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I love spending time with my friends and have an active social life, but I recharge the best on a long run with my dog or cooking an involved meal by myself.

That being said, working alone, all day, on a project that no one else knows anything about is extremely isolating.

All of a sudden I found myself faced with what seemed like an almost insurmountable task—writing what is essentially a book—that my training hadn’t really prepared me for.

Yes, I knew how to research in the archives; yes, I knew how to write a well-crafted and convincingly argued seminar paper.

But those kinds of sentences only come with writing and rewriting and rewriting not-so-great sentences.

I’ve learned to make myself just start writing—I’ll remind myself that it’s just a draft, and I can delete or edit anything I want later.

But I didn’t know how to put together an argument over 300 pages, or even what tools to use for researching and writing such a trial and error.

I’ve tested many different tools and work strategies, from the software I use to organize archival research and write my dissertation to the time management strategies that keep me on track, and I’ve found what works for me.

This also applies to chapters you send on to your advisor for comment and the dissertation as a whole.

Your advisor is there to help make your work better, and it’s okay to send him or her something that isn’t “perfect.” Similarly, a dissertation, as my accountability partner reminded me recently, is a demonstration of original scholarly research—not a publishable book.


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