Dear John,

It has been one week I didn’t write to you because I shifted to write my writing diary after reading Dr. Goodson’s writing book. I thought my writing would move faster with a new practice schedule. In reality, it is not as easy as my thought. The truth is that writing is the most difficult work to me. Anyway, I won’t give up because writing is to survive, especially, during this part of my life.

Another truth is that I am a human, not a robot.I can set up a detailed writing schedule and strictly stick to it. However, my body and mind haven’t allowed me to treat them like a machine. It means you work with an installed routine, finish this work just a particular amount of time and subsequently move to another work. After one week, my mind gets bored and empty. I ask myself what is going on to me. Is there anything wrong? Now, I know how stupid I am.

I intentionally wake up late this morning to change my routine. I want to see everything in a new way, and it is hoped to help my writing a little bit. Thinking of my thesis, it is scary to me as usual.Merely concentrating on my work at this moment is better than thinking too much about future. Although my writing is not smooth as I want, I always motivate myself in different ways. My writer’s block will disappear soon when I think positively.

I also found that good book will inspire you a lot. It is better to read slowly and critically if you want to improve yourself from your reading. A useful example in the book might be not relevant to you most of the time. But who know? You have to try, learning by trial and error is an accepted method in education.Thought it might take a long time to learn new lessons with that traditional method, you create new self-knowledge which is efficient to your circumstance. So, don’t be afraid to go slowly, staying still for a long time is scarier.

When I got stuck with something, I usually look for some readings to inspire me. Zen-habits is one of my most inspired reading sources. He suggests something you should do when you procrastinate. This status easily happened when you do a difficult job, and Your mind becomes weak and tired faster due to your uncertainty and comfort. It automatically looks for easier tasks to relax, this leads to unproductivity. The same problem is here. I feel concentrate and productivity when I write this blog, but academic writing is a different story to me. I have to take care of academic vocabulary, grammar, coherence, cohesion, citation,…A ton of work needs to consider at the same, it blows my mind.

Here are Zen- habits’ suggestions to improve your productivity:

  1. Take a step back.  Step away from the computer, and go outside, go for a walk, take a shower, meditate, or just sit doing nothing for one minute.  Step back and think about what you should be doing right now, rather than what’s easiest and most tempting.
  2. Remember who you’re doing this for. As you step back, think about the person who will benefit from you doing this important task. Is it a co-worker, client, customer, loved one? Is it you? How will it make their life better? 
  3. Let yourself dive into the discomfort. Clear away distractions, just have what you need to do this one task, and allow yourself to be uncomfortable for a few minutes. 
  4. Embrace the uncertainty. Instead of looking at uncertainty as a bad thing, embrace it and see if you can get good at exploring it. Like discomfort, dive in and relax into it.
  5. Do it in little bits.  Work on the task for just a few minutes, then walk around and take a break. Then sit down and focus again, relaxing into the discomfort and uncertainty. 

Ok, Let’s do it, John. I already did the number 3, 4. Snapping out my uncertainty and discomfort by writing to you always helps me a lot.

Have a beautiful day John.





Reading: Writing without teachers -Peter Elboe

Dear John,

Last weekend I started practicing free writing which I read in a book of Peter Elbow “Writing without teachers.” I took this book by chance on a library’s bookshelf. Because I didn’t have attention to look for this book, I just found it while looking for my intended book. I have read about this book title in one Ph.D. self-help book. Therefore, this title caught my eyes while I passed by the bookshelf.

It is a small and handy book, so I don’t bring it to my lab, so every night I can read it at bedding time. I have read it for three nights, and Peter Elbow was successful in convincing me to join in his free writing.  I got the same writing problem like his experience,  spent the whole day for only one paragraph, but in the end, I don’t understand what I want to say. Wasting too much time to produce a proper sentence or looking up appropriate vocabulary doesn’t improve my writing coherence much. I need to change my writing method. And I was so  I wrote up three pages just for several hours. I can’t even dream about this number before. Also, the most important thing is this helps me to release the tension of slow writing. Several months ago, I got stress with my slow writing when my deadline was coming up. I want to push myself up, but all of my ideas was gone, I was frustrated. I lose my concentration quickly. I was angry with myself. I am tired.

