Casaubon's Book

I’ve never had so much trouble writing a book before. Depletion and Abundance was hard, but it was so thrilling that someone wanted me to write a book that I could barely see straight from excitement. A Nation of Farmers was a project I had been passionate about for a long time, and the collaboration with Aaron was truly inspiring. Independence Days seemed like such a logical next step – help people who got the basic idea of needing to eat better do it year-round. I did three books in two years, and by the end of the marathon I was exhausted. And then came the idea of doing a book on Adapting-In-Place, and Finding-Your-Place – helping people figure out how to get set up to live a lower energy life. It seemed so logical.

And it still does, but I admit, I’m struggling with this one. Maybe because our original plan was for Aaron and I to collaborate again, or maybe because I’m just tired of the computer, but I came very close to returning the advance a month or so ago – admitting to Eric that I simply don’t want to be writing a book right now, that I’ve burned out a bit, and that I want to concentrate on the farm. I feel petty whining about my good fortune – I’ve been tremendously lucky, and lucky enough to have an editor and a publisher that believe in me, and are excited about this book. Lots of people have to do much worse work than I do – there’s no excuse for me to complain.

Moreover, I know this meets a real need. That is, we really do need to figure out how to live, how to go forward. My dream was that this book would talk about both the necessity of doing so, but also the pleasures, would draw people to what I see as a delight – the chance to drain your cup dry, to get more from fewer resources and enjoy the art of making a good life from not so much. I want to want to write this book.

But it isn’t working very well for me, and I’m not sure why. I need some way of getting excited and fully engaged by this – but I haven’t come upon it. Either that, or it is going to be one long, cranky 10 weeks.

The best I’ve got so far is to simply point out to myself that if I returned the advance (it is already far too late for this, they are already publicizing the book), I would have to give up the farm plans that the advance will pay for. I’ve already got a line on a Great Pyrenees guardian dog for our farm. I’m already looking for the perfect Nigerian Dwarf buck for my girls, to cut down on the drive-thru goat sex in my life. We are going to re-fence our upper pasture, and once that is done, we need some sheepies to eat down the grass, and I’m thinking icelandics. And then there are the honey bees, and a few more fruit trees…. By dangling farm improvements in front of my nose, I’m hoping I can get energized enough to do a good job.

But I wish I could get excited. How do you rev up to do something that you dread, or that just isn’t working for you?



  1. #1 jen
    January 11, 2010

    I wonder if it’s it’s the deadline, 10 weeks!!!:0 This could/can/will be an important book, but I don’t know how you can get it done in 10 weeks, not to be discouraging, but when I think of what I would like to see in this book: examples and pictures of how people have done/are doing to ADP. How can you compile all that info so quickly? Oh darn, I can’t tell you what to include;) I’m thinking though of all the people who have yet to come to the place of “adapting” and that when they do they will need a guide, they need examples, and you’re right, they will need to know that there WILL BE joy in a new future.

  2. #2 alice
    January 11, 2010

    When I read your blog I’m always struck with how non-stop busy and productive you are…perhaps the let down you mention is a gestation period—like an early pregnancy where you need/want to rest a little extra. I agree with Jen above, too. 10 weeks is a short time period…any way you could trust your fatigue and extend your time frame? Gestation—maybe write out an outline by hand…Wendall Berry said he wrote his first drafts by hand because his hand had ideas his brain didn’t know about.

  3. #3 Edward Bryant
    January 11, 2010

    Well, I usually wait till the last possible moment then do my usual “half-assed” job. But actually, it looks like you are already at the last possible moment…

    Sometimes, the only thing to do with drudgery, is to just trudge through it. It sucks, but there it is.

    I had a field area up in the mountains into which there were few roads, and none going where I needed to go. Everyday, I hiked up about 1500 vertical feet to get to the bottom of my jobsite… the top was another 1000 feet above that. Everyday, a major hump just to START working. I never did figure a way to make that climb anything more than regular suffering, but I was in pretty good shape by fall.

    Maybe this is the book which will “get you in shape” as a writer.

    I guess none of that helps.

    On a brighter note; I just got the fruits of your last effort…I have a brand new, never-before-read copy of Independence Days in my hands just now!

    Bye. Gotta go read.

  4. #4 Lora
    January 11, 2010

    I look at it like this: It’s just that time of year.

