Lately, I’ve gotten a couple of inquiries from potential clients who need help editing their dissertations. They each said they would send their work by a certain date, and I agreed with them about when I would return the edited work to them. All good. Well, for both of them, the dates came and went, and I had heard nothing. Hmm… had they decided they didn’t need me? I reached out to each to see what the issues might be.
Well, Client A had overestimated her ability to get things written in time while still working full time. We had a conversation on the phone, and we have emailed several times back and forth since then, and I will be getting her dissertation soon.
Client B kind of dropped off the radar – but I reached out to her as well. I finally heard back from her, and she said “the writer’s block is real”. I’m sure it is! I assured her that she could push back her dates with me easily. More time passed, and I again hadn’t heard anything. I wrote again, saying that I didn’t want to bug her, but did want to know whether to keep her in my plans. She apparently had some other issues that kept her from being in as good shape as she thought. She has come to terms with not having a December graduation. She is deciding whether to send me “chunks” of her dissertation or wait till she has the whole thing ready. Either is fine, and I await her work.
Both of these women are facing down what is probably the largest writing experience of their life so far. It is scary to put stuff down on paper, even if you are an experienced writer. A dissertation is so different, though. This is your work. You want to be as clear as possible. You want to get your enthusiasm for your work across to the readers. You need your committee to approve of it! So how do you start writing?
There are lots of possible answers for this – and no one answer will work for everyone. Some people talk it out, giving dictation to themselves. Some people prepare outlines, or bulleted lists. Some people start with the abstract, some people start with the methods – or another section of the paper. The key is to start!!! You can always change, modify, or edit later. If you want my help, you have to write something!
A few things to keep in mind about dissertation writing:
- You know more than anyone else on the planet about your subject.
- You will never have to write another one again (unless you want two doctorates, which does happen).
- Your committee wants you to succeed.
Finally, this was inspired not only by my future clients, but a podcast I was listening to today. I enjoy “Nobody Listens to Paula Poundstone”. On Episode 54 (I am very behind on this podcast), she had a guest who talked about writer’s block. You can find the episode here. They were talking about fictional writing, but I found a lot of the comments to be helpful for all types of writing. Besides, Paula Poundstone is funny!