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Archive for February, 2011

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Image by tambrieann via Flickr

Do you feel that you’re like that woman in online advertisements who seems to be turning in one direction, but then all of a sudden, even while you are looking at her, has turned and is now going in an opposite direction?  Do you need something holding you and your intentions together?

You need a linchpin—the pin that locks a wheel in place or the critical element in an argument or in a system that ties everything together and makes it all work.

Where is the support or the critical element that keeps you and your writing on track and making headway?

When I was talking recently with a dissertation coaching client, I realized that she had taken the major steps to put a linchpin in place, but there was still more to be done if it was to perform critically.

Her daily schedule is peppered with many different activities, commitments, meetings, responsibilities, volunteer work. 

In the middle of her daily schedule, written in boldface, is the name of an undergraduate class in which she has enrolled.  She is taking the class voluntarily, and she loves it.

She’s a bit embarrassed to admit that she’s doing so brilliantly in the class when she is making only modest progress on her dissertation. 

But she is clear about why she took the class.  She says that she wants to prove to herself that when something is required on a regular basis, she can indeed do the work and do it well. This class has the making of a linchpin.

The class not only gives her a routine, but it also gets her to campus. Her hope had been that she would go to the library and work, but after the class is over, she goes home and lets down.

Before she knows it, the afternoon is gone, and along with it the time she could have put on her dissertation.

It’s curious how we can easily make a misstep or take the wrong road.  But with a dissertation, everything is fixable.   

Given that she is very clear about why she wanted to take the class, she has everything she needs in order to regroup.  In order for her to get some work done, she needs to stay on campus and not fall back into the beleaguered grad student mentality. Rather than let down and lose her momentum, she can make use of the mindset, energy, and good mood that she has when she leaves her class.

She has already made the commitment to take a class that would get her to campus. The next critical step is to take advantage of the location.

You do so much that is right.  For the most part, you set yourself up for success.  You may have the linchpin almost in place.  However, like my dissertation coaching client, you may need an added measure of support and a bit of a shift for the linchpin to fall into place.

What is your linchpin?

All good wishes,

Nancy

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach
http://www.dissertationbootcamp.net
http://www.smarttipsforwriters.com
nancy @ nancywhichard.com

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Valentine's - lots of hearts

Image by Vicki's Nature via Flickr

“Commit to paper” is a common, but powerful  phrase.

You don’t need to have already had the aha moment in order to write. 

There’s no holding back when you allow yourself to see that you have enough to start.

Surrender and go with what you have.

On Valentine’s Day, it’s time to commit . . . .  Commit to paper.

All good wishes,

Nancy

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach
http://www.dissertationbootcamp.net
www.smarttipsforwriters.com
nancy @ nancywhichard.com

 P.S. Would you like to receive my e-newsletter Smart Tips for Writers?  You can sign up on my website (www.nancywhichard.com).

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Back to Work

Image by R. Motti via Flickr

How often do you find, while at your day job, that you suddenly have a really good thought about your dissertation or a reference that you want to check further when you have some time?   How do you capture that thought?  Do you send yourself an email?  Do you just hope you’ll remember?  Or do you have a better strategy?

I go back and forth from one office to another, from one computer to another, both away from home and while at home.  No matter where I am, I want to know that I can capture an idea that occurs to me or track something that I want to read later. I want to be sure that I’ll have access to that idea and to that article when I am at a different computer.   

To have the same note or file in all locations, I send emails to myself.

Sending several notes to the same location (even if it’s me at both ends, sending and receiving) seems to raise suspicions that I’m a spammer. But even more of a problem is that I’m creating and keeping too much in my email files in all locations.

I have always known that putting so much reliance on email and on email files was risky, but since email and e-newsletters and blogs are easily accessed I tend to let the number of emails mount, and suffice to say, I am not managing the size of my email.

In Paula Tarnapol Whitacre‘s Ease in Writing, K.J. McCorry says that “email is a temporary form. . . . Any data considered permanent or needed in the future (1 to 2 years out) should be saved on the hard drive.”

While McCorry directs this advice at the workplace, the advice is also appropriate for professional and academic writers concerned with capturing and saving critical work.

If I shouldn’t file my ideas long-term in email and if I should refrain from sending duplicate emails back and forth among my computers, what should I put in place that would fit my situation?

