In 2023, my work shifted from securing short-term facilitation projects, which I love, to a long form writing project. I authored a study guide aimed at addressing the 50% dropout rate of mature doctoral candidates. Then the idea to establish an impact start-up called Unconventional Doctorates to support the work emerged. This required a mindset shift from working in the gig economy towards developing projects with long-term impact (and deadlines). The first project, is a book called The Mature Student’s Guide to Completing a Doctorate, which will be published in April 2024. Here are some insights I gained from the writing process.

It’s okay when plans change:

Sometimes things go to plan, sometimes they don’t. For instance, writing a book proposal and putting a chapter together takes longer than you think. First, there is the vomit version, then a cleaned-up draft and, over time a polished manuscript emerges. AI tools such as Grammarly or Canva’s Magic Write are useful for small edits, but they won’t replace your ideas and ability to critically think. Yet.

Adapt and set boundaries:

Use disruptions wisely. If a family member needs a hug give one. Use shorter chunks of time to fact-check, proofread, set up an interview or have a cup of tea, go for a walk, go to the gym, and eat healthily. Find places where you can think deeply for a couple of hours and write. I particularly love libraries, long train journeys and early mornings at home. When I work from home and don’t want to be disturbed, I book a Focusmate session, treat the session like a meeting and close the door. This works most of the time. Get organised, understand what is expected by your publisher and complete chunks of work.

Know your WHY:

On tough days, remember WHY you made this commitment. Long-form writing projects require a genuine purpose to start the work, keep going and complete. Be kind to yourself when things turn out differently than expected, take a moment, and breathe. When imposter syndrome sets in (and in my case it did), acknowledge it, learn from it, and let it go. The discomfort is a sign that something new is emerging. Be mindful of cash flow, although my annual turnover is similar to previous years, I worked in chunks of time, so my income ebbed and flowed. When I doubted whether to continue, I remembered my WHY.

Stay curious, know your reader, listen, and adapt

Be specific on who the book is for. Who specifically will find the book so useful that they will pay for it?

Remain curious and be open to alternative viewpoints. Interview and connect with potential users of your book and the content of your book will change from what you think they want to what they say they need.

Review the work as a reader. They are short on time and want something useful, relevant, truthful, and coherent that can be put to good use. Then re-read every word, sentence, paragraph, and chapter. Ask whether the content is necessary. Is it useful? Is it of value to the reader? Decide whether the text stays, goes, requires editing, or is better suited in another part of the book. One short, sharp sentence has more impact than rambling phrases.

Ask, would I buy this? Close to my deadline, I reviewed the manuscript and identified areas where I’d lost focus. I rewrote the book, concentrated on the reader, and included tips and insights from the people I interviewed.

Know who you are and where you are going:

Long-form projects are complex, and it helps when you know where you are in the process. You might be further along than you give yourself credit for. Learn about the writing process and pick your peer groups with care.

One final thought:

Whether you are a business owner, artist or healer, your work is in a constant state of evolution and a reflection of who you are. Stay true to yourself. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to write using my voice rather than that of others. If I can author a book and pivot my business, so can you. If you want to find out more about go to the Routledge / Taylor Frances Website:  The Mature Student’s Guide to Completing a Doctorate – 1st Edition – (routledge.com) or sign up for updates from me here. For a 20% discount from the publisher, see their flyer.

This article was written by our Professional Plus member Dr. Sinead Hewson of Tpebo. Sinead has organised a couple of online meet ups around Unconventional Doctorates and the book which are free to attend: Evenementen van Sinead Hewson, Unconventional Doctorates | Eventbrite.

Photo by Amador Loureiro on Unsplash