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Archive for the ‘Lizard Brain’ Category

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
nancy@nancywhichard.com

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Do Something That Scares You Every Day

How do you keep focused on your writing goal?  Our Lizard Brains can make it all too easy to let a goal slip, and with each deadline or marker you miss, it’s that much longer before you finish your dissertation.

FutureMe at www.futureme.org is a helpful tool for accountability as you write your dissertation.  

You can send an email to your future self anywhere from one month to 30 years or more in the future.  But let’s not think about 30 years from now! 

Let’s talk about your short-term goals.

Here’s my request– write an email to yourself to be delivered close to the time of your next deadline or short-term goal (and I’m hoping that deadline is within the next 6 weeks).  Write in that email the specifics that you have in place that will make hitting that deadline a cinch. 

 Make sure that you include in the email the distractions you must say no to if you are to reach your writing goal.

 When your Future Self receives this email, it will be cause for celebration.  You have stuck to your plan, and the email is a pat on the back for you.

 Such things as FutureMe are great ways to help you stay on track.

 Another way to keep you accountable is to hire a dissertation coach. 

 The more frequently you check up on yourself and the more importance you attach to doing what you said you would do, the sooner the diss will be over and done with.

How are you doing with accountability?  Need some help with that?  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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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

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What are the possibilities if you wrote under the assumption that you could not fail?

Some blogs tell you in bulleted points what’s best for you if you want to finish your dissertation.

Other blogs share golden nuggets in more reflective ways.

Yesterday a colleague mentioned an incident in the news that sounded to me as if it came straight out of John Irving’s novel The World According to Garp.

Googling John Irving to see what he’s been up to, I came across a post by blogger Jessica Liese.  After attending a reading by writer John Irving, she wrote that John Irving wears his celebrity as a rock star.

Irving admitted to only an occasional bit of writer’s block and an infrequent sense of  indecision at which he would  find himself  “hopping from project to project.”

Jessica Liese was enthralled by the enormity of Irving’s sense of self.  She said that Irving has “an ego [that] is palpable.”

That sense of greatness must make him sure he will never fail.

The blogger’s advise to herself is applicable to writers of dissertations.  She says, “I think maybe operating under the notion that I’m awesome is the only way I’ll ever accomplish the huge task of finishing a novel.”

What could you achieve if you assumed you could not fail?

Give it a try!  Shut down your internal critic. Tell ole Lizard Brain to lumber off, and then pump up your ego and write.

50 Useful Blogs for Writers

Do you have a couple of blogs that you read religiously?  What blogs come to you as a feed?  I have a few, some on writing and others that are wisely applicable beyond their subject matter.

Have you come across “50 Useful Blogs for Writers“?  I was surprised to receive an email from the blog’s writer, Randy L Ray, saying that he had included my blog, Successful Writing Tips, in his list of “50 Useful Blogs for Writers.”

Are there some blogs missing from the list that you think should be included?  I would love to hear which blogs hold value for you.

Until next time,

Nancy

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

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How was your Sunday?  Productive?  Or another day with only good intentions?

If you don’t have much to show for the day, would you say that anxiety did you in?

You know the signs of anxiety.  You know when you’re getting high-jacked by a fear of one kind or another commonly associated with writing.  For me, the sign is a heavy-duty fluttering in my chest—like a ton of butterflies just flew into my body.  Ever feel that?

Fortunately, when I’m having physical signs of anxiety when I’m trying to write, I usually know how to deal with them. Yes, my first inclination is to eat.  I don’t suggest you go that route.  But if I can kick the food lizard in the teeth, I know that what will help is to breathe deeply or roll my head first to one shoulder and then to the other.

But if you’re like me, even if you have great awareness when a case of nerves is about to derail your writing, you may not pick up on specific behaviors that could be your undoing.

Sometimes your brain can get lost in wild-goose chases on Google or in connecting and reconnecting on Facebook.

It’s those things that we do almost unconsciously that can do us in.

You think you’ve locked up, tied down, turned off all those distractions that you know you’ve made for yourself in the past. You’re not doing your crosswords, you’ve hidden  your knitting, you’ve stopped watching Netflix, and you avoid turning on the TV to watch the cable news shows.

But then someone hands you a book and says, “Do you want to read this book?  It’s really bad—great trash.  It’s helped me wind down at night.”

A 600-page, easy book.  Unfortunately, once you start the book, it doesn’t leave your mind.  What you started with the intention of reading a couple of chapters at night has become a full-blown distraction.  One part of your mind says, “Reading this book doesn’t matter and what happens to these characters doesn’t really matter.”  But another part of your brain is spinning, “Oh, I have to find out what happens to these characters,” and you keep reading late into the night.