I am looking for efficient ways to:

1. Save ideas and reminders

2. Keep track of things I want to read later

3. Be able to work on a file from multiple locations

I like what I see in the online Evernote system where I can easily create an account that “allows Evernote to identify [my] notes and make them available to [me] anywhere.”  Yeah, available to me anywhere!  Furthermore, Evernote will keep my notes “up to date across all of [my] computers, phones, devices and the Web.”  Triple yeah, across all of my computers…!!!

The learning curve for this system seems manageable.  However, as one would expect, the free version has only so much space.

I’m still comparing systems to find the one which best lets me work on a file from multiple locations.

If you have used Evernote or a similar system, such as Instapaper, what has been your experience?  How are you dealing with the need to capture your ideas and save online information?  I would love to hear from you.

Watch your email for the February edition of my newsletter—Smart Tips for Writers. If you aren’t receiving my newsletter, you can sign up on my website (www.nancywhichard.com).

Here’s to making it easier to capture our ideas and notes online and to  work on a file from multiple locations.

Best to you,

Nancy

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

www.usingyourstrengths.com

www.smarttipsforwriters.com

nancy @ nancywhichard.com

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“The idea for this post hit me today when I was at the gym, sweating profusely,” writes Larry Brooks in a blog post called “Blood, Sweat and Words: How Badly Do You Want This?”

As I read his guest post on the blog “Write To Done,” I was reminded once again with how often we hear about the connection between mind and body.

Brooks continues, “There’s something about taking yourself to the wall, to the point of the sweet pain that signals you’ve given it everything. Kinesiologists will tell you that’s an endorphin high. Nothing but bio-chemicals kicking in. Funny thing about bio-chemicals, though: they can take you to places you wouldn’t go otherwise.”

“I realized that I have, on occasion, experienced that same exhilarating high about my writing. And then, between sets on a machine inspired by something out of a medieval dungeon, it hit me: I don’t do that enough. I couldn’t wait to get home and start writing this post,” Brooks writes.

A feeling similar to what Brooks describes struck me this morning, though I wasn’t feeling the “sweet pain” Brooks mentions nor was I in anything remotely related to a dungeon.  In my aerobics class, moving to the rhythm of such music as the great ‘70s hit “I Will Survive,” I once again found myself in a moment when my mind was on its own.  With no prompting, no worrying, I was suddenly thinking through a bit of writing I had been wrestling with. 

This afternoon I asked a dissertation coaching client if she could recall a time when ideas about her writing had come to her with no bidding, no prodding when she was exercising or, perhaps, taking a walk.  In a slightly surprised voice, she said, “I’ve never thought about that.”  Then she said, “But it’s hard to write when I’m in a grumpy mood.”

Award-winning Irish novelist Michael Collins combines exercise and writing in a spectacular way.  A serious runner, he runs races in mountains, hills, and the desert.  When he trains, he always brings along a pencil and paper and will stop to write down a few words that will inspire him when he’s writing and resting later that day.  He says that starting to write a book in his mind while he is running “has always been the most natural process.”  Having the “release of endorphins [as he runs] frees up ideas.”

Almost any kind of exercise will elevate your mood and create the perfect circumstance for you to become aware of ideas about your writing that your mind has been working on.

If you can go straight to your computer or desk after exercising, you will very likely find that writing will be easier for you then than at other times during your day. And it is always easier to write when you’re in a good mood and when you’ve been thinking about ideas for your writing.

Have you ever had a breakthrough in your writing as a result of exercising?   I’d love to hear from you. 

Watch your email for the February edition of my newsletter—Smart Tips for Writers. If you aren’t receiving my newsletter, you can sign up on my website (www.nancywhichard.com).

All good wishes,

Nancy

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

www.usingyourstrengths.com

www.smarttipsforwriters.com

nancy @ nancywhichard.com

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You’re frustrated that it is taking so much time to get to the dissertation finish line. 

Do you minimize your efforts and withhold any sense of accomplishment for the work you’ve done to get this far?  Each week you look back and dismiss your work “Is that all? Well, really, that wasn’t good enough.”

 

Is it all or nothing for you?

Here are three approaches that may be of help in beating back that all-or-nothing mentality

 

Practice an old virtue

Are you impatient with how long it takes to accomplish a significant piece of writing?  Impatient with how long it takes to do something big? 

With never enough time, we may feel that patience is a luxury that we can’t indulge in. We whip ourselves to work faster and to produce more, without acknowledging ourselves for the work we have accomplished.  Practicing patience encourages us to work steadily and moderately, rather than throwing ourselves into a wildly exhausting, desperation move to meet a deadline.  