    I got all my ordering in this past weekend, but if I had birds to order, I’d still be working on that. I clicked the very last “submit order” button and started blocking out times on the calendar for cheesemaking (blessed are the cheesemakers), maple syruping, all the usual cycles of seeding, hardening-off, raking, turning and planting, spring cleaning. Between now and the third week of May, I have exactly three free days. Somewhere in there, I have to fit a bunch of career planning, too, as I’ve got maybe seven years before I get old enough that they’ll consider putting me out to pasture. Since I don’t think of myself as THAT old, this is causing serious stress.

    Let’s put things in order: Bees, in your weather, won’t be ready for pickup (or mail-order, really) before late April – early May. That’s more than 10 weeks from now. Painting hives takes maybe an afternoon, and dries in a day or two. So I’d say you can put in your orders and then set the bee thoughts aside for now. Banish them from your mind!

    Fruit trees, if you haven’t already put in your order, you won’t be able to get anything very special until next year, I am sorry to say. The largest dealer for antique varieties sells out by late October. If you are content to have the regular fruit trees, wait till they go on sale later in the summer when at least you’re getting em cheap–when you finally put them in, they will make roots all autumn long. Those are also not worthy of this moment’s thought.

    You must re-fence before the walking sweaters/chops. You’re not going to re-fence till spring, when you can actually set the fenceposts properly. Forget about sheep and their fencing for now, you can get fencing any time, and one is a prerequisite for the other.

    Nigerian Dwarfs are not a very uncommon breed. You will likely be able to find many bucks available even after the manuscript is done; they’re a bit like roosters, really. It does not require your immediate attention.

    What’s left for you to do? Dog, and manuscript. I dunno, you seem to get excited about recipes, and that is something most people find both feasible and pleasurable. Most of the things I do to be more self-reliant (and cheap), it’s easier for “normal” people to view as an extension of cooking: soapmaking from a recipe book, growing gourmet varieties of food, building things from plans in a book or a “recipe” got off the internet, people understand recipes for the most part. They also understand that when you’re practiced and confident, you can mess with a recipe to make it better. Can you start from recipes?

  5. #5 Karen from CT
    January 11, 2010

    Sharon, It sounds like you need a bit of a break for yourself. Perhaps a 2 day away where you can just walk, read, listen to music, eat simple food and rejuvenate yourself. Or just stretch out that deadline and take some time at home to do the things that will nurture your soul. Take care of yourself first so you may take care of others, hard to do but so important!

  6. #6 jennifer
    January 11, 2010


    I cannot wait to read your new book, so please, please make yourself a cup of tea, cut a slice or two of pumpkin bread, ignore the tempting seed catalogs, and sit down at the keyboard.
    As one of your readers pointed out – you have the unique perspective of a woman with a FAMILY who is living the life many of us are striving for. Your insights and suggestions are full of reality and HOPE. All of the other writers who focus on similar topics (peak oil, climate change, etc.) are either entirely too casual about the subject (change your lightbulbs and save the world!) or defeatist (the future will be a bleak, impoverished, violent hell and there’s nothing to be done). I think you have some of the answers we’re looking for. I know I have lots of questions : )
    You can do it!

  7. #7 e4
    January 11, 2010

    My suggestion: Go back and read some of your older blog posts, or even old posts on online forums. Maybe some of your earliest ones. See if there’s either a) useful bits that you can use directly or rework, or b) inspiration and insight on how you got here. Go back to your roots. Retrace your own footsteps…

  8. #8 Kerrick
    January 11, 2010

    My $.0002 (not a typo; money’s tight all around):

    Talk to someone (in person, for real!) about what made you so excited about the ideas you’re writing about in the first place. Someone who is just as enthusiastic as you once were. Let them tell you why your ideas are exciting. Let them drag the ideas out of your head interview-style, if need be. It’s not at all a surprise to me that you’re struggling to stay motivated and focused with ten weeks to go! But you CAN do it, and the book will be good, and if it needs work that’s what you’ve got an editor for. Write like you’re giving advice to a dear friend, and sort the style issues out later.

  9. #9 Kelly R.
    January 11, 2010

    Hey Sharon,

    My sense is this is an emotion. The best way for me to deal with emotions is to talk my way through them. This, too, shall pass, and you will find the energy to devote to this book.

    Maybe the outline needs some work. Have you covered all the areas you want to cover. Is there something missing? You had an idea in mind when you pitched this book…are you being true to it? Are the necessary compromises getting you down?

    What are you (and no one else) getting out of this. What is your self indulgent reason for doing this book?

