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Posts Tagged ‘grit’

How do writers manage their time and produce writing, even if they are taking on a subject new to them and are raising young children?

When I learned of an upcoming interview with Gretchen Rubin, the writer of the New York Times best-seller Happiness Project, I was curious.

I had come across Gretchen Rubin’s blog, but I thought I would learn more about her work before deciding if I would listen to the interview.

It appears that her book arouses opposing responses.  One grumpy reviewer renamed Rubin’s book as “Be Happy by Being Perfect All the Time,” attributing the writer’s motivation to perfectionism, to a need for external validation, and laziness—that is, she was avoiding doing “what it would take to really make her happy.”

In spite of the negative blog, I continued to poke around, and the more I learned about Rubin, the more I was intrigued.

Gretchen Rubin is an academic and was trained as a lawyer.

Some years ago she was editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Review and then clerked for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. She decided that law wasn’t for her and left the law to write. She wrote three books on various subjects.

But then she decided to write about happiness.  An odd choice for someone trained to be a lawyer?

Maybe not. She and her well-to-do husband and children live in Manhattan.  Rubin says that she had everything that should make her happy, but she clearly didn’t feel happy. She wrote the book to learn “what it would take to be less snappish and more lighthearted.” 

And like the academic researcher that she was trained to be, in order to learn how to be more lighthearted, she immersed herself in research—in the emerging field of positive psychology and the extensive critical literature on happiness.  Then she spent a year testing all of the research and happiness theories. The Happiness Project is the book that she wrote detailing that year.

I’ve always found writing to be hard work, and a best-selling writer who has researches heavily and spends a year testing the research in order to write her book arouses my interest.

Gretchen Rubin read hundreds of books on the subject of happiness not only to write a book, but also to help herself be grateful for the life that she has: “Why am I getting myself distracted by petty irritations?” she asked herself before she started the project.

The more I read about Rubin’s process to research and write the book, the more I knew I wanted to hear the interview with Gretchen Rubin.  And she didn’t disappoint.

In the interview, Gretchen Rubin said that she loves a schedule and a routine. However, as a result of the many demands on her time because of her children, she has to be more flexible. Instead of a schedule, she uses accomplishment as her structure. She puts up a blog post every day, sends out weekly and monthly newsletters, and is currently working on yet another book.

She gets up at 6 am, an hour before her family wakes, to get started on one of her writing tasks. Her commitment is that sometime during the coming day she will spend three hours doing “hardcore, original” writing. Every day she writes for at least three hours.  Any reading is done outside of that time.

According to Rubin, making a firm decision in advance that you will do a fixed amount of writing each day is critical.

I’m inspired by a writer who writes every day, no matter what, and who avoids the “yeah-but’s” that she might use to excuse not writing. I admire Rubin’s self-management—her grit, resilience, mental toughness.

Perhaps like me, you have also been inspired by a writer’s story. Who inspires you to keep writing? Whose writing process would you like to use as a model?

I’d love to hear from you.

Nancy

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC

Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach

www.smarttipsforwriters.com

http://www.dissertationbootcamp.net

http://www.nancywhichard.com

nancy @ nancywhichard.com

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I have coached many people who write dissertations while juggling the demands of family life. It’s difficult to juggle the daily demands, but to give up a holiday with one’s family is a particularly hard choice to make.

As the Memorial Day holiday approaches here in the U.S., I am thinking back to a Memorial Day weekend years ago when I had to choose my dissertation over the holiday weekend with my family. Now it seems as if it was a small sacrifice, and completing a dissertation definitely requires some sacrifices. But at the time, I felt that the dissertation process had demanded too much from me one too many times.

In my Washington, DC suburb, Memorial Day has always been a day for ritual and fun. The day begins with a 3K Fun Run. The day proceeds with a fair and a parade and back-yard picnics. Except for the one year when I had to spend the whole weekend once again revising the intro to my diss.

My defense was approaching. I thought I was on track since the full draft of the dissertation had been revised many times and had finally been approved. Only the intro needed one more rewrite, and I had done that, following the straightforward suggestions for revising from my advisor. I then sent the rewritten Intro off to him.

Just before Memorial Day, he returned the revision to me with a note saying that I should take out all of the newly added pages and re-work the whole chapter.

I was dumbfounded.  I knew better, but because the deadline was so close I wrote to him, saying that I had done what he had told me to do. His only comment was that he didn’t want to be told what he had said.

I hoped that I hadn’t alienated him. And I knew that I had to grind out the new rewrite immediately. I gave up my holiday weekend with my family and sat in front of my computer for the holiday.

As I look back on that weekend now, years later, I have changed my perspective on several counts.

I remember now that when I was revising the Intro, my advisor’s suggestions struck me as a bit off the mark. But I didn’t raise any questions or concerns with him. Of course, the advisor is always right, but it would have been smart to at least give voice to my concerns.

It strikes me now that perhaps I was even a bit lazy in adopting his comments without discussing my concerns with him or without thinking of an alternative approach.

As for that Memorial Day weekend, I don’t think that my kids felt neglected. I did miss out on some fun, but I bounced back. It wasn’t the end of the world. And I think my kids learned something about how much work it takes to finish big projects.

