Wellness Wednesday: The Isolation of the Dissertation Writer

I’ve been really sick and just now getting back into the swing of things regarding my dissertation. It is moving along. I have a solid committee, and I’m feeling overwhelmed but good about the process and the progress I’ve made.

One thing no one told me about how it would be, though, is how lonely it is. Sure, you have cohort members that you may or may not be close with, but everyone has their own lives, jobs, families, and their own dissertation topic. I try my hardest to stay in touch and support people the best I can, but it’s hard being so busy and stressed out all the time. My advice is to have at least one person, an accountability buddy, who you check up on or literally go to the library with to write. I’m usually pretty good with committing to writing by myself, but it always helps to have extra accountability.

Try to write for an hour or two every day. Commit to it, whether it’s morning, noon, or night. Get it done. Some days will be better than others. Some days you’ll just read research articles and not get much written. That’s ok. Don’t stop and don’t let the mindset get too far away from you. Meaning, don’t let yourself fall too far away from your project that you feel like you need to re-immerse yourself in it.

It’s isolating, because it’s such a solitary task. Sometimes I go down a rabbit hole of research with 20 tabs open to the point where I’m not sure that the point I’m trying to make is relevant anymore. Writing and rewriting is frustrating, but part of the process. People who aren’t currently in graduate school often ask:

So when will you be done?

This might be well-meaning, but it’s exhausting to keep trying to answer. Please don’t ask this of your local graduate student, PhD candidates especially… because we don’t know! It just depends on so many different factors: our proposal, revisions, the IRB process, getting feedback, collecting data, getting enough participants, analyzing data, defending, etc…. it’s exhausting. Just tell your graduate student that you’re proud. LOL. And help them be well by hanging out with them and reminding them that someone cares. Even if you don’t personally know what the process is like, you can still support them.

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