Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘flow’ Category

Dr. Tracy Steen has been editor of the All But Dissertation Survival Guide for several years, but has decided to step down. She is an eminent, ground-breaking positive psychologist with a psychotherapy practice, and she is also a coach.

As editor of the ABDSG, she applied her knowledge and experience as a positive psychologist to the subject of writing.

Her interesting and engaging editor’s notes framed and added pizzazz to each contributor’s article.

Before Dr. Steen became the editor of the ABD Survival Guide, she wrote an article that I think might be of particular help to you. It is called “Finding Flow in Writing.” The article ends with a summary of what you can do to move into flow while you are writing your dissertation. Dr. Steen writes,

a. For flow to occur, the task must be just within your abilities. So whatever part of your dissertation you are working on, find your challenge.

b. Flow occurs when you are engaged, not anxious. Do what you can to reduce your anxiety before sitting down to write. Go for a run, listen to relaxing music, put your worries on paper and then analyze them with a critical eye. Do whatever works best for you. Several past issues of the “ABD Survival Guide” offer excellent suggestions for dealing with anxiety.

c. You need to allow some time to get into what you are doing for flow to occur. Of course it is smart to rest and take breaks while writing. Just don’t take them at five minute intervals.

d. Flow happens when you are completely engaged in the task at hand. Don’t distract yourself by thinking about whether or not you are in flow. Just write!

We’ll miss her articles and editor’s notes, but do yourself a favor and go to the ABDSG website where you can look through the archives for articles by Dr. Steen.  You should also look for her editor’s note in each issue of the ABD Survival Guide from January 2006 forward. 

Best to you,

Nancy

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

Read Full Post »

Cat mosaic on house façade, Brussels, Belgium,...

Image by historic.brussels via Flickr

Can’t concentrate?  Having trouble getting into flow with your writing?  Get a cat!

Advice to writers can come from the most interesting places.  An unexpected, but most entertaining source of advice is A Far Cry from Kensington, a novel by British writer Muriel Spark

A Far Cry takes place in 1954 London.  Mrs. Hawkins, the narrator, has a job in publishing.  And yes, it is she who offers the acutely insightful advice that if you can’t concentrate, get a cat.

In a hilarious dinner party scene, Mrs. Hawkins is seated by a red-faced, watery-eyed Brigadier, who, in response to her question about his having had an interesting life, replies, “Could write a book.”  He hasn’t because he hasn’t been able to concentrate.  

Mrs. Hawkins tells him that to concentrate, “you need a cat”:

Alone with a cat in the room where you work . . . the cat will invariably get up on your desk and settle placidly under the desk lamp.  .  .  .  The cat will settle down and be serene, with a serenity that passes all understanding.  And the tranquility of the cat will gradually come to affect you sitting there at your desk, so that all the excitable qualities that impede your concentration compose themselves and give your mind back the self-command it has lost. 

Spark is saying in her engaging style that to regain the self-discipline and focus you need to write, let go of the negative, chattering voices in your mind and all of the endless responsibilities calling to you. 

Occasionally my dissertation coaching clients speak of the quieting influence of their pets.

Unfortunately, in Spark’s novel, the narrator informs us that  the Brigadier’s writing fails.  Mrs. Hawkins says,  “I had advised him only that a cat helps concentration, not that the cat writes the book for you.”

Mrs. Hawkins freely gives her wise advice to other would-be writers. She tells writers to have in mind a particular person who will be your reader.  

What you have to say will come out more spontaneously and honestly than if you are thinking of numerous readers.  Before starting . . .  rehearse in your mind what you are going to tell . . . . But don’t rehearse too much, the story will develop as you go along.

Working toward discovery and trusting a process –both in life and in writing– are strong themes in the book.

Life isn’t fair, of course, and trusting the process does not always lead to exemplary writing or to published works, as evidenced by the novel’s depiction of many questionable publishers and of less than stellar writers who do get published.

But we can take pleasure in Muriel Spark’s esteem for honest, hard-working writers, as well as her undisguised contempt for the undeserving who sometimes receive  their just rewards.

As a writer, have you found good or interesting advice from an unexpected source?  I would 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

Read Full Post »

How was your writing today?

You couldn’t get a flow going today during your writing session? 

Some writing sessions are like that–you start off more slowly, maybe because you’re tired, it’s the end of the week, or maybe because you didn’t prime the pump, didn’t try to induce a good mood, or didn’t practice resiliency before you began the effort

Or perhaps you’re starting to see some success and you’re just a bit uneasy because you are thinking you may actually meet your deadline?