    I’ve read two of your books, now and am really impressed, and am eagerly looking forward to reading Depletion and Abundance plus the new AIP – FYP book.

    You have a gift and you share it…that’s living. I get the sense that you are driven in most of your writing..that the stuff flows out of you. Your passion overflows….why isn’t this your passion?

  10. #10 vickey
    January 11, 2010

    Sez over here at this other post: “I get up and write my pieces because they need writing”. They need you, and so do we.

    Maybe arrange another fabulous responders weekend for 11 weeks hence, a weekend to celebrate all the responses being crafted, including your 4th book?

    Or set goals by chapter or book percentages, or some other deadline: When I’ve finished the outline & the ______, we’ll get the Pyr. When I’ve finished the ______, we’ll get the _____.

    But then maybe once you’re done, no more book contracts for awhile, focus instead on making and savoring those improvements, and on the workshops that bring real people together in real life?


  11. #11 Bill F
    January 11, 2010

    Just find one small step and take it.

  12. #12 Tree
    January 11, 2010


    You’ve been pretty non-stop for the past two months and I haven’t read where you’ve taken any time for yourself, really. What’s it all for if you don’t take a little time out to just enjoy your farm?
    I have to stop myself at times and just stroll around the place in the spring and enjoy the flowers, for example, or this time of year I make sure I hang out with the chickies, spend a warm afternoon in the stillness of the woods or take a nap in front of the woodstove. One condition: these have to be activities that keep me firmly in the Present.
    As much as I enjoy ordering seeds and such, for example, that tends to put me in the mode of ‘planning’, and ‘future’; which can be stressful when I think of the bed prep…etc….that goes along with it.

    I suggest taking a couple of days to make sure you haven’t put off any chores that are nagging in the back of your mind, and take some time to recharge yourself and be fully in the present.


  13. #13 Cassandra
    January 12, 2010


    I need you excited about this book! We need you excited! A book written by an excited person has so much more verve that one plunked out drearily. ;o)

    Every time you and Aaron advertise your adapting in place class I drool, we drool and then we realize that we can’t commit to it maybe because of the timing, the money or whatever. But a book, A BOOK!! What a great idea – class in a book – we can afford that – we can pick it up when we have time and put it down when we can’t. BLISS between two covers!

  14. #14 anon
    January 12, 2010

    Three of the most important lessons I’ve learned while working on my doctoral dissertation that have served me are:

    1. Write first. Before doing anything else.
    2. Write every day (except Sabbath). Even if only a little. Even if it doesn’t come easily.
    3. I don’t need to want to, feel like it, not be tired, or be in the mood to write. I just have to sit my *ss down and do it.

    To this I would add:

    4. Perhaps you can get a slight extension from your editor?
    5. A long time back, I read something that stuck with me on your blog, about how in Judaism, you do something because it’s right or good and not because you feel inspired to. Something like form coming before, rather than following, feeling. That really stuck with me. I think what you’re working on sounds like good, important work that needs writing. I hope for our sake you’ll figure out how to make it happen. And then take a vacation!

  15. #15 Kate@LivingTheFrugalLife
    January 12, 2010

    I am at times a terrible procrastinator, exacerbated by the knowledge that I work pretty well under a tight deadline. I’m not proud of this, as I know I do better when I avoid procrastination.

    How much have you written? I find that two things work for me: re-reading/editing what I’ve already done, which motivates me to improve or expand on what is there, and assigning myself incredibly short writing periods, say “just an hour,” or even less at times. The latter is a psychological trick that works to overcome my avoidance of certain tasks (including housework). Usually, if I can steel my nerve to just face the task and sit with it for that much time, it sucks me in and I actually do more than an hour. Then I feel virtuous for having exceeded my own expectations, and less reluctant to pick up where I left off later on. Overcoming the feedback loop of dread at starting/guilt over not having started thing is a real challenge for me sometimes. Sometimes there’s just no better solution but to plunge in and face it.

    Chin up, Sharon!