The next day you find yourself Googling the characters.

There’s a part of your brain that wants to soothe you and protect you from fear and anxiety.  Finding out what happens to those characters feels so much better than writing your dissertation.

Does any of this sound familiar?  What are you putting between yourself and your diss?

It’s a constant struggle, isn’t it?

Until next time,

Nancy

P.S. Dissertation boot camp can help you replace those insidious behaviors with a robust writing habit.  One participant said that she was really surprised at how much it had helped her.

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

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Curiosity is a boon to dissertation writers, except when it isn’t.

Curiosity is indeed powerful, giving us the will to explore, to persevere, and even to reach a goal.

I’ve suggested in an earlier blog (“To Enjoy Writing Your Dissertation, Use your Curiosity”) that it might be worth your while as researchers and writers to try to increase your curiosity.  Talking with someone about your work or forming a supportive alliance with a coach or a colleague will very likely engage your curiosity.

The more control you have over your work and the more engaged you feel in your work, the more likely it is that you will feel free to be curious.

But can curiosity ever be too much of a good thing?

I have noticed lately that many of my dissertation and writing clients have curiosity as either their first or second strength.  If you haven’t taken the Values in Action (VIA) Signature Strengths Questionnaire at www.authentichappiness.org, you might be interested (curious?) in discovering what your Signature Strengths are.

One terrific client with whom I talk weekly says that he can spend too much time getting “too into” something, past the point where it’s beneficial.

He gets stuck in the analysis of his data.  He can find himself running his data in a hundred different ways, rather than the couple of different ways that had been his intention.  This is a problem because he said that he knew he’d get what he needed from just those two ways.

To prevent himself from going overboard or getting too into the analysis, it seems to me that he needs to ask himself what he’d do if he had a bag of Fun-Sized Snickers staring at him within arm’s reach!  Most of us couldn’t stop at eating just 2, and so we’d have to put the bag away or we’d regret it.

Is your curiosity so strong that it almost holds you hostage, urging you to keep looking for more paths, more possibilities?  If you want to move your work forward, then you have to remove yourself from the temptation.  My client’s plan was to curb his curiosity, as best he could.  He decided he could go to a graduate computer lab and take just the results of his analysis on a flash drive. He not only committed to the plan, but he would also make it hard to back out.  He would go public and tell someone his plan.

Can your curiosity get you into trouble?  Do you sometimes have to keep your curiosity in check?  I’d love to hear from you.

Happy Spring!

My very best to you,

Nancy

Nancy Whichard, PhD, PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach
nancy @ nancywhichard.com
http://www.nancywhichard.com

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When my writing starts to come together, I am relieved, but I’m also anxious about what comes next.

My first response to those feelings of relief and a fluttering of anxiety almost always is to flee and to eat.

Be grateful if you don’t feel these urges.  Or pat yourself on the back if once you would have responded similarly, but you’ve now put in place better ways of coping.

It’s an ongoing struggle for me to hold at bay the twin urges for flight and food at such moments.

Here are 3 strategies I’ve found to be helpful for those times:

1) When I feel that flutter of anxiety, I take a slight flight.  If my Lizard Brain thinks that I’m in danger, as ridiculous as the idea that following through or achieving success might be dangerous, then it wants me to flee.  If I let my body have just a slight flight, I can ease my nerves.  You’d be surprised at the ease that can be gained from merely walking to the window. The resident Lizard Brain is soothed.

2)  While taking that slight flight, I also count to 19.  Counting slows my breathing and focuses me.  Plus, the counting reinforces the notion that this is only a slight flight, and I’ll return to my chair when I reach 19.

3) Since the urge to eat is just a variation on the urge to flee, I also delay eating by taking the slight flight and counting to 19. Putting off eating as an antidote to anxiety is crucial, as is the need to keep cookies and Fun-Sized Snickers and other such stuff out of my sight (and out of my house).

It’s important for me not to use food to dull the anxiety.

Escaping or eating to feel better temporarily is self-sabotaging.  It gets me off track.  It’s a time thief.  And it makes me question my abilities and strengths.

What my writing requires from me is perseverance, sticking with it when it’s going well or not so well.  And it’s my job to call on my character strengths and to leverage those strengths to make it easier to persevere.

What does it take to be successful in my writing?
Perseverance, discipline, determination, mental toughness, and, most of all, courage.

How about you? What will it take for you to be successful?

I’d love to hear from you about this.

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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