I hit a block today and when that happens, I usually pop open a how-to guide to dissertation writing. I remember someone told me about Rowena Murray’s How to Write A Thesis and decided to take a look. (Luckily its available through eBrary, so those of you with university subscriptions to read it instantly). When I skimmed the table of contents, Chapter 8: “It is never too late to start” caught my eye. It’s a very thorough, quick-and-dirty recipe for just finishing the damn dissertation already. The chapter is full of practical strategies and prompts that I won’t go into here, but it was the conclusion that resonated with me. She described how students expressed insecurity and doubt over the quick-and-dirty completion method. Because students are just starting out in their fields, they wonder how they can be “sure” about what they’re writing. To which Murray said:
[W]e have to reposition ourselves in the knowledge process. We cannot wait until this happens to us; we have to make it happen. We have to construct “sure.” It is an invention. If we do not invent that moment, it will not necessarily occur spontaneously. Occasionally — perhaps more often than that — we have to force it, even when we feel that being “sure” is a very distant prospect. Thesis writers have to take themselves to that point. You can then move from being unsure and not writing, to being unsure and writing regularly. You have to silence the internal editor. We all have to do that.