The Hacked Role of Idea Mason’s “Material” and “Reminder” Items in My Workflow (and a Shout-out to Google Chrome’s MindMup)


For my next post, I’m going to share how I do  a technique I came up with which I all S.M.A.R.T. pomodoro tomatoes (the word “S.M.A.R.T.” in that sentence takes you to one link, and the word “pomodoro” takes you to another link). This technique I’ve come up with is for fostering writing affinity, or developing what Bolker calls writing addiction.

For now, I’m inspired to post about how I’m writing right now. I’m methodical so it’s not super fast for me, but it’s going just fine. I am looking forward to speeding up with all this in the future simply as a by-product from having more experience. I will likely always take a fair amount of time. I write just like Monica Lee says she writes (I feel SO affirmed) in her chapter “Finding Voice: Appreciating Audience” (see Rocco, T. S., & Hatcher, T. (2011). The handbook of scholarly writing and publishing. John Wiley & Sons).

Overall I’m a happy camper. I’ve grown and learned much beyond where I began. I can write and actually understand that I can. Good deal. 🙂

The Reason for the Post: Sharing Three Critical Resources That Have Come to Be THE Difference-Makers for Enabling Me to Write

I was writing today using my resources and realized: “Where would I be without THESE?!??” I mean, nothing’s really a necessity, and even if I only had a typewriter, I’d be pecking away! LOL! But, I do need to document these resources for my future self.

I share about them below.

Of course, your mileage may vary. Especially regarding the last resource, which works wondrously awesomely for me because I can only get out drafts by turning not-so-great drafts into better drafts pretty methodically and visually.

Two of the three resources below I found on my own. One I discovered at Two are pretty normal. One is not-so-normal, and I have completely hacked it!  It’s also slightly quirky, but pays me back over and over for any and all quirks.  Feel free to post a question in the comments or email me if you are testing it out and have questions about how I get the most out of it.

This tool is all about facilitating good WRITING. It is not for final publishing, IMHO (too many little formatting issues and not the best citation method for ME, but other “fans” don’t complain of these). Depending on what you write in your various “text containers,” you can send sentences, paragraphs, sections, chapters, etc. ONE AT A TIME or the whole draft to an open MS Word file. Then you can format (e.g. change straight quotes to curly quotes with a find all and replace all –ugh!) and do dynamic citation via, say, the Citavi Add-in if added to MS Word (that way the reference list gets built automatically). That’s what I do. If you want to try it but are on a Mac, you could but would need to run something like Windows Parallel.

Resource #1: The Single Method of Note-taking and Writing for a Dissertation as detailed here. PRICELESS! I would not finish without it. Many at PhinisheD benefit from it. If you read the reviews . . .

Resource #2: The Handbook of Scholarly Writing and Publishing. Wow. Can’t say anything more because I wouldn’t even know where to begin. (And that’s saying a lot! )

Resource #3 (see image and videos below) is my life saver. Despite the straight quotes thing.  (And dashes. That’s the last thing: Why don’t long DASHES export to MS Word? ). But genuinely, it would take me hours to explain all that it permits for me because of the way I use it.

If it didn’t exist, I’d still finish. But I write 1,012% better with this resource than in Scrivener or MS Word because of what writing is like for me and how writing works and goes for me.

The main, MAIN thing is that this resource allows me to very SEAMLESSLY blend the Single Method of academic reading, note-taking, and writing; the advice in the Carlis “one-draft dissertation” document (ignore the title if you like because beyond it all of the advice therein is just so illuminating for newbies); and Dr. Murray’s snack-writing method as I discussed elsewhere at this blog (feel free to use the search box to learn about it).

Below are a picture and links to videos I made (old videos, now, that don’t show my now-learned hacks but still explain the resource).

Note: The red arrow in the picture points to a tool you have called “Reminders.” Of course I’ve completely hacked and repurposed this tool. 🙂 It’s resizable, it floats with you wherever you go on your computer or the Internet, etc, and you can give it a title. You can open up multiple ones, drag and drop them onto your outliner in the program.

I write my paragraph’s or section’s Focus Statement in one, and let it hover over my drafting as I draft. You can paste and resize images in it (and that is a hack move so it takes a special move to do). Then you can hover the image over your draft as you write about it. One time I opened up two “Reminders” (I call them “sticky notes”), sized them both to half the size of my computer screen, placed them side by side, and placed draft #1 inside one and draft #2 inside the other and compared . . . copying and pasting, transferring headings . . . numbering sentences and paragraphs in order to ORDER things . . . comparing the before-and-after of how the draft read after moving one paragraph . . . etc.