To remind yourself that patience has a place in your life as a writer, try something that might remind you of your mother.  Think of something that your mother would encourage you to do on a regular basis, something you would resist, but when you finally did it, you would grudgingly see the benefit.  I’m thinking of something small that you could try, like improving your posture.  Every so often, say, once an hour, throw your shoulders back, raise your head, and take a deep breath.  Let that action serve as a reminder of the beneficial results of doing something patiently, consistently.

Slow and steady.  Little by little.  Patience.

 

Add a new strategy

Set a 24-hour goal for yourself. Is it hard to value the small steps you are making and what’s possible in the short-term?  Put your focus on a manageable goal for each day, rather than the goal for week’s end.

Ask yourself what writing goal you can do within the next 24 hours.  What one thing?  Whether you have four hours a day or one hour a week to accomplish the goal, think about what is reasonable for you to complete in the amount of time that you have.  Write your 24-hour goal in a very conspicuous place, such as on your white board.  

Then the next day ask the same question of yourself — what one thing can I do within the next 24 hours?

Be sure to keep a record of your success in meeting the 24-hour goal.

 

Put a better routine in place

Recently I received an inquiry about my two-week Boot Camp that I offer writers.  The person asked how people who work and have families can find time to do anything more. 

Finding time to write during the week when you have so many demands is tricky, but not impossible.  Boot Camp is adapted to each person’s needs.  What many writers want is a retreat, an oasis in her day which she can dedicate to her writing project, and someone to whom she can be accountable on a daily basis.  Whether we call the time a Writer’s Retreat or Boot Camp, the critical elements are reasonable, daily writing goals and a moderate, consistent writing routine.

What might help you to work moderately and consistently?

I’d love to hear from you. 

Watch your email for the February edition of my newsletter—Smart Tips for Writers. If you aren’t receiving my newsletter, you can sign up on my website (www.nancywhichard.com).

All good wishes,

Nancy

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach
http://www.dissertationbootcamp.net
http://www.usingyourstrengths.com
http://www.smarttipsforwriters.com
nancy @ nancywhichard.com

Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.  ~John Quincy Adams

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Writing is not for the weak of heart.  Writing is often a dangerous act, requiring all of the mental toughness and grit you can muster.

And no one knows that more than my clients—those writing dissertations and those who are now pushing on with writing their books or writing grant applications or articles.

Some of my clients feel like imposters who think they somehow got to where they are by luck.

Others are exhausted by the effort and by the stress of so much riding on this one piece of writing that they’ve become apathetic.  To protect them from the pain of feeling incompetent their Lizard Brain lets them think: “I’ve stopped caring.”

One client has who has been published in well-received journals and who has presented internationally now is writing an application for an important grant.  She’s leery of her ability both to market herself and at the same time offer the supporting evidence that would clinch the application for her.

This is the client whose wisdom has served her well. But now she needs to be five times bolder than she’s been in writing her dissertation or in sending articles to journals.

She felt unequal to the task until she recalled that she had been interviewed after making a presentation outside of the U.S.  She remembers the exuberance she felt as she was explaining her position and her research to the interviewer.  Fortunately, she has a transcript of the interview, and reading it gives her the push and mental energy she needs to move into this new task.

Similarly, a client who feels she hasn’t performed well on her dissertation has been surprised to hear that she’s been nominated for an award by her committee.  Initially, she felt like hiding, sure that her work would  reveal herself to be less capable than what they would expect. She thought of what they might say to her when they learned that she isn’t as far along with her work as she thinks she should be.   But she also knows that she has been catastrophizing.  Talking about the lack of evidence she has for any of these destructive beliefs gives her the will to pull on her inner resources of mental toughness and grit, and the will to plan strategies that will help her to get back on track and to stop with the self-sabotaging.

When talented, skilled, successful people are again and again pushed to produce, they can start to question themselves, question whether they got to where they are only by luck, whether they have what it takes to keep going.  It takes boldness and courage to keep trudging, but it also takes a willingness to be vulnerable and to trust those around them, to show work to others when the work is not the best, and to ask for help.

As one brilliant woman told me, “I have to do that thing where I feel like I’m typing with two fingers.”  Instead of turning on herself when she feels fear or uncertainty, she has to manage her feelings and keep plunking away, boldly and bravely.

Writing is scary, but there are ways to move quickly past those fears, and then to keep going.

How are you doing?

All good wishes,

Nancy

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach
http://www.dissertationbootcamp.net
http://www.usingyourstrengths.com
http://www.smarttipsforwriters.com

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