A common mistake that many students make is believing that they have to read all the literature before they start to write their dissertation. Ideally, this principle would work, but in order to stick to the deadline, you need to begin writing as quickly as possible. Your product will require serious revision and editing before you finalize it, so it is important to begin writing to develop the ideas in the body of your dissertation as soon as possible.

This reminds me of the first dissertation-coaching client I ever had, whom we can call “Susan.” She lived up in the mountains in Big Bear, California, about 55 miles away from where I lived. She often called to talk about her dissertation, but I never got anything in writing from her. She called week after week to talk and talk, and after about three weeks of this, I asked her when she was going to send me something to look at.

Susan was a great example of someone continually “getting ready” to do something. I pointed out to her that it was costing her money to talk to me, number one. Number two, with every week that went by, she felt more and more like a failure because she hadn’t yet done anything. I asked Susan to commit to mailing me at least one sentence on a daily basis (this was before we had e-mail).

Over the next two weeks, she started sending a letter every day— in fact, sometimes even two letters a day! Initially, it was only one sentence, but it soon became a complete paragraph. Soon she was sending me a full page or more. You can see where this is going. Susan started sending me more and more content. We were also talking on a weekly basis so that I could give her feedback. It didn’t take long for this to get her creative juices flowing so that suddenly I was getting thick packages in the mail from her. Pages and pages and pages.

This helped build up her momentum, and then there was no stopping her! Susan’s initial problem was that she was just stuck, and she needed to start writing something—anything—to get her moving in her dissertation.

 

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