I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. I wouldn't say that I was on vacation because I went to the busiest place on the planet (or what felt like it) during the busiest travel days of the year, but I did take a week off from social media and a few days off from work. It cleared my head a bit, and I'm ready to SLOWLY and STEADILY finish up this semester on a positive note, rather than continuing to try to do one hundred things at once. Note to self: push reset on myself more often.
I thought that today I would do a post on the status of a new endeavor called #higheredreads before I sign off to go watch The Mandalorian with my homebound guys on this gorgeous snow day, our first of the year.
1. Some background
For the past couple of years, I've been posting on social media about wanting to create some sort of reading group. I've had tons of interest every time I post, but time constraints have prevented me from moving it forward. And yet, I keep posting about it because clearly it's something I really want to do, for myself and for our #highered community. I want to do this for myself because I have a big pile of professional reading that I just don't make time for consistently, and some external accountability will give me the structure that I need to stay motivated. I sense I'm not alone in this, and since I love #highered and the people who work in it, I want to help us to have a positive space to connect, learn, and grow.
I posted, yet again, about my desire to do this about a month ago. After tons of people expressed interest, I said, "Oh, what the hell," and decided to just do it.
2. #higheredreads is NOT a book club.
This is going to be a professional reading accountability group. This is not a book club. In a book club, members all read the same book and then meet to discuss it. I think that's great. That said, my sense is that book clubs can be stressful for a lot of us. Personally, I have so many books that I want to read that I don't want someone dictating my reading choices. I also know that while I want to have some structure around my professional reading, I don't want too much structure. Life is so active as it is, and we all have too much stress in our lives. I don't want to be part of something that adds more. If anyone out there wants to start a #highered book club, please, have at it. I think that's a great idea and will probably work well for lots of folks. But #higheredreads will be a bit different.
3. How will it work?
4. What should I read?
5. What else?
What am I missing? If you have any thoughts about this model, or how we can make this even more fun, positive, and supportive, please connect.
Right before my summer vacation, someone recommended a book to me: Tara Sophia Mohr's Playing Big.
Now, if you know me, heck, even if you don't know me, I've probably given you some book recommendations. I love to read, I love books, and I love connecting people to great books. A colleague recently told me that he doesn't think books can change someone's life.
In my experience, books do change lives, and they've certainly changed mine. What's also been true for me is that the right book appears at just the right time. I've had books on my shelves for years, and then one day, I feel nudged to pick one up and read it, only to find the exact message that I needed to move forward from a challenge.
Playing Big was the right book at the right time. I read it over the summer, often from the hammock or on the beach, took notes on it in my Moleskine notebook, and plan to write more about it over the next year, because it's PACKED with wisdom.
A big part of that wisdom is about how women can unhook from external praise and criticism. We are, of course, trained from birth to be good, to be nice, and to not rock the boat. That earns us praise. When we start playing big, guess what happens? We're breaking the rules, so we receive criticism, which for many of us, is excruciating. It's so uncomfortable that we often swing back in the other direction and start playing small again.
This idea made me think a lot about my writing. I have been actively writing, learning about writing, and submitting my work since 2012. Not as long as many, but I am doing the hard work on a daily basis. Of course, like a lot of women, I think, I've been writing in my head since as long as I can remember; I just gave myself permission to put those words into the world in 2012.
And since then, with a ton of work, and mountains of rejections, I've started to see my words make their way into the world. I don't want to say that I'm lucky that various publications regularly publish my writing, because again, this has been a long road with no luck in sight, just work, faith, intuition, rage, and more work. But the point is, my writing is getting published. Great, right? Yes! Please keep publishing my writing. Please keep reading and sharing it. One of my favorite things in life is when someone emails me, out of the blue, to tell me that something I wrote a few years ago, something I've often forgotten about, spoke to them or helped them see the world differently. It's the absolute best.
And, I realized while reading Playing Big that I didn't have a lot of space in my life for writing that was just mine. I had wanted to start a blog about education, wellness, books, writing, and life for a few years, but I was scared. I was scared to look dumb, basically.
If an editor reads my work and deems it worthy, then I feel confident(ish) putting it out into the world. If there's no editor involved, if it's just me, how can I know my writing is good enough to share?
That's why I'm blogging this fall: because I've wanted to for a really long time, but I was scared to share my writing unless an editor approved of it.
Writing this blog has been like an exercise in believing in myself. Every week, I put fingers to keyboard, and speak as honestly as I can about whatever I want. If I want to write a blog about post-it notes (not a bad idea....), I can. If I want to write about self-doubt, I can. It's mine. All mine. Which of course feels like standing in front of my high school's graduating class with no pants on, but mostly, each time that I post, I feel a little bit more clothed.
My hunch is that the more that I do this, the more that I share my writing with the world without someone else's pre-approval, the braver that I'll get, and the more willing that I'll be to play big. I've also come to realize that it's just fun; it's quality time with myself, usually on a Monday morning, to do something that I love. To generate something rather than to cut something down. To create. To take a risk.
That's why I'm committed to blogging this fall, and while it's not my primary goal, maybe another woman who's been playing small will stumble upon these words, and decide to take her own risk.
I've been thinking about blogging for at least a year. I hemmed. I hawed. Life is so busy; did I really want to add another task to my plate? And yet, I was feeling the urge to write on a regular basis. Not for paid publication, but just for the joy of creating.
It's been a guiding theme of my life that when I'm ready to read it, the book appears. This summer, I read Austin Kleon's book Steal Like an Artist.
I bought it because I've realized that I need to relearn how to be creative. I've buried that part of myself for a long time, or ignored it, or just let other things become priorities. I know that to feel whole and balanced, I need to spend ample time each week creating, just for the hell of it.
I expected that I'd learn some ideas about how to be more creative. I didn't realize I'd get some much-needed advice on how to approach blogging.
Here's what I learned:
WAIT WAIT WAIT. You mean I can just do good work and then share it? It's that simple? I don't have to completely overanalyze the blogging experience, trying to map it out twenty years into the future, anticipating every possible outcome? I don't have to take a class on SEO, or even know what SEO is?
Yeah, I do the analysis paralysis thing quite a bit.
I love step-by-step instructions.
I also love to wonder. I wonder about everything. I love to learn. So many things fascinate me. Could this be the way forward with my blog? Could I simply wonder about things and share that wonder with others?
I can put things on the internet. I can do that.
Ah, here we are at a piece of advice that feels a little bit more challenging. How to find my people?
I think we can all agree that we are being bombarded with information and personalities online. How do I find my little school of fish in this big ocean of the internet?
I'm working on it. I'm trying to be a bit more intentional about investing my energy in people who love what I love: books, brains, introversion, teaching, learning, trauma-informed practices, self-exploration, big ideas, and purpose. If you're one of those people, know that I'm also one of those people. Maybe we can be those people together?
I took a vacation this summer. A real one. My first real one in many years. It was amazing. I spent a lot of time with family, and I read great books, mostly fiction. I decided that pretty much my favorite thing to do is to sit outside in the summer, or somewhere cozy in the winter, and read a novel. That's living.
One of the things that I hope to share regularly on this blog is my love of books. I'm thinking that will show up as a "The Last 5 Books I Read" type of post. For now, I'm going to start off by sharing my summer reading.
I'm going to highlight a few of my favorites, but I should mention that I don't finish a book if I'm not enjoying it. I used to, but then I had a kid. Time is too precious, and there are too many books in the world waiting to be read. If it's on this list, that means I liked it enough to finish it.
A Few Favorites
Thanks for reading about reading.
I write about higher education.