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Archive for the ‘isolation’ Category

One of the joys of life is to visit one’s adult children, whether they live close by or at a distance.

empty highway: an empty highway, leading to a city in the distance.  35W north into minneapolis was closed for construction work at the diamond lake bridge.

After graduating from college, our daughter remained in the New York area, married, and bought a house.

On the way home to Northern Virginia after a recent visit with her,  I thought how each visit to the home of one of our adult children is like a short course or even a Boot Camp. This Boot Camp helps us to adapt to their changing lives and maturing personalities.  I don’t mean Boot Camp in the sense of a grueling experience, but one with boundaries of time and with opportunities of being near to one another, making it easier to spot ways to make life better. 

I coach writers. Many of my clients ask me if Boot Camp would work for them. I occasionally offer a limited-enrollment Boot Camp, tailored to each participant. Boot Camp makes a lot of sense, with its limited time period when someone can focus daily on a specific writing project and where one anticipates making changes to grow and get better. 

The people who enroll in Boot Camp come with an impressive academic and professional history and, typically, have been strong writers. But new expectations and self-doubt have derailed them, slowing and or even stalling their writing.

Boot Camp offers writers a safe place to reshape their usual way of approaching their work, and they are not isolated as they do it.  As their coach, I give support and accountability as the participants streamline their writing process, gain insights and improved skills, and set up new habits that they can use after Boot Camp ends.

Like writers enrolled in Boot Camp, when my husband and I visit our adult children, I see much in their homes and lives that seems familiar. Our personalities and our conversations move in a comfortable dance-like pattern. However, these short visits bring into relief unexpected changes where I trip up. And then I get to try out new steps, hoping to get better in that unpredictable and wonderful dance with adult children.

Boot Camp has much in common with these short visits. Both are worthwhile, good things to do. In both places you need to expect the unexpected and be ready for a bit of a challenge. With each, you can learn something valuable and new in a setting which seems very familiar.

Should you try Boot Camp? Absolutely! If you are trying to get a toe-hold on your dissertation or an article out the door, consider how two weeks where you write every day and are accountable for doing what you said you would do will jump-start your work.

And it will give new life to your flagging strengths of perseverance and resilience.

What would you like to know about Boot Camp? I would love to hear from you.

If you are navigating change in your family relationships, I would love to hear about that, too.

All good wishes,

Nancy

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

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Walking up to the United States customs agent in an airport after a trip out of the country always makes me feel uneasy. Will there be something wrong?  Where should I look as the agent flips through my passport?

So I stand there, feeling awkward. Finally, the agent looks at me one more time and then, with what seems like genuine feeling,  the agent calls me by name and says, “Welcome Home.”  

Whew. I’ve passed muster, but I’m also curiously touched.  I know there’s nothing personal in the greeting.  It’s predictable that the customs agent welcomes the traveler, but I always feel a bit of emotion rising in my chest.       

I guess I belong here after all.

Inception and Leonardo DiCaprio

Have you seen the movie Inception?  I got around to seeing it a few weeks ago and was particularly drawn to the ending when the character played by Leonardo DiCaprio shows the same unease I often feel as I wait to see what the U.S. agent may ask me.  DiCaprio gives a slight acknowledgment to the agent and then lowers his eyes—how are you supposed to look in this situation? And where should you look?  Finally the agent says, “Welcome home, Mr. Cobb.”

 

And the relieved and happy Cobb/DiCaprio crosses the boundary into the U.S. He’s home. Of course, he had reason to worry.  He could have been denied entrance. 

But that’s another story. 

A customs agent in the role of gatekeeper reminds me of how often we can doubt that we belong in a community or in a situation which formerly had seemed or claimed to be our home. 

The notion of home, returning home, and feeling at home in various situations goes beyond familiar settings, sentimental snapshots, or an address on a customs form. 

 

The writer’s home

Most ABD’s come to a graduate program feeling at home, challenged, but nevertheless sure that this is where they will find the opportunity, the collegiality, and the inspiration that will bring out the best in them.

