The No-Fail Secret to Writing a Dissertation

THE NO-FAIL SECRET TO writing a dissertation:

Writing is thinking. It takes time and it’s supposed to be challenging. The biggest mistake I’ve seen most graduate students make is to mythologize what I call “the moment of genius.” Because writing is thinking, brilliant thoughts do not just appear on the page after long hours of arduous musing on a subject. In my experience, the best ideas almost always come about through the act of writing itself—usually just at that moment when you’ve run out of steam and are staring down a seemingly intractable problem, desperately wanting to quit. These are the breakthrough moments. When you’re writing a dissertation, one of the most difficult intellectual tasks a person can do, commitment to the writing process is far more important than genius. If the smartest person in the world cannot learn to write, then she won’t be a successful academic. Period.

She’s right.  I found it helpful when writing my dissertation to schedule my writing time like a class or any other urgent meeting.  When tell yourself you’ll write once you’re done with everything else, you’ll always find something else to do to keep you from writing.

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