Creating a reverse outline of a draft is super easy: Open a new file, paste your composition in a “text container.” View it. And start building the outliner, which sits to the left of all drafts. Unlike in Scrivener (which is great, too), adding an item to the outline doesn’t necessitate creation of a new, placeholder text file. You can make it so if you want to per outline component or not. You choose PER outline item.

I explain more in the caption to the image below.

NOTE: To enlarge the image for better viewing, please click the image. It will open in a new browser tab.

I set my writing containers to display three windows side-by-side. First I create the writing PLAN in window #2. Then I think about what to cite and what tables, figures, and appendices to use to support parts of the writing I've planned. Finally, I draft in window #1. You can click and send the main text window to MS Word.

NOTE: I’ve totally repurposed “Materials” in Idea Mason. In Idea Mason, you can create different “Materials” (for building draft content) and configure them however you like. I decided to take a blank container type, call its type “(sub)section,” and save the configuration of it to display three windows side-by-side. Every time I create a new (sub)section type of material, it opens up with this layout. Meaning, the comment and footnote are tabbed documents drug to the top. I don’t use these windows for comments or footnotes. Not at all. 🙂 To do good writing with this setup: First I create the writing PLAN in the middle window. Next I think about who to cite to support my intended writing and what tables, figures, and appendices to use to support the parts of the writing I’ve planned. I type that up in the right-most window. Finally, I draft in the left-most window, copying quotes and paraphrases from Citavi because the citation info comes along. Of course I draft referring constantly to the middle and last windows. You can click and send to MS Word whatever you like (the content of each of the windows, one window, or two of the windows).

Here is a link to a post containing my series of short videos about the tool: http://theblossomingfledglingresearc…tware-program/

NOTE: Video #5 (3 minutes in length) is no longer an issue. The developers responded immediately and remedied it. They are very responsive.

You can check out reviews here and otherwise learn more at other pages of its website.

Other actions in my workflow include mind mapping in Google’s MindMup because it’s kind of fun. (I create a child node first to anchor/build everything off of because it then “organizes” better, and then mind map AWAY!) You can drag the canvas, open and close nodes for clarity, export to FreeMind (*.mm), which I do and open in Docear so I can toggle back and forth between the concept map, branching layout and the vertical outline format. You can export your MindMup to a vertical hierarchical format (MS Word, HTML, etc.). NOTE: You can drag the canvas in Docear, too, highlight nodes to size their width, open and close nodes to put away details, etc. You can export both the MindMup or the Docear mind map to Ms Word. (NOTE: The Docear mind map in MS Word opens in Web Layout View so you have to select Print Layout view to “get back to normal.”)

So what are your favorite strategies and what tools enable them? I’d love to hear your experiences. Learning how you write and why and finding ways to do it well are victories indeed. 🙂

As always, take care, and happy writing! 

Letter for a Dissertating Friend Who Said S/he’d Really Hit a Low Point


I hope this post finds you well!

The other day I sent a note of encouragement to a fellow graduate student who expressed that he or she had “really hit a low point.” He or she shared that there were just several issues that hit all at once.

This was my reply (I made a few edits so that it can be understood apart from the contents of the graduate student’s original post/note). I share here just in case it might encourage someone, inform someone, or inspire someone to create a note or have a conversation to support a fellow graduate student.

As always, blessings!


Hi! Many hugs. 

Is it possible to just take a breather-day of self-care? In K-12 teaching, we call this a personal health day. 

I am glad your health crisis is over and you’ve healed.

Are you 100% in charge of [major, not-dissertation-related, family-related task]? If so, is there anyone who could pitch in and help? Do you belong to a community or church that might help?

I am sorry to hear of the challenges in your relationship with your partner right now.

Is there a library, coffee house, park, and bookstore where you can go, declare that it is your space for working in peace, and make a work sanctuary of sorts? Perhaps you can find a variety of these, take your headphones, take a thermos of your most delicious and soothing tea, play soothing instrumental music softly, and allow yourself to run a peaceful, non-pressurized reading or writing routine while there. It’s the space where no on gets to psychologically hitch a ride along (not partner, not scary-to-write-for-instructor, not the phony police–no one).

