Enter the Abyss: Trust the Process

Trust is a hard concept to understand when you’re doing something for the first time. During your dissertation journey, you will do many things you never did before: learn critical thinking, develop clear and concise writing, revise and rewrite, and learn to let go.

“I already know how to write”

Maybe you think so. But there’s writing and then there’s writing a dissertationFor doctoral students, this is a brand new writing process. You will have to unlearn bad writing habits.

But you’ll have tools along the way. For instance, you’ll have gatekeepers, people who are an anchor to make sure you know how to write. They are in place to keep you on an even keel. Gatekeepers are your committee members, the research reviewers, editors, and  students in your support network.

Their feedback is a valuable tool to improve your writing. Trust that when you get feedback, you are making progress on your dissertation.

A new type or R&R

You probably guessed that R&R is not rest and relaxation – it’s revise and rewrite. This habit will grow on you. The gatekeepers will push you to be concise in your writing. They will help you to think through what you’re trying to say and write it clearly.

Expect several rounds of revising your dissertation. For instance, when you write the first three chapters of your dissertation, write in the present tense. After you finish your research, R&R in the past tense, one sentence at a time.

Best to take small pieces and work methodically. Trust and embrace R&R to improve your writing.

Get it done

Remember that you made it to the dissertation stage for a reason. Coursework is one thing, but as I said, writing your dissertation is a different challenge. You made it to this stage and now find a way to finish.

You don’t need to understand why the process is set up this way – your job is to survive the process. This means a quick response to any gatekeeper questions. Remind yourself that  reviewers will not sign off on work that is poorly written or doesn’t make sense.

Be smart, R&R, and keep moving. Gatekeepers can reel you in if you stray too far. Trust that they will help you get it done.

Letting go

Trust has a lot to do with letting go. While many doctoral students like to be in control, letting go is hard to do.

Remind yourself that many things are out of your control: timelines for feedback, unexpected delays. Stay on top of what you can control: the quality of your writing, when you write , and your ability to keep moving forward.

A closing thought: Your work will never be perfect. Let go of that one too.

Someone once said, “The best dissertation is a done dissertation.” Trust and believe it will happen.


Dr. Bessie

The first step is always the hardest.


Author: Dr. Bessie DiDomenica

Food Policy Researcher • Resilient Agriculture Advocate • Public Speaker • Public Policy Wonk • Writer • Teacher • Social Entrepreneur • Associate Editor

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