Graduate students from across campus are engaged in Dissertation Writing Boot Camps. Their goal: for one week, dedicate four hours a day to writing their dissertations and to “make a habit of writing.” Each morning, writers discuss how writing went the day before and shared their goals for the coming writing session. They learn to break a large task into smaller tasks and how to set realistic goals. One participant completed a chapter of his dissertation, while another finished a draft of her manuscript.
Attending a Dissertation Writing Boot Camp motivates you to dedicate time to writing and avoid procrastination. When you make writing a priority, the task doesn’t seem so daunting since the project is being tackled head on.
On Your Own
If you can’t attend a Boot Camp (or you’re working on a Master’s thesis or another large writing project), you can apply the same techniques to tackle your own writing project:
- Block off dedicated writing time. Put writing time on your calendar and guard that time. These other tasks vie for your attention and make it easier not to write, so don’t agree to meetings with students or others, and don’t try to multi-task (your laundry can wait).
- Only write during your dedicated writing time. It’s tempting to keep writing if you’re on a roll. However, you’ll find reasons not to sit down and write the next day, justifying a little break from writing because you’ve already done so much. This easily snowballs into not writing for days and before you know it, you’ve lost momentum and find it difficult to take your project back up.
- Remove distractions. Let friends and family know that you won’t be available during your writing time. Find a quiet place to write, whether that’s in a library on campus or in a favorite coffee shop. Silence your cell phone, and log off of your email.
- Write. This may seem obvious, but it’s really easy to work on items that are related to your project (reading another article, editing what you wrote the day before, etc. ) that make you feel like you’re progressing when you haven’t written anything new.
- Set realistic writing goals. Writers are often ambitious, eager to get a project done. But when goals are too ambitious, the plan to get lots of work done can backfire. An unattained goal can feel like a failure, making you less inclined to sit down to write the next time. Avoid this by setting a writing goal for a session. Reevaluate the goal at the end of the session. Were you too ambitious? Scale back the next day. If you thought you could draft two pages in a three-hour writing session and you only managed one page, take this into account when you set your goal for the next day.
Image: "Writing" by dotmatchbox | flickr