I hope you have all enjoyed your spring breaks, or are enjoying them right now. I’m lucky enough to have a long weekend here on campus, which I am spending by catching up/getting ahead, sleeping, going to all of the church (The Triduum. Catholics know what’s up.), and watching Game of Thrones.
The week after the half-marathon, I submitted a complete (ish) draft of my thesis! It’s complete-ish because it was just a draft and there’s a good deal of new stuff I’ll be incorporating in revisions. My subject is the role and impact of theater education in Chilean schools. I found a way to combine everything I study into one! Ha ha! It’s much better this way. Trust me. Theses are work, and the people who didn’t actually like their topics sounded miserable at the end of it. I, on the other hand, still really enjoy what I’m working on.
So. For those of you who may be venturing into thesis projects in the future, here is how I did it:
1) Again, write on something in which you are genuinely interested. A thesis should be hard, but the good kind of hard. The kind of project you’d describe as a challenge and not as a pain in the butt. A boring or unenjoyable thesis topic will make it that much harder to get it done. The topic that you love will still have its obstacles, but you’ll be much more motivated to get through them because you actually care about the work you’re doing.
2) Chip away at it. I frequently used a timer while I was writing. I would set it for half an hour, and for that half hour I could not check email, Facebook, Instagram, or do anything else except change the song that was playing. You’d be surprised how much you can get written or edited in that amount of time! You maybe only need a half hour to an hour every day to work if you start early and are prepared enough. Working in those short bursts of time, I’ve found, is much better mentally and creatively than attempting to turn out large quantities of writing over a period of hours and hours.
3) Start early. If you’re like me, sometimes you need a little deadline pressure to keep you focused and motivated. That doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea for me to start at the last minute. I was very lucky to have a supportive advisor who requested meetings almost every week, and who made me submit chapter drafts every other week. This kept me on track, and made the looming complete draft deadline much less scary.
4) Get a buddy. Do you have a friend or classmate who is working on a similar topic? Or even just a thesis? Make library dates and go with them. You may find that you’re more focused if someone is sitting right there next to you writing and writing, and you’ll be less likely to spend half an hour on BuzzFeed quizzes. You’ll be able to talk out your problems together, or at the very least joke about chapter titles, share yummy snacks, and take those quizzes together.
5) Sleep and exercise as much as you can. Maybe for you, that means you’ll invest in nap time, or you’ll take brief walks. One of our professors said she started her yoga practice while she was writing her dissertation. I trained for a half-marathon. Exercise is so crucial to relieving stress and to clearing your mind. It’s also great for the creative process. You let your mind wander and you never know what kinds of solutions you’ll come up with! Getting enough sleep should be obvious. You have to give your brain and body time to reset, and there is no substitute or equivalent for sleep. No, coffee does not really count. If only.
6) When you’re done with a draft, you’re done. Let it be done until it’s time for revisions. You will have better insights if you give yourself a decent amount of time before you dive right back into it. You know how you can stare at a picture for a very long time and after a certain point you don’t even know what you’re looking at anymore? Writing is the same way. Let it go. (And watch some YouTube videos or something.)
Right now I’m between number 6 and what will be number 7, making revisions. When I figure out that whole process- which will have to happen in a much shorter period of time than I had to write the whole thing- you’ll hear from me.
The day that I submitted my thesis draft, my mom arrived for my dorm’s Mother-Daughter Weekend! It was lovely. There was wine and tapas.
And then there were nachos.
Oh, and there was brunch.
And now here we are and it’s exactly one month until my graduation. I’m gonna let that be, but all I will say is that I had an interview for what would be a pretty great job in Chicago last weekend, and I really really want this to work out (seriously, kids. Ask my friends and family how badly I want this job.), so I would appreciate all of your good vibes, prayers, and love. Please and thank you!
Special thanks go to my friends C. and E., who without even blinking fixed their schedules to hang out with me in Chicago before and after the interview. Your support means the world to me! It also kept me from getting lost on public transportation in a city I don’t know. So yeah, I owe you.
Goodness gracious. So more than 1100 words later, I will leave you with this YouTube video (which should lead you to her two other equally fantastic talks), which has stuck in my brain recently.