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Archive for the ‘writing habit’ Category

How would your productivity change if you looked at writing as if it were your real job?

Ann Patchett, an award-winning author, has done her best to avoid writing.

Her novel Bel Canto, has won both the PEN/Faulkner Award and England’s Orange Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. She has a number of best-selling books and prizes to her credit. Nevertheless, she resists writing, putting all sorts of distractions in her path.

In the Washington Post (12/10/2009), Ann Patchett writes, “Writing is an endless confrontation with my own lack of talent and intelligence.” Otherwise, if she were “as smart and talented” as she ought to be, she says, she would have finished the book she is working on by now. 

Yes, she procrastinates. She will do about anything rather than write. If she is struggling with a troubling section, she is happy to rush off to Costco with her mother.

But things changed for her as a result of a dinner party where she talked with musician Edgar Meyer. Like Patchett with her writing, Meyer found himself bogged down with his music composing. But Meyer had made an amazing discovery: “He put a notebook by the door of his studio and kept a careful record of the number of hours he actually sat down to work. The startling conclusion of this experiment was that the more hours he spent working on compositions, the more music he actually composed.” Imagine that!

She jabs at herself, wondering how she hadn’t realized that “by giving my art the same amount of time and attention that I gave to, say, meal preparation, my art might be more likely to flourish.”

For years, Patchett had no particular routine to her writing. She would write now and then, whenever she found time. Somehow that hit-or-miss approach had allowed her to get a manuscript out the door. But as years went by, she found that writing without a schedule became increasingly difficult.

She says now that she had always known that people in other jobs, such as her husband, would leave early in the morning for work, regular as rain! To put herself on a schedule –and have “a real work day”– would “require not just a change of scheduling but also a change of mind.”

Writers, such as Ann Patchett, as well as my own dissertation coaching clients, say frequently how hard writing is. Writers put all sorts of distractions in their paths to avoid the tedium and the dead ends and the uncertainties of writing.

But writers do have choices. 

–Be straightforward and honest about what you’re doing.
–Say no to distractions rather than embracing them.
–Stop sabotaging yourself.

What if you didn’t readily volunteer to be the one to wait for the plumber or the air conditioner repair person? What if you didn’t run out in the middle of the day for a couple of items from the grocery store, just because we can? 

What would a work day look like  if you acted like writing was your real job?

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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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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Another Monday is upon us.  If you have an office job, will you drag into work, thinking of fifteen other places you would rather be, with bed high on the list?  Re-entry into the work week is hard, but re-starting your writing no matter what day of the week wins the Resilience and Determination Litmus Test hands down.

Here are three tips for restarting your writing routine: 

1.  The shorter time since you were last writing, the easier it is to begin. If you wrote yesterday and stopped at point where you weren’t totally spent, you have something more to give to the writing today.  Stick to a scheduled writing routine.

2.  Always have three key words at the ready to guide the day’s writing session.  When you end each writing session, write down at least three key words that will spark your ideas for the next writing session.  If you do that, you will have a way to move into the writing.  Then re-entry may not be so overwhelming.

3.  Starting your day with a workout or a run will recharge your brain.  Have you heard about the schools that are now using exercise within the classroom and scheduling competitive, heavy-duty exercise early each day to awaken the kids’ brains?  Dr. Charles Hillman at the University of Illinois says that exercise is “good for attention, it’s good for how fast individuals process information, and how they perform on cognitive tasks.”

In “The Happiness Project” blog, Gretchen Rubin says that when she drops her child off at day care, she could then exercise at her conveniently located gym before going to work, but she doesn’t want to waste the morning time.  It is true that the morning is the best time to write, but exercise is never a waste of time.

For a faster restart to your writing and with less foot dragging:
 1. Write daily.
2. Write three key words at the end of each writing session to jump-start the next session.
3.  Spend 30 minutes on a treadmill or in other aerobic exercise each morning.

What about you?  What’s your plan for a smart re-start to your writing?

Best to you,

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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Is a non-negotiable deadline closing in on you?  Has it been set by your university?  Or is a job – perhaps a postdoc– resting on your finishing your dissertation soon?

As you struggle to meet the deadline, it can feel as if you are barreling downhill on an icy, bumpy slope.  And you fear that at any second you could be thrown violently off course.

It’s easy to fall victim to fears of not meeting a deadline and fears of success and the future.  To meet the deadline and finish, you have to be almost counter intuitive.  You have to keep skiing or skating into the jaws of danger, no swerving, no hanging back, no delaying.

The desire, courage, tenacity, mental toughness, and resilience of the athletes of the Winter Olympics are studies in relief of what a writer needs in order to finish a dissertation sooner rather than later.

Even the boldest of Olympians speak of their fears about performing and competing.  From Russia’s skating superstar Evgeni Plushenko to the U.S. Men’s Half-Piper Gold Medal Winner Shaun White, they speak of the need to get into their routines before being sabotaged by their nerves and fears.  

