Saturday, June 1, 2013

2013 Summer Dissertation Boot Camp - Day 1





Building Strategies as a Community
After breakfast, we began the process of building a set of shared experiences and strategies for writing.
On large sheets of paper, we listed:
  • Challenges we faced in moving our dissertations ahead
  • Strategies we use to keep ourselves working and motivated
  • Best ever writing tips we've used or heard about
While it was not really surprising to discover that many of us shared similar challenges, it was nevertheless comforting to know this. We are, each of us, on unique journeys in this dissertation process and yet, the general shape of balancing work, life, and dissertating is similar. So are our uncertainties, and the habits that prevent us from moving ahead as fast as we'd like to.

The best ever writing tips list was, again, no surprise. Although, reading your writing to your dog was an unexpected tip! But if it works ....

This list of really good tips made me realize that we all do know so much about what we should be doing. But, it's that word - "SHOULD." Our aim this week is to turn that into CAN. What can we do to keep writing and keep motivated to write? How do we transform these great tips into our personal writing habits?

Reflections session at the end of Day 1
A good day of writing. We celebrate ...
... writing twice as much as set in a goal
         ......feeling energized to write

Grove House is a beautiful, open, expansive space in which to write. Physical spaces might be more important than we think. We often write  in the midst of the many other things we do. Our work spaces might be cluttered with other work. Here, there is dedicated space and time for writing our dissertation. Does clearing the physical space for writing also, in some way, clear a mental, emotional space for writing?

Challenge: A couple of people spoke about the challenge of distracting oneself from actually writing because of a sense of anxiety or fear of writing.

Some ideas that were shared in the group made me think about this some more. What one person said resonated with me. Our dissertations, at CGU at least, are less directed by our professors' interests. Our dissertations represent ideas very close to us, our interests, curiosities, and questions. So, emotional stakes are high. Will my idea work? What if this idea is a lame one? Will people fall about laughing ... or worse still, make polite noises, when I share my ideas? So what looks like distractions and difficulties in getting started could really be outcomes of an anxiety about our work.

Another kind of anxiety .... Katya recalled that at the last boot camp, someone spoke about being afraid to finish (she has since finished, and graduated this May!) We live with this project for so long that it becomes the thing we do; it is who we are. Finishing means finding something else that occupies us and defines us - and that is a scary thought.

Would recognizing and naming what makes us anxious or fearful help us move through/past it and write?

We also spoke about the importance of community, whether that is telling someone else about your work, or finding a group to meet and write with. The important thing is to put this work outside of our inner emotional life - in a semi-public space of a writing group. Even though you are not sharing your writing by having others read it, you are participating in a writing process. And then, there is the commitment and accountability a group process gives us that really helps move the work along.

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You're Not Alone - Here are some of the members of our group!