Even if they had felt completely at home as they took classes or as they wrote papers for classes or perhaps even acting as teaching assistants, once the students have moved past their course work or into the dissertation process, they are too often thrown by the process and feel out-of-place as they try to finish their dissertations and earn their degrees.  

As I coach writers, I am struck by how frequently brilliant, capable ABD’s become stuck and start to feel incompetent and unworthy. 

Incompetent and unworthy

ABD’s know what they’re supposed to do. They’re supposed to make goals and meet deadlines and just write.  But for many ABD’s, deadlines have become counterproductive. The pressure and the isolation of trying to grind out text somehow raise such self-doubt that they start to question whether they belong in this doctoral program.  

Some compare themselves unfavorably with others who are further along in the dissertation process.  They feel such regret and, worse, they feel such shame for time wasted during the doctoral program that they’re almost paralyzed. 

Do they have what it takes to finish this degree?  The familiar situations and professors no longer seem reassuring, but rather seem to raise barriers to the extent that ABD’s start to see themselves as frauds or imposters. 

Lower the stakes

If this sounds like your situation, you could take a cue from some graduate students who have gone through periods of self-doubt and shame and have rewritten the process to make it work for them.  

Instead of focusing on the product or on finishing, focus on the present moment. Determine the block of time that you are setting aside each morning for yourself and decide what your choices will be during that time.  You can decide that you will write and that’s all, or you could have a variety of tasks to choose from, as long as you put in the time.  What is important is that you step back from the process and lower the stakes from producing something brilliant and perfect to doing something.

Ebb and flow 

The writing process will be one of ebb and flow. Some days, the writing will be crappy, and other days you might think the work you did wasn’t half bad. What is important is that you show up each day at the time you have carved out for yourself and write. Do something. And it will be good enough.

Welcome home

The block of time for your daily work is your place and your time. Rewrite the script; redesign the scenery. Make the delivery and the timing your own. This is your home place. And at the beginning of each writing session, greet yourself. I bet you would smile if you greeted yourself each morning with “Welcome Home, Mr. Cobb.”  

Warm regards,

Nancy

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

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When you’re writing a dissertation, it’s likely that you’ll feel isolated.  Many dissertators say how much they long to be back at the university where they could talk with their peers about their ideas and their writing.

Too often the isolated dissertation writer feels less than excited about the writing.  And productivity suffers.

Talking with others helps you to bounce back when you’re feeling down.  But sometimes you think that only others who are in the same situation can empathize with you.

You may avoid the people with whom you could have contact because you think they wouldn’t want to talk about your writing.  You may be right.  But you may have other things in common.

  • Someone with whom you enjoy sharing lunch or talking to about the kids or the football game or the  3K race coming up Sunday
  •  Someone with whom you can compare prices and benefits of one gym over another
  •  Someone to whom you can reveal your less-than-complete knowledge or understanding of a product or the way your car works

Positive Psychology researchers contend that one of the most important ways to improve one’s job satisfaction is by having a friend at work.  Similarly, when you’re struggling with a dissertation, having a friend to chat with can give you a boost and improve the way you look at your job as a writer.

Having a friend helps to bring out the best in you. If you feel that someone recognizes your worth as a person and also shares some of your values, you will probably feel more confident in exercising your strengths and talents.

The more you can use your strengths, the more likely it is that you will feel more resilient about your writing.  And resilience brings greater productivity.

When you’re feeling alone or perhaps that the world is against you, look around for a friend.  Aristotle said, “The antidote for 50 enemies is one friend.”

I’m curious whether you think it would be worth your time to cultivate a friend.  I’d love to hear what you think.
Nancy

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC

Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach

www.smarttipsforwriters.com

http://www.dissertationbootcamp.net

http://www.nancywhichard.com

nancy @ nancywhichard.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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Nearly every day I receive email from people who are making no or next to no progress on their dissertations.  They are scared of the future and ashamed of having let so much time go by.

They complain about feeling isolated–working far from their universities, having little contact with their advisors, and having no colleagues or friends involved in a similar process.  

That kind of isolation can be overwhelming and can keep you stuck.

It’s up to you to reach out to others.

Here are four tips for successful writing:

• What helped you to write when you were still on campus? Create an atmosphere, a feeling, or a semblance of campus right where you are that is conducive to writing.

• Seek out places to write where people are writing and reading — a public library, a university library, a coffee shop, even rental office space. Go there routinely, and as you settle in nod and smile at others who are also there regularly.

• Reach out to others who will buddy-up with you.

• Hire a dissertation coach or writing coach who will help you set goals and who will support you. You don’t have to be entirely alone during this process, and you shouldn’t be.  It isn’t healthy and it isn’t smart.
 
Put forward some effort in order to feel more connected. 

All the best,

Nancy

P.S.  Last chance to get the September on-line Smart Tips for Writers newsletter. You haven’t heard of it?  Is that why you haven’t signed up for it?  Don’t waste another minute—sign up at my website: nancy@nancywhichard.com.

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

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What if writing each day on your dissertation was a habit?  What would you gain from that?

Do you know the power of habit?

Here are the top 5 reasons for developing a solid, robust, no-kidding daily writing habit:

1.  You would not lose time and energy fighting the internal battles of whether you would write today.

2.  Your writing would come easily to mind at random moments during the day, giving you the opportunity to have new ideas and to make new connections.

3.  You wouldn’t have to find time to write—the time would be there, available, ready-made, dedicated to your work.

4.  You would replace distraction and self-deception with a solid, reliable writing habit.

5.  You would be writing on your dissertation every day.

Too often when ABD’s are isolated, working alone and with little accountability to anyone, a daily writing habit is far from reality.

Just as often, newly minted PhD’s working in their first appointment have lost the writing momentum they once had and are now procrastinating on their own writing.  They think they have no time for their research projects, or they’re making up excuses not to write.  They may distract and even deceive themselves to keep from writing.

I’m putting together some strategies that should put a habit in place that will give you the muscle you need to push distractions and self-deceptions aside and start a new day in your writing life.

Many writers who have been part of dissertation boot camps have high praise for the results and give their experience rave reviews.

If you’re interested in a virtual boot camp, you might want to check out my website at www.nancywhichard.com or sign up for my free e-newsletter.  I have an article on boot camps in the next issue that will go out right away.  Sign up at www.nancywhichard.com.

I’d love to hear from you if you have some ideas or strategies that can help make writing each day a habit or if you’re interested in gaining an intense, daily writing habit.

Best wishes,

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

 

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An ABD’s dilemmas with her writing underscore for me the problems dissertation writers have when they’re isolated from campus and from an advisor during the dissertation process.

As a dissertation coach, I don’t fix people’s writing, but I listen, and if a client sends me some text, I see what the writing looks like.

This morning a dissertation writer talked about several pages of a chapter. In these pages she writes, in part, the history of a movement.

She came to me because her advisor gives her no feedback.  She had sent him some pages, and it’s obvious he didn’t read the work or, if he did, he decided he wouldn’t involve himself in her process. He says she’s doing great!

The introduction to the survey of literature is murky, repetitious, hard to follow.  It goes on for page after page. She tries to write in what she thinks is the expected discourse. She hurries, compresses, meanders, and throws in rhetorical flourishes.

No one has told her that the convoluted language is confusing.  Nobody has told her, in effect, to choose a traffic lane and stick with it.

In the second half, where she presents the background material, she says, “I don’t have any concepts in here.’  It seems to me that her writing becomes clearer in this second half of the group of pages, but she dismisses that writing as “baby-ish.” She is in a hurry to wrap up the telling of the history because it seems obvious to her.

When she talks aloud to me about her ideas for the dissertation, she sounds competent and clear, but she knows that she has problems when she writes. She is spinning her wheels.

I have faith in her.  I know that she can turn this around, but she is looking at quite an investment of time.

I have to ask:  Did her university prepare her for writing this dissertation?
What responsibility does her advisor have toward her?

What do you think?

Until next time,

Nancy

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

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