I am sorry you have more courses than normal. 

Might it give you peace to map out everything you must read and write and submit . . . on, say, a reverse calendar? That way you can visually see it for what it is and make decisions, such as “this reading will get 70% concentration, this will get 50% effort, this will get full effort,” etc.

A simple gantt chart can function like a reverse calendar. There are tons of resources out there for making a gantt chart. I use Liquid Planner, but it has a small learning curve. I’ve heard good things about Comindwork and TomsPlanner, but haven’t used either. You may not be into such reverse calendars or software. 

I am sorry that your one instructor is scary to write for.

Would it help to think of yourself as writing for some other specific, reasonable person? Perhaps you just say to yourself, “Scary-prof-to-write-for perhaps won’t be satisfied. That’s her issue. Let me write the piece with Scary-prof-to-write-for’s requirements, but that _____ would appreciate.” To burn into your brain that you are not subject to Scary Prof’s anxiety-inducing nature, you could write the name (or grab a photo of replacement audience person from the web, print it, and tape it) to the front of the manila folder where you collect your notes, drafts, stickies, etc. for the paper. It’s hard to remember otherwise!

Here are some writing refresher sources, to perhaps help drive the phony police (imposter phenomenon) back:
Writing a Literature Review and Using a Synthesis Matrix

There’s a PhinisheD thread or two that you might find particularly useful and inspiring:….ndset+sabotage and…n+once+for+all. You might check out books such as “Writing Your Dissertation in 15 Minutes a Day” by Bolker or “Writing for Professors” by Boice or “Demystifying Dissertation Writing” by Single. These help with the process, psychology, and emotion of writing.

PhinisheD members have shared tips over the years with me. A few about how to establish a peaceful AND effective writing routine have stuck with me:

  • At the end of each writing session, leave a note for yourself about what you just finished, what you are doing, and where you can start the next time you start back up
  • At the beginning of each writing session, give yourself a tomato (25 minutes) just to re-acclimate: Perhaps skim notes, flip through articles, simply open files, make tea, stretch, write a journal entry about how you’re thinking about your writing project, review your writing plan, dictate into a recorder how you’re thinking, etc. Ease in!
  • Be tolerant of iterative writing: That is, in the beginning just type from an outline a series of g’nuff (i.e., good enough) paragraphs. After you’ve set it aside for a day, return to it and make it better. But do not refrain from getting stuff down. If it helps, at first think of it as simply speaking on paper. Hone over time. But at least give yourself the chance to do so by typing early versions. Writing is thinking. Then we hone for the reader. 

Last thing I’ll share is how I’ve come to find my academic voice: http://theblossomingfledglingresearc…thorial-voice/

Wishing you self-patience, baby-stepping, and phony-police-defeating powers and vibes!

[Revising Strategy] Two ways to reverse outline and revise


When revising a draft, sometimes it helps to make a reverse outline: To take your draft and generate an outline of what it says. Then you can look at the outline to see if it flows. You may be able to detect where a point is missing or out of order, or where a point needs to be added.

Two Strategies

1. There’s this free program called Docear that allows you to make an outline with a mind mapping tool. Then you can toggle back-and-forth between an outline view and a concept map view. For some reason, that has made a difference for me. And you can develop a point into a rough draft paragraph by creating the paragraph as the CHILD node of the point’s node. The nice thing is you can hide or display child nodes so that paragraphs show or don’t.

Aside: The Thesis Whisper Blackline Masters can help you with developing points into paragraphs. Also, Dr. Carlis’s one-draft dissertation document can help you with (more) purposeful outlining and the ins-and-outs of paragraph-sequencing.

Once when I was stuck, I inched along like that.

2. HERE’S A PERHAPS FASTER STRATEGY: You can save your draft as a PDF, and then open it up in Adobe. To reverse outline, use the “comments” feature. Same thing to add points and paragraphs: Use the “comments” and annotation features. In the latest version of Adobe, you can even add audio notes. But . . . be careful: You don’t want to record very long notes that it takes a whole bunch of time to go back and hear!

This might go without saying, but if you already have a method that’s working for you, don’t waste the time on the Docear or the Adobe strategy. Keep what’s working for you!

What about you? Do you benefit much from reverse outlining? Do you have another way of doing so, or a completely different method of revising that you feel is effective? We’d love to hear from you! Take care!