Since I started doing my PhD I have been encouraged and pushed into writing .Thinking, reading, speaking,discussing your grandeur ideas is not enough, to succeed in the PhD experience you need to write. So here I am trying to focus and writing my reflection of the writing process, another way of procrastination?
Literature and research on successful doctoral study clearly suggest that the best PhD is the one that is finished, i.e,the one that is written and submitted in three years’ time . In doing so, PhD students should write everyday, avoid distractions, assume the writing position, and no matter what, write, and write. No-one expects a perfect piece, but more of a working piece, a text that shows how your thinking and research is progressing. It is said that if you are reading, but not writing, after three weeks, you will have forgotten what you read. OK, the thesis is a written work, so there is no way I can’t get away without writing.
So what do you have to do so as to be productive, efficient and get your PhD done? At the beginning of the candidature I knew so little, I couldn’t write, because there was nothing to communicate. I spent most of time reading, reading, and reading. My writing at that time was bibliographical notes,references, summaries, mind maps, and, I also wrote a book review. Then, in spite of my insecurity and uncertainties, I was pushed to keep on writing and produce different types of outcomes: research proposal, ethics application, my thesis in three minutes, my thesis in a headline, abstracts, conference papers,etc. To write each of these has been a painful delivery, it has taken much more time than expected, and it feels like climbing the Everest without oxygen.
Now I am writing a conference paper due in a week’s time. This time I have taken a different approach to do the writing and accomplish the goal by Friday. I am participating in a writing cycle group. It is a group of academics (not PhD students) who share their writing goals and support each other to achieve these goals. It is a three week’s program. During the first week, we met and discussed our goals, we established a timeline and support strategies. My goal is to finish the draft of a conference paper to be reviewed by my supervisors.I designed an action plan to do it. It included the review of the literature, the elaboration of the arguments and the actual writing. The first week I did as planned, but I also realized that I hadn’t considered everything I had to do , so I had to make some adjustments. Anyway, I was happy with what I was doing and how effective the writing sessions were going.
Today is the first day of the last week of the writing cycle, I have five days to finish the conference paper. Today I started my day writing for two hours accompanied by two academics part of the writing cycle group. We met at the library, said hello, and then, each of us started typing. It was a slow start for me after the weekend, but once I pushed it, it kept going under its own momentum. I did my writing. The paper is getting its shape and I see that I will be able to submit it by Friday. So what have I made differently this time?I designed an action plan to do the writing. I shared my plan with peers;I got questions and feedback about it;I have avoided distractions (no email, no Facebook, change of location); I have followed a schedule and I have written. But I guess what has made it more meaningful is that I have committed, not only to myself, but to the rest of the group.And the other members have also committed themselves. It is a collective effort to achieve our goal and do our writing.
Of course I feel uncertain about the outcome, the paper itself. I am not so sure how good it will be and the possible contribution . However, I feel that I have gained lots of learnings in these weeks: I can be disciplined and write; I can stop procrastination and do as I plan; and that working collaboratively the writing process can be more efficient and productive. On Friday, I will finish my paper and I will post a comment here with my last reflection of the writing cycle experience. I can’t wait to see the paper printed ad in my supervisor’s pigeon hole.
I did it! On Friday I struggled and struggled to write the last paragraphs, then, a bit of editing, then referencing, and finally, by 4 p.m. I sent it to my supervisors. I know it is not a final version, but it its the first draft. Next week I will need to improve it and have a better version. 🙂