Back In Business

Long time, no see, kids…

After a wicked good summer — complete with some intense thesis writing and a road trip to the beautiful East Coast of Canada — I’m back again as the editor and writer of “Don’t Panic.”  This time around we will have a few more guest writers and (hopefully) more interviews, just to give our readers a better scope of grad life at Trent.  Other than that, I will be geeking around and informing everyone of the trials of grad life.

Let’s get up-to-date.  Throughout the summer, I gathered a couple of tips for thesis writers.  Since writing a thesis can be a daunting task, you have to develop some habits (good ones, that is) which will help you climb what seems to be a never-ending mountain towards you final draft.

1) Get a room! Of your own, that is.  Virginia Woolf wasn’t kidding when she advocated writers find a space of solace, presumably one that is well-lit, comfortable, and not far from a continuous supply of beverages (Woolf said something like that, right?).  Since you will be spending most of your first draft attempting to sound smart and savvy with words, you will require a space that will allow long periods of concentration.  If, like me, you have tiny, insane toddlers running around the house (I spent most of the summer at home), train the toddlers to seek out other members of your family.  I have a niece that loves to run at me, at full speed, and crash into me (she thinks its funny) and jump on my laptop.  Train your toddlers.  If the toddlers decide to continuously bother you, you will have no other choice but to put them in some sort of playpen.  Surround them with toys and snacks, let them wreck havoc.  Just kidding…

2) Get a routine: Try to write a certain number of words/pages a day.  I find that I write better after making research notes.  Once my head is in the game, I just write until one or two pages have been pumped out.  One to two well-written pages, that is.  Edit your work the following day.  After three months, one-to-two pages a day becomes, well, depending on how many breaks you took in between, a lot more.

3) Take a Hike: After writing for several hours, your body will age superficially by a good forty years.  Make sure to stay in shape.  Find an exercise routine, whether it be a favorite sport, running, rock-climbing, hiking, etc.  Also, if you have toddlers around the house, nothing is more physically challenging than playing ball with them (in the house makes it more extreme).  Just keep moving and your body will appreciate it.

4) Chilling: Drink alcohol with friends and chill in a trusted environment.  Avoid drunken nights and random brawls with strangers. Just find some good friends and chill with them each weekend.  It helps immensely to vent about grammar and deadlines.  You won’t be heard over the loud music anyways.  But it still helps.

5) Listen to this: I suggest to everyone, regardless of their situation — even toddlers — to find a soundtrack for their life.  Entitle your downloaded lifetrack, “My Life,” and if you are unable to explain to anyone in common language how life is treating you, lend them the soundtrack.  Whether it is full of screaming Norwegian rage metal, Beethoven toddler tunes, or some compilation of inspiring songs, it helps to have it on hand whenever you need it.  Theme music is also good.  If you are writing about the Beats, like me, jazz creates a good atmosphere.

6) Read enjoyable stuff:  Since grad students may be unfamiliar with what “enjoyable stuff” is, try to recall some of the books that got you into reading in the first place.  It’s nice to escape to Hogwarts, the gloomy English moors, or perhaps outer space, to break the vicious cycle of reader’s block.  After reading a good portion of Fredric Jameson’s Postmodernism: Or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, your brain needs a reminder why you read little black strings of words on white pages.

7) Keep up with your Professors: This is an important tip.  Professors serve as excellent guides along your thesis journey and tend to alleviate the pain a little with some words of encouragement.  Also, they help you keep in contact with the crucial academic network that you built the year before.  Have regular meetings and/or coffees with your professors to discuss thesis-related stuff and to gain a little insight into your future career in academia (gulp).

8) Do this when you have finished a chapter: a little self-encouragement never hurts.  Even if it is a little over-blown.


9) Get your sleep or else … :


10: Turn it up to eleven:


I’m clearly out of ideas, so, if you have any more tips, include them below in the comments section.  Gotta check out!

About dontpanictrent

DON'T PANIC: A Trent Graduate Student Blog

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