True Grit

GritOver at The Chronicle of Higher Education, Rachel Toor has some helpful things to say about some new books on academic productivity.

In this passage she reflects on Angela Duckworth‘s book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance:

Duckworth, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, argues that success comes from marrying passion with perseverance. She argues that the most important element for achieving success is not talent, but a willingness to keep going when the going gets tough. The trick: Find something you love to do, and then stick to it. The empowerment part comes from her notion that we all have the ability to increase our stick-to-it-iveness.

Isn’t that how most of us do our academic jobs? We get to pick our topics, then we plop our butts in the chair and churn out the required work. We’ve chosen this profession, even though the odds of succeeding in it are getting slimmer by the day. We know going in that writing and publishing are more valued than teaching, and we understand that we will be expected to produce.

If you don’t experience academe as a calling, there are easier — and more profitable — ways to make a living. And that’s why some of us, when faced with colleagues who can’t seem to get their work done, may think of them as weak or undisciplined.

When I talk to junior faculty members and graduate students about productivity, I urge them to treat writing like a routine. Carve out inviolable time in your day where you commit to the work, I say. Find a space dedicated just to writing. Make dates with friends to sit across a cafe table and suffer together over your prose. Form a writing group. I even published a column about all the excuses I heard from folks who couldn’t get the work done.

Boiled down, my message to writers has always been: Get gritty. Once I understood Duckworth’s argument more fully, it resonated and made perfect sense — except of course when you stop to consider how most people actually live. It’s easy to stick to it when you have enough time, enough energy, and/or enough support. But not all academics do.

Read the entire piece here.