Once again, it’s time to practice resiliency. 

Remind yourself that this time there’s no backsliding—but be playful as well as firm. 

Laugh at the time you were so self-congratulatory for how well you were doing on a paper that you barely finished the project under deadline! 

Resiliency is a skill that you learn through practice. A great way to increase your resiliency is laugh at your foibles and shenanigans. Use your sense of humor and self-knowledge to fuel your writing session.

 Have a good weekend,

Nancy

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

Read Full Post »

Writing is easier for me when I’m in flow.  That is, when I feel some challenge in expressing the content  and producing text, but, even though challenged, I know that I have the skills that are needed.

The tricky part is getting into flow.

1.  To move into flow, write more quickly.
Until I’m in flow, I yield to distraction and look for any opportunity to make a break for it.

This is what works for me. To stick with the writing long enough to be in flow, I write as fast as I can, making odd marginal notes, getting as much down on paper as quickly as I can.  The more text, the better.  As the quantity of text mounts, it will be evident to my ole Lizard Brain that I’m not in danger. No reason to bolt. The more text I have, the more likely I am to keep at it.

2.  To move into flow, build some urgency.
If you’re like me, unless we feel that there’s some urgency surrounding our writing, we can be entirely too casual about  producing text and producing it fairly quickly.

Here’s a tip: To build some urgency, make your schedule visible. It’s easy to keep your head in the sand about deadlines or the passage of time.  To keep time relevant, put your weekly and daily goals on a White Board.  Having the daily task or goal on the board  not only gives you a visual reminder of what you have to do this week, but also allows you to erase what you have finished.

3. To produce more text, write at odd moments.
Riding the subway or train presents odd moments but often we aren’t equipped to write when we’re commuting.  One of my marvelous clients has tried to write on her laptop during her commute, but the laptop was more of an obstacle than a help.  The size and weight made it cumbersome, giving her a backache.  Determined to make use of the otherwise lost time, she bought a Netbook—one of those new lightweight, small very portable laptops.  She can carry the less-than-three-pound laptop in her bag, and its ten-inch width lets her write while she’s scrunched in a seat on the commuter train.

4.  To seize the present, remove obstacles to writing.

Are there some obstacles keeping you from writing?  Have you been ignoring your writing project?

Read my Smart Tips for Writers newsletter that will be sent out this coming Tuesday.  The main article is “The Ignored Writing Project: Six Tips to Get You Back into Action.”

All the best,

Nancy

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC

Your International Dissertation and Academic Career Coach
nancy@nancywhichard.com
www.nancywhichard.com
www.dissertationbootcamp.net

Read Full Post »

Even though you may have a stated intention of working on your dissertation and making steady progress, you do everything and anything to sabotage yourself.  Could this be you?

If  this sounds familiar, read on.

A dissertation client is having great trouble moving forward.  Every week when we talk, there’s been another obstacle which has kept her from meeting the weekly goal. 

What gets in her way is that she discounts all of the success she’s had that got her to where she is now.  From what she has told me, I know that for ten years she has been moving ahead in her academic life, but she routinely discounts any academic accomplishment or even the stamina that it’s taken for her to keep on this difficult path. 

She’s doing all-or-nothing thinking. 

Because she doesn’t have her PhD, none of the work along the way matters.  She made it through her qualifying papers, made it through 3 or 4 years of courses, got her master’s, and all the time has continued to work in a demanding job.

But none of it matters. 

She understands intellectually how a person can dismiss past success, but she thinks she doesn’t dismiss it because she intellectually understands how a person could do this.  But she does it. 

She continues to distort her experience.

Without acknowledging how hard she’s worked and how that work has brought success, she makes it incredibly difficult to make steady progress toward her PhD.

Giving yourself credit for each success, no matter how small, helps you gain momentum and ultimately move into flow.  If you distort your experience, you very likely will make procrastination the usual approach to your daily work. With procrastination your first response, you waste time and energy. 

Your work is hard enough without handicapping yourself. 

How about making a list of your successes?  Want to share them?  I’d love to hear what you conveniently forget about yourself.

To your best!

Nancy
Your International Dissertation and Academic Career Coach
nancy@nancywhichard.com
www.nancywhichard.com

P.S. Read more about procrastination in my newsletter Smart Tips. Go to www.nancywhichard.com to sign up.

Read Full Post »