Archive for November, 2007

It’s a given that Thanksgiving and being grateful go together. 

But in Thanks!  How the new science of gratitude can make you happier, Robert A. Emmons goes beyond the commonplace notions on gratitude. 

•   Gratitude is acknowledging the help someone else has given us.
•   In spite of the difficulty and frustration we may experience in our writing or the pain and suffering we may see in the world, gratitude acknowledges that there is decency and goodness in the world.

Cultivating gratitude can make for major changes for the better in your life.

Since we can resist doing something that’s good for us, like practicing gratitude, Emmons gives us “evidence-based prescriptions” that will help us cultivate gratitude.

In future posts, I’ll add to this list of prescriptions.  For now, here are three that Emmons suggests:

1. Remind yourself daily of what has come your way and given you pleasure.  Keep a daily journal.

2.  Remind yourself of how much worse life could be or has been in the past.  What you have is better than that!

3.  Partner up for accountability– gratitude won’t be easy to maintain.

Reminder:  We can more easily tap into our creativity and then maintain focus when we are in a pleasant or mildly happy mood.  A grateful mindset improves your mood and blocks self-sabotaging emotions. 

More to come on gratitude.

For other tips about writing, please visit my website (www.nwcoaching.com) and sign up for my newsletter.
Until next time,

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Last week three different dissertation coaching clients came to their calls with me frustrated.

One started the call by saying she felt “crappy.”  Another was also clearly cranky.

What had happened?  Each of them had had their writing time appropriated.

One client, the father of a 7-month-old, was exhausted as well as cranky.  He had been up with a sick baby.  He had lost writing time.  And even though he was now sick, he couldn’t take time off from his job because he had taken sick leave to take the baby to the doctor.

If you have children, then you understand how frustrating this can be.  I don’t know if there is any way around it.  But you do get a big virtual hug.  Writing a diss while working full time and raising kids takes incredible resilience.

Another client had had her time commandeered by her employer.  Her employer is giving a major presentation and needs an enormous amount of data and other work that only my client could produce.  My client had to give lots of extra time. Not many choices here either.  But if you find yourself in this situation, remember that you finish the task and then claim time for yourself.

The dilemma presenting itself to the third client was particularly upsetting.

A professor asked my client to do some work on a project that is not in the subject area of her diss.  The professor is not her advisor.  He does not teach at her university.  But he may be in a position to hire her.

My client had stewed and fretted over what to do, throwing valuable time away.  She felt that he had used his power to hijack her writing time.  She could have said no, but she will need a job soon.

When she decided that she also had some power in the situation and that she could make a choice, she was ready to move forward.

There will always be demands on your time.

What is important is to decide if you have any choices.  If you do, make it as easy on yourself as you can.  Where can you cut your losses and move on without investing any more of your time and emotional energy than you need to?

If you have no choice, if you have a feverish, sick baby, then rest with your baby.

How do you deal with demands on your time?  I’d love to hear from you.

I’d also be happy to send you a copy of my free e-newsletter.  Please go to my website to sign up (www.nwcoaching.com).

Until next time,


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Whether living hundreds of miles from campus or sitting at a table in the university library, many ABD’s feel isolated from their schools. They voice concerns that their schools rarely reach out to them, other than when tuition is due. 

The feeling that universities give little or no help to doctoral students during the dissertation process seems widespread.

If you are one of the ABD’s who feel isolated, here are some sources of support:
• Boot Camp
• Writing Buddy 
• Dissertation Coach
• All of the above

In an attempt to respond to some of the needs of ABD’s, a few universities have started dissertation boot camps.

This is a fairly recent development, and the University of Kentucky may have been the latest to enter this field.  Kentucky ran a two-week Dissertation Boot Camp this past summer, June 4-15, 2007. 

