Sunday, June 13, 2010

Terrors, Tricks, Tiaras and Tourettes: Writing Your Thesis Without Losing Your Mind.

Ugggggggggggghhh. Honestly. Whose idea was this? I know that everyone says that fourth year is the worst experience of their lives, but this is getting ridiculous. It's not the worst experience of my life, but its a complete nightmare. Working away today, a lovely chick I've not seen in years came up and we chatted about what we were doing at uni on a Saturday. She had just finished her last exam, I was writing. She said that she had decided she wanted to do Honours in art history and asked for my advice. I felt like bursting into tears and told her so. She packed me up and took me off for coffee and a natter which was completley restorative and hysterical and I realised, yet again, that you have two choices in life: cry about it or laugh about it. So here are a few insights into thesis writing; stuff they really should tell you if only they would admit to it.

1. It's completely normal to have numerous existential crises while writing your thesis. Cause, lets face it, unless its published (or you happen to be writing a cure for cancer) its unlikely that many people will read what you're literally waking screaming over. This raises logical questions: Why am I doing it then? Why did I ever think this would be a robustly challenging thing to do? Where's the drinks cart?? Like I said, this is normal and wont subside until you finish the beast and hand it in.

2. Its also been my experience that strange things possess thesis writers. One friend of mine decided it was imperative that the enormous tree in her yard be chopped down in the final stages of her work, and so she took to it with an axe. Another spent hours on end constructing an elaborate chook pen and subsequently spent an inordinate amount of time, literally in a cage with chooks (the metaphores are never-ending). Also common is to gather in groups and discuss how drunk one will get the minute it is over. Plans are often made to submit it from the uni pub by way of courier, and I've encountered more than one fourth year student sat up in the computer dock in the library at all hours desperately swigging from a hip flask and muttering. And no, in this instance I was not one of them.

3. Your relationship with your supervisor is going to be bizarre. Get used to it. You will come to rely on them as one does their endorphins, and this makes for weird situations: if your supervisor hates it, your endorphin supply is switched off, if they like it, you go back on. You will alternately love them, fear them, want to lock them in the toilets, want to read their mind, want to give them a stiff drink before letting them read what you've written, want to give them a stiff drink after they've read what you've written... the bloody list goes on. My supervisor has tried so hard with me thus far that I really owe her, though I think me removing myself from her life within 7 weeks is the best thing I can do for her.

4. Formal language sucks. I exponentially suck at it. You aren't allowed to describe things using the term "beautiful", which, in my mind, defeats the flipping purpose somewhat. Also frowned upon is using your thesis to voice extremist sympathies/ your over-familiarity with Freud or substance abuse or to intone that you find academics pompous and institutionalized folk who wouldnt know their Vogue from their Bazaar. You should re-word anything that suggests that your markers should be honoured just to look at the images you are talking about, because guess what?...just because you're obsessed with something doesnt mean anyone else is.

5. Try to remember to delete any profanities/ insane notes to yourself/ question marks or invocations to the saints from your text prior to giving it to someone to read. You can do without the awkward explanations after. Example: "Ri... I'm a bit confused by this paragraph - I thought you started by talking about the status of the image within the museum and then there seems to be a Hail Mary???"

6. Wearing all your favourite things at once is the only comfort you're going to get so I say, do it. The more, the merrier, the sparklier the better. Libraries are torturous, lonely places after awhile, so you will be glad for your silver ankle socks, picture hat and bangles. Take it from one who has recently become way too familiar with level 3 of the Social Sciences and Humanities library.

7. Inexplicably, you're not allowed to park in disabled parks/make your own park or excuse yourself from work just because you're walking around in a total daze. I've got no answers for this - juggling parking fines and work shifts will become a part of your daily life, so get used it.

At the end of the day (you cant say that either btw), you realise that you just have to grit your teeth and do your best, and take comfort in the knowledge that you can go anywhere in theworld and do anything on the otherside of July 30th. I'm comforted by the knowledge that I wont have to justify, in text, my next projects, nor anything I create for the rest of my life. Writers - who needs them?


Unknown said...

Love love love your pictures and honours in sight! :) :)

Kellyansapansa said...

Oh wow, you've totally put me off further study!

Wishing you the very best of luck for the next few weeks. xx

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