For you to finish your writing in a timely way, rather than fall along the wayside, means that you must move quickly into a writing routine. You also need to have in place a careful, specific timeline and a detailed writing plan that you follow religiously.
 
Evan Lysacek, the winner of the gold for the Men’s Figure Skating, planned each minute of his performance for maximum points. 

Similarly, to finish your dissertation, you must be as strategic, practical, and savvy as Lysacek.  Know the requirements and expectations of those who will review your work.  Factor those requirements and expectations into your goals and timeline.

Your work is every bit as important to you as winning is to an Olympian athlete. Be smart.

Smart Strategies:
1.  Plan a timeline and writing schedule.
2.  Move quickly into a daily writing routine.
3.  Break out the outline and follow it.
4.  Stay in the moment and focus. 
5.  Use your character strengths. Put your desire, courage, tenacity, mental toughness, and resilience into action.

The dissertation is yours to finish– plan, stay in the moment, and practice resilience.

All good wishes,

Nancy

P.S.  My February newsletter is being emailed.  Last Call to sign up—go to www.smarttipsforwriters.com

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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What do you envision that would help you produce more text and jumpstart your motivation?

What about creating your own writer’s retreat?

Consider how a Boot Camp for Writers would get you back on track with your dissertation or your book or article and give a huge boost to your productivity.

If you have been a frequent reader of this blog, you know that Boot Camp is one of the services I offer writers who want to push aside distractions and excuses and write. 

It came about from my seeing the cottages that many published writers had built for themselves just for the purpose of writing. I also dreamed of going to one of the writer’s retreats I often heard and read about. 

To help me make headway on major writing projects, I fashioned my own kind of writer’s retreat, and it worked for me. How about you?  Do you want to create your own writer’s retreat and form a daily writing habit? 
 
If you want to make progress on your book, article, or dissertation, Boot Camp very likely may be what you’ve been looking for.
 
Boot Camp typically runs for two weeks. I help with the planning and daily accountability.  At the end of the two-week Boot Camp, we usually continue the coaching so that you maintain the writing habit that Boot Camp gives you and to help you continue to be the productive writer that you want to be.
 
A recent client had this to say about Boot Camp:

I was really paralyzed with my dissertation, and to be frank, did not expect that anything would change. I just wanted to know myself that I had tried everything I could think of to get going again.

I was ecstatic when I started writing again just in the first few days of boot camp. I gradually became more confident when at the end of each day I had more material added to the chapter.
 

Interested?  I’d love to hear from  you.

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

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Another convert to “Write First Thing”–hurray! 

One of my coaching clients said that he tried the method of getting up half an hour earlier than usual and working first-thing on some dissertation free-writing.  He said it worked great for him.  He got a lot of work done, not in those half-hours per se, but in the afternoons. 

He focuses on his dissertation before the day gets a good start, and then occasionally during the day at his office, he finds himself thinking about where his free-writing had taken him

Since he has had his dissertation on his mind off and on all day, he finds when he returns home later in the day that he has a ready starting point for his writing.

Interestingly, he actually thinks he’s more focused when he has just a half hour of free-writing each morning and then a couple of hours later in the day than when he has a whole day that he can give to his dissertation.

Sometimes less is more.

All good wishes,

Nancy

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

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In order to accomplish the large amount of writing required for a dissertation in any sort of sane way, you need a schedule. 

A dissertation coaching client who has been juggling job/moving/dissertation has been struggling to find a time to write, a time that she’ll stick to.
 
She told me this week that she decided to read past issues of the ABDSurvivalGuide e-newsletter for suggestions, and what she came away with was “Write First Thing.”
 
Of course, she knew that I’d click my heels at the sound of that idea.  And indeed I did.  My client said that by going that route, she won’t feel that each evening she must rush out of the office at the first opportunity, dash home, and hurry through dinner in order to get in some writing. 

Should she be too exhausted to write after dinner, she won’t feel that she has failed. She’ll be able to point to the good hour of work she put in first thing that morning.
 
While “Write First Thing” is eminently reasonable and sane, your schedule must be one that works for you, allowing you to move forward on your diss, as well as providing time for all of the others things your busy life requires you to do.  And once it’s in place, you need to stick to it.
 
Dr. Tracy Steen, the brilliant and prolific writer/editor of the ABDSurvivalGuide, says that she definitely stuck to a writing schedule when she was in grad school.

I know many people who resist making a schedule, and daily they avoid writing.  What a lot of unnecessary suffering.
 
If you have no particular plan, why not get on board with a morning routine?  Make a schedule that has you getting up 30 minutes or an hour earlier than usual so that you Write First Thing?  Try it for at least a week and see if you write more that week than you have written for quite a while.

All good wishes,

Nancy

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

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