Do you think if only I had nothing to distract me, nothing else to do but write, no choice but to write… then I’d write?
How about flying somewhere?
Whenever a dissertation coaching client tells me she’s flying somewhere—on a vacation or a business trip or to see her mom—I sit up a little straighter.
This is great, I say to myself.
While I wonder about the destination, my burning question is, “What will you do on the plane?”
The part leading up to flying isn’t fun. I’ll give you that, but flying gives you the opportunity to unplug, to see only what is immediately in front of you, and to feel almost invisible.
You have the great opportunity of bringing onboard only what you can work with for a specific amount of time.
It’s unlikely that anyone will bother you. You plan for no distractions.
You really could get something done in this nice chunk of time, when there’s nothing else to do but write.
Sort of like Dissertation Boot Camp? Or not?
Increasingly, universities are offering boot camps for graduate students to write their dissertations. Does the boot camp at your university give you the invisibility, no-distraction feel of a 4-hour flight?
In the past I’ve praised on-campus boot camps which have presentations or speakers, but I’ve been told by my clients that often the presentations aren’t all that helpful, even a waste of time.
I’ve heard about less than scintillating presentations or advertised programs being scuttled with last-minute stand-ins offering off-the-cuff remarks.
If a boot camp or a dissertation workshop has become a place where there’s a speaker who talks vaguely about writing rather than a place for writing, the organizers may want to re-think what they’re offering.
The dissertators that I talk with would like to add some input: Could boot camps advertise who will be speaking and the topic and length of the talk? Could ABD’s be asked in advance for questions on a topic so that the speaker will gear the talk toward what the audience needs?
Most of all, dissertators crave a place where they can write without interruption, a super-controlled environment: No chatting, no rustling about, no crackly bags or candy wrappers, no noise from a hallway or a bad AC. A place for writers to write that allows them to let go of internal obstacles and the myriad distractions in their usual writing settings.
I pattern the virtual Boot Camp that I offer on the features my clients tell me that they most appreciate about the workshops/boot camps they’ve attended. When they register for my Dissertation Boot Camp, dissertators know they are committing to do serious, sustained daily writing and that they will be accountable for doing what they say they will do.
The dissertator provides commitment, and I provide accountability. For example, I ask the boot camp client for a daily email after each writing session, outlining how the day’s goal was met and specifics on the next day’s goal.
Commitment/Accountability at some on-campus boot camps involve a charge of some kind or at least a deposit (like the one you give at a rental house to cover property damage). At some boot camps, the deposit check is shredded if the dissertator attends each writing session. Showing up is essential, and shredding a deposit check certainly underscores the importance of showing up.
A boot camp or dissertation workshop at its best provides an unplugged, quiet setting, conducive to a dissertator’s producing text. And the option of attending presentations that are worth the dissertator’s time.
What has been your experience with boot camps? What would make a boot camp really worth your while?
Here’s to producing text!
Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach
nancy @ nancywhichard.com