Posts Tagged ‘taking a break’

I’m grateful to have a wise and funny husband.  Occasionally when I’m indecisive or anxious about my writing, he’ll say, “Do something, even if it’s wrong.”

On a recent, blisteringly hot Saturday when I was feeling prickly because I couldn’t write worth a darn, he said, “Let’s go to a museum.” What? The afternoon had already gotten a good start, and we would have only an hour or so to walk around once we went through the heat and trouble of getting downtown. Was it really worth it?

We went, and you can bet that I wasn’t the best company for the first part of that hot trip down to the museum.

But lucky us—as we walked into Washington D.C.’s National Gallery of Art‘s East Building, we were met with an electric atmosphere. We had happened upon a free, intimate performance given by stars of Russian ballet: two ballerinas from the Bolshoi Theatre and two dancers from the Mariinsky Theatre.

Dancers from Russia performing excerpts from ballets

Anna Antonicheva

There on the East Building’s mezzanine, we joined a relatively small group of people in summer garb, surprised at their good fortune as they were visiting the Smithsonian.

We sat within yards of these amazing artists, closer than one could ever hope to be, as they danced for an hour in honor of the special exhibit, Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909-1929: When Art Danced with Music. They performed excerpts from the repertoire of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes.

So let me give credit to my husband for his good advice, applicable to all sorts of situations—especially to difficult moments often encountered in writing a dissertation.

Ease the pressure. Awaken your creative side and aesthetic sensibilities, or whatever your strengths are, and see what happens.  Oddly enough, doing something that at first might seem as if you are procrastinating and merely fleeing the hard work of writing can yield unexpected benefits, such as increasing your mental toughness.

Breaking open a tired writing project

When you return to your writing, you most likely will note greater mental clarity, quickness, and toughness, as well as an increased patience for your writing process. An improved mental and emotional state will help your writing come more easily.

If the perfect word, the right beginning of a paragraph, or the heart of the matter isn’t coming to you and you are twisting yourself into knots, just do something, even if it’s wrong. Doing something could even mean going to a museum. You might be surprised at what can invigorate an exhausted mind and break open a tired project.

When you have felt stymied by your writing, what breaks did you take that were particularly helpful?  I’d love to hear from you.

All good wishes,


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

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Think of those times when you’ve had a breakthrough in your writing.

This comes after you’ve been struggling to clear the fog from your brain.  And then the fog lifts.

It’s a great moment, right?  Then what do you do?

A client told me that she was putting in less time on her dissertation each day than she could.  She had more time available and could readily give it  to her work.

I was curious whether her writing had been difficult for her

But no—when I asked what it was like for her when she was writing, she said that the work was energizing.

She had actually gotten to the place where she could see how the different ideas were beginning to complement each other.

Saying that, she laughed and jokingly mocked the incongruity of stopping just when she had stuck pay dirt.  Her thoughts would move in this way:  “A breakthrough. Ah– what a great idea. O.k., now is a good time to stop.”

It seems as if feeling a sense of accomplishment triggers her wanting to take time off.

What about you?  You struggle through the miseries of searching for ideas and connections.  You start to see more clearly.  Do you stop?

How does that work for you?  Do you push back and take a break just when you’re on to something?

If you want to finish this project and close the deal, keeping the writing going is what matters.

I’d love to hear from you about this.

And I’d love to send you a copy of my fr*ee e-newsletter.  Go to my website (www.nwcoaching.com) and sign up for my Smart Tips.

Until next time!

Your Dissertation Coach
ancy @ nancywhichard.com

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