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Archive for the ‘joy’ Category

harvey eschews the commercialism of christmas

Image by JKönig via Flickr

The time has come– close your computer, put on some music, and settle into a cozy chair. 

Let go of your dissertation and other such bothersome things, and embrace your family, with all of their attendant quirks and idiosyncrasies.

May the joys of the season be yours.

Nancy

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The Warmth in Diamonds 3a

If you’re writing a dissertation, what words would make you the happiest to hear?

Ben Shott, in Schott’s  Vocab asks  his New York Times readers what are the happiest words in the English language.  He  suggests something like  “I Do” or “The doctor can see you immediately.” 

That led me to wonder what are the happiest words for a dissertation writer.

 How about:

 –Brilliant!

 –Let’s just skip the last two chapters.  You’ve written enough.

 –Great Dissertation.  We’d like to offer you a tenure track position.

 –No revisions are necessary.

 What words would you like to hear?

Nancy

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

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You’ve made a big deadline?  Hurray for you!

If you’ve sent off a revised draft of a chapter or major chunk of your dissertation to your advisor or you’ve finished multiple revisions of an article and sent it off to a journal, pat yourself on the back, think about what comes next….

And then take some time off.  It could be two days or a week, but give yourself time to regenerate and restore your depleted resources.

Go swimming.  Read a novel.  Spend time with a friend or your partner.

Afraid that you will hide out when it’s time to get back into action?  Then put a few things in place to help you get back o.k.

Here are four tips to help you make an easier reentry:

1. Mark your calendars for the day and the time you will be back at work. Make the start time as important as a departure time would be for you if you had a flight scheduled that day. Plan to do your laundry or check your email much earlier or much, much later, but not at the time you are restarting your writing.

2. Clarify the first steps.  Determine some specifics on what to do that first day back at work. Why bother to set a date to start, if you sabotage yourself by having no plan? 
 
3. Learn from the past.  If you are a bit monkey-brained as you think about planning your first steps after you return, free-write now for five minutes about what you have learned from the work you’ve just completed, learning that you will put into play for the next section or chapter or writing project.

4. Put your plans where you can’t miss them.  Situate the plans to be the first things you see when you turn on your computer or print them out so they’re physically in the middle of your clean desk.
 
You deserve a guilt-free break.  Mark your calendars and publicize the day and time you’ll be back at work. Put your plans for your first steps after you return in plain sight. A small price for a guilt-free break!

I would love to hear how you make a break part of your writing process.

Until next time,

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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It’s time again for the Annual Road Trip.

Most road trips I’ve been on over the last few years end with our creeping along Interstate 95, wondering when there is going to be a break in the traffic.  Road trips aren’t what they used to be.   That is, not unless you get far away from I-95.

With in-laws in North Carolina and my family in the Midwest, we have to drive a while to our destinations, but it’s worth the effort in order to leave the traffic of the East Coast behind.

And I need to be reminded how much is elsewhere for me and for my family, contrary to the suggestion of the haughty term “flyover country.”

During the days leading up to the Fourth of July we drive south from Washington on I-95 to I-85 in North Carolina and then west on I-40.  And we just keep going, past Asheville, past Franklin, over three more mountains, the third being Chunky Gal Mountain (what a name, right? supposedly, it is from a Cherokee legend) and on to the little North Carolina town where the cousins gather every Fourth. While the small town was very isolated when my husband’s mother lived there as a child, the area is no longer isolated nor a secret. Good roads are plentiful, allowing for tourists and family alike to visit or even keep second homes there.

We gather at a cousin’s house along the lake, and catch up. Of course, there’s story telling and food cooking on the grill, but mostly we watch the little ones play in the sandpile or swim or bob around in rafts on the lake. We marvel over the good health of the child who had been seriously ill, the love between the formerly estranged, the patience shown by a caretaker, and we play (or watch) a marathon volley ball game.

There’s a lot that forms the narratives of our lives—family, books, places, as well as highways and cars and airports.  And there’s the soundtrack to the narratives. At this time of year, I mentally replay Simon and Garfunkel’s  “America,” with its words of emptiness and loss, and I also hear Carole King’s “Doesn’t Anyone Stay in One Place Anymore?” (No apologies for my fondness of Carole King!)

Some people do stay in one place. But for those of us who didn’t, it’s worth the effort to put aside our work, our writing, our anxiety-producing deadlines, and our hatred of sitting in parking lots on I-95 and go show our faces and be part of the family.

If the Fourth is a holiday for you, I hope you can put your writing on hold for a bit and join others to celebrate family and community.

Happy Fourth of July,

Nancy

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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Here on the East Coast of the U.S., it is snowing and snowing and blowing.  There’s no sign of  snow removal on my cul-de-sac, so it’s time to write.  How about you? I hope you’re having a good writing day.

It’s also a time for goofy emails.  A relative who can always make me laugh sent me the following 10 Tips for Holiday Eating.   

1.   Avoid carrot sticks.  Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Holiday spirit.  In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately.  Go next door, where they’re serving rum balls.

2.  Drink as much eggnog as you can.  And quickly.  It’s rare. You cannot find it any other time of year but now.  So drink up!  Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip?  It’s not as if you’re going to turn into an eggnog-alcoholic or something.  It’s a treat. Enjoy it.  Have one for me.  Have two.  It’s later than you think.  It’s Christmas!

3.  If something comes with gravy, use it.  That’s the whole point of gravy.  Gravy does not stand alone.  Pour it on.  Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes.  Fill it with gravy.  Eat the volcano. Repeat.

4.  As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they’re made with skim milk or whole milk.  If it’s skim, pass.  Why bother?   It’s like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.

5.  Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating.  The whole point of going to a Holiday party is to eat other people’s food for free.  Lots of it.  Hello?

6.  Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year’s.  You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do.  This is the time for long naps, which you’ll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a twelve-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.

7.  If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don’t budge.  Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention.  They’re like a beautiful pair of shoes.  If you leave them behind, you’re never going to see them again.

8.  Same for pies… Apple, Pumpkin, Mincemeat.  Have a slice of each.  Or if you don’t like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin.  Always have three.  When else do you get to have more than one dessert?  Columbus Day?

9.  Did someone mention fruitcake?  Granted, it’s loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost.  I mean, have some standards.

10.  One final tip:  If you don’t feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven’t been paying attention.  Re-read tips; start over, but hurry, January is just around the corner. 

Have a great holiday season! 

And if today is a snow day for you, make it also a great writing day.

Smile and write.

Cheers, 

Nancy

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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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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