sit for thirty hours at his desk without moving — as men have sat, or said that they have sat.” (Love the skepticism at the end of Trollope's statement, which I think is entirely justified when reading grandiose statements about writing.) Ironically, it's the nongrandiose attitude that frees writers to consistently experience the glory and transcendence that grandiosity promises … [Read more...]

Welcome Tomorrow’s Professor People!

Glad you found your way here! There are plenty of free resources to help you. I'm very grateful to Dr. Reis for mentioning my book because I have a special admiration for graduate students and scholars in general. Your work is very important! The appendix to The 7 Secrets of the Prolific is devoted to your needs, and you can find the entire text of it here. If you like what you read, please buy the book! ($24.95 for paperback & ebook bundle; $3.95 for ebook only). After you've looked at my book I would be grateful if you would leave a review at Amazon or another bookseller. Reviews really do drive sales, and even a 2-3 line review is fine. … [Read more...]

Video: The Truth About Procrastination

The Truth About Procrastination featuring Hillary Rettig from Hillary Rettig on Vimeo. … [Read more...]

He Gets It!

"We must act knowing that our work will be imperfect." Barack Obama, 2d inaugural address, January 21, 2013 … [Read more...]

“Procrastinating Surgeon Putting Off Coronary Bypass By Cleaning Entire Hospital”

The Onion gives us a sterling example of procrastination as a mimic of productive work: "NEW YORK—Sources at Columbia University Medical Center reported Sunday that cardiac surgeon Dr. Robert Klinge, 44, was putting off an impending coronary bypass procedure by cleaning the entire hospital. “I know that guy’s arteries are a mess, but so are the linens in the pediatric ward,” Klinge said following a morning of procrastination in which he had vacuumed the ER, taken out the hospital’s recycling, and sorted multiple trays of scalpels, adjusting the implements carefully until they were lined up perfectly parallel. “If I don’t clean this stuff now, I’ll spend the whole surgery focusing on how the floor could use mopping and the cafeteria windows need to be washed. Besides, I can always get up really early tomorrow and do the bypass then.” At press time, Klinge was reportedly applying a fresh coat of paint to the hospital’s loading dock and did not hear the intercom call indicating a “code blue” in the cardiac … [Read more...]

This is Called “Situational Perfectionism”

Situational perfectionism is when something happens that causes your perfectionism to spike. Examples include: *You've invested in your writing or other dream - say, by taking a class or buying a piece of equipment - and think, "Now, I'd better make that pay off." *You've just finished a workshop or class, and are feeling all, "Now, I'd better do something fabulous." … [Read more...]

Three Great Success Tips from Ted Behr

My friend Ted Behr went to a success workshop and came back with three great tips. Click to read his article. … [Read more...]

Coping with Harsh Criticism

My friend and former student Kirstin Butler wrote a fantastic post on coping with traumatic rejection. I won’t go into a ton of detail about the feedback itself, because I know it was well-intentioned. But it also contained a few comments — I believe the exact phrase was “total rewrite situation” — that hit me square in the solar plexus. Listen, I will totally own the fact that I’m a sensitive person, particularly so with this book since it’s been my baby for almost three years now, but I do believe there are more and less helpful ways to give criticism. It’s also probably worth noting that of all the responses I received, the only one I internalized was a complete outlier. And that the things this reader said made the draft fundamentally flawed were the very elements all the others had liked best. In other words, taste is subjective and there will always be people that don’t dig what you do because it’s just not their bag. … [Read more...]