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Archive for the ‘reflection’ Category

New Year’s Day is one of the few holidays that much of the world celebrates. Today, on New Year’s Day, we celebrate the possibility of starting afresh and of having second chances, but more even than that, we honor structure and accountability.

New Year’s Day not only structures our lives into one year after another, but it also divides each  year into twelve months and beyond, easing the work of record-keeping and accountability into manageable chunks. Around the world, most government offices and banks are closed today on our jointly celebrated New Year’s Day. It may be the only day when all of the world’s financial markets are closed.

To emphasize that today is the day to step back for a broader perspective on key aspects of our lives, we use business metaphors to show our belief that because of today, change will be easier to accomplish. We say that we can now close the books on some task or challenge, or, if need be, we may even give ourselves permission to wipe the slate clean and start anew.

Now if you were, say, a fox, one day would be like all the others, but since you’re not a fox, you are probably finding a moment or two today to reflect on how your year has gone. You may also be giving some thought to what you can do differently for a better outcome. And since you are knowingly or unknowingly celebrating the ritual of planning, as well as that of record keeping, perhaps you are considering what will be your first step in making 2014 a better year than 2013.

It’s hard to miss that wonderful spirit of hope that’s in the air today. We watched the fireworks in Dubai and in Sydney and in London and in New York.  In spite of everything this year, hope is still possible. In our individual lives, we get another chance to do and be better in big and small ways. 

English: New Year fireworks at the London Eye

The fireworks can’t be just smoke and noise, but rather a celebration of the individual strengths that we each call upon to help us be accountable in moving day by day toward accomplishing what we hold important.

Today is the chance for a fresh start, the opportunity to do better, to show up and work.

After you put writing high on your list of priorities for this New Year, then what comes next?  What’s the plan?

Make 2014 your year.

Happy New Year!

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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Are you worried about losing your momentum while you’re on vacation?  But does working on your dissertation while vacationing seem depressing?

Actually, writing while you’re on vacation may be easier and more pleasant than you think.

Vacation will make you feel happier and livelier.  Since it’s easier to write when you’re happy, you may be surprised at how normal and uncomplicated it is to take a peek now and then at your dissertation while you’re on vacation.

Here are 5 tips to help you maintain your writing momentum and still enjoy your vacation.

1.  Plan ahead before leaving home.  Have a list of modest writing tasks that you can do on vacation.

2. Make use of small chunks of time.  You can’t find one quiet hour each day away from the family while vacationing?  Then claim 25 minutes every day or two for your writing.

3.  Use the different location and break in your routine to your advantage.   Writing in a hotel room or on a balcony looking toward the mountains is not your usual ho-hum, one-more-day- at- the- library approach.  Get up while others are still snoozing and write for a bit.  Take a legal pad and a pen and walk to a bench in a quiet area.

4.  Balance is possible.  Approach each day well rested, exercise, eat well, and give yourself permission to see that your writing project is part of your life, not your whole life.  

5.  Anticipate the unexpected.  Your marvelous brain can spontaneously give you ideas, right out of the blue.  Dissertation coaching clients tell me of breakthroughs they have had when they were on vacation or when they have changed their routine.  Jogging, swimming, staring into space—you never know when an idea might hit! 

Now that’s a great vacation.

All good wishes,

Nancy
P.S. There’s an added bonus to working 25 minutes on your dissertation every day or two while you’re on vacation:  Restarting your daily writing habit when you get home will be much easier.

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

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Writing a dissertation is full of black holes that can swallow you up.

Boldness allows you to embrace hope and can make the impossible seem possible.

In the short story “Incoming Tide,” Pulitzer Prize winning writer Elizabeth Strout captures the essence of what might result from the interplay of boldness, hope, and perseverance.

“Incoming Tide,” from Strout’s collection entitled Olive Kitteridge, is told from the point of view of a young doctor, who has never recovered emotionally from a tragedy in his family.  He has returned to the town where he lived as a child. 

It’s clear that he plans to end his life.

But first he encounters a former teacher whose company and meandering conversation delays his plan and then at her urging, he’s called to do something bold.

The bold rescue of someone else also rescues him:  “he thought he would like the moment to be forever…Look how she wanted to live, look how she wanted to hold on.”

Consider the power of boldness.

You might need someone who believes in you and knows what you can do in order for you to do something bold.  You might have to be pushed.

You might even be avoiding doing something bold because you know that it could very likely lead to your feeling hopeful.  Once you let in some hope, then who knows what you might have to do! 

