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Archive for the ‘creativity’ Category

Have you heard of a “showrunner”?

Writers in the TV industry are now expected also to manage—or to have the skills and strengths that would allow them to manage.

According to John Wells, Writers Guild of America West president and writer/producer of E.R., Third Watch, and West Wing, it is almost impossible to be just a writer anymore in television.

Instead of “head writer,” the path for the writer is to control the material and make decisions, thus be a  “showrunner.”

Similar to the showrunner, you are managing your career, and an important step on the ladder of your academic career is writing the dissertation. How are you managing the important project of writing your dissertation?  When will you close and deliver the project?

To deliver the dissertation:

1. Use the process and mindset of a showrunner/ Project Manager.
2. Exercise the strengths and skills of a showrunner/ Project Manager.

What strengths do you think an effective showrunner/ Project  Manager has?

Consider these:

1.  Leadership
2.  Judgment and critical thinking
3.  Self-control/self-discipline
4.  Diligence and perseverance
5.  Creativity and ingenuity

What happens if you look at  your dissertation project through the lens of leadership?

A showrunner/Project Manager has the job of  providing leadership in these areas:

1.  Planning
2.  Scheduling
3.  Organizing and holding to a timeline
4.  Collaborating with team members
5.  Working with superiors/bosses
6.  Managing a budget
7.  Closing the project

How can you encourage and motivate yourself to get things done?  How can you organize tasks to make following through more of a given?

Along with writing content, make sure you are managing your project:

— Closing the project depends on planning, scheduling, and organizing.

–Exercise your strength of working with others.  Don’t hide out to avoid all personal contact with advisors or others who can help you in the process.

— Consider the costs.

You may not be managing a $26-million-dollar budget for a TV show, but consider what it costs you not to make and meet a schedule.

Writing a dissertation is a great time to practice the strength of leadership.  How are you running your show?

I’d love to hear from you

All good wishes,

Nancy

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

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A little after noon on Sunday as I was driving  to the Regional Post Office, which is open on Sundays, I turned on NPR radio and happened upon Garrison Keillor, telling one of his yarns on “Prairie Home Companion.”

Even though I enjoy Garrison Keillor’s humor, I immediately felt weepy.

On far too many Sunday afternoons a number of years ago, I would leave my home and my family and head to my office where I would work on my dissertation.  Each Sunday during that drive I listened to Garrison Keillor.  While I don’t regret putting in the hard work it took to finish the dissertation, it came at a cost.

While Keillor’s voice triggers some sad memories and brings up conflicts that I had to deal with as a parent and a wife, I’m also struck by the quickness of the unexpected, forgotten connection.  Our past can rush to meet us triggered by the briefest of sounds.  Or a new idea can occur to us at the confluence of a setting, a sound, and a memory.

That possibility of a sudden memory or an insight and, unlikely as it seems, sadness that can turn to hope through reframing reminded me of a client who is attempting to write a novel.  After having worked at it for quite a while, she feels as if she has nothing new to give to the project.  And she’s slipping into a stuck place where nothing stirs her.

To get unstuck, we may have to open ourselves to memories, to the unexpected, to the coming together of past and present.  Or we may have to break our routine and try something different.

I might have generated more ideas for  my dissertation and then have been a more lively and efficient writer had I given myself permission occasionally to stay at home on Sunday afternoons, or  if as a family, we had gone somewhere together on more of those days.

To generate ideas, consider making a break in your routine:
1. Take a walk or go for a jog.
2.   Go to the library or a coffee shop.
3.  If funds permit, take your laptop and check into a hotel.
4.  Trade houses or apartments with someone.
5.  House-sit for a week or two for a friend.
6.  Change the scenery—go to the zoo or to a park.
7.  Awaken your senses– surprise yourself with something different on the radio or buy a new kind of coffee or tea.
8.  Remind yourself of a time when you were bold or brave or when you did something difficult.

Sometimes writing and meeting deadlines need more than perseverance.

All good wishes,

Nancy

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

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Have you ever been hit with an urge to write?
 
I don’t mean the motivation that writers pine for, but the sudden desire that makes you say, “I have to get this down” or “Where is my pen?  My laptop?”

It’s quite a different feeling from gritting your teeth and grinding out text.  Baring down and gritting and grinding certainly have their place.  They can move you from the state of not writing to writing

But the intense urge to write happens when something touches you and you come alive.

