As you attempt to write your dissertation, do you find that your feelings sometimes get in the way? What feelings do you find yourself dwelling on?
Among my dissertation coaching clients, guilt in various forms is high on the list:
• Guilt for not being further along in the work
• Guilt for taking too long to finish
• Guilt for wasting time
• Guilt for denying your spouse, child, partner, parents your time and attention
• And even guilt for ever starting the dissertation in the first place.
Guilt not only takes up space and slows down the writing, but it encourages self-defeating attitudes and actions. For instance, some dissertators tell me that because they feel they have let too much time go by and aren’t farther along in the writing, they try to make up for lost time by letting the work take over evenings and week-ends. That leads to guilt for not having time for people in your life.
Guilt is toxic, contaminating more and more time space and time.
What can you do to manage such noxious feelings?
1. Commit to a new habit of daily writing.
You can’t change the past, but you can commit to a specific number of hours at a specific time every day that you will be your dissertation time. My Boot Camp clients tell me that developing a daily writing habit has given them the muscle they need to push distractions and those worrisome feelings aside.
In fact, being in Boot Camp helps you physically and mentally to remove yourself from a place where you dwell on your feelings.
2. Daily writing is invigorating; procrastination isn’t.
If you have scheduled the time you will write, you won’t waste time and energy fighting internal battles of whether you’ll write today. Some dissertation clients tell me that they have the bad habit of putting off writing until late in the afternoon, but all day they seem to be involved in some way with their dissertation.
If you procrastinate over a long period of time, you’re allowing your feelings to control you. And you’ll end up exhausted and burned out.
3. Designate two days each week as the weekend.
The weekend may be Saturday and Sunday, but it could also be Tuesday and Wednesday. Commit to having some down time where you can enjoy or deal with the rest of your life. You will also be giving your brain the chance to be idle, the best way for it to provide you with insights. Time off from writing can also be productive time.
4. Write from an outline or compose bullet points.
Our emotions can flood us when we feel stuck during a writing session. All too often we feel stuck when we’re trying to compose because we’re trying to write perfect sentences. If you free yourself from thinking about stylistic issues, you will be less likely to open the floodgates of those negative emotions. Follow the outline you made for yourself and, for now, don’t worry about how inelegant the writing sounds.
Even better, compose bullet points during a writing session. Let go of complex sentences and the best choice of words. Just go for content. Know that somewhere down the line you can flesh out the bullet points, but for now you’re managing feelings and, hallelujah! you’re producing pages.
If you have a tip for managing the negative feelings that tend to derail a writing session, I would love to hear from you.
P.S. If you want to jump start your writing this fall, drop me an email. Boot Camp and coaching are two great ways to help you set writing goals and work toward them.
Also, if you haven’t signed up for my e-newsletter, Smart Tips for Writers, drop by my website at www.nancywhichard.com and sign up.
Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation and Academic Career Coach