And what promises do you have that even with hope, you’ll reach your goal?

But it’s worth the gamble.  Once you have hope, perseverance becomes much easier.

Have you read “Incoming Tide”?

What have you read or what has occurred that inspires you to be bold?
I’d love to hear from you.

New Year’s Greetings,

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

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What calls us to write?  Feeling moved by an activity, an idea, a sentence, a word, a sunset, a dessert, and feeling compelled to explore it more deeply by writing about it?

Writing is like baking or eating a French dessert, a rich, consuming experience, a bit treacherous, full of uncertainty. A friend had made her favorite dessert– canelés –and, “to make things even better,” she was going to share it with me.  Having never heard of canelés, I googled the word and what appeared was a wonderful blog  with and a post about canelés, complete with a lovely picture of the small golden cakes.  The writer wrote about the history of the dessert and her own memories of eating them in Paris and then her hassles with getting the temperature right in her oven when she baked them herself.

The sensual, lively post honored the special dessert and the writer’s experience in making it.  In addition, it was a gift to me, the reader, second only to the delicious gift of canelés from my friend.

In the book The Uncommon Reader, the titular reader is the Queen of England who by happenstance begins to read voraciously late in life and to her surprise and delight, finds that reading changes her life.

Chasing her corgis near Windsor Castle, she comes upon a mobile library, and being the polite queen, she borrows a book.  One book leads to another, and eventually she wondrously finds that she would rather read than do anything else.

From her reading, she starts to understand and take note of how others feel and live. She records observations in her notebook, something that raises concerns and suspicions among her staff.  One of her advisors, an elderly man prone to not bathing, thought that writing might be preferable to reading because “in his experience writing seldom got done. It was a cul-de-sac.”   He thought that she would then neither read nor write, a state he and the Queen’s people thought best fit the Queen.

People tending the Queen attributed her loss of attention to things ceremonial to a mental decline, so unusual it was for a Queen to read, to have interests, particularly interests that few others shared, and strangest of all, to write.

While reading took her to a wonderful new place in her life, only if she were to write a book would she feel her life complete.  She gathered a determined courage in order to announce to others that her next step would be to write something significant.

The charming, fanciful book is a critique of a somewhat shallow group of leaders, but it is also a salute to the power of reading and writing.

The Queen in this story had never envisioned herself as a serious reader, no more than she imagined that she would become a writer.  The portrait of this Queen shows someone bravely going  down an uncertain road.

To write takes a willingness to do whatever is necessary in order to write.

Writing has its own special rewards and makes its own special demands.  It needs tending, care, and a complex love.

It may be hard to call yourself a writer, or even to think of yourself as a writer when you struggle to make time for it or fit it into small crevices of your day.  But sooner or later, you will honor what you do in those few, quiet moments each day and say, maybe just to yourself, “I’m a writer.”  You are many things, but you most definitely are a writer and that identity was hard-won.

Write bravely!

Nancy

P.S.  In honor of the Queen’s corgis, here’s a funny little film shared with me by a friend celebrating her own birthday.

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC

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

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Does the end of August mean the start of a school year for you? Are you teaching this coming term?

My clients who are returning to teaching this fall are determined to learn from their past mistakes and also to build on their successes.  It’s great to hear their optimism as they plan for a productive year.  And they generously have shared some tips on how they plan to reach their writing goals this term:

1. Enjoy reconnecting with your colleagues and community.
 Have you been out of touch with other instructors and professors this summer? Have you felt isolated?  The first-of-the-year welcome-back meeting doesn’t have to be hokey.  Enjoy the spirit and settle in.

2. Feel grateful to be teaching.
Every fall, there are changes.  However, this year in particular, if you’re an adjunct or an instructor, you know that some of your colleagues from past years won’t have been given classes. If you are teaching this fall, you’re lucky. If you’re on the job market for a tenure-track job for next year, you are well situated. Be grateful.  It’s easier to get a job when you have a job. 

3. Use the structure of the school year to bolster your writing
Rather than going into the fall term thinking that you won’t get any writing done, practice what you preach.  What do you tell your students or advisees about getting work done?  Look at the schedule as a good student does. When do you have a free hour?  What are you doing with that hour?  When are you at your best?  Carve out a writing morning or afternoon and then make yourself unavailable to uninvited drop-ins and out of reach by phone or email. Put in your calendar the times for your writing sessions.