  16. #16 Toni
    January 12, 2010

    Booksmuck….The muse doesn’t perform on demand. Now just you listen to me (and those other sensible blog-groupies who have said the same thing)…..this is important as well as urgent, its not writing exercises you need, its a break! You get on that phone, ring your friend/Mum/Auntie/professor and you ask if you can stay for a night or so (not too long, you don’t want the kids to forget what you look like!). Then you get on that train/bus/bike and get there. Order some organic takeaways/whiskey, turn on the TV/DVD, and watch. Then a little later ask her what she thinks/feels/cares about. That should about do it I reckon …… 🙂

  17. #17 Penny Walker
    January 12, 2010

    And when you back from your well-earned break, check out Michael Neill’s blog which has lots of useful coaching techniques and anecdotes, many specifically addressing procrastination and writer’s block.



  18. #18 Kate in NY
    January 12, 2010

    Maybe after your well-earned and much-discussed break, you can make like Anthony Trollope and just set yourself a daily writing schedule – – – every day, at a certain time, you sit at your computer and plug away. When the appointed time is over, it’s truly over. Back to re-fencing, Great Pyrenees and goat sex. Maybe if you compartmentalize your time that way, it will allow you to focus more on the task at hand – because you know the other stuff will get done. Back in the olden days, I used to find that smoking really helped me to buckle down and write for hours . . . but I guess that’s not really an option anymore, is it? It helped counteract my peasant build, too. Ah, well . . .


  19. #19 Anna
    January 12, 2010

    I get exactly like this when I’ve got to write a grant proposal — it feels huge, so many people are depending on me, I think I’ll hate doing it, and there’s a deadline uncomfortably close because I put it off for so long (see reasons two and three.) So I put it on my planner every day for a week, and by the end of the week I’m so sick of seeing it there that I drop everything and start working on it. And I moan and complain for about an hour…and then I’m sucked into the writing and whip out half of it before supper time.

    Your style might be different, but I suspect if you shame yourself into starting it, you’ll remember what you love about it. Good luck!

  20. #20 Sharon Astyk
    January 12, 2010

    Sorry if I was misleading – I’m not just starting the book now – I’ve been working on it, I’m just not excited for the final push in which many things get done. But you are right, I need to be – it won’t be worth doing otherwise.

    Re:fruit trees – still got a little time – my favorite nurseries take my orders into early spring. We’re going to check out the dog this week.

    Thank you all!


  21. #21 Phil Plasma
    January 12, 2010

    My wife found a few years ago. It sounds like you are treating the writing of this book as you do housework. One idea flylady has about housework is to set a timer for 15 minutes and clean a room for only 15 minutes. Once the timer stops, you stop. Next day, do the same thing and eventually it will get done. For your book, maybe you need more than 15 minutes to get into it, but maybe not much more. Set a timer to say, “I will work on writing this book for 35 minutes”, then focus, get it done, when the timer goes off, you can either stop or continue if you are in a groove. Set the timer like this two or three times a day, spaced out through the day. Eventually you’ll get the book done.

  22. #22 casey
    January 12, 2010

    Hi Sharon, I know exactly how you are feeling. I’m an insurance underwriter, which is not the most exciting job. Most mornings getting motivated is tough. Who really wants to spend the best part of life or any given day in a cubicle? What I tell myself is that although this isnt my dream job, it does fuel and feed my dreams, and will eventually fuel my escape. Money is a necessary evil. So, I surround myself with pictures and phrases that will keep me grounded, and motivated, and keep my “eye on the prize.” Mind you, I am working diligently to downsize and save money and get to the point where I can eventually say goodbye to corporate life. You are a big part of that process; Thank you! I would much rather be tending my garden, chickens and spending time with my little boy, but I bought into the whole “good job” thing and made my bed a long time ago. I’m happy to say that I see the light at the end of the tunnel, and its a good thing too, since our collective future is a bit uncertain.
    I would suggest you get pictures of those sheep, goats and bees and post them in front of your computer. When you get frustrated and want to scrap the whole thing, look at those pictures, read a little about the language of bees, and then get back to your computer. It really works. Its a sort of adapting in place, pychologically, if you think about it. Grow where you are planted. I hope this helps! Take care!

  23. #23 Lisa Z
    January 12, 2010

    I don’t know that I can advise you on getting excited about writing book four, but I can tell you that I am currently ecstatic because I just went (again) to my library’s web page and found that they now have ALL THREE of your published books and I can finally read them! I’m not sure why they didn’t notify me that they got them in, because I thought I had put in requests for all of them earlier, but oh well. Here they are and I’m number two on the waiting list for all. Yay! I hope you will write the next one. The world needs your voice to keep on talkin’!

