The clock was ticking. I had gone home for Winter Break, and my sister had given me a Christmas present, a jigsaw puzzle intended to hang in my admittedly bare apartment. It was a great idea in theory, but now I felt as though I had a task to complete before returning to my apartment.
How I Made My Life Easier By Using A Synthesis Matrix: I’ve always enjoyed writing and thought myself quite good at it before getting to college. Of course, a lot of the writing you do then is for English class, reading one book and writing about it; you still have to work at figuring out your focus and how to support it, but the “research” aspect is limited. Stepping outside of a traditional English paper is another step, one that I was hit with when I first started college and had to write for other subjects.
It’s the beginning of the semester—meaning, as a graduate student, it’s time for me to get back into the groove of planning and writing long papers. For me, the hardest part of approaching a paper is coming up with a topic that will stay interesting to me throughout the research and writing process. A good example of this is from the end of last semester, when I found myself dreading the final paper for my archives class. We covered so many interesting topics in the class, it was hard to decide which one to choose.
There are days when it feels easy to put into words my ideas on the political landscape of Tudor England and its relation to architecture. However, there are also days when I cannot write a sentence that makes any sense at all as hard as I try. Over the years in graduate school, I have tried many different techniques, tricks, and tips for staying focused and motivated while writing. Some have worked, and others have not, but I have realized how easy it is to be distracted while writing.
When I decided to write an honors thesis, the advice I received from everyone was to write things up as you go. The common wisdom was to write things up as soon as you have a result, rather than waiting five months and writing everything up at the last minute. I wanted to do an honors thesis to explore more math, but unfortunately for me, the thesis also required a lot of writing. Having heard the thesis writing horror stories and knowing the extent to which I hate writing (ironic that I’m writing this post, I know), I was determined to follow their advice to try and minimize the pain of the writing experience.
I remember reading my professor’s comments on a paper I’d written in one of my first graduate seminars at Carolina. The paper excited me because it was a topic that interested me, and I believed that my excitement would also factor into producing a well-written, deeply riveting original argument. I was wrong. When I read my professor’s comments, which were few, the words that stood out most were on the last page. Scribbled around some other notes that mentioned the promise of my idea, the professor had written, “This is almost unintelligible.” Reading this comment took a heavy toll on me even though I thought I could shake off the unhelpful criticism.