4. Let teaching feed your writing.
Teaching is compelling and consuming, with its daily demands and its enormous rewards of working with students. But it can also feed your writing. If you can teach your dissertation, do it.  If you can’t, watch for the unexpected connections that your students (and your brain) hand you while you are teaching.  Keep an upbeat, positive attitude, viewing your classes through a lens of gratitude for what they can do to further your writing. 

5. Say no to additional speaking requests and no to other optional opportunities
Whether you are working on a book or a dissertation, you have to make writing a priority.  Other opportunities will arise, and you will think that they are too good to decline, but how important can they be if they eat up your writing time?
My clients say that you’ll be asked to speak and sometimes those requests will be very tempting.  However, think about how much time it takes to prepare for a talk or lecture and possibly to travel. Think how much energy goes into the delivery, and then think how much recovery time is involved.  The adrenalin stops pumping and you start second-guessing how well the talk actually went and what you could have done better. 

Finish your dissertation or your book. Insure that you’ll be at the departmental meeting of your choice next year, feeling happy and relieved to have the current writing project over and done with. 

This term, let writing be top dog. 

Best wishes,

Nancy

P.S. Email me—what else do you need to do to make your writing your top priority?

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

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Several ABD’s have told me over the last few days about issues with parents, spouses, boyfriends or girlfriends, and even friends.

The boyfriend of one of my clients has made it clear that he thinks it’s taking far too long for her to finish her dissertation.  And the process drags on because she hesitates to work late at her office or to work on week-ends because she doesn’t want to irritate or even anger him. Another of my clients broke up with her boyfriend because he said she wasn’t giving the relationship the attention it needed. 

One young woman has told me how she lost friends when she was getting her master’s degree—they said she didn’t spend enough time with them. Now she’s resistant to throwing herself into writing her dissertation.  She doesn’t want to give even more friends a reason to desert her.

Most parents of ABD’s are incredibly supportive, but some parents want to give advice that isn’t welcomed—the unwelcome advice can be barbed or worse. 

I’ve heard stories of parents undercutting their offspring’s decisions in various areas, such as choice of topic.

When one year drags into another, the parents of some ABD’s have compared their adult child’s lack of progress to the quick attainment of a PhD by someone they know. 

 I’ve even heard a couple of stories about truly intolerable behavior from parents who had never completed dissertations themselves.  They had had to settle for remaining an ABD. 

No ABD should put up with emotional abuse, whether it’s from a boyfriend, spouse, or parent. 

But if your dissertation process is affecting your relationships with people who are important to you, people you love, you do have choices. 

People matter.

Has your dissertation process affected your relationships with others?  I hope you’ll contact me and tell me your experience.  I’m sure many people could profit from what you have done to maintain relationships and what you’ve done to take care of yourself.

Until next time,

Nancy

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

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If you are still on the fence about re-starting your dissertation, the truth is that it doesn’t have to be hard.  Make it easy.

For the first session in re-starting your dissertation, you just show up.  You don’t have to write.  You don’t have to search for articles or read.  You just show up.  And we all know how important showing up is. 

Decide before sitting down how long this first session will be.  10 minutes?  You decide. 

So this first time in your special place and at the chosen hour, you sit down.  Take a few deep breaths.  Slow everything to a halt.  If you feel anxious, then do some self-calming exercises—talk aloud or tap your pulse point on your wrist or roll your shoulders and your neck. 

This is a good time to reflect or meditate.  Or think of you at your best. 

Again, help yourself to feel at ease.  If you find that you need something at your chosen place for writing to comfort you—a picture, a soft stuffed animal, a pillow—make a mental note to round that up once this first session is over.  For now, tell yourself that you do not have to stay one minute past your scheduled 10 minutes, or whatever amount of time you had decided.

And when the time is up, get up—don’t stay there.

Now pat yourself on the back because you showed up, you sat there, you calmed yourself, you did not check your email, and you did not answer the phone or make calls.

If you messed up and did something other than showing up, then plan for another initiation of your new writing plan.  Plan for another 10-minute session and tell yourself how you will spend your time and what is allowable during that time.

You’re re-wiring your multi-tasking, harried brain.  You are showing up.  You are sitting  in a your chosen place for writing and anticipating doing very soon a great deal on your dissertation.

 One step at a time.

“Little by little, one walks far”  — Peruvian Proverb

Nancy
Your Dissertation Coach
www.nwcoaching.com
 

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