  24. #24 Caroline
    January 12, 2010


    Ho I cannot say how to motivate through drudge but I can say: please finish the book! I wanted to take your class and it did not happens. I would love to read about AIP from a woman with kids as I am one too. I know that you speak from your experience and good research and it make it attainable, not a dream life but a real can-have-it-too-life. I really enjoyed your last Indepedence Day and if I ever need to do with power and internet at least I will have your book on hand to refer and motivate me.

    Blessings to you and yours!


  25. #25 FarmerAmber
    January 12, 2010

    Much like others, I would suggest re-reading your success stories from the AIP classes you’ve taught over the last few years. If it helps – you’ve inspired us to turn our entire city lot into vegetables, have a year of staple foods on hand, be more dedicated about food preservation, and generally live a more simple life. More people need to be inspired by you to make these changes – take heart from your own success and go for it!

  26. #26 Susan in NJ
    January 12, 2010

    Things I’ve learned practicing law for many years — that you may already know:
    (1) Projects expand to fill available time. This is the most important observation. You probably don’t need more time . . . yet.
    (2) If you write a lot, you know in your heart of hearts exactly what you have to do to get the project done so don’t think about the pain of doing it, just chip away at it.
    (3) When you really really need it, the good fairy of extensions will come through for you, otherwise you will miraculously discover what can be sacrificed without harming the whole.
    (4) It really helps to have something to look forward to at the end of the project, not just what the project will pay for, but a treat of some kind even if it’s just a lazy sleep in weekend or a stiff something or other.
    (5) It also helps to identify that treat with a nice evocative piece of music and then play that music really loud when you need a motivator. I got through the last year of law school during which I had a lot of nonacademic responsibilities and then the bar exam by promising myself a trip to Australia when it was done (okay this is an example not a suggestion for what you should do) and whenever I was dragging I played “Southern Cross” loud, enough that some of my neighbors noticed.
    (6) If you are like me, you’ll have to let other stuff slide while finishing your project — let the little stuff slide first.
    (7) Until the final final push, give yourself permission to quit working for the day after a reasonable period of working because . . . (1) work expands to fill available time.
    Good luck. I read Independence Days over the winter holidays and really enjoyed it.

  27. #27 KC
    January 12, 2010

    How do you rev up to do something that you dread, or that just isn’t working for you?

    Here are a few suggestions:

    1.) Ask for Help. (spiritual or material) Spiritual Help often aids the material world in surprising ways. Remembering to ask for help – often. AND … be willing to accept whatever Help comes my way.

    2.) Regarding exhaustion (burn-out): Take care of those adrenal glands! Drink nettle tea or oatstraw tea. Take a short (5 min) break to lie down in constructive rest. This is very rejuvenating. Convince myself do this once or twice a day. It pays back many times over.
    Constructive rest: lie with your back on the floor and knees raised (pointing to ceiling) with feet flat on the floor. (it is important to use the floor and not something soft like a bed or couch). Place a thin book under your head as a pillow to help keep your spine straight. Place your palms gently on your lower ribs and allow your elbows to point away from you (towards the walls). Notice your breathing and allow your torso to lengthen & widen & sink into the floor. If you notice any tension – smile to the tension. You can even scan your body from head to toe while smiling at each body part. Now, when it is time to get up from the floor, try not to lose what has been gained. Slowly roll over onto the hands and knees. Get up carefully with attention to who you are in your body. Smile and enter the world with joy.

    This can be done just before sitting at the computer … or after being at the keyboard for a couple of hours. It is helpful to have something that reminds me to do this. It increases productivity!

    3.) Scheduling: Clarity about how to use time. Setting the intention: “I will accomplish this in a certain amount of time.” Being specific: defining the aim simply and clearly. Also scheduling some time for home and garden activities or things I love -(even if only 15 or 20 minutes). Then I can go outside and do one small thing well. ( I have found that when I put a time limit on what I want to accomplish, it is surprising what can be completed within a limited timeframe. Clarity and definition is key.)

    4.) Trade with someone that can do some work for me (garden work, bed prep, etc.). Someone (like an apprentice?) that can take direction well and does not need me to work beside them (much as I may wish to.)

    This is such good and important work. I wish you the best and am sending good thoughts to you daily. May my prayers travel to you and help with your labors!

  28. #28 Claire
    January 12, 2010

    I’m another one who suggests making sure you have a good long break scheduled *after* the completion of the book … but then my DH thinks I work too much and don’t play enough (he’s probably right). I’m generally a work first, play later person. Make sure you get the play later part scheduled … and I do mean real play, whatever that means to you.

