A confession: This blog post is a stall tactic, written during my thesis hours at a small table in the corner of a coffee shop. A friend, also a writer yet a far more disciplined one, just sent me his notes on a piece I’d convinced myself was finished. I read through his critique, thought dammit, he’s right, and hopped onto WordPress to explore potential design changes (see: the new banner photo, just added).
I also noticed that I’ve gained a few followers in the past week–not a clue as to why–and so I felt I owed those new friends a hello.
My plan: To finish this post and to get back to editing a story I’m both proud of and tired of looking at. Sometimes the thrill of accomplishing a small goal gives me the momentum to roll into a larger task.
So, some notes on thesis hours: I’m not sure there’s a right or wrong way to do it, but I’ve found a few things to be necessary for me. Here they are.
- Leave home. My apartment is always moderately clean, yet when I’m mulling over the phrasing of a sentence for what feels like eons, I suddenly notice the shoes that escaped the shoe basket, the half-load of laundry that could be done, the bag of frozen peanut butter cups that I need to eat. Get away so that you don’t have a choice but to sit on your computer.
- Have a plan. I usually sit down with a goal in mind: edit this story from last spring’s workshop; get a few pages of that new second-person narrative drafted out. Today, I didn’t have a plan. See: this blog’s opening sentence.
- Make your plan attainable. By the end of these three years, I’ll have a 60,000-word thesis (Lord willing). If I sat down thinking about that, though, not a thing would get done. I’d stare at my notebook and wonder who I should ask to be on my thesis committee, what I should wear to my defense, how heavy the manuscript will be when printed.
- Find a way to hold yourself accountable. For some, this means writing out a strict schedule and sticking to it. For me, this means sending my story to trusted readers, as well as meeting every few weeks with my adviser. I’m extrinsically-motivated, and that’s important to recognize.
- Allow yourself to go off-track. I just finished a story that might be one of my strongest pieces, and it has nothing to do with the linked set I’d planned for my thesis. The great thing about choosing a linked short story set as my thesis is that I’m able to go off-track–after all, any story I write will be linked by author, if nothing else. Still, even if I were working on a novel, I think an occasional tangential trip would keep the juices flowing.
- Get the heck off social media. I’ve avoided Facebook the past few months with this in mind; I found that mindlessly scrolling fogged my brain to a crippling degree. How is creativity possible when the news feed assuages me with advertisements, stories, videos that have been specifically chosen based upon my interests?
- Do it. On that note, I’m off.