What I had to do was draw on my resolve and my mental toughness to get through this challenge.

Over the long period of time that I worked on the whole dissertation, I learned the value of building perseverance, resilience, and courage. Actually, learning to rely on those strengths may be the life-changing and lasting benefit for me of writing the dissertation.

If you, too, are finding yourself drawing on and building your mental toughness and resolve as you write your dissertation, I salute you. Only in such a long-term, large project do you find such an opportunity.

Warm regards,

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

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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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I’m not a football fan; I barely understand the game.  But I do know grit when I see it.

This holiday has given me time to watch a football game on TV with my family.

When I see what those players do for their team, I cringe, but I’m also in awe.

When one big fellow was flattened and remained flattened for a while, I wondered what might be going through the heads of people who loved him. 

I wondered– does he have to explain why he subjects himself to such pain and danger? 

Why would he do this? The answer seems pretty clear.

There has to be great joy in using your strength and athleticism and grace.  

What joy there must be in training, maintaining discipline, and challenging your strengths of character and body!

Sometimes people writing dissertations are faced with questions from others. We all have made choices that other people may not understand.  Why do you keep doing this?  Why do you keep at it? 

It can be hard to explain. 

Remind yourself why this dissertation, this degree, means so much to you.  That reminder may be the fresh air you need to keep going.

Choosing to write a dissertation takes courage and determination and perseverance—
That’s grit!  I know it when I see it.

Go my website (www.nwcoaching.com) and sign up for my Smart Tips newsletter. You will get support and tips that you can use.  I’ll also send you a gift.

Until next time,
Nancy
Your Dissertation Coach
www.nwcoaching.com
 

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The ABD Survival Guide newsletter reprinted a post that originally appeared in this space.  The post’s title is “Ask Steve Nash: How Can I Regain My Motivation?

I first wrote the article for this blog after seeing Charlie Rose interview Steve Nash.  The parallels between  Nash’s mindset that gives him success in the tough, competitive world of professional basketball and my dissertation coaching clients’ mindsets are striking.

One of my former dissertation clients emailed me to say that she had enjoyed reading my article in the ABDSG.  She especially liked “the notion of being mentally tough and deciding not to let things bother you when you get intimidated.”

Being mentally tough and unstoppable was the theme of the dissertation process for her.

The need for grit and courage struck a chord not only with her, but with many readers.

Remember:
1. Choose mental toughness and grit.
2. Choose courage.

Once you are using your mental toughness, grit, and courage, you will also feel motivated to continue working toward your goal.

What’s next for you?  I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

Nancy

Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC

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

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I usually don’t watch NBA basketball because while the players persevere, for the most part they show little passion or even a sense of fun. But I will watch Steve Nash, the point guard from Canada who has played on several NBA teams and is the winner of the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award.

When Nash plays, he shows both perseverance and passion, and he is fun to watch.

He has been on many talk shows, such as the David Letterman Show.  Not only is Nash bright and personable, but on the Charlie Rose Show, Nash also revealed his leadership ability.

The focus of the Charlie Rose show was leadership.  As a point guard, Nash says he “mothers” the other four players on the team, thinking about what they need and helping them find ways to succeed.

But I found myself wondering even if a man earns the huge amount of money that basketball players receive, what does he do to keep himself motivated and at his best?  How does a 6’1” man, a self-described small guy,  play in the midst of those sharp elbows and huge shoulders?  And how does he stay committed during the long season, the training, the traveling, the endless tournament at the end of the season?

Nash knows what he has to do.  This is what he says:

1) Since he’s a small guy in tough territory, he is creative.  He has to come up with new plays.

2)  He is mentally tough.  When he’s jostled or intimidated, he remains “unflappable” because he has decided that “nothing will bother” him.

3) He has no fear.  Without fear, he can charge into the midst of play.

4) He doesn’t give up because he’s committed “to stay the course.”

5) And he does it because it’s fun.

He smiles when he says that, and you believe him.

What does Steve Nash’s strategy to be “unflappable” in the face of intimidation, as well to show leadership for his team, say to you, the dissertation writer? Here is what I think is the take-away for the dissertation writer:

1) Even when you feel you’re out-manned or losing ground, dig deep to find the courage to be fearless.  You will not be intimidated.

2) Like Steve Nash in basketball, you did not get to this level of writing by being a non-starter.  You were training for this long ago. You have everything you need to succeed.

3) Character matters. To be long-lasting, you need grit. Work with both passion and perseverance.

4) Keep your commitment to your team—even if it’s just a team of one.  Or add a coach to your team and have someone along side of you who takes your commitment seriously. 

5) And one more thing, Steve Nash plays hard and plays to win because it’s fun.  You can make your work  fun, too—writing is a challenge and challenges are exhilarating.  Choose that perspective.

You ask about motivation?  Having motivation is a choice.  You must choose to use your courage, grit, and mental toughness to tap into your motivation.

Take risks and charge through tough places. And then you, too, will feel the wind in your hair as you run fast in your arena.

Until next time,

Nancy

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

 

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