writing up writers block supervisor expectations


I'm in the late-ish stages of my writing up period (actually inside an extension) and I'm really suffering. I don't know if its exhaustion - work 6 or 7 days most weeks, haven't had 2 days together since August bank holiday and longer that probably since new years - but I feel like I've got no more words to give and a word count almost 30,000 short. That sounds like a lot but with 50,000 under my belt and only one chapter which still needs writing from scratch (the others are all at least half done and everything is planned) I feel like all I need is one big push and it'll be over by Christmas.

That said my supervisor is trying to keep me on a very tight schedule. Weekly check ups and deadlines. I've always tended to write with momentum, even now my best writing comes in bursts rather than a steady flow. These two approaches don't gel very well at all which means fortnightly b*****kings and a constant atmosphere of dread and failure. I'm sure much of it imagined on my part but it can take some time to get back into doing things properly when each meeting expends so much mental energy in anticipation and worry.

Basically, advice, tips, reassurances, anyone?


God I remember that period, I was so exhausted by the end of it that I literally cried all evening after my submission. I didn't have the issue with the word count, quite the opposite but that's coz my research is qualitative but I can relate to the constant feeling of failure and exhaustion plus frustration with my DOS who just couldn't be bothered to read it and continued adding to my stress. It's the final push, you can do it! Liters of Mountain Dew did it for me.


It's good to know I'm not alone. I feel like if I stop for too long I might never come back to it so rest is out of the question these days.

The main advice from whoever I speak to on campus tends to be 'just get it done' which probably makes all the sense in the world when you're not the one sinking in it.


A break is good, it's good to get yourself to the stage when you are getting excited about it again, move away from it all and then when you come back to it you'll see not everything is awful, you just gain a new perspective. It was easier for me in a way because I was/am working full time. I would have a week away from the Phd when I got frustrated with it and focus on work. Then something would really annoy me at work and I was happy to get back to the PhD :)


Is it normal to get to a point where the writing matters more than the content?
By which I mean right now while I'm making sure I get good ideas down, my findings expressed and all of that I'm struggling to care about my work beyond just trying to get it done. I'm hoping my passion will return once I'm able to gain some more perspective but at the moment the fear is so all encompassing and ever present that the word count has become king and I struggle to think or talk about anything other than how the writing is going (or not as the case may be) rather than feel invested in believing in ideas that I know are my own and have been so interested in developing for the past three years.


At least for me it sounds normal. I am nowhere the stage of completing my phD thesis but I remember the same feeling when it came to just "writing up" my master thesis. I had literally one week to write a huge chunk of the introduction and the whole discussion (my main "finding" since it was a bioinformatic thesis with endless tables of data in the result section ;-)) and near the end of the week there was this constant feeling of panic that I wouldn't finish on time. In the end, I found the missing link on the last day around lunch time and finished way beyond midnight - but in time ;-)

My advice would be: Break it down in writing chunks and plan breaks inbetween. You are of no use if you sit hours infront of a "blank" page and get nothing done because you are so exhausted or blocked. Then think about what sparks your creative bursts. For me, its music - so if nothing else works I just turn on the music and "zoom out". And plan rewards if you get big chunks done - at the moment you need to find a way to get rid of the negative feelings toward your thesis and replace them with something nicer - no matter if its an hour at the gym or a piece of chocolate ;-)

And keep hanging in there - your are at your final meters to finish that marathon - everything is aching and you just want to stop - but with a few more steps your done and will be very proud about your work (after some distance to it! ;-))