a few thesis notes

pexels-photo-414691.jpegA 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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?
  7. Do it. On that note, I’m off.

 

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