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Archive for the ‘struggling’ Category

When I’m in line at the grocery, I read the latest celeb magazines.  If there’s an article about Tiger Woods, I’ll read about his wife and his yacht and, of course, his relationship with his father, but I’ve never been interested enough to take the time to see what are golf’s and Tiger Woods’s hold on so many people.

However, a column by New York Times writer David Brooks gives me a new perspective on Tiger Woods and also on Brooks himself.

According to Brooks, writers, in particular, “get rhapsodic” over Woods’s ability to focus, partly because “Woods seems able to mute the chatter that normal people have in their heads.”

Brooks contends that in our over-extended, overwhelmed lives, Woods is “the exemplar of mental discipline,” “stone-faced,” “locked-in, focused and self-contained,” “self-controlled.”

Woods “achieves perfect clarity, tranquility and flow.”  There!  Now I’m on board! “Flow” I understand.  In flow, he is using his top strengths and talents, but he is also being challenged.  He can be at one with his game when he is in flow, unaware and uninterested in the world about him.

Brooks, who is no slouch and obviously has been in flow many times himself, confesses that his own focus as a writer is far from perfect.

He describes his restlessness and inability to stay focused, in contrast to that of Woods’ intense focus, saying “As I’ve been trying to write this column, I’ve toggled over to check my e-mail a few times.  I’ve looked out the window. I’ve jotted down random thoughts for the paragraphs ahead.”

Brooks also suggests that his readiness to yield to distractions are fairly normal.  For sure–I prefer to check email rather than steel myself to surrendering to the writing, but I wonder what would it be like, if, like Woods seemingly has, I could silence those gremlins in my head for good and never be distracted by them.

What would it be like to step into a writing challenge and yet be perfectly calm?  To breath regularly and to hear nothing–no negative chatter rising to the deafening level of a rock-concert?   I’ve had those moments of calm focus.  I’ve been in flow when at I’m at one with my writing, and I want more of that.

What would it take to have more of the steeliness that Woods has?

What do you think?  Does Woods give us a model for mental toughness, the kind of mental toughness it takes to finish a dissertation?

I’d love to hear from you.

Here’s to flow and mental toughness,

Nancy
Your 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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