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Archive for the ‘memories’ Category

As I sit here, waiting for our daughter and her husband to arrive for Thanksgiving, I think of all the people traveling today.  The bad weather has added an extra dose of anxiety to the trip.  Yet, we saddle up and head for home, no matter the weather.   Well, many of us do.

A cousin in Boston emailed me today to say, “It has been raining here since last night.  Traffic has been a nightmare.  Glad I am not going anywhere.”

My cousin may have the right idea.

With so much invested in the travelling, it’s likely that once we’re all gathered under the same roof, some conflicts could arise.

One dissertation client today told me that, yes, she is travelling, but once she arrives, her plan is to have two one-hour writing sessions during the holiday.  Each session will be at the beginning of her day before she becomes involved with family activities.

I asked, “Is this going to be a good holiday for you?”  And my client answered hesitantly, “I think it will be o.k.”

Maybe you, too, have a bit of concern about how this holiday will turn out.  What can you do to make it an o.k. holiday or maybe more than just o.k.?

  • Be in the moment.  Try to be appreciative of your family.  Think of one special person that you have been looking forward to seeing and either plan an outing or make an effort to ask the kinds of questions of that person that you know will make her feel good.
  • Take time out to rest or to be by yourself.  When you are physically tired or over-stimulated by too many people in one place, small things may begin to bother you.  Anticipate the need to recover before you’re exhausted.
  • Make time to walk or exercise—either with people or by yourself.  Exercise will help burn up some of those calories from the Thanksgiving dinner and will also help you generate positive feelings and a more tolerant perspective on your relatives.
  • If you are not a shopper, plan something special with a relative  in order to avoid the Black Friday shopping expedition. A museum or a park or somewhere quiet that is far from the mall.  This may be your only chance to get to know your cousins a little bit better.

Plan for a good holiday, a holiday with a few special moments that you can carry home with you, memories that might even put you in a good mood when it is once again time for a writing session.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have a comfortable, relaxing holiday.  Safe journeys.

And bring back a snapshot of a moment to remember.

All good wishes,

Nancy

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC

Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach

http://www.nancywhichard.com

nancy @ nancywhichard.com

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The New Year at its most powerful is a time for reflection and a time to think about where you want to put your focus.  The holidays are often jam-packed with travel, planning, buying, eating, interacting, negotiating, and not much quiet time. The first week of the New Year may reveal that it’s harder to focus than you had thought it was.

On the first coaching day of the New Year among those dissertation coaching clients who showed up as expected, I also had a client show up unexpectedly—she had forgotten that she wanted to start a week later. On subsequent days the schedules of a couple more clients unexpectedly conflicted with their coaching calls. The first day or so of starting a new schedule or returning to a routine after a busy holiday can make for a bumpy ride and a feeling of loss of control.

While my holiday began with the usual hurry-hurry pace, by Christmas Day I had moved into the best part of the holiday–the familiar gift exchanges, special meals, and the less familiar travel to a new home of a loved one.

The most different part of my Christmas holiday was going with my whole family to Manhattan on Christmas Monday. The crowds both at Macy’s at Herald Square and at Rockefeller Center skating rink and Christmas tree were enormous, but fun, jolly, and relaxed. We joined the cold-night sauntering of the crowds down Fifth Avenue, oohing and ahhing over the window displays at Tiffany and Bergdorf Goodman and the light shows and illuminations on the tall buildings.

Celebrating the holiday with my family and also with this huge, unhurried crowd of friendly strangers heavily bundled against the night’s cold was not only relaxing, but it was also a way to reset my frequently frenzied focus. I could concentrate on what was there to be seen and to be experienced. I lost myself in the moment, enjoying the city at its most beautiful. 

Having those few hours not only to be unplugged, but also to feel transported and intensely engaged in a sensory, beautiful experience gave me the pause I needed to come back to my work with a desire to improve my level of focus and concentration.

To help me sharpen my focus in this New Year, I’m giving myself time each day to pause. I’m setting aside an hour each day where I have the choice on where to place my focus.

I also realize how much I need to have experiences of beauty and wonder in my life. Reading has always given me those kinds of experiences, but increasingly my reading is for my work or has chosen by someone else. Recently I happened to read Téa Obreht wonderful novel The Tiger’s Wife, which created a world that beckoned me to re-engage for days and weeks to unravel webs of images and secrets and relationships.

Knowing that I’m better in many ways–focus, concentration, motivation– if I’m reading a novel that engages me and asks something of me, I’m also giving myself permission to spend some time looking for such novel to read each month—one that engages me and could very likely leave me awestruck

What do you need to have in your life in this New Year? Do you also need something that will boost your focus and concentration in 2012?  I’d love to hear what you think.