It consisted of
• A mandatory 3-hour writing session each morning, with an optional 3-hour writing session each afternoon
• During the two weeks, 3 talks/presentations on subjects of common interest (procrastination, perfectionism, choosing manageable tasks)
• An optional support group available to all students
• Occasional follow up with the students after the boot camp ended

The cost was very reasonable– participants paid $25 for the two week session.  A big bonus was that students who were off-campus could stay overnight for only $20 per night. 

The University of Pennsylvania was the model for the UK Boot Camp.  Penn offered its 2-week boot camp 3 times during 2005/2006, the first year for the Penn camp.  Eighty students participated in those 3 camps the first year.

In 2007, Yale University offered 3 sections of its boot camp to 20 students per session.  Though modeled on programs at other schools, Yale’s camp was more of a “retreat,” that is, a program of only 2 days, 8 hours each day, with drinks, snacks, lunch, and dinner delivered to the students as they wrote.

In August 2007, UCLA held what appeared to be a narrowly focused boot camp for students needing to write a prospectus or a proposal.

The University of New Mexico has held a boot camp for a limited number of students, but additional details were unavailable.

It was several years ago when  I first heard of dissertation boot camps— the first one was privately run by Sonja Foss in Colorado.  And she continues to offer a boot camp:
• Each session is limited to 8 students at a time
• The cost is in the neighborhood of $1600 for each session
• Foss provides personal attention
• Students write from 8 am to 9 pm each day with breaks for meals

Dissertation boot camps can give students a good start.

While book camps are not available to most students, resourceful, determined writers can find support.  My clients gain support from friends, clients, and a dissertation coach:
• One of my dissertation coaching clients, who has a fulltime job as well as children and a husband, meets an acquaintance each Tuesday night at a coffee shop, where they write for 1 ½ hrs.
• Another client meets a college friend, who happens to live in her area, for Saturday afternoon writing sessions at a local library.
• My clients have also chosen to hire a dissertation coach—me! 
      1. My clients and I  talk weekly
      2. Clients email me with updates between calls

Many ABD’s say that they think their universities could do more to reach out to them during the dissertation process.  In the meantime, do what you can.  Working with someone can make all the difference.  Pair up!

Remember, you do have some choices:
• Boot Camp
• Writing Buddy 
• Dissertation Coach
• All of the above

The more support the better!

I’d love to hear about the support that you have put in place.  Have you had any experience with boot camps?

Also, please stop by my website (www.nwcoaching.com) and sign up for my free electronic newsletter– I’m giving a bonus for signing up.

Until next time,


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Most of us in the U.S. turned back our clocks this morning, giving us one extra hour.

Now you may think I’ll say that everyone writing a dissertation had one extra hour today to write.  Not me.  Not this time.

As I read the Washington Post this morning, a little earlier than I usually do on Sunday mornings, I was struck by the gift of an hour and what was available to me—I read the Post’s “Picks” and “Can’t Miss.”   But when I was writing my dissertation, if I had received the gift of an extra hour, I doubt that I would have spent it doing what I really wanted to do.  If I knew then what I know now, I would have.

Writing a dissertation can move us into survival mode.  We may stockpile every minute, push ourselves beyond what’s reasonable, prop ourselves up with caffeine and sugar, and push away others, compounding the isolation. 

That’s crazy.

You will finish your dissertation, but in the meantime, you need a life.

If you have children, you probably feel as if you’ve been taking something away from your family.  They’ll be o.k., but spending time with the people you love nurtures you.  And it may actually help you think more clearly and creatively when you go back to your dissertation. 

If you have friends that you haven’t contacted in umpteen years/months, this might be the time.

If religion or church-going has ever been a part of your life, then maybe this is the time to stop in again.  If you were ever going to pray, this is the time for that, don’t you think? 

So when might you plan some time to spend with others?  How do you usually spend your week-ends?  If you’re like many dissertators, you plan to work on the week-end, but the time gets away from you.  And by Sunday night, most likely you realize that you didn’t spend the week-end doing anything you particularly enjoyed either.