One of my incredible coaching clients has just finished her manuscript for a book.

Even though she has a book contract with a good press, she still has had some fallow times over the past year of struggling to give life to her book. 

The latest came not so long ago, during the writing of the conclusion.  She had written ten pages and just could not generate more text.

But one week, she finally was able to write. She wrote 13 pages, and those were the pages which she had been looking for, the ideas which she felt were crucial before she could say “Now the book is finished.”

How did it happen?  She was close to backing off from the conclusion she had wanted since it seemed beyond her.  During this restless, uncertain time, when she had moved away from her computer, she happened to come across a book on a related subject– actually a book taking a critical perch opposed to the one she had taken. And that was it.  Reading the book stirred a response within her, and she was eager to write.

Sometimes we forget what we know to be true—that we need to be awakened and re-awakened. Reading someone else’s analysis, like hearing a political critique or reading a poem, awakens us, stirs us, and makes the engine go. It can make us long to write.

What makes the engine go?
Desire, desire, desire.
The longing for the dance
stirs in the buried life.
 —Stanley Kunitz

Until next time,

Nancy

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach
nancy@nancywhichard.com
www.nancywhichard.com
www.usingyourstrengths.com

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Dissertation writers are largely self-taught academic writers, and the learning process can be a bold and daring adventure.

Over the years many of my dissertation coaching clients talk about the challenges in writing academic discourse.  Academic writing is its own special discourse, with its own particular conventions. My dissertation coaching clients largely learn this discourse by doing.

What they are asked to do and the way they feel their way along, trying to put into practice what they think they’re being asked to do, is not unlike underprepared students in their first year or years of college.

Professors and instructors in composition and rhetoric fields are familiar with David Bartholomae’s article “Inventing the University.” Bartholomae defines how beginning college writers must act as if they know what they’re doing, even if they don’t.

The article opens in this way: “Every time a student sits down to write for us, he has to invent the university for the occasion–  .  .  . or a branch of it, like History or Anthropology or Economics or English. He has to learn to speak our language, to speak as we do, to try on the peculiar ways of knowing, selecting, evaluating, reporting, concluding, and arguing that define the discourse of our community.” 

Bartholomae says that students can’t wait to write academic discourse until after they have learned more or can write comfortably: “they must dare to speak it, or to carry off the bluff, since speaking and writing will most certainly be required long before the skill is ‘learned.’”

Likewise, my dissertation coaching clients have to boldly write and rewrite. Dare to write.

Dare to carry off the bluff.

Warm regards,

Nancy

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

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Monet set staring at his garden in Giverny, France.  A neighbor asked him when he was going to start working. Monet said that he was already working.

Later, when Monet was painting, the neighbor passed by again and said, “Oh, you’ve started working.”  To which Monet said, “No, now I’m resting.”

I don’t know if this story about Monet is true, but it suggests different points of view of how we break through to new ideas that allow us to be productive.

•    Monet may have been actively analyzing what he was seeing.  Perhaps he was planning the technique he would use once he began painting. 

•   Or perhaps he was letting go of the everyday concerns and minimizing distractions.  He may have been initially unaware of the connections his mind was making as he sat there and gazed at the light playing on the flowers.

•   But then a sudden insight could have allowed him to see the scene in a new way, allowing him to focus just on his sense of sight.  His perception of the scene piqued his curiosity and he saw a puzzle that could be solved.

Accounts from several of my clients writing dissertations and books support the fascinating, new research that has written about in newspapers and books.  This new research tells us that the unfocused mind generates striking, creative ideas and makes associations that will not come when, for example, my writing clients are at their most intent.
 
One client had been struggling for some time to get beyond merely describing her fieldwork.  Her attempts to devise an original, theoretical framework had not been successful.

To relieve her stress, she had wisely added weekly volunteer work and exercise to her schedule, as well as continuing to work on her dissertation. She came to a coaching call with me one evening excited and optimistic:  “The framework came to me as I drove home from my volunteer work today,” she said.

Making space in her day for something besides her dissertation and thus having time for her mind to be idle and to rest surely produced the insight.  And it was a sudden insight.

My client’s upbeat mood as she left her volunteer work may also have helped produce the unexpected insight.  Researchers say that a sudden insight is more likely if you are in a good mood.

