Guest Post: Jenn Crowell, on Pragmatism

crowell lede
photo credit: J13 124 via photopin (license)

You know you’re cool when your blog URL is your actual name.

guest postThat alone isn’t what makes today’s guest poster cool. Jenn Crowell, of, you guessed it,, has written three critically acclaimed novels: Necessary Madness, Letting the Body Lead, and Etched On Me.

If you read Seventeen magazine, you might have seen her byline (I won’t judge.)

She’s here today taking on the Wednesday Word Challenge from Deb Runs. This is crazy. It’s like one of those three-team trades they used to do in Major League Baseball. So yes, Jenn’s here on Coach Daddy to take part in Deb’s Challenge.

The Wednesday Word: Pragmatic.

Please give Jenn a warm welcome. She has a smart, easy style to her, and I know you’ll enjoy her blog, too. Also, take a shot at the Wednesday Word at Deb Runs. You can just do that on your own, or snag another blogger into the mix if time permits.

photo credit: YIP day 231 – Pragmatic via photopin (license)

Singing the Praises of Pragmatism

At Deb Runs this week, her “Wednesday word” is pragmatic. A term near and dear to my heart, for a variety of reasons, and one that I’ve been learning many lessons from lately.

I spent most of my late adolescence and young adulthood in academia: almost 8 years, all told. Two undergraduate majors, a year in a graduate program that later disbanded, a Masters of Fine Arts, and a postgraduate teaching certificate. I cherished every minute of my studies, but definitely felt a tug away from theory and towards the concrete.

Which isn’t to say that I disliked studying the theoretical. Far from it. I loved my textbooks to pieces (and still scout them out at library sales). I adored being turned on to new ideas. But even as I found myself absorbed in the delight of knowledge for knowledge’s sake, a small, contrary voice inside kept asking: What can I do with this information?

I realized that a full-time career in academia would have forced me to abandon my pragmatism and become someone who, for all my erudite leanings, I wasn’t.

Not in the sense of “What kind of internship or career might I be able to snag if I study this?” – nothing that mercenary, no–but in the sense of “How will this empower me as an artist and an activist–if at all?”

I had designs on teaching at the university level for a while, but chronic health issues forced me to humbly conclude that that route wasn’t sustainable for me. At first this decision felt extraordinarily painful, like the loss of a long-held dream, but eventually I realized that a full-time career in academia would have forced me to abandon my pragmatism and become someone who, for all my erudite leanings, I wasn’t.

When I entered psychotherapy for my bipolar disorder, I ran up against this tension between theory and practice frequently. I “got” everything my therapist was saying on an intellectual level – heck, I’d even read her treatment manual! – but ironically that keen intellect kept me from truly integrating her ideas into my life. I was so stuck on the theory that I couldn’t even imagine how to take action.

‘I need to know how to structure my day’

Painful humbling, redux! Just last week, I told her: “This abstract talk about values isn’t working for me. I need to know how to structure my day so I can do all that awesome stuff I value.” And because she is the best therapist ever (no joke; the woman is a saint), she walked me through scheduling my routine on index cards so I wouldn’t be completely overwhelmed. (I’m self-publishing three books in the next nine months, and my workflow is–well, a hot mess.)

You might ask at this point: Jenn, are you anti-intellect? Anti-ideals? Not in the slightest. Ideas and ideals inspire change in a myriad of positive ways. But it’s pragmatic action that midwifes that change into being, and allows my creative and personal lives to flourish.

jenn mugJenn Crowell is the critically-acclaimed author of the novels Necessary MadnessLetting the Body Lead, and Etched On Me. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University Los Angeles, and frequently speaks on a variety of mental health topics.

pragmatic quote

# # #


  1. I enjoyed this post. Like you, and so many, I struggled with finding meaning from my education and a practical use of teaching skills. I passed on a university opportunity when I married and moved thousands of miles away. It turned out for the best, and set me on many paths that I’d never dreamed of as a 20 year old. Well written to the theme. ❤️

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      She nailed it, didn’t she?

      1. Absolutely…and in so few words. ☺

      2. Eli Pacheco says:

        Terrifically efficient.

    2. Eli Pacheco says:

      The problem with a goal is that it sometimes robs us of the better things along the way to it.

      1. Only if we have blinders on…and so many do/did. ☺

    3. Jenn Crowell says:

      Thanks so much! I’m glad to hear I’m not the only “recovering academic” out there.

      1. Eli Pacheco says:

        I think we just started the unofficial support group here, Jenn.

  2. Totally could relate as a former middle school math teacher, who has since decided that teaching was also not the road to take even after all the years I thought it was. So, truly enjoyed reading your take on this and going to have to check out more of your writing now, too. thanks for sharing with us here 🙂

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      You’ll love her space, Janine.

    2. Jenn Crowell says:

      Glad you could relate, Janine! And I’m thrilled to hear you plan to check out my writing.

      1. Eli Pacheco says:

        You’d dig Janine’s stuff, too, Jenn.

  3. Thanks for linking up, Jenn (and Eli)! It’s interesting to have a non-running take on our Wednesday Word, pragmatic and I enjoyed your post! I think that like with running, being a little bit idealist gets us out of our comfort zones to set lofty goals, but we need to be a bit pragmatic to work through the approach to reach those goals no matter what we’re doing.

    1. Eli Pacheco says:

      Happy to be here, Deb! We bring the sedentary to your mobile party. In any event, a little flexibility goes a long way.

      1. Jenn Crowell says:

        Thanks so much for hosting the Wednesday Word series, Deb! I love writing prompts, and these are great.

      2. Eli Pacheco says:

        You should check out the list, Jenn!

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.