Even if you procrastinated about setting a New Year’s resolution you can always begin again. Everyday provides you with another opportunity to get it right or almost right. Writing your dissertation is not about perfection. It’s not about the perfect dissertation, the perfect chapter, section, paragraph, sentence, graduate student, mentee or mentor. Your dissertation is not a reflection of who you are either. If you are struggling with perfection you are struggling with self-doubt, and slowing down your academic career. I’ve know plenty of graduate student who have this minor affliction. Some students will take an incomplete if they think they are not going to get an A in the course. They imagine that if they had more time they could get a better grade. Maybe they could, but the next semester starts before they can finish the previous semester’s work. Are you the type of student that piles up one incomplete after another? What message do you think this sends to the faculty in your department. Even if you take the summer to get an A in these courses, the faculty will still question your ability to complete a dissertation when there are no deadlines involve.
Writing a dissertation requires daily forward progress. Each day provides you with an opportunity to move the document forward. Even completing something as simple as the cover page or abstract or outline moves you forward. Worry about perfection stalls your momentum. I suggested to a graduate student today who was working on her proposal to write as if she was never going to show it to anyone. I said “write with no cares at all; curb the editor in your head. Beat back the voice in your head that says you are not smart enough because today you are. You have read enough. You know enough. It’s time to write. So what if it’s not perfect? Noone has to see it but you.” I suggested that she not worry about the grammar but focus on the content. I suggested that if she didn’t know something to make a note to herself to come back to that point later. Even if your writing is not perfect you can always hire an editor. PhD completion.com has some editors to help you smooth out your rough edges. Remember it doesn’t have to be perfect; it just has to get done. A good dissertation is a done dissertation.
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