How to field those horrible questions about your academic project

Fielding questions about your academic projectWhether you’re writing your dissertation, or post-dissertation, sweating through the first article from it, or a book chapter, or an entire book, at least one person always turns up among your family or friends who shamelessly asks those questions that make you squirm. They’re right up there with the in-your-face “How come you’re still single?” or “When are you going to have kids?”

To help you field the equivalent questions about your academic project, maintain your self-respect, and even jab a little in return, here are several of the most common questions, and variations. I’ve collected these from my academic coaching clients who are agonizing through writing their dissertations, articles, and books. [Read more…]

Your life A.D. (after dissertation)

It always seems impossible until it's doneA motivational truism proclaims that the most dangerous time is when you’ve reached a goal. This is why many doctoral candidates experience Post-Parting Depression (PPD). Consciously and unconsciously you’ve been pushing hard for so very long. Preoccupied with the intensity and innumerable details of the work itself, you may have lost sight of the larger purpose of the dissertation and degree. After graduation, you no longer have to spend every moment you’re not eating or bathing on the dissertation.

In my dissertation coaching and editing practice, most clients I’ve helped graduate experience this void. For a year or usually more, they say, they’ve wished for nothing but to finish the durn thing. Now that they have . . . inexplicably they miss it—and get depressed. [Read more…]

6 Tips for avoiding website agita

Website launchAs writers and academics, most of us recognize the necessity of having a website about our work and services. With WordPress and other DIY websites becoming ever easier, many writers are savvy enough to design and mount their own sites. But some of us aren’t, or can’t face trekking up that learning curve.

When I needed a website for publication of my book, Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams, at first I procrastinated mightily. I didn’t want a prepackaged site (à la WordPress), although they can be fine. I knew I needed a site for promotion and wanted one that reflected the themes and gorgeous cover of my book. I was willing to spend a few dollars. So, to allay if not cure my website agita, I hired a professional web designer.

Once I did, I learned some shocking lessons. Whether you intend to create your own site, redesign it, or hire a specialist, I share my baptism warnings and questions to help ease your plunge into the arctic waters of the website world. [Read more…]

For academics: Are your kids growing up without you?

Work Life BalanceYou were probably thrilled beyond words (mono- and polysyllabic) when your kids were born and you witnessed the true miracle of those so-young lives. The kids grew older, and you hunkered down into your academic career. Maybe your feelings changed—you don’t love them any less, but you may see the children as distracters and interrupters of your work. After all, we have important completions of all the conference abstracts, articles, books, chapters, dissertations, even the course syllabi. And we need to finish all these projects for advancement.

Granted, children can be annoyances and disrupters. Most of the time, though, barring a fall from the tree house, they are bothering you because they want—no, crave—your attention. [Read more…]

For academics: What to do when your partner wails, ‘I never see you anymore!’

Work Life BalanceWhen you’re furrowed-brow deep in your academic project, and your partner suddenly blurts out “I never see you anymore!” it’s time to stop, look, and close your computer. After such outbursts, many of my academic clients with partners in my coaching and editing practice have found ways to manage the complaints and restore a harmonious home. Here are some of the major methods clients have used as they pursue the (successful) productions of articles, presentations, chapters for a volume, and dissertations. [Read more…]

Tip of the trade: The role writing environment plays in productivity

Q: What roles do the writing work space and environment play in productivity?

writingA: Noelle Sterne, author, editor and writing consultant:

“As an academic and mainstream writer and editor, I firmly believe that one’s writing work space and work environment tremendously influence productivity. To discover your best writing environment requires self-analysis and candid (if uncomfortable) answers to several important questions:

1) What is your optimal time for a work session? An hour, three, fifteen minutes? My optimal session is about an hour and a half. But sometimes my brain bubbles like a hot spring, and I can work for three hours straight without hearing my stomach growl. [Read more…]

How to get your boss’s support for your dissertation

writingIt’s not easy working full-time and writing a dissertation. A few fortunate doctoral students can quit work and devote themselves completely to the dissertation. But if you cannot quit, you can still make time for it—by meeting with your employer or supervisor.

Employers often encourage higher degrees, and some pay for them in whole or part. Your boss may be supportive of your academic pursuit and willing to give you released time and preferential schedules to meet the demands of graduate work. To gain what you need, you need a plan and rehearsal for the talk. [Read more…]

6 Techniques to jumpstart writing efficiency and productivity

Vintage typewriterIn our writing projects—dissertation, article, book, presentation—after the first brilliant idea or paragraphs of exhilarated creation, our enthusiasm may turn to mud. From my own experiences with tortured writing and those of my academic coaching and editing clients, I recommend the following six techniques, with credible rationales, to help you work more efficiently and write more productively.

1) Make Separate Files

As simplistic as it seems, start by making separate files for each part of the work—prefatory pages, introduction, chapters, sections, reference list, appendices. Refer to your university handbook, journal specs, or publisher’s requirements to construct your file in the correct format. If a template is provided, use it. Later, you’ll combine all files for the finished work. [Read more…]

Two more types of university friends you may have never thought of (part 2)

Don't be reticent in contacting fellow students and former professors.If you’re a graduate student struggling with your dissertation, you probably crave at least a few people who really understand and can help you get through the long and torturous journey. Many dissertation writers have confided to me as their editor and coach that their chairs and committee members, unfortunately, may not be the most supportive or nurturing. In Part 1 of this series, I recommended two types of individuals you may not have thought of who can be immense help: librarians and secretaries. Here I’ll suggest two more. [Read more…]

Two types of university friends you may have never thought of (part 1)

librarianGraduate students on the road to doctoral Oz often feel more isolated than a vegetarian at a barbecue. Especially if you have a laissez faire chair and committee, you may believe you’re abandoned and unloved. You’re not. In my work as editor and coach for struggling dissertation-writing students, I know well that many other people in the university community can comfort, calm, and care for you. Here I’ll remind you of two types who can help ease your dissertation traumas. (Next post: two more.)

Librarians Love You  

Even in this age of access to many online databases, librarians can help you greatly as you plow through the dissertation. Once you recognize the immense resources at their keypads, you can enlist their aid to save yourself time, effort, and digital runarounds. [Read more…]