Writing lessons in unexpected places

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I’m a writer.

So, I see writing spaces, inspiration, and sometimes lessons, in unexpected places and at unexpected times.

I was inspired after my recent massage to return to a piece of writing that has been causing me tension. I am aware of some of the sources of the tension – i.e., I’m writing about a leadership issue that I’m currently navigating – and there are other unknown sources of tension that I am battling in my attempts to bring clarity to parts of this work.

Generally, I will try to work on this or other such writing, feel the tension, and then back away or move on to work on another piece. The latter is largely a gift and joy of having multiple writing projects. However, I can’t keep walking away from the tension when there is writing that needs to be completed and shared.

Leaving a recent spa appointment, I felt a breakthrough of sorts in reflecting on the unexpected writing lesson I received there. You see, a massage therapist feels for tension, acknowledges it, and then spends time and effort to work through relieving the tension. It’s a dedicated effort of applying concentrated and repeated pressure over a period of time until the tension (or “knot”) releases. As I was reflecting on the joy of being the beneficiary of the relief that came from actively and strategically working on relieving muscle tension, I realized that I need to establish writing time, practices and strategies for working on “relieving the tension” of some of my writing.

The time, and perhaps space, needed to do this is decidedly different from the writing time at which I excel generally – i.e., generative writing and developmental editing/writing. I embrace these writing forms and times wholeheartedly.

To facilitate staying on track with a number of writing projects to which I have committed, I’ve got to move to establishing successful practices for tackling the “tension-relieving” writing. I suspect that I’ll need to establish multiple brief periods in which I can use an intense, focused period to apply the “pressure” needed to break through a writing tension. It’s possible that pairing this with a generative writing time could be truly beneficial in breakthrough a “knot” and moving forward towards completing a specific goal.

I’m thankful for lessons that come in whatever form and through whatever forum to inspire me to continue to grow and advance as a writer.

As always, if you have thoughts on this or other posts, find me on Twitter at @BerondaM

Mentor, rather than imprint

In many recent talks on #mentoring, I’ve continued to distinguish effective and progressive mentoring from many other forms of support that we offer, particularly in academic environments, and often under the banner of “mentoring”.

We frequently offer advising and call it mentoring. Advising is distinct from mentoring in that the former is advice that is helpful for anyone on a specific path. For example, all students completing a particular degree must take certain courses, perhaps participate in particular internships, or accomplish other specific goals. Mentoring is specific advice and input based on personal knowledge of a particular individual.

We also frequently engage in imprinting and call it mentoring. I’ve described imprinting based on the common understanding of a mature individual “training” less experienced individuals in navigating safely through a context based first and foremost on the mature individual’s experiences or behavioral norms of a group. One of the most common examples is a “mother” duck leading ducklings, who “fall in line” behind her.

Imprinting has its place, for example the ducklings learn (hopefully) how to safely navigating their environments, in order to survive, grow and persist.

However, mentoring should not be imprinting.

I have met resistance (and not infrequently so) to my suggestion that mentoring should not be centered on imprinting, which the objectors perceive as simply helping one learn how to navigate safely through an environment. Moving wholesale away from imparting principles for navigating an environment is not exactly what I’m suggesting when I indicate that mentoring ≠ imprinting.

Instead, I’m suggesting that mentoring can’t (or shouldn’t) focus on an individual learning to “replay” exactly the moves that a mentor has made to pursue success. Rather, the advice from a mentor should focus on why specific moves were made – i.e., “to what end” specific moves where made. Then, a discussion can be engaged as to what specific ways a mentee may achieve a particular end.

This perspective focuses on the “why” rather than the “what” and acknowledges that individuals may have distinct ways or motivations to approach the same destination. Alternatively, the individuals may be navigating the same “training space” as the mentor with a completely different destination in mind upon leaving the space. Imprinting doesn’t always allow for these realities.

So imprint if you desire, but understand that it’s not mentoring…and it may be self-serving and self-affirmative.

As always, if you have thoughts on this or other posts, find me on Twitter at @BerondaM

Mentoring as Environmental Stewardship

I had an opportunity in January 2018 to participate on a panel at the Allied Social Science Associations (ASSA)/American Economic Association (AEA) meeting on “Best Practices in Mentoring Underrepresented Minority Women in Economics.”

As a follow up to this event, I was invited to submit a piece to the American Economic Association’s Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession (CSWEP) newsletter.

I wrote about Mentoring as Environmental Stewardship.

In this piece I write the following, “Optimally enacted, mentoring is about success of the individual in and with contributions to a particular context.”

I truly believe that this is one of the keys to successful mentoring, that is to support optimal outcomes for the individual and the “place” in which they function/work.

Additionally, I argue the following in this piece:

A link to my full write-up is provided here:

A link to the full newsletter which contains additional pieces on mentoring is here.

As always, if you have thoughts on this or other posts, find me on Twitter at @BerondaM