Archive for June, 2007

Whenever you have pen in hand or hands on keys, ready to start on your dissertation, do you suddenly feel tired? Moments before, were you bustling around, perhaps busy just for the sake of being busy?

1. Get out of your own way

Nothing stands between you and your dissertation, except for yourself.  Even if you could have started writing earlier, let that go and focus on now.  Now you have a choice—even if you feel sluggish.  You can give in and decide you need a nap, or you can talk yourself past this moment.

2.  Be gentle, yet firm

Give yourself a chance to become present—push aside the rest of what is going on in your life.  Do what you need to do in order to settle in and turn your thoughts to the work at hand.

3.  Here we go!  Paper or screen?

If you’re like me, you prefer to start with a pen and paper. I like a pen that is smear-proof.  I hate getting ink all over my clothes and  hands (o.k., I”m messy!). I also like a yellow legal pad.  The screen will be there later, but for now I need something  less rigid and unyielding than a screen.

4. Let go— crank it up!

You need to find the easiest and most efficient way to generate and then capture ideas.  That may mean listening to some loud music for a minute to crank up your energy level and to get you going. Then start writing.  Write in fragments and phrases.  Write quickly—don’t stop or that law of inertia will let you grind to a halt.  It takes only a second for inerta to set in and for the Lizard Brain to snag us.

5.  Be bold – dart past Lizard Brain

We often throw out the excuse that if we write quickly, our writing won’t be worth much. At that moment, Lizard Brain sees its opening and rushes in to protect us.  Result– we don’t write anything.  But haven’t you heard that we usually throw out 2/3 of what we write for a dissertation?  The only way to get that 1/3 that you’re going to keep is to work fast to get the bad writing out there on the page, ready to be cut later on. Go for momentum. Remember that everything is fixable.

6.  Set a realistic goal for how long you’ll write—shorter is better

What’s a realistic goal?  Start with the amount of time you can bare to sit still.  A number that doesn’t make you throw up your hands in despair and wail that you’ll never be able even to sit down if you have to write for that long. Set a goal that you know you can achieve. Yes, 15 minutes is perfectly fine for a writing session.  And then stop—don’t go past that time.

7.  Be smart as a fox

If you stop at the time you set, you will not feel burned out.  What’s better, even if it’s a piddly amount of time, you will smile slyly to yourself that you actually made your goal.  Sitting down to write the next time will be much easier if you made your goal today.

What would you add for #8?  I’d love to hear from you!

Here’s to smiling slyly,


Nancy Whichard, PhD, PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach
nancy @ nancywhichard.com

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Sometime ago, I wanted to talk with a real person at Amazon about my order.   I looked everywhere on the Amazon site.  I couldn’t believe it– I could not find a phone number anywhere.

Aggravated, I typed into Google “What is the telephone number for Amazon?”  And it came up– 1-800 -201-7575.

Today, just for fun, I typed in the same question.  Now, there is not only the site that I saw the first time, but several other sites pop up. One suggests that it would be easier just to google “telephone Amazon.”  Direct, simple.

Since I have a tendency unknowingly to make up words (left over, I’m sure, from a childhood where my grandpa, with his Irish heritage, started me on this path), I often use Google just to see if results come up for a word that I’m not sure about, such as “uptick.”  When I heard someone use it, I thought maybe it had been made up.  When I googled “uptick,” I found 964,000 results. Yep, it is a word in good standing.

In an email exchange, “chaise longues” didn’t look right.  Google not only let me know that “chaise longues” is correct, but it also gave me some websites to add to my list of interesting resources:

1)  “Common Errors in English” by a professor of English at Washington State University.

2)  Michael Quinion’s “World Wide Words” in which he writes about international English from a British view.

Since I had learned that I could now use “telephone Amazon” as a shortcut on Google, I decided to shoot some other commands at Google.

I tried “spell chaise lounge,” and the Columbia Guide to Standard American English gave two spellings: “chaise longue, chaise lounge (n.).”  The Guide said, “Both terms are Standard today, but those who know French still take exception to chaise lounge.”

Both terms are standard?  I decided I’d check other resources about that!

This time, to see what a difference a verb would make, I commanded “define chaise lounge.” The Free Dictionary  “redirected” me to “chaise longue” while the Urban Dictionary screamed

Use this if you do NOT know what you are saying.
A term used by wannabes to try to look intelligent.”