Robert Lee Hotz writes in The Wall Street Journal (June 19, 2009) that Northwestern University researchers, using brain scanners and other sensors, have studied how a-ha moments take shape in our brains, even before we’re consciously aware of them.

Our brain is most active when we are the least aware of our thoughts.  At those times, connections are made from different parts of our brain, creating new frameworks and new ways of thinking.

What might this research mean for you as a writer?  How could this research help you as you’re writing your dissertation?  I’d love to hear from you.

Happy August,

Nancy

P.S.  Can write a good email? In my first newsletter of the fall, I discuss writing email and how it and other kinds of writing could be of help to the academic writer. If you haven’t signed up for my newsletter, Smart Tips for Writers, go to my website and take care of that.  My website is at www.nancywhichard.com.

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation and Academic Career Coach
nancy@nancywhichard.com
www.nancywhichard.com
www.usingyourstrengths.com

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Several of my writing and dissertation clients are trying to finish a dissertation or finish a book at the same time that they’re teaching or working full time and also trying to be attentive to the people in their lives.

And they wonder why they aren’t getting more work done on their dissertations!

One of my clients went on a vacation recently.  She had not reached her writing goal, but she says it’s time to make some changes.

Over the past couple of months, her work has been more and more of a struggle for her.  She would make a little progress, but then hit the wall.  She was feeling more anxious and more uncertain about her writing than she had been in quite some time.  She even felt that she had lost the vision for a chapter that she had clearly worked out not very long ago.

A good friend suggested to her that the writing probably wouldn’t come unless she took a break to ease some of the pressure. 

At her friend’s advice, my client put her writing project away. She made a great meal for herself and her husband.  She also called her mother and caught up on all of the family news.

The next morning my client went for a run and came home to have coffee.  While she sat at the kitchen table, she suddenly had a moment of clarity.

In an a-ha moment, the way into the chapter that had been eluding her became clear.  She suddenly saw how to write the introduction. She went to her computer and wrote two pages. Soon she wrote another page.

She’s planning some changes to her schedule now.  She will shorten her daily working time and build in some breaks.  She needs to let her mind have time to process the work she’s been doing and to rest.

Recalibrate is her word for what she is doing now, and it makes a lot of sense to me.

How much have you been juggling over the past year?  Far too much?  Relaxation can increase creativity and lead to insights.

How about checking your schedule?  Where are you giving your mind time to repair and regenerate?  

Until next time,

Nancy

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation and Academic Career Coach
nancy@nancywhichard.com
www.nancywhichard.com
www.usingyourstrengths.com

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“How would I rate my self-care this week, particularly in the area of exercise?” is one of the questions I ask my clients to think about before we have our coaching call.

Since many of my coaching clients are writers, and many of those writers are trying to find time to write a dissertation, I have a hard sell in trying to convince them to put more time into exercising.  One client says, “I just loathe ‘working out,’ especially since it uses up so much valuable time.”

And another response– “I can’t even imagine how I would enjoy adding regular exercise into my daily routine without hating every minute of it.”

To fight my own resistance to exercise, I plan my weekly schedule around exercise.  Like writing, exercise needs to be a habit.

Here are nine benefits that I have found from exercising:

1. It improves my mood.  After I exercise, it is always easier to start writing because I am in a good mood.

2.  It helps me think. My creativity is unleashed.  Ideas pop into my mind while I’m working out.

3.  It frees my mind to process ideas that I had been working on or issues that I haven’t been actively engaged with.

4.  It dissipates anxiety.  I’m always much calmer and more relaxed once I have exercised.

5.  It vents some of my meanness, allowing me to be the nice person I like to think I am.

6.  I have more energy on a daily basis if I’ve been exercising regularly.

7.  It eats calories and also helps control my eating.  Controlling my emotional eating is a great thing.

8.  It fights Alzheimer’s.  Also, if you’re thin and at one time you were a smoker, you should be exercising /lifting weights to fight osteoporosis.

9.  When I exercise with a group, I fight feelings of loneliness that are all too common with writers (and introverts). 

And here’s a bonus reason:  Rather than taking too much time, exercise actually helps me be a more productive writer.

Are you including exercise in your schedule?  How are you doing that?  I’d love to hear from you.

All the best,

Nancy

P.S.  Could exercising be one of your goals for August and September?  Email me to help put some specifics around a goal. 

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation and Academic Career Coach
nancy@nancywhichard.com
www.nancywhichard.com
www.usingyourstrengths.com

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