What if you planned your next week-end to accommodate both dissertation writing and doing something you enjoy?

Recently, a client decided that she would work Saturday afternoon and then take a long bike ride on Sunday with her friends.  I pressed her, asking her what would lock in this idea, what would make it absolutely happen. By our talking about how it could be and how she would feel once Sunday night arrived, the plan came to life for her. 

Here are a few things that I hope you will remember.

1.  It is important to talk about how something is going to change.
2.  Put very detailed plans into writing and then review that plan throughout the week. 
3.  Make sure that your detailed plans include specifically what you want to accomplish in your work session.
4.   Do not let the work session bleed into the time for the rest of your life.  Follow my client’s lead:  work on Saturday; hold part of Sunday for what you want to do. 
5.  And do whatever it takes to include others. 

Starving yourself when you’re on a diet makes you mean, and probably shortens the life of the diet.

Depriving yourself while you write your dissertation can stunt your emotional and spiritual growth, creating a mean and maybe lonely person. 

And deprivation could make it easier for you to abandon the diss before it’s finished.

If you have a second, please drop by my website (www.nwcoaching.com) and sign up for my free e-newsletter.

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Writing is easier when you’re in a good mood. 

Researchers say that if you can generate a somewhat happy frame of mind, starting your writing and sticking with it will be easier.

So what can you do to bring about a happier mood?   Listen to some music!

Music is powerful.  Research supports claims that not only can music decrease depression and improve your mood, but it can also improve focus and memory.  It has even been shown to reduce chronic pain. 

The kind of music writers prefer varies wildly.  Many writers like popular music that cranks them up—invigorates them and gets the juices flowing.

Or classical music, with expansive, stirring orchestration.

Maybe you’re like me and sometimes want music that takes you to a quiet place in your mind where you can push everything else aside.

How about old movie musicals?—do you feel a lift when you hear “Seventy-Six Trombones” from The Music Man  or “The Hills Are Alive” from The Sound of Music?

What music invigorates you, helps you focus, induces a good mood, or perhaps brings to mind that person or those people who support you in your dissertation process?

I feel a surge of happiness when I hear my favorite oldies, such as “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash.  When I hear the refrain, “Look all around, there’s nothing but blue skies/ Look straight ahead, there’s nothing but blue skies,” I feel my shoulders relax as I take in a deep breath. I feel hopeful.  You can hear Nash sing this song at You Tube:


Recently I happened to see Carole King on TV singing “You’ve Got a Friend.”

For the past week, I’ve spent a few minutes almost daily at You Tube, listening to “You’ve Got a Friend” and watching snippets from different performances over the years in which Carole King sang this song that she wrote it in the ‘70s.

“You’ve Got a Friend”  reminds me of how much people matter and how important support is during the dissertation writing process.  Hearing the song puts me in a calm, centered place, and I’m ready to write.

If you haven’t heard Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend” lately, here are two different versions on You Tube:



“You’ve Got a Friend”
Lyrics and Music: Carole King

When you’re down and troubled
And you need some loving care
And nothing, nothing is going right
Close your eyes and think of me
And soon I will be there
To brighten up even your darkest night

You just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I’ll come running to see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I’ll be there
You’ve got a friend

If the sky above you
Grows dark and full of clouds
And that old north wind begins to blow
Keep your head together
And call my name out loud
Soon you’ll hear me knocking at your door

You just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I’ll come running to see you
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I’ll be there

Ain’t it good to know that you’ve got a friend
When people can be so cold
They’ll hurt you, and desert you
And take your soul if you let them
Oh, but don’t you let them

You just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I’ll come running to see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I’ll be there
You’ve got a friend

What music are you listening to?  What moves you to write?

I’d love to hear from you.  I’d also like to send you my free e-newsletter.  Please sign up at my website (www.nwcoaching.com).

Until later,


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