A Writer’s Mentality

You always know a writer when you meet one. Irrespective of whether they have published anything, people with a writer’s mentality share one extremely annoying characteristic: they can only talk about their writing. No matter what topic you try to broach with them, it always comes back to their writing.

“The weather is really beautiful today,” you mention to a writer.

“Yes,” she responds. “This makes me think of a description of springtime from a short story I wrote in 1992. Let me read it to you.”

“My boss is not happy with my performance,” you share with a writer. “This is very stressful to me. What if I get fired?”

“Hardship is an inescapable part of life,” he says. “My most recent novel has been rejected by 17 publishing houses. Let me read you a letter I received from one of them and you’ll tell me what you think.”

“My husband and I had a huge fight,” you complain. “I’m thinking we might need couples’ therapy.”

“I offered some interesting insights into challenges people encounter in their romantic life in my 2010 trilogy. Have you read it? Can I ask you to review it on Amazon?”

I almost turned into this person (“Yes, as I said last week on my blog. . .”) but I stopped myself in time. I don’t want people I know to have nervous breakdowns when they hear the word “blog.”

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2011 Annual Report

If people are interested in seeing the Annual Report for the time that this blog has been on WordPress (starting from May 18, 2011), it can be located here.

One thing they fail to mention is that this blog’s most popular month was October of 2011. I have no explanation for this.

Why I Love Doing Midpoint Tenure Review

The time of reckoning has come for me, people. I have been on my tenure-track for 2,5 years, which means that the moment has arrived when I have to fill this humongous binder with papers documenting my every teaching, research and service-related sneeze.

Of course, I whine, complain, and tell everybody how stressed out I am by this process and how the need to write statements in the language that bureaucrats will be able to process annoys me. To be completely honest, though, I really dig the midpoint tenure review.

For one, just the mere chance of getting tenure is something very precious and extremely rare nowadays. Some of the schools that accept people into tenure-track positions don’t really do it in good faith. Their goal is not to ensure that new Assistant Professors get tenure and promotion at the end of the 6-year-long track but, rather, to find reasons to deny tenure to people who busted their asses in hopes of tenure.

My university is not like this at all. Everybody is extremely supportive of my tenure goals at every level of administration. As I’m gathering my documents and writing my narratives, I have many chances to be reminded of how great, helpful and encouraging my colleagues are. Everybody seems to be passionately invested into seeing me succeed, for some reason. And that makes me feel important, respected, and appreciated.

The midpoint review is also a great self-esteem booster. Academics often suffer from lack of feedback on their efforts. You work extremely hard to create an article but then rarely hear anything about it after it gets published. Student evaluations only happen once every semester. The same goes for peer evaluations. As a result, academics often feel lonely and disconnected. They begin to doubt whether what they do has any value.

As one is gathering the mountain of documents needed for the midpoint review, however, one gets a chance to look at all of the publications, conference talks, accolades, grants, letters of support, evaluations, reviews, compliments, etc. that one has accumulated.

“Wow, all of this in just 2,5 years?” one thinks. “I kind of totally rule.”

And that’s a very good feeling.

Profiling

Blogger Danny (whose great blog Danny’s Corner I highly recommend) asked his readers to consider the following scenarios and share their thoughts:

1. You park your car and get out to go inside a mall. As you look up from locking and closing your door you see an Native American man walk by who makes direct eye contact with you. You double check to make sure your car door is locked.

2. Walking down the street one night you see a Jewish man coming from the opposite direction. Just before making contact you suddenly cross the street.

3. Waiting for an elevator you see that no one else is around…except for the Mexican man that comes from around the corner. You hope that he is not also looking to take the elevator.

This is what I responded:

As long as the three behaviors you listed are matters of personal choice and do not move to the realm of social policy, I see no problem with them. If I have, say, a completely irrational dislike of people in red hats and don’t want to take the elevator with them, that’s my right. Now, if I became governor and started legislating on the basis of my personal irrational fears, that would be wrong. But my right to suspect anybody of anything on any basis and not get into elevators with absolutely anybody I choose is inalienable.

I have a feeling that Danny wants to talk about the different ways in which we construct gender as opposed to race. That is an important discussion and I urge everybody to contribute to it on Danny’s blog. I, however, want to talk about the specific scenarios Danny listed, so I brought them here.

We all profile in our daily existences. I would never invite a person who has a loud laugh or a voice I find unpleasant into my house. I’m autistic, loud laughter drives me up a wall. If said person with a laughter doesn’t want to have autistics in her house, I recognize her right to do so, and would not mind not being invited. I also make efforts to avoid the company of my compatriots. I know I will not have a good time around them, so I try to stay away from their gatherings. When I was single, I refused to meet blond men. I don’t find blond men attractive, which is why I never even considered them as a possibility.

Of course, if anybody tried to transform these very personal idiosyncrasies into collective policy, I would be the first one to protest.

So what do you, folks, think about these 3 scenarios and the issue of profiling?