All good wishes to you for 2012,

Nancy

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC

Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach

http://www.smarttipsforwriters.com

http://www.dissertationbootcamp.net

http://www.nancywhichard.com

nancy @ nancywhichard.com

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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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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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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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 When and how do we acquire the skills, voice, critical perspectives, and confidence needed for successful writing?   Specifically to write successfully a dissertation and, for that matter, the book that follows the dissertation?

Years ago as a first-year college student, I tested out of composition class, but all students at my university were required to take at least one semester of writing, so I took an advanced writing class.  It’s possible that I may have been required to write an argument, but I don’t remember any such formal assignment.  Maybe I’ve conveniently forgotten it since it would have been a painful process for me.  I came to the university understanding only vaguely what would be required in the demanding, competitive world of a good, large university.  

I think I was a decent writer at that time, but not very analytical.  I had a lot to learn. 

I recall a few assignments from that class–two had to do with describing a place.  I suppose I remember those assignments because it was the kind of writing that I had always enjoyed, but I wonder if in that class I was ever assigned to do something I didn’t already  know how to do, something that would help me write an extended argument.

Throughout my undergraduate years, I never felt confident as a writer, and years later, when I was ready to write my master’s thesis, I recall being very unsure about what I was supposed to do.  And that feeling was magnified even more by the time I began my dissertation.

I remember being afraid, but my strengths of curiosity, love of learning, and perseverance were helpful… at times…when I remembered to call on them.

Student writers in undergraduate school and graduate  school, dissertators, academicians, and professional writers all need to know how to use different rhetorical strategies and how to write in specific discourses.

Learning those skills is hard work, and teaching those skills and the type of writing in which those skills are learned is a bear, especially in terms of the paper load.

Is it a student’s responsibility to teach herself?  Maybe, but when is she or he told that it’s her job or how does she pick up on the cues of what kind of writing will serve her best?

How did you become a good writer?  I’d love to hear from you!

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.smarttipsforwriters.com

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Writing is easier when you’re in a good mood. 

Researchers say that if you can generate a somewhat happy frame of mind, starting your writing and sticking with it will be easier.

So what can you do to bring about a happier mood?   Listen to some music!

Music is powerful.  Research supports claims that not only can music decrease depression and improve your mood, but it can also improve focus and memory.  It has even been shown to reduce chronic pain. 

The kind of music writers prefer varies wildly.  Many writers like popular music that cranks them up—invigorates them and gets the juices flowing.

Or classical music, with expansive, stirring orchestration.

Maybe you’re like me and sometimes want music that takes you to a quiet place in your mind where you can push everything else aside.

How about old movie musicals?—do you feel a lift when you hear “Seventy-Six Trombones” from The Music Man  or “The Hills Are Alive” from The Sound of Music?

What music invigorates you, helps you focus, induces a good mood, or perhaps brings to mind that person or those people who support you in your dissertation process?

I feel a surge of happiness when I hear my favorite oldies, such as “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash.  When I hear the refrain, “Look all around, there’s nothing but blue skies/ Look straight ahead, there’s nothing but blue skies,” I feel my shoulders relax as I take in a deep breath. I feel hopeful.  You can hear Nash sing this song at You Tube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPKpmN1EJ_c

Recently I happened to see Carole King on TV singing “You’ve Got a Friend.”

For the past week, I’ve spent a few minutes almost daily at You Tube, listening to “You’ve Got a Friend” and watching snippets from different performances over the years in which Carole King sang this song that she wrote it in the ‘70s.

“You’ve Got a Friend”  reminds me of how much people matter and how important support is during the dissertation writing process.  Hearing the song puts me in a calm, centered place, and I’m ready to write.

If you haven’t heard Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend” lately, here are two different versions on You Tube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_L4epGowZU&NR=1

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6r1175w_lM

“You’ve Got a Friend”
Lyrics and Music: Carole King

When you’re down and troubled
And you need some loving care
And nothing, nothing is going right
Close your eyes and think of me
And soon I will be there
To brighten up even your darkest night

You just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I’ll come running to see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I’ll be there
You’ve got a friend

If the sky above you
Grows dark and full of clouds
And that old north wind begins to blow
Keep your head together
And call my name out loud
Soon you’ll hear me knocking at your door

You just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I’ll come running to see you
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I’ll be there

Ain’t it good to know that you’ve got a friend
When people can be so cold
They’ll hurt you, and desert you
And take your soul if you let them
Oh, but don’t you let them

You just call out my name
And you know wherever I am
I’ll come running to see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall
All you have to do is call
And I’ll be there
You’ve got a friend

What music are you listening to?  What moves you to write?

I’d love to hear from you.  I’d also like to send you my free e-newsletter.  Please sign up at my website (www.nwcoaching.com).

Until later,

Nancy
www.nwcoaching.com
 

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