Luckily,  I could write three pages within several hours. I can’t even dream about this number before. In addition, the most important thing is this helps me to release the tension of slow writing. Several months ago, I got stress with my slow writing when my deadline was coming up. I want to push myself up, but all of my ideas was gone, I was frustrated. I lose my concentration quickly. I was angry with myself. I am tired.

Luckily,  I wrote up three pages just in several hours. I can’t even dream about this number before. In addition, the most important thing is this writing method helps me to release the tension of slow writing. I used to be frustrated with my slow writing when my deadline was coming up. I wanted to push myself up by sticking to my laptop continuously for three days. Finally, my plan didn’t work out, and I suffered terrible back pain. That means my current method was ineffective. Looking for a new writing method is a must right now.

Apart from that, I also found a life lesson beside a new writing process while reading this book. You have to learn the art of letting go. If you care too much about your mistakes and weakness, you can’t move on. They just slow you down and lose your confidence. Of course, in order to improve yourself, learning from your mistakes is needed. But being anxiety and frustrated is not a good idea. Learn how to relax is a critical condition to perform your work well. Now, I realize why the little girl finished her thesis on time. The reason is that she just translated her Vietnamese thought. She didn’t care about all elements of writing while she wrote them down. Even there were a lot of mistakes in her first draft, it was still ok. Later, her superior edited her writing. The lesson is I should not care too much about my writing at the same time I need to clarify my ideas. I made me comfortable to express my thinking, later you and professional editor will do the role of editor for your writing.

Another lesson I learned during my reading a book section about Bloom’s mastery learning. One of the misunderstandings about Bloom’s theory among secondary school teachers is time-consuming, late curriculum coverage. Bloom argued that mastery learning will slow the teaching pace at the early stage because teachers spend more time to find students’ errors and correct them. But after that, their progress will be faster than those in ordinary classes when students are familiar with the techniques.

From this ideas, I believe that a current slow pace will change when I master the effective writing skills, and complete my writing at a faster pace and improving quality. It is also a good point to persuade teachers to apply formative assessment or new teaching methods in Vietnam. Time-consuming is one of their most concerns.

I feel full of inspiration now John. Have a nice day.



Writing well

Dear John,

Today I learn one interesting thing relating requirements to nominate a good thesis in my school. I have known four students who got the best thesis award in last year and two got nominations for the best thesis this year. By observing their background, I found one common factor among them is their good English. Three of them are from TESOL major and one uses English as her second language. That means writing well helps your readers understand you and get more interest in your research. That is a crucial feature to have a good thesis. Apart from that, they also conducted good studies.

Compared to other students who are not in TESOL major, they have good knowledge on their specific major like TESOL students. But their weakness is language which results in more difficulties in  expressing their ideas clearly.  Therefore, they struggled and get depression during their writing process. To help them release their stresses, they usually criticize others for asking them to rewrite their drafts many times. I am experiencing my writing difficulties at this moment, this helps me more empathize with them. But I think that blaming others for your weakness can’t help you improve yourself. Let’s accept your mistake and learn from it.

Once I confessed to Mairo – one of my colleagues in Ph.D room that I am so stupid, she said you are not stupid, your only problem is poor English.  So, how can I enhance my writing skill?

  1. From yourself: Practice, practice and practice.
  2. From others: Ask for help from every source you can reach out.
  3. After all, coming back to yourself and ask yourself what help you improve most.
  4. Last but not least, be patient and focus on your practicing and all is coming.

Have a nice day John




Lessons from my reading

Dear John,

I have stopped my writing for a while to concentrate on my reading about academic writing. I found two interesting books which open my eye much more about writing skill

  1. Mike Wallace and Alison Wray (2011), Critical reading and writing for postgraduates, Sage Publication
  2. Douglas Flemons (2014) , Writing between the lines: Composition in the Social Sciences, e-version.

I am struggling with my writing. Even I have tried to connect with my readers in my writing, I still fail. I know I got problems somewhere. By reading these books, they help me to locate which part I am doing in a wrong way. I can’t keep my writing in this way with the hope that the more I write the better my writing is. Knowing how to do a right thing is more important than doing a lot without quality awareness.

I don’t think my writing will improve right after reading these books. But at least I know what is the right way to fix my problems and practising with a good coach might promise me to have a better result. Ok, just do it and let’s see.

