A little after noon on Sunday as I was driving to the Regional Post Office, which is open on Sundays, I turned on NPR radio and happened upon Garrison Keillor, telling one of his yarns on “Prairie Home Companion.”
Even though I enjoy Garrison Keillor’s humor, I immediately felt weepy.
On far too many Sunday afternoons a number of years ago, I would leave my home and my family and head to my office where I would work on my dissertation. Each Sunday during that drive I listened to Garrison Keillor. While I don’t regret putting in the hard work it took to finish the dissertation, it came at a cost.
While Keillor’s voice triggers some sad memories and brings up conflicts that I had to deal with as a parent and a wife, I’m also struck by the quickness of the unexpected, forgotten connection. Our past can rush to meet us triggered by the briefest of sounds. Or a new idea can occur to us at the confluence of a setting, a sound, and a memory.
That possibility of a sudden memory or an insight and, unlikely as it seems, sadness that can turn to hope through reframing reminded me of a client who is attempting to write a novel. After having worked at it for quite a while, she feels as if she has nothing new to give to the project. And she’s slipping into a stuck place where nothing stirs her.
To get unstuck, we may have to open ourselves to memories, to the unexpected, to the coming together of past and present. Or we may have to break our routine and try something different.
I might have generated more ideas for my dissertation and then have been a more lively and efficient writer had I given myself permission occasionally to stay at home on Sunday afternoons, or if as a family, we had gone somewhere together on more of those days.
To generate ideas, consider making a break in your routine:
1. Take a walk or go for a jog.
2. Go to the library or a coffee shop.
3. If funds permit, take your laptop and check into a hotel.
4. Trade houses or apartments with someone.
5. House-sit for a week or two for a friend.
6. Change the scenery—go to the zoo or to a park.
7. Awaken your senses– surprise yourself with something different on the radio or buy a new kind of coffee or tea.
8. Remind yourself of a time when you were bold or brave or when you did something difficult.
Sometimes writing and meeting deadlines need more than perseverance.
All good wishes,
Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach