You sit down to write, and what’s that you’re doing? Without a second thought, you are checking the cnn.com weather app, thinking about how much colder it is where your grandma lives. And now you’re skimming email. What was that you wanted to check? Oh, yes, you noticed that Marcus Mumford was wearing a wedding band during the Another Day/Another Time folk music concert on TV. And you’re off on another Google search to find out who is his wife.
You are sitting in front of your screen, and your fingers are moving, but you are in the clutches of resistance, once again. Flight has prevailed over fight.
The Turnaround Artist
I received some praise recently—someone called me a turnaround artist.
It’s an interesting tag. Typically, a turnaround artist is a business person who is takes over a company that is falling behind.
To turn around a lagging writing project also takes drastic action, not unlike rescuing lagging stocks or companies and transforming them.
However, before a coach is a turnaround artist, the writer has to sign on for the transformation and then show up. The coach needs the writer also to become a turnaround artist.
Do Something Daring—Manage Your Writing for a One-Month Experiment
Is having a huge, long-term goal so over powering that each day you have to fight insecurities or the threat of the imposter syndrome? If you are feeling some danger around this project (that old lions-are-going- to-eat-me-if-I don’t- flee feeling), then do something daring. Hatch a plan that puts you on the front line. Challenge yourself to an experiment for a month during which you will not only write, but you will also practice oversight. During the experiment, evaluate time spent, your progress, areas where you need more learning, and personal growth.
I was talking recently to a person with a background in accountancy. She says that her decisions are data-driven, or as close to that as possible. Numbers don’t lie, she says. Taking that approach during your one-month experiment could be an eye-opener. What data could you keep track of? What is measurable in your writing process? Time spent on task on a day-by-day basis. Number of “have-done” tasks that you keep track of during the week. Number of words written or number of pages written. And especially the number of setbacks and reworkings or restarts.
Uncomfortable Is Normal
Acknowledge that this work has unfairly brought forth all of your insecurities. You have not written a dissertation before, and so you may not have specific experience to fall back on. You aren’t on a military maneuver, and so there isn’t a manual. Nevertheless, you have survived other new and unsettling situations and you have even flourished. Look forward to flourishing, but for now ride out the uncomfortable feeling, and, if it helps, know that writing a dissertation is seldom comfortable. Over the month-long experiment, notice and collect evidence/data on how you are building resilience and courage. For instance, you could benefit from learning how many times this week/month you sat down and worked on your writing project even when you felt anxious or uncomfortable.
Practice Oversight of Your Writing for More Life Balance
Turn around your inefficient, sluggish, time-suck of a writing process. Use your professional or home-grown skills to trim and reset your project so that it fits into the time you have available. Then writing will be one thing that you do, along with having a rich personal life and a job.
It’s a good thing to call in an outsider when you need some honest talk and a different perspective, but each writer must put on the hat and glasses of the outsider and view one’s work habits and writing with fresh eyes.
How are you doing as a project manager of your dissertation or thesis? Where are you succeeding and where is your work lagging? I would love to hear from you.
All good wishes,
Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCCYour Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach http://www.nancywhichard.com nancy @ nancywhichard.com