Can I give dissertation writing tips if my dissertation isn't done? Well, even if this is a faux pas, I feel like I have to share three writing tips that have been helpful to me as I am in the heart of the dissertation writing process. For me, my happiness in life (completely dramatic, but true) is dependent upon my writing. That is, if I write in my dissertation document(s), then I am happy. If I don't write in my dissertation document(s), then I am not happy. Being aware of this severe flaw in my personality, the following three things have helped me maintain self-accountability to write at least 5 days a week (even if it's a sentence/paragraph/edit).
1. I have a Skype-writing partner. Every Monday we Skype and write for two hours.
Ok, this is totally NOT my idea. I heard of this idea at PME Young Researcher's Day from a sucessful earlier career researcher and started searching for a partner immediately because I thought it such an awesome idea. I am quite the talkative person, so it was hard to find someone willing to write with me once a week via Skype and then convince that person that I wouldn't talk for two hours so that we could write. After finding a Skype-write person, we have maintained this Skype-write-every-Monday-thing since August. I LOVE IT. I look forward to it. And, sometimes I'm so excited that I start writing before or continue writing after. I don't push it off. In fact, one time I had to quickly run to get wi-fi at a Starbucks just to write. Are we completely silent? Pretty much. We always start the Skype session with our writing goals. Sometimes we ask an APA question. Sometimes we crack a joke. Sometimes we vent a tiny bit. But, we always write.
2. I have a writing log.
Using Excel, I created a writing log. I track the project I am working on (because unfortunately I am not just working on my dissertation). I do this also because I want to make sure that most of my time is being devoted to the dissertation. I also found that I would spend too much time in one writing space and neglect others. I also I log the time and minutes. I like numbers, so seeing my time add up makes me smile. I also write what I accomplished, even if seemingly insignificant. For example, today I wrote: "I wrote an introduction paragraph." Sometimes we forget the small things we have accomplished or take ourselves for granted. And, I also log how I felt after writing (the good, the bad, the ugly). This mood component was important to me. I want to be happy and enjoy the writing process, so finding out what frustrates me is helpful.
3. I put Post-its with monthly deadlines in public (and not so public) spaces.
Maybe this isn't a writing tip, but more of a "how to pressure yourself in a healthy way" tip. I enjoy the constant reminders. I feel like it helps me visualize my goals and make them reality. As much as my planner is completely awesome, I needed more. So, I put Post-Its with goals and encouraging words beneath them in public (and so public) spaces. For example, two random places I have put Post-its are on my pantry and on my bathroom mirror.
Will this make me a better writer?
Probably not... but at least I'm writing! :)
Is my dissertation done?
Not yet. But, the only way it gets done is by putting one foot in front of the other ... Or, one finger on the Macbook Pro and then another.