The beginning of spring semester is marked every year by a case of Post-Break Sadness: spending break at home with our families, stuffing our faces with cookie dough, and napping to our hearts’ content was fantastic, but now we have to get back to work. Procrastination over even the simplest assignments is hard to combat (as I can easily attest–I even procrastinated on writing this blog post), and that goes double for going back to work on our honors theses.
While I closed out last semester feeling accomplished and even somewhat confident about my progress, I realized almost as soon as the ball dropped on New Year’s that our deadline seems much, much closer when viewed from this side of 2014. When the semester started, the pressure of it was daunting, and at times so overwhelming that I could not figure out how I was ever going to complete this project–how do I even begin again? Luckily, I figured out how (after a week and a half or so of whining to myself about it and making excuses not to walk to the library because of the ridiculous cold weather) and I came up with a few tips and steps to share.
1. Talk to your advisor and/or readers.
We are in the final semester now. Weekly meetings are probably necessary at this point, especially if you’re like me and need someone besides yourself to hold you accountable and keep you on track. When I know I have a meeting with my advisor coming up and that I have more work to do, Netflix looks, well, at least slightly less tempting, and I’m more likely to trek up to the library and be productive.
2. Ease in.
For me, at least, setting overambitious goals is a sure way to impede my progress. If I tell myself I will complete much more than I know I’m capable of, I will feel too overwhelmed to touch it. I came back from break thinking to myself, Sure, I haven’t thought about my thesis in three weeks, but of course I can jump right in and write ten pages before the week is out. But when I sat down with my books and actually thought about the amount of work in front of me, I psyched myself out.
I needed to get back in the mindset first. Start by rereading your draft(s), your notes, any information that brings you back to what interested you in the topic in the first place. Remind yourself why you’re putting yourself through all of this work. Once you’ve got your juices going again, then you have my permission to start writing again–but a little at a time, at first. Ease into the water, don’t dive in headfirst.
3. Work on it every day.
I’ve said this in previous posts, and I’ll say it again, if only to remind myself. Even if I’m only rereading what I’ve already written, or reading a few more pages of a book I need, thinking a little about the topic and the project every day keeps me in the mindset and keeps me going. Additionally, because we are in the last semester, I have to set aside many more chunks of time in the middle of the week to work on it–otherwise, I won’t finish in time.
Even if the research process is never fully over, there comes a time when we can no longer be afraid just to sit and write the thesis. Even if we haven’t read every single book listed on the reference page of that one really helpful source, or fully wrapped our minds around the idea of what “otherness” means to every person in every culture, ever, we have to get our own ideas out. It’s okay if I don’t fully understand everything that my critics Pratt or Said are saying, as long as I understand what I’m saying–and I won’t fully know until I write it all down. Our ideas are valuable, even if half-formed; and as for completing them, well, that happens as we go along and as we revise.
All in all, don’t let Post-Break Sadness get you down. Ease in, but don’t be afraid to get in the water. Once we’re back in the groove, we can feel more confident about finishing these projects and get back to enjoying our last, senioritis-and-application-filled semester in peace.