Yes, it's the holidays.
Yes, you have a cold.
Yes, your Mom is calling
No, you don't have wrapping paper and you forgot where you filed your flight info.
All this is true.
and YES you still have a dissertation/book/article to finish.
So, the instinct is to say "Screw it, it will have to wait until the New Year."
I am all for taking a few days off. I'll be taking a break next week. That break, however, is planned. Not an accidental break that occurred as a result of defeat.
To support you during this season that begs you to eat sugar and forget your commitments, I wanted to share a little piece of delicious advice from Barbara Sher.
Almost twenty years ago, I found myself graduating from college with no idea what to do with my life. Graduating early seemed really cool, but the clock ran out. Somehow, I stumbled on a little 10 cassette program about finding your passion.
It was cassette format so you can imagine how long ago this was.
Now, hokey as it may sound to you serious folks, Sher's program was terrific for me. She had me hang up index cards on my wall filled with dreams. Then she had me pull one off at a time and do it...it worked. I soon found myself Swing dancing all over Philadelphia and rollerblading down to the art museum.
Her handy little method helped pull me from a blur partly caused by 4 years of philosophy back into life.
Her program helped me decide to move to San Francisco and ultimately become the Manager of the Institute for Health and Healing Resource Center. A wonderful Institute and a wonderful job.
So what's in this for you?
Barbara Sher's Gift to Writers
Barbara (she doesn't know but we're on a first name basis), had this wonderful little technique for getting yourself moving when you feel like your feet are stuck in cement.
Here's her strategy....
1. Pick the smallest little part of the project you are willing to do.
2. Think about one thing you love about it.
She gave the example of a swimmer having to at least stick her toe in the water everyday and think of one thing about swimming she liked.
You won't believe how cool this is and how effective it is against writing resistance.
Give it a try. Pick at least one tiny little thing you can do today on your project. It may be just holding a book you have to read. Or, she recommends, walking around the room with your manuscript in your hand.
It might be emailing your adviser with your time plan for the next few months. When you do it, think of one thing you like about it.
You may like the feel of the book or you might recall what you liked about your adviser enough to choose him. You'll see, it's powerful. Then you might be inspired to do something else...soon you'll be full on in action.
But don't worry if it's really just a small thing the next few days. Just keep it in motion.
This is ultimately the idea behind the book Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day.
Let me know how it goes.
I'm still taking coaching clients, so please feel free to email me at email@example.com.
And I will be leading a dissertation intensive the third week in February through George Mason University.
If you have more than two pieces about writing, you're likely confused. Some writers advise one strategy and others totally disagree. One area of debate seems to be the gestation period. Some successful writers will tell you that taking a break is a good idea...you need to get away from your text so that you can interact with other materials and get some perspective.
Other writers tell you to show up at your desk everyday. Just sit there if you must like the wonderful poet Mary Oliver who said in a recent OnBeing interview that she would sit 5am-9am each day.
Where are you on this?
Do you do best when you write daily or do you find yourself needing to step away often?
The tricky thing here is knowing the difference between gestation and procrastination.
How do you know if you're gestating or procrastinating?
I asked myself this question the past couple weeks when I noticed I had not written any blogs.
Was I gestating or hiding?
One way I've figured out how to circumvent this little conundrum was to make sure I was writing every day. I allow myself to change what I am working on, but if I set aside 4 hours a day everything seems to move forward-- often in unexpected ways.
For example, I started working on one application and started reading articles that helped me finish up something else.
Hope this helps. If you're not sure whether you're gestating or hiding, just start working on something else. Then take a break, go to a holiday party, stand under some mistletoe and wait for a new idea or a kiss. Either will do.
Sarah Federman, PhD