How not to complete your dissertation

Woman heroFrom my longtime academic coaching and editing practice guiding doctoral candidates through the peaks and gullies of completing their dissertations, I have noticed that women in doctoral programs can easily become diverted by compassion for others in trouble. Well-meaning decisions and actions may result in calamitous consequences to a dissertation.

Although my experience has been primarily with women, if you are a man reading this, you may recognize some of these scenarios. In these stories of doctoral candidates (names and identifying details changed for their protection), you will see that tender-hearted consideration at the wrong times dangerously waylaid dissertation progress. If you are a doctoral candidate writing (or not writing) your dissertation, perhaps these tales will confirm decisions to let no major interruptions prevent the completion of your dreamed-of doctorate. [Read more…]

Learning from teaching in the anxiety zone

AnxietyI knew I had to do it. For too long I’d sat planted in front of my computer and wallowed in my old-quilt routine: writing, eating, tv-ing, sleeping, client manuscripts, gym, occasional grocery stocking, writing, eating, clients, tv-ing, sleeping. But I couldn’t deny that edge of vague dissatisfaction.

What do the gurus say? Stretch yourself, challenge yourself, get out of your comfort cocoon. It was time to get out and teach a writing workshop. [Read more…]

To rejuvenate, consider closing your writing shop

ClosedAre you dragging when you think about your current writing project, or writing itself? Do you long to regain that old surge and rush of excitement? Maybe, like companies that close temporarily for renovation or universities that close for a holiday break, you need to close your writing shop for some needed rejuvenation.

It’s tough, I know. When we think of closing, even for a little while, reams of ingenious excuses rear up. Any of these sound familiar? [Read more…]

10 Remedies for mid-book slog

It's book o'clockWhen the contract arrived for my book Challenges in Writing Your Dissertation, I levitated and floated on the ceiling. My proposal had been accepted, my outline was complete, and my files of notes overflowed. I dove into the full book head-on, bounding out of bed early every day, even Sunday. With not a single email detour, I clicked the manuscript onto the screen and started typing. I would easily make the agreed-on publisher’s deadline.

And then it hit. Three months in, I should have been barreling along. But I dragged out of bed, succumbed to at least an hour of home-page clicking, read every word of emails selling everything, and with lukewarm attention, perused writing sites. After way too long, I pecked a phrase, deleted it, pecked another, almost cried. My malady: mid-book slog. [Read more…]

For doctoral students – Your relationship with your chair: Too chummy or too distant?

relationshipIf you’re at the dissertation writing stage, your most important relationship (other than the one with your chocolate/peanut butter cups stash) is that with your chair/advisor/first reader. Your chair can be your best friend or worst nemesis. But there’s no getting around it; if you want to get done, finally, and graduate with those proud letters after your name, you need your chair.

When your chair is friendly, forthcoming, and responsive, you may be tempted to become friends. When your chair is too formal and standoffish, you may be tempted to ignore him or her entirely, or as much as the required paperwork allows. Either extreme is a mistake, and you’ll likely regret it later. [Read more…]

Friends – How to deal with their negative responses to your academic projects

friendsNote: This is the second of two posts on dealing with friends who may not understand your commitment to your academic project.

Friends are, well, friends, and we have every right to expect their support and encouragement. Most of the time they are for us, but sometimes, to our shock, they turn in the other direction after we share our academic aspirations, goals, accomplishments, and next projects. [Read more…]

Friends – How to keep them but keep them away when you need academic immersion

friendsNote: This is the first of two posts on how to handle your friends so you maintain their friendship but hold them off when you need most of your time for your academic project.

The piercing voice of Kathryn’s best friend on the other end of the phone threatened to puncture her eardrum. Penny screamed, “You’re never around anymore! Why is this damn project so important to you anyway? You think you’re too good for me!”

Kathryn mumbled an excuse about the doorbell ringing, hung up, and started to sob. For 18 years, Penny was her best friend, confidante, and supporter. [Read more…]

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…]