Thank you, Googe and Urban Dictionary,  I don’t want to look like a wannabe.

As I write, the blog being honored at WordPress as the “Blog of the Minute” is “Life at Google—the Microsoftie Perspective,” in which the writer  is revealing the negative side about working at Google.

Weethan, a WordPress blogger, says, “And we say no to  google, why?”

A comment from Wahyu, another WordPress blogger, gives due credit to Google, and also makes me laugh:
google is like a my wife
i need tutorial for study just ask google
i need tutorial for life just ask google
i need anything first thing is google!
google google google oh yeahhhh

I agree with Wahyu; I can’t imagine not having Mr. Google ever at the ready.


Nancy Whichard, PhD, PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach
nancy @ nancywhichard.com

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Summers can be a great opportunity to avoid working on your dissertation or book. You can keep busy going places, reading the morning paper, reading blog after blog, answering email.  

There’s a reason that most of us don’t run marathons, and there’s a reason that many people put off writing that dissertation.

You might be surprised what would change for you if you courageously told one person that, no kidding, no fooling, you are choosing to take action on your dissertation this summer. 

I’ll bet that not getting down to work on your dissertation is costing you a bundle emotionally, if not financially.   

Hiding out from your writing is one marathon that you don’t have to enter, or if you’re already in the midst of it, drop out.

Ready to get started?  I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,


Nancy Whichard, PhD, PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach
nancy @ nancywhichard.com



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First there were 2 and now there are 5… 5 foxes living next to us on my cul-de-sac inside the Washington DC beltway.

We first glimpsed the parents in early morning or late at night.  During the winter, when new snow and a stillness of the day gave them claim to our street, we would watch from our windows, the two of them walking and playing in front of our house and up and down the street.

This spring three pups were added to their family.

Fearless and fun, they roam around our back yard and travel to our neighbor’s yard.  There they have dug holes and deepened indentations where trees once stood, making a work-and-play site.

In that large yard, they hone their inborn instincts, playfully and relentlessly.

They set boundaries:  They own their space, digging holes for themselves, enlarging holes to fit their needs both for protection and for living. 

They are self-sufficient.  They take charge of their environment, find their own food, stay on the alert, guard against intruders and danger, nurture their relationships.

They set schedules that work for them.  Most often we see them early in the morning and after dark, probably when they are most alert, least likely to be disturbed, and also when they are safest.

They combine work and play—their amazing leaps and speed, combined with their rough play as they wrestle with one another, must be great fun for them but is also their work, strengthening their skills.  Even as they play, they’re wary of danger and alert to the possibility of real or imagined prey.

They take strength by being with one another. They form alliances.

This is just one moment in their lives. They won’t be here forever.  The situation will change for them because the trees in the wooded lot where they hide away and sleep are marked by developers for removal.

Sometimes we forget what nature can say to us, or we just don’t take the time to watch and muse.  As I watched the foxes, here are some takeaways for writers of dissertations that occurred to me:

  • Set boundaries:  claim your space and dig in.
  • Be self-sufficient:  take charge of your work and don’t wait until you have gained permission, feedback, or pats on the back.
  • Be opportunistic:  Trust yourself and go after what you need.  Stay alert and dedicate time and energy to where you might succeed.  Take risks.
  • Combine work and play:  Feel the exhilaration that comes from doing what you do best in writing.  Enjoy the moment. 
  • Make alliances: Find a writing partner or a someone to work with.  Make connections. Stay connected.
  • Don’t wait for perfect:  Go with what’s available and get the job done.  

And remember how you have been preparing for this task since you were, well, a pup.

Best to you,


Nancy Whichard, PhD, PCC
Dissertation Coach
nancy @ nancywhichard.com

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Did TV stations really sign off at midnight at one time?  Before cable and satellite and Nancy Grace and her crowd of journalists, giving us no news all the time, yes, the TV day ended … at midnight or shortly thereafter, followed by the “Star Spangled Banner,” and then the test pattern.

The time seems so long ago, but You Tube shows the end of the TV day in Greensboro, NC in 1987 with the American flag waving in the breeze to the playing of the National Anthem (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1YOw4EDFhc).

What might happen for all of us writers if the TV day ended abruptly?

Well, for starters, we might get more sleep.

