Dissertation writers tell me they often find themselves writing in chaos. It’s not clear to them where they’re headed or how long it’s going to take to get wherever it is they’re going.
Occasionally a cultural ritual, like the summer vacation, is a marker that writers use to cut through the chaos.
The vacation can be something to aim for, a lighthouse, if you will. Paddling toward that lighthouse gives a direction. A limited amount of time adds a sense of urgency. Having a concrete goal adds clarity and motivation.
Put together a limited amount of time, a direction and a concrete goal, and you have the makings of a plan. Nothing relieves stress or pulls you out of chaos like having a plan, unless it’s putting that plan into operation.
Some of my clients have a specific amount of writing they want to do, such as finishing the lit review before going on vacation.
One client says that she’s giving her committee what she has done before she leaves for a two-week vacation, but she’s redefined for herself what it is she will submit.
Her plan is to make a plan, a detailed plan, for the direction her work is taking.
Her approach is to work on the Introduction to clarify the argument. Then for the subsequent chapters, she is working through the argument. She is stepping back to see where she is heading, making sure her argument flows, chapter to chapter, with adequate support. She will also make sure she is adding the feedback and comments she has received so far from her committee. She’s not working on surface issues—save that sort of thing for the end.
When she is back from vacation this concrete approach will put her in a good place to write more easily, eliminate the feeling of writing in chaos, and alleviate the stress factor.
From time to time as you write a dissertation, you need to step back to see where you are headed. Take stock of what you have done and what you need to rework, as well as make sure you have a concrete plan to keep you on course for what is ahead.
Is a vacation coming up for you? This could be the time to check your course. It also may be just the time to add a bit of hustle to your work. Push a little harder to pull together your argument and to add pages of text.
From time to time, you may need to adjust your approach.
What is the nearest marker for you? How are you using it to advance your planning and your writing?
I’d love to hear from you.