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Flourish: An Electronic Newsletter for Scholarly Writers December 2006

vol. 2, no. 12

Depression and writers have a long intertwined history. Scholarly writers in particular face challenges in maintaining mental health. They frequently work in stressful conditions where their future employment is uncertain and their current earnings are not sufficient. They often live among strangers, because they are new to the university or aren't from the dominant culture. Compounding this for many is the increasingly unstable international situation. Those with a disposition toward depression may find that these stressful conditions trigger feelings of anxiety and hopelessness, as well as an inability to concentrate or feel rested.

In a recently published study of over 3,000 graduate students at the University of California at Berkeley, almost half reported having had an emotional or stress-related problem over the past year. Two out of five reported feeling exhausted and 46% reported feeling overwhelmed "frequently" or "all of the time." Those who reported mental health needs were most often those who had been in school the longest and were in very competitive programs. They were also more likely to lack financial stability, supportive advisors, or regular contact with friends and family. The study found that while many felt comfortable consulting their university's psychological services, quite a few were reluctant to do so.

The authors recommended that all needed to work to reduce the stigma on asking for help, that faculty advisors needed to be rewarded for supporting their students, and that universities needed to help students make connections and find support networks. To learn more about depression, see the National Institute of Mental Health.

Cartoon for the Day

Feeling down? Check out Piled Higher and Deeper, the graduate student comic strip produced by Jorge Cham. It includes links to other funny sites and a graduate student discussion forum with about 1700 registered users. The creator can be booked to speak at campuses about “the guilt, the myth, and the power of procrastination.”

Productivity Tip

Many of us get distracted. We sit down to write and find an hour later that we are doing something else entirely. Or we sit down to write and find ourselves fussing with the same paragraph instead of moving on. One trick that I've found helpful is to set my computer virus and spyware checks for certain times. I have a daily schedule of writing from about 9:00 am to noon, with only half an hour allotted to checking email from 8:30 to 9:00 am. So, I set my spyware sweeper to start scanning automatically at 9:00 am so that if I am still on email then, I know to get off and start writing. Similarly, I have my virus software automatically start scanning at 11:00 am, to remind me that I only have an hour left and I need to get a move on. Seeing the dialog box pop up is a blunt reminder to ask myself if I am where I am supposed to be, doing what I'm supposed to be doing. (If you don't run a virus or spyware checker, start! Check out Lifehacker for more information.)

Thought for the Day

Keep an essay's argument open; don't sew it up so tight that it immediately springs leaks.

News from the Editor

I've been working on a chapter of a book where I kept getting off on the wrong foot. I had to restart the chapter three times, deleting pages and pet theories several times before it stared to flow right. I think the rest of the chapter is going to be straightforward (famous last words!) By the way, a former student of mine wrote a good article for the December issue of the CSW Newsletter about my writing workshop.