    I don’t have any idea if 10 weeks is enough time or not, since I haven’t written a book. I’m guessing you’re pretty certain it is enough time, but not by much. If it were me, I’d decide how much time I needed to spend writing at a minimum that day, sit down first chance I got after finishing breakfast, and just get going on it. Once I start writing (even if I didn’t really *want* to write that day), I can keep at it for quite awhile. So I’d keep at it till time’s up. If I were still going great guns, I’d keep going till the flow slowed down. If I were stuck, I’d quit. Then I’d figure out how much time I needed to write at a minimum the next day and repeat … and repeat each day like that till done. For me, it works best to do the most important thing first and let all else wait. The next thing is to forgive myself for all the other important stuff I let slide, and realize either I’ll get to it eventually or it will, at some point, cease being so important.

    Do you find winter difficult normally? The lack of light, especially in a cloudy place like upstate New York, could be negatively affecting your mood overall, which then gets translated into the lack of enthusiasm for writing. You could try raising your intake of Vitamin D, essentially giving your body the nutrient it needs from sunlight. You could try a full-spectrum light shining on you while you compute. It would take more electricity for the latter; maybe you could see if you could reduce electricity use later in the spring or summer to compensate for the extra light in winter.

    I do hope you can find your way to better spirits about the book. Like the others, I’m looking forward to reading and using it. And I can point other people to it. It extends your reach well beyond what you can do through the courses you give, as important and helpful as the courses are.

  29. #29 Brad K.
    January 12, 2010

    Sharon, you seem to be focusing a lot on how you feel about writing. Does it help to consider instead only the page or chapter you are working on?

  30. #30 Kirstie
    January 12, 2010

    Since I stayed up way too late reading each of your other 3 books when they came out, I’m SO looking forward to this new one. Your last one shipped earlier from Amazon than they thought – so if this one is a tiny bit later, we’ll survive! 🙂

    Maybe your outline is done, but here are some things I’d love to see covered:

    1. Community issues – this seems to be a challenge of yours & I know it’s one of mine too. Should I move where there are more “like minded” folks, or work to build the community I seek where I am. Probably true for a lot of us, so what do we do to make our communities the ones we want to live in when times are good AND times are challenging. The “Build it and they will come” mentality can be hard to adopt when you feel like there isn’t a lot of time. Maybe some suggestions (case studies?) of things small groups of people have done and info on how to do it – starting a buying club, organizing a babysitting co-op, bartering suggestions, hosting harvest a party, etc.

    2. Locating resources – if you had $1000 to spend (on H2O supply, gardening supplies, cooking tools, whatever the topic…), these would be great. If you had $500 to spend, this might be a better option. If you have $100… I think you did a post (or chapter in a book?) somewhat like this.

    3. Parenting issues – dealing with that “foot in 2 worlds” scenario that many of us live in. I’m still a “soccer mom”, but I also need to weed & can tomatoes, and feed the chickens. You’ve written about some of these challenges before with your kids activities – or ways you’ve resolved putting limits on sports for example. Also, realistic solutions for doing things like tilling a large garden with a 2-year old to keep track of.

    4. Love the idea of the “case studies.” Please make one a single, working parent.

  31. #31 Clever Cuscus
    January 13, 2010

    I know the feeling! I finished my PhD in the same six months where I started a new high level job, moved house and came to the end of a difficult relationship. I had absolutely *no* motivation, but I did it anyway. It involved coming home from work – usually arriving after 7pm, eating dinner (yet another portion of stir-fried chicken) and sitting on my bed with my laptop and doing yet another four hours.

    The way I did it was to have a list of what I needed to do broken down into very small tasks, so that I could tick them off. I also worked on a one hour on, fifteen minutes off’ routine, using the 15 minutes breaks to do other chores. It’s amazing how exciting washing up can get when it constitutes a break. The last 15 minutes of the day was always free time. I set a timer for each hour and then turned it away so I couldn’t see it. I reckon some of those hours lasted weeks, but some went pretty quickly. The first was always the hardest.

    Probably the best motivator I did was to appeal to my inner-six-year old. For every hour of thesis work I did, I put a gold star on my calendar. Dumb, but effective. It also served to show me in a tangible form just how much work I’d done. And the other thing I did was to promise myself a holiday at the end – setting aside time to do whatever I wanted – which turned out to be pretty close to absolutely nothing.

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