Thesis pains

As I sit here working on an outline for attempt I-don’t-want-to-count-anymore of my thesis, I can’t help but worry how I’m ever going to produce 20-25 pages of good writing that I, my supervisor and my second reader will be happy with.

The goal this week is just to produce something, period.

I usually hate talking about my thesis. I don’t hate talking about my topic or the questions currently occupying my brain — I love talking about those at length with people who want to discuss them when I feel safe enough and not defensive — but I hate it when people who clearly are not interested ask anyway just to compare notes on our progress and pat themselves on their backs for how much better they are doing than I am.

I hate excusing myself from answering these questions as much as possible, and the lengths to which I will go to talk about anything else: the food, the weather, oh look, there’s a squirrel! Because most of the time, I don’t want to explain that I have an extension on my thesis and why that is; I don’t want to explain that there are a number of complex reasons why it’s not going nearly as well as the work I’m used to producing, or anywhere close to where I want it to be. I’m not used to not being a good student. I hate that this piece of work that I was looking forward to doing, and which I would otherwise be completely in love with, is tied up in all kinds of negativity because of personal issues I have no intention of divulging to nosy strangers who raise their eyebrows gleefully at my snail-like progress (if one can raise one’s brows gleefully) and say, ‘Really? Well, I’ve done [insert so many pages in so little time], so I know exactly how hard it is!’

No, you don’t. Go away. I honestly don’t give two hoots what you’re writing about either, because it is probably something as obscure and meaningless as mine is to you if we aren’t in each other’s fields. Let’s talk about something we might actually have in common, why don’t we, like that squirrel over there. (I wish I were brave enough to be rude in person.)

Meanwhile, I am going to get back to this exhausting outline. I just rediscovered a 15-page paper that I wrote for a graduate class a couple of years ago that even got a decent grade, and am now telling myself that another 5 pages on top of that can’t be such a great difference. If I did it once, I can do it again.


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