Archive for February, 2008

Think of those times when you’ve had a breakthrough in your writing.

This comes after you’ve been struggling to clear the fog from your brain.  And then the fog lifts.

It’s a great moment, right?  Then what do you do?

A client told me that she was putting in less time on her dissertation each day than she could.  She had more time available and could readily give it  to her work.

I was curious whether her writing had been difficult for her

But no—when I asked what it was like for her when she was writing, she said that the work was energizing.

She had actually gotten to the place where she could see how the different ideas were beginning to complement each other.

Saying that, she laughed and jokingly mocked the incongruity of stopping just when she had stuck pay dirt.  Her thoughts would move in this way:  “A breakthrough. Ah– what a great idea. O.k., now is a good time to stop.”

It seems as if feeling a sense of accomplishment triggers her wanting to take time off.

What about you?  You struggle through the miseries of searching for ideas and connections.  You start to see more clearly.  Do you stop?

How does that work for you?  Do you push back and take a break just when you’re on to something?

If you want to finish this project and close the deal, keeping the writing going is what matters.

I’d love to hear from you about this.

And I’d love to send you a copy of my fr*ee e-newsletter.  Go to my website (www.nwcoaching.com) and sign up for my Smart Tips.

Until next time!

Your Dissertation Coach
ancy @ nancywhichard.com

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If you put your energy around what you want, that’s what you’ll get.

One client told me that she had been ambivalent about all of the questions her dad had about her dissertation.  But she decided to make a positive out of the parental interest.  She saw that her dissertation could be a bridge in her relationship with her father, a relationship that had in the past suffered from a lack of communication.

She decided to talk about her dissertation whenever he expressed an interest.  It worked for her.

Could you seek the positive and honor what is good about the relationships in your life?
What would best serve your goals?

If you want to keep a special person in your life, if you want to keep friends in your life, if you want the support of your parents, it’s time to talk with all of them about the demands you’re facing and to tell them how their support can help you.

If they don’t understand, then you’ve done all you can.  But who knows—you might be pleasantly surprised.

Reclaim your power.  Focus on moving your writing forward.

What is working for you?  I’d love to hear from you!

Here’s one thing that will work for you– get my Smart Tips e-newsletter.  Just for signing up, you get a bonus.  Go to my website (www.nwcoaching.com) and sign up.

Until next time,

Your Dissertation Coach
ancy @ nancywhichard.com

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Writing a dissertation brings with it many hard choices.  Often those hard choices directly impact relationships. 

One dissertation client told his parents that he can’t talk about his dissertation with them—not when it’s going well and not when he’s stuck—because he feels that it opens him to too much scrutiny.

But he’s always ill at ease around his parents, knowing that his dissertation is the elephant in the room.  He finds that he puts enormous energy into avoiding the subject. 

His decision and its aftereffects remind me of what another client told me about riding a difficult horse inside a large, covered arena where big steel uprights ran from ground to ceiling.

My client said she had been very afraid she was going to hit one of the big steel uprights because the horse was huge and very young and not completely steerable.

There was one upright in particular that worried her, and every time she came around the 20 meter circle, she would worry about that big steel upright.

And of course as she tried to avoid it, she came closer and closer to it.

You know what happened, right?  She hit the one she had been trying to avoid.

The experience confirmed for her that if you focus on what you don’t want to happen, well, you get what you don’t want.

If you are trying to protect yourself from scrutiny, but find yourself putting increasingly more energy into that process, it’s time to reframe and refocus. 

Where do you want to put your energy?

Where is your energy?   I’d love to hear from you! 

Also, go to my website () and sign up for my Smart Tips for Writers e-newsletter.



Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach


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Several ABD’s have told me over the last few days about issues with parents, spouses, boyfriends or girlfriends, and even friends.

The boyfriend of one of my clients has made it clear that he thinks it’s taking far too long for her to finish her dissertation.  And the process drags on because she hesitates to work late at her office or to work on week-ends because she doesn’t want to irritate or even anger him. Another of my clients broke up with her boyfriend because he said she wasn’t giving the relationship the attention it needed. 

One young woman has told me how she lost friends when she was getting her master’s degree—they said she didn’t spend enough time with them. Now she’s resistant to throwing herself into writing her dissertation.  She doesn’t want to give even more friends a reason to desert her.

Most parents of ABD’s are incredibly supportive, but some parents want to give advice that isn’t welcomed—the unwelcome advice can be barbed or worse. 

I’ve heard stories of parents undercutting their offspring’s decisions in various areas, such as choice of topic.

When one year drags into another, the parents of some ABD’s have compared their adult child’s lack of progress to the quick attainment of a PhD by someone they know. 

 I’ve even heard a couple of stories about truly intolerable behavior from parents who had never completed dissertations themselves.  They had had to settle for remaining an ABD. 

No ABD should put up with emotional abuse, whether it’s from a boyfriend, spouse, or parent. 

But if your dissertation process is affecting your relationships with people who are important to you, people you love, you do have choices. 

People matter.

Has your dissertation process affected your relationships with others?  I hope you’ll contact me and tell me your experience.  I’m sure many people could profit from what you have done to maintain relationships and what you’ve done to take care of yourself.

Until next time,


Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach


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Family and friends tend to give advice to ABD’s.  It’s usually well-meaning.  Sometimes it comes from personal experience and sometimes not. 

Rarely does it help.

What I often hear from my dissertation clients is how difficult it is for them to deal with family members’ over-investment in the dissertation process. 

Most ABD’s say that their family or others close to them have unrealistic expectations and don’t understand the process, topic, or research.

Or the role of the advisor/mentor/committee.

Or the politics involved. 

It’s easy for a casual remark to draw blood. 

One ABD avoids going to her parents’ house when she thinks her father may be there.  He doesn’t respect her boundaries.

If you have had others overly invested in your dissertation process, what have you done?

I’m sure some of you have helpful suggestions for how to deal with this common problem.

ABD’s need all the support they can get.

 I’d love to hear from you. 

All good wishes,


Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach


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Many authors and dissertation writers question themselves.  That snitty little voice in the back of your head encourages you to question each word, each page, each chapter.  Self-assessment can be a good thing, but what’s even better is to keep the writing going. 

1.  Tell yourself that the writing is just for now—keep repeating, “It’s good enough.” Everything is fixable, and the fixing can come later.

2.  Talk with someone about your writing and the plans that you have for the dissertation.  Warm to your topic. Remind yourself of the interest that drew you to this topic. 

3.  Exchange chapters with someone who is currently writing a dissertation.  As well as getting some comments on your work, you’ll also get a peak at the writing-in-progress of someone else.  The early writing of most people is not ready for a refereed journal or the pages of The New Yorker. That’s good to know.

4.  When you finish a chapter, move on.  Sometimes you have to let things sit before you start tinkering.  Push on to the next chapter.    

5.  Remind yourself that you may make some shifts as you write.  Knowing that you will rewrite gives you not only some distance but also power.  The writing is yours to mold.  You’re in control

The most powerful thing you can do is to keep moving.  Keep the writing going.

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A client who is moving ever closer to actually finishing her dissertation tells me that she is focusing on what she can do in the moment. 

She has found that being in the moment takes work.  There’s nothing airy-fairy about it.

And there’s much to be gained from staying in the moment. 

By focusing on the present, she has become detached a bit from what she calls “the anxiety of the end.”  She is not looking that far ahead. 

She is telling herself that all she can do is put in the time, continue to work, and trust her her ideas.

That’s mental toughness.  

Be tough!

Your Dissertation Coach

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