When I ask my dissertation clients what change in their life might be of the most help in their reaching their daily writing goal, many clients say that getting to bed at a decent time ranks close to the top.

Getting to bed at a not-too-ridiculous time can help you stick with your writing, do a decent job of writing, and actually move you closer to getting that project out the door.

What happens after you’ve had a long day or a long week, perhaps taught an evening class, or put the kids to bed, and now at last you have time to yourself?  Do you sit down to put in a couple of hours on your writing?

More often than not, you sit down in front of the TV to relax for just a minute. Clicking the remote, you find it harder and harder to turn off the TV and get up out of that chair.  You settle in to watch the umpteenth rerun of a Law and Order Special Victims Unit show.

One client says that she gets hooked on late-night viewing of the History channel.  It’s hard to pull away from stories about the Aryan Brotherhood or Secrets of Underground London or New York.

If you don’t fall asleep in front of the TV, you finally drag yourself to bed, annoyed at the wasted time, and realizing what the effect will be on you tomorrow.  And how easy it will be to avoid your work. Which might have been the underlying motive for sitting there.

More sleep= clear mind, less stress, AND improved productivity.  A WIN!

But we need some help– wouldn’t it be easier to get that sleep if we had the American flag or a test pattern staring back at us when we turn on the TV?  Maybe we could tape the sign-off and play it when we sit down.  How about that link to You Tube?

Best to you,


Nancy Whichard, PhD, PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach
nancy @ nancywhichard.com

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During my commute, I heard a broadcast on the same subject as my most recent blog post.  It was about that huge impulse to flee that sweeps over us and can make it nearly impossible to stay focused on our writing.   That impulse can stem from our brain’s attempt to protect us from the lions and tigers of our evolutionary past.   

What I heard on the radio was a discussion about how our so-called Lizard Brain also has inordinate power over our financial decisions.  We don’t save for retirement, or so the idea goes, because our Lizard Brain tells us to take the money and run.  We need that money now.    

The Lizard Brain pushes us to make impulsive choices that are exactly in opposition with what would best serve us financially, socially, academically.    

Terry Burnham, economist/biologist and author of “Mean Markets and Lizard Brains,” says that the Warren Buffetts of the world “have systems in place to not allow their lizard brain to bankrupt them.”  The Warren Buffetts “use discipline, . . .  team approaches, a whole range of tactics to constrain their instincts and their emotions.”  

So the next time you feel the unrelenting urge to escape from a particularly challenging moment in your writing project, stop a minute and recognize the impulse for what it is. Decide whether the Lizard Brain is going to be in charge.  Better yet, don’t wait for the Lizard Brain to wield its power, but be prepared like Warren. 

Keep in place an array of strategies to choose from in order to waylay the mighty Lizard Brain.  

Best to you,  


Nancy Whichard, PhD, PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach



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Are you having trouble getting started with today’s session on your dissertation?

As you ready yourself to write, do you hear those voices again—those critters that harangue you. . . . the naysayers, the resisters, the thwarters in your head that chatter and prattle and try to protect you from that dangerous activity of writing?

The slightest signal pointing to some anxiety or uncertainty on your part can set them off.  It may be a signal you’re not even aware of, but they’re at the ready. It doesn’t take much. They want to warn you away– don’t go there, they say.

But you don’t need the protection of all of those naysayers.

You have many strategies at your disposal to help you through these moments when you’re a little scared or hesitant about your writing or about getting started with your writing.  For one, you have the image of you at your best.  But maybe you need some more strategies.

Remember who you’re dealing with—you!  You not only have the shrieking naysayers in your brain, but you also have the wiley coyotes.  They –and you–are crafty. You have all sorts of tricks that will delay or help you to avoid writing  So first of all, make a deal with yourself. Negotiate with yourself how long this one writing session will be.

Want a suggestion?

That old saw of “write 15 minutes a day” is a wise one, but you get to choose.  Just make it a realistic, manageable length of time.

Then set a timer—any kind of timer will do, but set it and start writing. Do not stop until the timer pings.

Dubious? Try it just as an experiment.  Improvise with it.  See if the timer can help you get started and then keep you writing for a while.

My dissertation coaching clients tell me this strategy works.

Let me know how it works for you.

Best to you,


Nancy Whichard, PhD, PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach
nancy @ nancywhichard.com

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