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Do You Quit While You’re Ahead?

No, I’m not talking about academia in general. Don’t be so sensational. I’m talking about writing. At this morning’s Boot Camp motivational meeting Valerie Ashford, from the Writing Center, recommended setting time limits to your writing and then stopping at that time even if you’re on a roll and want to keep on rolling. The logic to ending on a high note is that you’ll perhaps have a sense of motivation to get back to that task, which has been rewarding if only for the fact that completing tasks triggers a little dopamine treat in the brain, and at the very least you’re setting yourself up for success if you leave off in the middle of a path that will show you where to go once you return to it.

A few other nuggets of wisdom from today on overcoming writer’s block:

“Be good to the little people” – that is (my flippant way of remembering), pay attention to the most naive of the lay questions you get about your project. They can reveal a lot to you.

Beyond that, talk – or write – to someone. Anyone – As Val eloquently put it, “it’s in the act of communicating that language, of necessity, makes itself available to you.”

Predictability – Boot Camp is great for writing partly because you feel a strong expectation to work diligently and consistently, so you have that social element that we animals need, but you know no one is going to speak to you. Except on lunch. Otherwise it’s reassuringly silent; it’s a new social contract where you can drop manners.

On doneness – a threepeat boot camper reminded us today that there are only two kinds of dissertations: perfect dissertations and finished dissertations. Another piped up and said that the “perfect vs. done” distinction is a quilting maxim, as well. This stuff spreads.

Alternatively, in the words a wise physicist once used: shut up and calculate.


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  1. […] the Dissertation Bootcamp here. Gradifying also has a collection of posts related to the bootcamp here, here, and […]

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