Hae a nice day John


Writing is not easy

Dear John,

After finishing writing one section, I need to read the writing guideline again. Although I had tried hard to follow this, my current writing didn’t reach to the desired level. My supervisor told me not try too hard because he knew it takes a lot of time to practice. Now I understand and always remind me to be brave and be eager to rewrite several times. I am learning from my mistakes. Each time I look back my writing, there is many things to revise. So at this moment, don’t worry too much and keep writing. My writing can’t be perfect just in one month, one semester or one year, just write and rewrite. When you feel tired, just stop, take a rest and write again.

Be patient dear

Move on a new Chapter

Dear John,

Yesterday I finished the new chapter outline; I feel happy as I can finish it in one day. It seems like what I have worked for one and a half year is now repaying me. My supervisor asked me whether I can finish the new Chapter in two weeks, I can’t answer the time for sure, but I will try my best. Now I can feel that everything is there, just organise it in right order. My supervisor reminds me to pay attention to the coherence between sentences and paragraphs. I have tried to do like that, but my writing is still not going up at that level. I am aware of it, but I have a long way to improving my skills.

Ok, keep working every day and enjoy it.

2 days-PLS 3.0 Workshop

Dear John,

Last two days, I attended PLS workshop of one of top professor in my university. It was such a great workshop. I learn not only about PLS, but also some good lessons to be a great researcher:

  • Lifelong learning: learning everyday
  • Not be afraid of making mistakes
  • Spend money for knowledge, for great people, not for things
  • Sharing ideas and cooperating to more success.
  • Work smart not too hard.

Today lesson: It doesn’t matter how much time you spend time in your PhD journey, it’s about how you spend your time.

  • PhD core works
  • Professional works
  • Net-workin

All these things will help you to build up your skills and person cultural research.

Have a nice day John


Comparing to others


Dear John,

I understand that comparing to others doesn’t bring any benefits to me. It just destroys my confidence and self-esteem. But sometimes this thought still sparkles in my mind when I know others’ achievements or success by chance. I am aware of that I have a long way to improve myself in academic world. It is better to compare with my  own improvement through out the time.

I should practice to praise people rather than to be jealous with them or comparing myself with them. Work hard and study everyday and I will be fine.

I have read a useful post from Dr. Susan Carter (Doctoral Writing SIG). This is what I need and study everyday to obtain these requirements in my thesis.


“Question, literature, methods and findings must be linked not just in the mind of the author but in clear explicit sentences so that a reader can quickly see connections. An audit before submission could include a check of the following:

  • The description of the background fits what the study actually found—rewrite if things have shifted and the background now required is slightly different;
  • The research question captures the essence of what the study actually finds—if it doesn’t, it should be rewritten so that it does;
  • The methods section relates to the research question—sentences are needed to explain how;
  • Method choices are supported by literature on methods;
  • Any method discussed and not used has a sentence explaining why it is discussed at all—if there is no reason, it should be removed;
  • Theories discussed in the literature review are applied in the discussion;
  • Findings are compared with findings from literature—explain the difference and the possible reasons in sentences; and,
  • The overall balance of literature, methodology, findings and discussion is appropriate (e.g., about the right % of the thesis is devoted to literature review, methodology etc. for the discipline)”

My writing

Dear John,

I have stopped writing this blog for two days in order to concentrate on writing my proposal whenever I reach the lap. But I didn’t success, nothing moved on after the first paragraph. Something happened to me? Writing block? Or I am extremely perfectionist? This unproductive status made stress and headache. I am worried that I can’t finish my thesis on time. I have suffered this stressed several months ago, and now it is going to happen again.

I really don’t like myself at this time and want to do something to stop it immediately. But talking is easier than doing. Today I come back writing this blog to get over my writing block. I have some writing advises in internet, there are several ways to make it, such as prewriting meditation, yoga, and free writing. I also installed Trello to organize my work to improve my productivity and get better sleep also.

There is another reason I can’t write fast because of my poor English. When I write down my ideas, it took me more time to choose good words and suitable structures to express my ideas concisely. I am aware of the coherence of writing, however, practicing is really tough for me to fulfill all these criterion. Anyway, I have installed two new apps on my phone as Memrise and Elsa speaking to improve my language skills. I remind myself to keen on practicing these everyday.

I can do it, just like I do with swimming skill. Keep going and don’t give up.